Good Natured

Return of the Dandelion

More than just a common weed

By Karen Frye

Our ancestors used their herb gardens as a medicine cabinet. There was an herb for most common maladies: catnip for the colicky baby; comfrey for healing skin and bones; mullein for coughs and colds; and many more. One of the most revered herbs in the garden was the dandelion, a perennial that comes back every spring and flourishes until the first frost.

Fast forward and the dandelion has become the enemy in the yards of modern society. Somehow, it is now a pesky “weed” that must be destroyed! But the dandelion’s usefulness hasn’t changed. The little yellow flowers that appear in spring are used to make dandelion wine. The young, tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads or juiced. You can also sauté the greens for a mixture that improves digestion. When roasted, the roots make a delicious, healthy coffee substitute, without the caffeine. It’s even available in teabag form so you don’t have to roast it yourself.

Each particular part of the plant has different medicinal value, but the root is perhaps the most helpful for many ailments. Dandelion root is revered as a tonic for the kidneys (it is a very effective diuretic). The root helps to stabilize blood sugar and prevent gallstones, cleanses the blood, lowers cholesterol, improves the functions of the spleen, stomach and pancreas. There are many reasons to keep this plant alive and thriving in our landscapes and gardens. Dandelion root is wonderful medicine for the liver, the organ that filters out toxins and manufactures several important hormones. In ancient times, doctors used dandelion to treat colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, ulcers, itching and hepatitis. Want to get rid of those age spots? Dandelion to the rescue!

This spring, if you have some growing around your yard or garden — and the area hasn’t been treated with herbicides — consider using some of the leaves in salads or juice. You can always purchase the capsules, tincture and tea if that is more convenient.

Here are two recipes to entice your taste buds.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Dandelion Dip

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/4 cup yogurt

1 cup dandelion greens

garlic powder


Mix cottage cheese and yogurt. Mince the greens well, and add the mixture. (Or you can use a blender). Season with garlic powder and salt to taste. Serve with veggies or crackers.

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

1 cup of washed dandelion greens per person, chopped coarsely. Sauté briefly (until wilted) in a little olive oil. You can add onions, peppers, garlic and a little ginger if you like. Sauté until slightly wilted. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Good Natured

Mushroom of Immortality

Promoting a natural body balance

By Karen Frye

Reishi, with its extensive health benefits, was highly revered by emperors and sages thousands of years ago. Some Far Eastern cultures associated the use of reishi with good health, good fortune and happiness, restoring youthful strength and balance, and adding years to a lifespan.

This King of Mushrooms§ is classified as an adaptogen, which promotes natural body balance; it helps the body cope with stress, tension and fatigue. The main compound in all of the medicinal mushrooms is a potent immune enhancer, beta-D glucans, which reishi possesses in high concentration. Unique to reishi is another compound, ganoderic acid, an antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage. It supports liver function and reduces the release of histamines. The reduction of histamines in the body is important in the control of allergy-related symptoms — useful if you are someone who has seasonal allergies and are looking for a natural remedy.

Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of using reishi to maintain a healthy immune system. You can find the actual mushrooms in the markets of Asian countries, where they can be part of a daily diet or even used in a tea. While you may find them in their natural form in some markets in the United States, usually we have to use them in a capsule or tincture.

Medicinal mushrooms have become the focus of a lot of attention, with studies using them in the treatment of cancer, heart health, and respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis and allergies. Reishi is at the forefront with its ability to reduce inflammation and balance the immune system, making it useful for inflammatory autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis.

Another reason to use this mushroom is what it can do for your mind. Many holistic health practitioners have recommended reishi to calm the mind and reduce tension. Its calming effect can bring good sleep, provide a sense of peaceful wellbeing, sharpen concentration and increase willpower.

Nature provides us with many incredible foods to restore or maintain good health, physical strength and a strong mind to have a fulfilling, joyful life, no matter our age. PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Good Natured

For the Love of Chocolate

Don’t worry, be happy — and healthy

By Karen Frye

Good news, chocolate lovers — chocolate is one of the best superfoods there is!

The raw cacao bean (the source of all chocolate) is abundant in minerals, trace minerals, vitamins A, C, B, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, copper, omega 6, and loaded with antioxidants that protect your cells from premature aging, especially the skin. The polyphenols in the cacao help create good bacteria in the digestive tract, increasing circulation throughout the body and hydration for more youthful and radiant skin.

If you crave chocolate when you are stressed out, there is science-based research that confirms the anandamide (bliss molecule) in cacao feeds the cannabinoid receptors from head to toe, making you feel better.

Many studies on chocolate conclude the same thing: There is something in chocolate that is really good for us.

