Herbal Tea

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There’s nothing nicer on a cold midwinter’s day than a soothing cup of herbal tea. But besides being a tasty, warming, caffeine-free pick-me-up, herbal tea has lots of wonderful health benefits. From soothing a troubled tummy to easing insomnia and calming a troubled mind, herbs have all sorts of healing powers. Drinking herbal tea can also be a great source of vitamins and minerals.

What is herbal tea?
Herbal tea isn’t really made from tea—which is a specific kind of plant. The French use the word tisane, which is a little more accurate, since herbal tea is really just an infusion of leaves, seeds, roots or bark, extracted in hot water. In drinking a well-steeped herbal tea, we get all the plant’s benefits in an easily digestible form.

The benefits of herbal tea
“In a lot of ways, we might get more benefit from a good organic tea than from a vitamin pill,” says herbalist Marianne Beacon of Elderberry Herbals in Peterborough, Ont. “You’re getting the benefits of hydration. There’s the social element: Tea is something that you can share with people. And when you’re drinking herbal tea, you get aromatherapy at the same time—and that’s something you don’t get from a tablet!”

That’s why Toronto-based herbalist Marcia Dixon says herbal tea should always be steeped in a covered vessel to contain the beneficial essential oils. “Otherwise, your room smells nice but you aren’t retaining the medicinal properties.”

How to choose a herbal tea
When it comes to choosing a herbal tea, both Dixon and Beacon agree that it’s important to look for a well-sourced product made from high-quality ingredients. If you’re drinking tea for the medicinal benefits, then definitely steer clear of products that add things like essential oils or flavours. And to really get the full benefits from drinking herbal tea, make sure you steep your loose tea or tea bags long enough—in some cases, as long as 10 to 15 minutes—to really bring out all the healthful properties.

Natural home remedies: Indigestion
“Anytime you’re ingesting something, you’re giving your body the building blocks it needs to manufacture tissues and hormones,” says Dixon. “If you drink tea every day, you can make all sorts of significant changes to your mood, your skin, your sense of well-being and energy.”

There are so many wonderful herbal teas to choose from. Here are a few of the most common. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

Peppermint tea
Halifax naturopath Colin Huska recommends drinking peppermint tea to relieve the symptoms of abdominal gas and bloating, and to relieve muscle spasms. It’s also good for nausea (without vomiting) and for heating up the body and making it sweat. If indigestion or heartburn are problems, however, then Dixon recommends avoiding peppermint altogether. Peppermint tea can also be made using fresh herbs from the garden—and it’s one of the easiest herbs to grow.

Ginger tea
Another great digestive aid, ginger can be used to curb nausea, vomiting or upset stomach due to motion sickness. Make fresh ginger tea by simmering a piece of ginger root on the stove for 10 to 15 minutes—add fresh lemon juice and honey when you have a cold for a powerful germ-fighting combination. Beacon also suggests making tea from powdered ginger to ward off a chill.

Chamomile tea
A gentle calming and sedative tea made from flowers, chamomile tea can be helpful for insomnia. It can also be helpful with digestion after a meal. Huska recommends chamomile in cases of cough and bronchitis, when you have a cold or fever, or as a gargle for inflammation of the mouth. Be sure to steep it well to get all the medicinal benefits.

Rooibos tea
High in vitamin C as well as other minerals, rooibos has all sorts of health benefits. An easy drinking tea, it’s largely grown in South Africa and has been touted for its antioxidant properties—which may in turn help ward off disease and the signs of aging. It has also been shown to help with common skin concerns, such as eczema.

Lemon balm tea
An easy-to-grow plant, lemon balm is helpful for lifting the spirits. “It’s good for the winter blahs,” says Deacon, “and it can help improve concentration.” She adds that lemon balm is safe for children and may help prevent nightmares when consumed before bed. This herb also makes a refreshing iced tea, and can be flavoured with lemon or maple syrup.

Milk thistle and dandelion tea
When consumed as a tea, milk thistle or dandelion are gentle liver cleansers. “They help the liver to regenerate and function at a higher capacity,” says Huska. “They can also assist in the production of bile, which can help with our digestive process.”

Rosehip tea
Rosehips are the fruit of the rose plant and are one of the best plant sources of vitamin C, which is important for the immune system, skin and tissue health and adrenal function. Consider reaching for rosehip tea next time you need a health boost.

Apple Cider Vinegar & it’s Benefits

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Apple cider vinegar is my new obsession. I recently began taking apple cider vinegar shots a few times a day for a quick and effective energy burst. However, I’ve since discovered so many other useful ways to incorporate apple cider vinegar (ACV) into my daily routine.

