Do I need acupuncture?

Laughter is the best medicine. But your health concerns are no laughing matter. Call me and find out if acupuncture can help you today!doyouneedacu?

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician at Vitalichi Acupuncture. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at http://www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Rosemary for restoring your hair

Fresh green aromatic rosemary on the wooden tableRosemary is for remembrance — but it’s also for restoring your hair thickness and color. Whether you are battling a bald spot on top of your head or dealing with the effects of chemotherapy, rosemary is your go-to herb for restoring your crowning glory.

I’ve watched my husband put this to the test after we got married last year. He started using Waleda hair oil (https://www.weleda.com/product/r/rosemary-conditioning-hair-oil) daily as a leave-in conditioner and I’ve watched his bald patch shrink and fill in over the past year. Plus his hair color transitioned from an all-over white-gray to more of a gray-pewter shade. Tres distinguished!

Recently, he added in a rosemary-infused shampoo and conditioner. I didn’t think much about it when he mentioned it, but this week I got a good look at the top of his head and noticed his patch had filled in even more, with some additional brownish blond wisps, which was his “younger” hair color. I was so impressed I plan on trying it too. I’m not  graying, but my hair is a lot thinner now that I’m older, and rosemary helps with that too.

Part of how rosemary helps is in its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and it can also improve circulation in the scalp.

You can also purchase fresh rosemary, and steep in about 10 ounces of water for 20 minutes. When it cools, put it in a spray bottle and spray it on the scalp as a leave-in conditioner after your shower. Remake a new batch once a week or so. For patients in chemotherapy it can help maintain hair for longer, but don’t skip a day.

In order to be effective, rosemary will need to be part of your daily routine. If your hair issues are more serious, such as alopecia, there are resources to help. We’re lucky in our area to have the Hair Care Centre (www.haircarecentre.net) in North Port, and their staff can help with serious hair loss. But in the meantime, remember rosemary is not just for restoring memory, but it can also help to restore your hair.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician at Vitalichi Acupuncture. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at http://www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

How I prepared my acupuncture and massage practice for Hurricane Irma

In 2017, Southwest Florida braced for impact from Hurricane Irma. I was on medical leave from my newspaper job as well as my acupuncture and massage practice after surgery, but I got clearance from my surgeon days before to resume light-duty activities. I spent a not-so-light weekend with my family preparing my home and my business for the worst.

Port Charlotte was lucky. Although some models predicted we would sustain a direct hit, Irma took a bit of a southward bend and hit Naples instead. It may seem like all our preparations were for naught, but I considered it a good exercise in disaster preparedness for my business. There’s a lot of articles about preparing your practice for a hurricane, but they don’t tell you anything beyond the basics that residents shouldn’t already know, and nothing about the specifics of what you should do before a storm to minimize your property losses….

So here’s what I did. Some of it is specific to acupuncture but most of it is good advice for acupuncture, massage, or a skin care practice, and good advice in general for a business. I’m assuming from this point that you have taken all reasonable precautions to secure your family’s safety and followed standard disaster preparedness protocols and still have the time to safely attend to your business storm plan…

BEFORE THE STORM:
1) UPLOAD DOCUMENTS TO A CLOUD STORAGE SERVICE: Save current pictures of all areas of your office, inside and out, insurance documents, equipment inventory, sharps logs, biohazard plan, licenses, NPI numbers, important contacts, etc. Make sure you have as much of that accessible on the cloud as possible in the event you need to file a claim.
2) BACKUP IMPORTANT FILES: June 1 is the start of hurricane season. Why not schedule your computer backups for the week before?