The cacao bean has always been nature’s best weight-loss and high-energy food. Penylethylamine (PEA) is an organic compound found abundantly in cacao. The process of heating cacao will destroy the PEAs, so you must consume the raw cacao to get the benefit. The PEA molecules increase in our bodies when we fall in love — one reason why love and chocolate have such a timeless connection. The concentration of PEAs with the high content of magnesium in cacao is a natural appetite suppressant, making it a great weight-loss food.

Contrary to popular belief, cacao contains low amounts of caffeine. It is one of the richest sources of an interesting substance called theobromine, a relative to caffeine, but not a stimulant. It’s an effective antibacterial substance that kills the organism that causes cavities. It’s also good for the cardiovascular system.

You can add cacao to your diet in many ways — add the powder to smoothies, hot chocolate, baked goods, or even sprinkle on top of fruit. The cacao nibs (start with the sweet ones) are great for cookies, energy bars and nut mixes.

Here are a couple of recipes using the raw cacao nibs, the healthiest of all chocolates. It is a different taste, but delicious in recipes. Look for a chocolate bar that’s organic and fair trade, with the high amounts of cacao, over 60 percent. Share the health benefits of chocolate this February with a delicious treat that will bring about a feeling of love and well-being.

Cacao Cookie Dough Balls

2/3 cup cashews (or other nuts)

1/3 cup oatmeal

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

1/4 cup cacao sweet nibs

Combine nuts, oats and salt in a food processor and grind until fine.

Add vanilla and honey or maple syrup, and process to combine.

Pulse in the cacao nibs. Roll into balls. Chill on parchment paper.

Superfood Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats

1/2 cup crushed walnuts

1 tablespoon cacao sweet nibs

1/2 teaspoon cacao powder

1 tablespoon maple syrup or more to taste

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup raisins

1 cup milk of choice

2-3 cups water

2 tablespoons shredded coconut

Rinse the oats thoroughly. Lightly toast the walnuts.

Combine all the ingredients with 1 cup milk and 1 cup water.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stir occasionally.

Continue to cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, adding more if needed to desired consistency.

Garnish with shredded coconut.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Good Natured

Be Awe-Inspired

It’s good for your mind and body

By Karen Frye

Do we take seriously the power the mind has on our health? 

The way we see the world can be of great benefit and, maybe with a little effort and daily practice, this year can be a shift in your health in a most beautiful way. This unique way of thinking is a quality we are all born with, but the challenges of life can diminish the gift. Children are quick to laugh and find amazement in the most ordinary things. We all possess this condition of wonder and awe and it doesn’t have to fade with age. Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley conducted a study with a group of freshmen in the field of positive psychology that provided valuable insights on how strongly our emotions influence our overall health. With positive feelings we actually increase the power of our immune system, and reduce inflammation in the body. 

Studies in the positive psychology of emotions and physical health are often combined with the common thread of the negative effects emotions such as anger, fear, sadness and so on can have on us. At UC-Berkeley, the participants with feelings of happiness, contentment and awe with life had stronger immune systems and lower inflammation markers. The strongest of these were the feelings of awe  — information that we can use in our lives daily to improve our health. It’s as important as taking your vitamins, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and getting regular exercise. 

Feelings of awe can happen when you see a sweet baby, a beautiful flower, a stunning sunset, any of the miracles of nature. There are so many things all around us that can produce “awe” if we allow ourselves to experience the beautiful things life provides. Perhaps you are one of those people who feel great amounts of awe, but never thought about the physiological benefits your body is receiving. Or, if you need a little help in creating more of these powerful emotions, this is the perfect time of the year to practice. Awe is linked to a feeling of social connectedness. So, the first step is to get out and become more engaged with others. Make an effort to plan things with friends on a regular basis.

Encourage positive relationships. We are never too old to learn how to be a better listener, friend, parent and so on. Join a church or a club of interest. Volunteer your time and energy toward something you feel passionate about. The opportunities to find healthy, positive places to socialize are all around us. 

The benefits are waiting to happen for you. Find the things that create a feeling of awe daily. It’s very easy. Just look around you and see the incredible beauty in nature, or your children, and especially your grandchildren. Whatever it is that can give you an awe-inspired new year.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio. 

Good Natured

Frankincense and Myrrh

Gifts of the Magi that keep on giving

By Karen Frye

Whatever your religion, you most likely know the story of the three Wise Men who followed the star to the manger in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. Two of the precious gifts they brought with them were frankincense and myrrh. Thousands of years ago, these herbs were worth as much as silver and gold, and they’ve retained their value, medicinally and spiritually.