It’s effective for pretty much anything—your skin, your hair, your house, and even your pets can benefit from its qualities. Raw, organic, unfiltered and unpasteurized, apple cider vinegar is so much more than a salad dressing!

1. Apple cider vinegar can detoxify your home.

It’s made from apple juice and is fermented to hard apple cider. It’s then fermented a second time to become apple cider vinegar. By using ACV in lieu of other products, we instantly decrease the consumption of unnatural chemicals in our homes and daily lives.

2. It can make your hair shine.

Apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse for your hair after shampooing, and will boost your hair’s body and shine. I recommend recycling an old shampoo bottle, then filling it with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing several times a week for dramatic results.

3. Natural apple cider vinegar regulates the pH of your skin.

Dilute ACV with two parts water, and spread the concoction over your face with a cotton ball to replace your current toner. You can do this at night after washing, and in the morning before you apply your moisturizer. A dab of apple cider vinegar can also be left on the skin overnight to fade age spots or acne scars.

It’s also a recommended agent for warts. For warts, soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar, then fasten the cotton ball over the wart with a Band-Aid overnight. The skin may swell some as it reacts with the solution. However, the wart will fall off. Once it falls off, the treatment should be continued for a few more days, to make sure the wart doesn’t return.

4. It can remove stains from teeth.

Rub teeth directly with apple cider vinegar, and rinse with water.

5. It can soothe sunburnt skin.

Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath, and soak for 10 minutes to eliminate discomfort from sunburn.

6. Apple cider vinegar can be used as a natural aftershave.

Fill a bottle with equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, and shake before applying to the face.

7. It’s an all-natural massage treatment.

Rubbing apple cider vinegar on your hands and feet will give massage-like benefits and relief to tired hands and feet.

8. Apple cider vinegar can aid in weight loss.

For daily weight management, add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of water. This concoction can be sipped throughout the day. Data shows some limited, yet significant, weight loss benefits from sustained daily intake of acetic acid (which is a main ingredient in apple cider vinegar).

In a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, it was found that subjects that consumed acetic acid for 12 weeks experienced significant declines in body weight, abdominal fat, waist circumference and triglycerides. Triglycerides contribute to the bad cholesterol that we want to avoid.

9. Apple cider vinegar will balance your entire inner body system.

The body constantly strives to achieve a state of equilibrium. Apple cider vinegar helps the body maintain a healthy alkaline pH level. Research shows that higher acid levels (lower pH level) leads to a lack of energy and higher incidences of infection. Hence, my desire to sip some a few times a day for a natural boost of energy.

10. It can help you detox.

As part of balancing the body’s pH, apple cider vinegar creates an overall detoxification of the body. Research shows that it can help stimulate cardiovascular circulation and help detoxify the liver.

11. ACV is great for your lymphatic system.

This miracle vinegar helps to break up mucous throughout the body and cleanse the lymph nodes. Believe it or not, research suggests that apple cider vinegar can help with allergies because of its ability to reduce mucous and sinus congestion. When reducing the effects of allergies, it can also help stave off sinus infections and their related symptoms, such as sore throats and headaches.

12. It can help your body get rid of candida.

This vinegar is rich in natural enzymes that can help rid your body of candida—yeasts that are attributed to thrush in humans. Candida also is blamed for creating symptoms of fatigue, poor memory, sugar cravings, and yeast infections.

13. ACV can help you reduce heartburn.

Though it might seem like an oxymoron to treat stomach acid with an acid-containing vinegar, there is research suggesting that apple cider vinegar works by correcting low acid, hence reducing heartburn. Natural remedy experts say you should begin to feel relief very shortly after taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar followed by a glass of water. Note that apple cider vinegar will not give relief if you have an ulcer.

14. The use of apple cider vinegar is effective in repelling fleas on your pets.

One part vinegar and one part water can be sprayed on your pets fur and rubbed in generously to the skin. Saturate the entire coat, and continue every day for a few days to a week. Any flea infestation will surely be gone.

15. It’s an all-natural room freshener.

Apple cider vinegar will clean your toilets and leave your bathroom smelling like apples! Just pour apple cider vinegar into the toilet, and allow it to sit overnight. It can also be used in dishwashers as a substitute for dish detergent. Mix 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water, and you can use this solution to clean microwaves, kitchen surfaces, windows, glasses and mirrors, too.

As you can see, apple cider vinegar is a miracle product that cab be used in a multitude of ways. I highly recommend its use!