PRIORITY ACTION LIST:
1) SECURE SHARPS: When the storm tracking models started swaying our way, we still had a few days of lead time, so I contacted my sharps disposal company and had them pick up all of my sharps containers, even if they weren’t full. I remember after Hurricane Charley seeing tons of personal property strewn all over the streets, and there was no way I wanted one of my sharps containers to end up on the street, even if I did seal them first. Just because you safely secure your sharps inside your unit does not mean they will stay there if disaster strikes. Ditto for wall-mounted sharps containers. I consider it to be the most critical prep to cross off your list.
2) SECURE CLIENT FILES: During Irma, I was part of a holistic clinic at New Hope Chiropractic, and our client files were stored in a common area. There wasn’t much we could do to improve where they were or move them. I’m assuming you already have your files in the safest, most secure part of your office away from windows and in the interior of your unit. We covered everything in the front office with as many heavy-duty trash bags as we could fit to prevent water intrusion and wrapped everything else. But what about files you transport off site? A hard-shell, locking case is your best option. In the event your vehicle is compromised or in an accident, you want your files to have the best chance to stay intact and inaccessible to the public.
3) SECURE YOUR ELECTRONICS: Since most practices these days have electronic health records, it’s important to treat your laptops or desktops like patient files. This year, I plan to keep plastic bins on hand to store all the computer equipment, and to be double safe, I would double bag the equipment with heavy duty garbage bags before putting it in the plastic bin. A bit much, you say? Aside from your treatment table and professional supplies, your computer / client files are the second most important thing you need to get your practice up and running ASAP after a disaster. And wrapped equipment in opaque plastic bins won’t be as flashy in case looting becomes an issue post disaster. Ditto for modems, phones and credit card machines. I’m not so concerned about my printers, but we did cover them, too. If time permits, I would box these too.

PHASE TWO PREPARATIONS
1) SPECIALTY EQUIPMENT: Bag and wrap all high-end equipment, and if possible, relocate to interior closets away from windows and doors. Bonus points if you have locking closets.
2) UNUSED NEEDLES, LANCETS, ETC: I took those offsite but this year I plan to have a specific plastic opaque bin for my supplies.
3) TREATMENT TABLES: Bag and wrap all your treatment tables and relocate those to the safest interior spot in the unit. During Irma preparations, I couldn’t find my massage table carrying case, and my table ended up with some minor dings. Make sure you know where the cases and carts for your equipment are before a storm threatens.
4) PRESCRIPTION FORMULAS, HERBS, TOPICALS, ETC: Chinese medicinals are not vitamins. They are patient specific and definitely not candy, either. If you don’t already keep them in a locked cabinet, bag and box them and relocate to an interior closet. I used large zippy bags with handles so I could carry them off site. Secure the rest of your inventory depending on your time constraints.

PHASE THREE PREPARATIONS:
If you get all the other stuff done, here’s some non-essential prep ideas that could come in handy if your area is hit:
1) STRIP THE WALLS: I took everything off my walls that had glass, and wrapped all my diplomas. I worked hard for those diplomas; to me, the originals would be irreplaceable. Aside from making sure there would be a minimum of glass breakage, it was purely an emotional preparation for me, taking care of the items close to my heart. It’s totally skippable if the situation is urgent.
2) HYGEINE SUPPLIES: Toilet paper, paper towers, feminine items… if you have extra time and an extra garbage bag, bag those up. If you have water intrusion and the area is cut off from normal transport lanes, dry goods will be a godsend. During Irma, gas was scarce for a while, even for areas that did not receive a direct hit. In a storm situation it’s best to assume that supplies of all kinds might be hard to come by even if damage isn’t bad in your area. So save what you’ve got.
3) BACKUP FOOD, WATER AND FIRST AID SUPPLIES: We all know when storm season is coming. So if you’re on target with your personal preparations, why not have backup in the office, too?
4) BACKUP YOUR FILES, ONE MORE TIME: In case it’s been a few weeks, or months, since your last one.

This emergency plan may or may not make sense for your practice, but it can start as a template for writing your own. Don’t assume you will remember to do everything in an emergency; make whatever preparations and lists are appropriate for you and keep them handy for when you need it. Here’s hoping you don’t….

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture.

Green tea has good science to support health benefits

Tea conceptTea isn’t just for scones and English breakfasts. This beverage, steeped in history and ritual (pun intended) is the subject of daily consumption not only in American and European nations, but also in Asia. Although tea does not get its own pillar in the five pillars of Chinese Medicine, it is included in the first pillar of Diet. You could make the argument that it also belongs in the fourth pillar of Herbal Medicine because it functions not just as a beverage but a medicinal compound as well.

Many patients inquire about the health benefits of various supplements and teas, and about green tea specifically. So here’s an abbreviated look at some recent studies on the effects of green tea on various conditions:

• A study published in April 2015 concludes that “long-term dietary intake of Artemisia extracts and/or green tea extracts can be an effective strategy either to rejuvenate H. pylori atrophic gastritis or to suppress tumorigenesis” helping to heal the digestive tract. (1)

• A paper published in March 2015 found “the 10-year prospective cohort study by Drs. K. Nakachi and K. Imai revealed that drinking 10 Japanese-size cups (120 mL/cup) of green tea per day delayed cancer onset in humans by 7.3 years among females and by 3.2 years among males.” (2)

• In January 2015, results from a study on melanoma “suggest(ed) that green tea polyphenols (GTPs) induce a marked disruption of the uncontrolled cell cycle progression, and that may be a mechanism by which GTPs inhibit the proliferation or suppress the cell viability of melanoma cells.” (3)

• Another study published in January 2015 comparing irradiation verses green tea polyphenols “indicate that nerve allografts pretreated by green tea polyphenols are equivalent to transplanting autologous nerves in the repair of sciatic nerve defects, and promote nerve regeneration. Pretreatment using green tea polyphenols is better than pretreatment with irradiation.” (4)

• An abstract released in February 2015 concluded that “experimental data indicated that EGCG (the bioactive component of green tea) treatment suppresses cell proliferation of SSC-4 human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC).” (5)

• In a study from February 2014, a study of elderly rats that had a hind limb immobilized for two weeks had better muscle recovery of the plantaris, a fast muscle, although it didn’t help the soleus, a slow muscle. (6)

• Results from a study in October 2014 found “long-term administration of cigarette smoke altered the cellular antioxidant defense system, induced apoptosis in lung tissue, inflammation and damage in liver, lung, and kidney. All these pathophysiological and biochemical events were significantly improved when the cigarette smoke-exposed albino rats were given Chinese green tea infusion as a drink instead of water.” The specific green tea variety used in this study is Lung Chen. (7)

• A study published back in 2011 found “epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG, 0·05 % in drinking-water), the primary polyphenolic component in green tea, effectively delayed the onset of Type 1 diabetes in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice.” (8)

Most of these studies were done on rats and mice, but it provides a broad spectrum of potential health benefits of humans. At the very least, moderate daily consumption of green tea won’t hurt. A good rule of thumb is if it’s something that could normally be consumed, consume it in moderate dietary portions, not concentrated capsules. The biggest concern with green tea intake seem to be too much. Remember, more isn’t always better, and concentrated supplements typically remove other beneficial botanical compounds that frequently work together in ways science hasn’t pinned down yet. Here’s what rxlist.com’s updated guidelines say about possible side effects:

“Green tea is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when consumed as a drink in moderate amounts short-term. Green tea extract is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for up to 2 years … In some people, green tea can cause stomach upset and constipation. Green tea extracts have been reported to cause liver and kidney problems in rare cases.

“Green tea is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth long-term or in high-doses. It can cause side effects because of the caffeine. These side effects can range from mild to serious and include headache, nervousness, sleep problems, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, irregular heartbeat, tremor, heartburn, dizziness, ringing in the ears, convulsions, and confusion. Green tea seems to reduce the absorption of iron from food. Drinking very high doses of green tea is LIKELY UNSAFE and can actually be fatal. The fatal dose of caffeine in green tea is estimated to be 10-14 grams (150-200 mg per kilogram).”(http://www.rxlist.com/green_tea/supplements.htm)

Like any change in your diet, talk to your health professionals to see if green tea consumption is appropriate for you. But it is generally regarded as safe. Moderation and proper preparation are the keys to getting health benefits from green tea.

How to brew green tea correctly
The best way to brew loose tea is in a strainer that allows the individual leaves to unfurl and steep properly. When brewed at the range of 122 to 180 degrees for a minute, a good quality green tea can be brewed multiple times from the same serving. Preparing green tea in the traditional Chinese way ensures a good tasting tea that isn’t bitter. Steeping a green tea for too long or too hot ruins the tea and isn’t worth drinking. If caffeine is a concern, discard the first brew after steeping for 30 seconds and drink the subsequent brews. This works for any caffeinated tea, by the way.

With dozens of varieties of green tea available, good health is just a cup away.

Pubmed studies on the benefits of green tea
1. Helicobacter. 2015 Apr 10: Dietary Intervention of Artemisia and Green Tea Extracts to Rejuvenate Helicobacter pylori-Associated Chronic Atrophic Gastritis and to Prevent Tumorigenesis.
2. J Cancer Prev. 2015 Mar: Primary cancer prevention by green tea, and tertiary cancer prevention by the combination of green tea catechins and anticancer compounds.
3. Genes Cancer. 2015 Jan: Polyphenols from green tea inhibit the growth of melanoma cells through inhibition of class I histone deacetylases and induction of DNA damage.
4. Neural Regen Res. 2015 Jan: Allograft pretreatment for the repair of sciatic nerve defects: green tea polyphenols versus radiation.
5. Onco Targets Ther. 2015 Feb 20: Epigallocatechin-3-gallate suppresses cell proliferation and promotes apoptosis and autophagy in oral cancer SSC-4 cells.
6. Exp Gerontol. 2014 Feb: Epigallocatechin-3-gallate improves plantaris muscle recovery after disuse in aged rats.
7. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014 Oct: Chinese green tea consumption reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and tissues damage in smoke exposed rats.
8. Br J Nutr. 2011 Apr: Epigallocatechin gallate delays the onset of type 1 diabetes in spontaneous non-obese diabetic mice.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Slippery Elm Tea helps ease Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis symptoms

I inadvertently got diagnosed with Diverticulitis a couple of years ago, when I started back working at the office while I finished acupuncture school. Every night for the first two weeks back to work I woke up with a racing heart, anxiety and chest discomfort that wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. Finally I went to the ER, and my heart was just peachy keen, thank you very much.

So I expected to get diagnosed with panic attacks (which I’m pretty sure it was) but there was one puzzling symptom – my pain improved when I held my arms above my head for the MRI. (If I had figured that out earlier, I could have saved myself a middle-of-the-night trip to the ER!) The MRI comes back, and it turns out I had diverticulosis in my upper left quadrant. According to the ER doc, it was pushing up against my diaphragm and causing the chest discomfort.

Well, OK, I’m in my 40s, it’s certainly plausible, but I hadn’t had any abdominal distress. It took me awhile to piece together that the ongoing cramping, gas and discomfort was probably a sign something was amiss more than just lactose intolerance.

Along with this new diagnosis came a new sensitivity to foods, or a sensitivity I hadn’t noticed before. Popcorn and nuts were no longer my friends. After studying for my boards with a bag of kettle corn by my side, I spent the next three days in abdominal agony. Ditto with nuts. Or the bag of plantain chips that helped me get through a Saturday workday at home. Small, crunchy foods were the enemy – an enemy I loved and wanted more of.

Fortunately, slippery elm was my knight in shining armor.

Slippery elm is an unusual herb. It comes from a tree that grows in the north, and can be used as a food, much like you would eat oatmeal, but with a hint of maple under the blandness. It’s been said the battle of Valley Forge was won by Washington’s troops because they were able to live on this porridge through the winter. Back in the day, the bark was chewed on much like we chew gum today.

The mucilage properties of slippery elm improve conditions where coating mucous membranes is needed: sore throats, acid reflux, IBS, diverticulitis or bronchitis. As it coats, it also draws out toxins and reduces inflammation, giving those sensitive tissues time (and a barrier) to heal. It’s like putting a band-aid on the inside of the body. A poultice can also be made for exterior inflammation such as boils, skin diseases or infections.

The other important property of slippery elm is its ability to expand. The tea, when steeped, will swell like any other fiber. As the slippery elm absorbs water in the digestive tract, it expands and gently cleans out the intestines. So when I over-indulge in those foods I know I shouldn’t, out comes the slippery elm tea, and I’m feeling better within a day or so. Really, though, I should also be drinking this as a maintenance tea once or twice a week as well. And why not? It’s loaded with nutrition. Remember how I said slippery elm is a food? It can be a protein source for vegetarians, and contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K. It also contains minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, selenium, sodium, and zinc.

Some other random things I do to help my diverticulosis are:

  • Mixing nuts or chips with softer foods instead of eating them straight, or eating them in very small handfuls and small amounts.
  • Chewing food thoroughly is an often overlooked, but important lifestyle change. I’m usually a quick eater, which puts strain on the digestive system. If you don’t chew your food to a near-liquid, your digestive system has to work harder and your intestines are processing lumps of food, not the ideal near-liquid consistency it needs. Try to chew 50 times before swallowing. Whatever number you get to, it’s probably better than what you’ve been chewing. A little extra time in the mouth is worth less discomfort in the abdomen.
  • Aloe juice can also be a big help, but it’s not tasty. It coats the intestines much like slippery elm, although it does not have its fibrous qualities. If you do try aloe juice, remember more is NOT better. Start with an ounce or so. If you take too big of a serving it will clean you out in more ways than one!

Be kind to your belly, and if it’s having a rough time, soothe the savage pains with a dose of slippery elm. It’s a gentle and inexpensive way to get relief.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Skin care starts from the inside out

A lot of people mistake me for my daughter’s older sister. Most people don’t peg me for 40 unless they see me first thing in the morning (I’m definitely NOT a morning person). Although I do sport quite a deep liver line (in Chinese medicine we call the crease between the eyes the liver line – it’s an indicator of stress or eyestrain) the rest of my face is fairly wrinkle free.

I get a lot of compliments on my skin, but that wasn’t always the case. I had the chicken pox twice as a child, and the second time left me badly scarred on my forehead and nose. Severe acne runs in my family too, and I certainly wasn’t immune as a teen. And my fellow TCM students saw firsthand the severe case of rosacea plus melasma I dealt with during my last pregnancy / miscarriage. I battled that for two years before getting it under control (but not cured, it’s a chronic thing). So I’ve learned a lot about skin issues. And I’ve been on the wrong side of staring and rude comments too.

Like it or not, people do judge other people by their skin. But it’s not just about beauty – our skin is the biggest organ of protection we have, and we as a society tend to treat it like a measure of beauty only and not of health. It’s not vain to take care of your skin; it’s just as important as taking care of the rest of you.

If you want beautiful skin, you have to be willing to work on it everyday for the rest of your life. It’s not hard, but it does take a little discipline and some dietary adjustments.

Here are my DOs and DON’Ts for beautiful skin:

• DO drink water. There is no substitute for hydrating your skin. If you are low on water, your internal organs get first dibs and shorts your skin. The rule of thumb I use is drinking half my body weight in ounces each day. Mind you, I don’t always make that benchmark, but I see a huge difference when I do stay hydrated. I especially love Voss water from Norway. I also keep an AquaGear water filter pitcher in the office. Nix the crystal light packets or anything with artificial sugar; there are plenty of cleaner versions of flavor packets available now. You can deal, especially if you have a good tasting water. Add a slice of lemon or lime if you have to have a little flavor.

• DO see a professional. It’s your choice whether you see a dermatologist, esthetician, Chinese doctor, or any combination. My dad and sister see a doctor. I have an awesome skin care specialist Nadine Toriello who helped me get my skin back to healthy. There are quite a few Chinese herbal formulas to help acne and itchy skin too. I used one to help help with the itching. Whichever route you go, it’s important to not pay attention to other people’s well-meaning but perhaps not accurate advice. Everyone who took one look at the oozing, itchy red-butterfly shaped mess on my face had a fix for me. Most of it made my face worse, not better. (And no, I don’t have lupus. I was diagnosed with a severe form of rosacea, pyoderma faciale, by a doctor. I also had symptoms as a child but had no idea what it was back then). Even some professionals I saw recommended things I felt weren’t appropriate, and it turned out they weren’t. So listen to your inner voice, and if you don’t see good results or it aggravates your skin don’t be afraid to speak up.

• DO create a full beauty routine. Emu oil is my go-to topical product, which I use daily. I also have a corrective makeup pallet that I can use to cover whatever blemishes I have. There’s nothing wrong with making your skin look the best it can every day.

• DO wear sunscreen. Every day. It will make a difference.

• DO remember that your skin “eats.” If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin. I use all natural soaps and neem shampoo (especially important since your hair gets on your face all the time). What I do get is amazingly soft and not-dry skin with a clean feeling that no other soap matches. Even the stuff in health food stores can be full of junk like gluten, parabens, phthalates, petrolatum or sulfates. Read labels. Every time.

• DO get a good night’s sleep each night. Enough said.

• DON’T drink alcohol, coffee, black or red teas, chocolate or spicy foods; limit the dairy and red meat too. Inflammation starts from the inside, and most of it comes from our diet. A lifetime of poor diet choices will show up on your face. My skin looks so much better when I avoid these things. I can see a difference within hours if I eat something inappropriate for my skin. Yes, it hurts. This is the hardest change to make, I won’t lie, but it is worth it. And when you do indulge, make sure the situation is worth it. You may want to invest in a good anti-inflammation diet book if you are ready to go hard-core. I think Dr. Perricone has one.

• DON’T touch or scratch your face. Wash your hands before and after if you must touch  your face. My rosacea itched and flaked so bad! It was nasty, and it was hard not to mess with it. That’s one reason why it’s so important to get a good serum for your face – if your skin isn’t itchy, you won’t touch it, and it will heal faster.

• DON’T let stress get to you – it will show up on your face! Massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture treat stress well.

• DON’T use those fancy microderm abrasion cloths unless your skin care professional tells you to. Learned that one the hard way too.

And here is the most important tip to remember:

• DO tell yourself you are beautiful, every time you look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter how scarred or acne-ridden or itchy your face is. It doesn’t matter what other people think or say about it either. You are beautiful, exactly the way you are. OWN IT! You deserve to feel beautiful everyday of your life.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Pau D’arco — a powerhouse of an herb

Pau d’arco is my favorite herb, hands down. According to my favorite go-to book for herbs, “20,000 Secrets Of Tea” by Victoria Jak, pau d’arco is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-yeast, anti-microbial, anti-tumor and anti-fungal. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, vitamin A, the B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C. This can be a good tea to drink if you need to build blood after your menses, keep candida or herpes outbreaks under control, are fighting off a cold or flu, or need to clear out mucous.

I keep pau d’arco in my house at all times. I keep a plain jar, and a jar mixed with a 50-50 blend of pau d’arco and echinacea purpura leaf. My kids know that if they bring any sort of nasty home from school, they’ll be drinking the pau d’arco / echinacea blend morning, noon and night as a hot or iced tea. They rarely stay home more than a day if they drink their tea. (Sometimes I think they skip drinking their tea on purpose though!)

For people on the candida diet, this is the one beverage that is usually allowed besides water. And for those of you battling toenail fungus, you can soak your toes daily in a strong tea after it’s cooled to a tolerable temperature. Some people choose to just apply the pau d’arco tincture for convenience, which works just as well. I’ve seen some patients in the clinic use it on slow-healing sores where sweat created a lesion in moist folds, too. If you’re diabetic, though, you should consult a doctor about any skin lesion before trying pau d’arco or any alternative treatment.

WARNING: Pau d’arco has caused or is associated with fetal damage, although it is compatible with breastfeeding. Lactating women should use with caution under supervision and pregnant women or those trying to conceive should abstain from pau d’arco. It can also interact with blood thinners (The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety, 2005).

In any case, it’s always wise to see your doctor first for any medical condition, but keeping pau d’arco in your kitchen cabinet may help you fight off a cold or flu the next time it visits your neighborhood.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Living stress free with lavender

preparation of herbs, homeopathy, dried flowers, bannerLavender has such a variety of uses that it should be a staple in every home. The dried lavender flowers can be used to make scented sachets, relaxing eye pillows, dried flower arrangements and herbal bath balls. You can also find lavender in your tea and spices. Check the ingredient label on your favorite stress tea, and lavender could be there. Those of you who cook with the French spice blend Herbs De Provence already know how yummy lavender can taste in chicken and fish. Lavender scones and breads are popular too, although the flowers are usually finely ground when used for cooking.

For more information about cooking with lavender, check out “The Lavender Cookbook” by Sharon Shipley. Look for culinary grade lavender and organic as well.

When it comes to essential oils, lavender may be the most well known aside from tea tree oil. (Both oils are the only two that are safe to apply neat, or undiluted, on the skin.) With its reputation for relaxation, lavender is to go-to oil for people suffering from insomnia or stress. It’s a wonderful oil that can relax you and give you focus. Just one drop on the wrists or on a tissue tucked in your pillow can melt your stress away. You can also make your own linen and room spray by adding 10 drops of lavender oil to a small spray bottle along with a few drops of vodka (optional) to keep the oil dispersed. Just shake and spray to give your living areas a whole new level of calm. You could also add up to 10 drops of oil to your bath if the flowers are too messy for you. Just remember that the oil is far more potent – you only need a few drops to get its benefits. A drop on insect bites can take the itch out. Lavender also has antibacterial properties which makes this oil a wonderful addition to health and beauty products.

When looking for an essential oils, the best quality oils are gas chromatograph tested for purity and will tell where they were made. The prices of individual essential oils are different, and cheaper isn’t better in this case.

With lavender in your life and in your home, you are sure to have a blissful and relaxing day!

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.