The popularity of aromatherapy and the great success stories using the oils and extracts are well known. Myrrh is extracted from the Mukul myrrh tree, which grows in dry climates in the Middle East. The myrrh gum is used in preparations for teeth, gums and skin conditions. In Ayurvedic medicine (native to India) the extract from the myrrh, “gugul,” is especially effective for lowering bad cholesterol and improving the function of the thyroid gland.

Frankincense oil is prepared using hardened gum resins from the Boswellia sacra, a tree native to India, Africa and the Middle East. One of the main components of frankincense oil is boswellia, an herb with major anti-inflammatory properties. Boswellia (as a supplement) has been around a very long time and, while it isn’t as well known for its anti-inflammatory power as turmeric, it’s certainly on the way.

Inflammation doesn’t just cause joint pain; it contributes to disease throughout the body, including cancer and heart disease. In the case of asthma, allergies, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, boswellia helps reduce inflammation in the lungs. Inflammation damages our brain cells, and may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Taking boswellia may boost brain function, as well as reduce inflammation. In addition to quelling joint pain, there are benefits to the digestive tract, assisting in relief from irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, even rheumatoid arthritis.

Frankincense oil is a lovely fragrance that has been used throughout the ages in perfumes. Its warm, pungent, sweet notes bring about feelings of peace and balance, helping to ease anxiety. Cleopatra is thought to have used frankincense oil in her beauty regimen. The pure oil used topically has been found to improve skin conditions. Frankincense is one of the most effective oils for skin care with remarkable rejuvenating and healing properties.

These gifts given many, many years ago are now gifts for those who seek better health through the wonders of nature. May you have a wonderful holiday season filled with peace, love and laughter.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Good Natured

Mind & Body

The balancing power of hemp extract

By Karen Frye

The golden elixir known as cannabidiol or CBD is what’s extracted in the industrial hemp plant. The use of industrial hemp goes back thousands of years. Nearly every part of the plant can be used for building materials, fuel, clothes, fiber and food. The seeds are rich in omega fatty acids and protein. Agricultural hemp grows differently than other cannabis plants, and looks like bamboo, but grows like a weed.

In 1992, scientists discovered the existence of a system within our bodies, and that of animals, that was previously unknown — the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. It is the conductor within our body delivering messages to the cardiovascular system, immune system, nervous system, endocrine system and the rest of the major systems. We have receptors from head to toe, and our body produces cannabinoids that travel to the sites to regulate activity within the cells. As we age, our body produces less, and we become deficient, creating an imbalance. Hemp extract restores balance where it’s needed, maintaining homeostasis.

The greatest source of phytocannabinoids is found in the hemp plant. CBD can help us bring balance to our bodies and our lives, unlocking our health’s full potential. The studies using hemp extract are extensive, as are the testimonials from the people who are finding better health. A few of the problems that improve with the use of CBD are insomnia, anxiety, stress, memory, mood, inflammation, metabolism, energy, nerve function, muscle control, appetite, pain and seizures. Likely you, or someone you know, could benefit from using CBD. Your pet can also benefit from hemp extract, helping aging dogs or cats with arthritis, pain and nervousness.

The market for hemp extract is growing rapidly. With so many companies getting in on the demand for this supplement, you want to make sure that you find one that is grown and manufactured responsibly. There are various ways you can use CBD. The most common form is taking the extract in a liquid solution by mouth or a capsule. There are topical creams, and salves for pain and skin issues. In fact, there is a beauty line of hair and skin care items for men and women. And there appear to be no negative side effects.

Hemp is a revolutionary plant remedy that could change the well-being of you and your pets in a most positive way — improving the quality of your health, so you can enjoy life to the fullest. PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.


Good Natured

The Great Pumpkin Seed

By Karen Frye

October is the month for the pumpkin harvest in the Sandhills, but by late summer, you begin to find them in the farmers markets and roadside stands. Some are ornamental pumpkins used to decorate for the fall season, and some are edible pumpkins for pies, breads and seeds. Pumpkin is a member of the squash family and while the flesh has many health benefits, the seeds are the real powerhouse of nutrients.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as “pepitas,” are flat, dark green and football shaped. They have a chewy texture, and a subtle, sweet, nutty flavor. The use of the seeds for the nutritional value and medicinal benefits dates back to the Native Americans. A few of the nutritional highlights are the minerals magnesium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc. The seeds are also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, protein, good fats and phytosterols, particularly beta-sitosterol.

Natural medicine has used pumpkin seeds in the treatment of prostate conditions. Zinc and beta-sistosterol are important nutrients that can help reduce BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Beta-sistosterol is also highly beneficial in reducing cholesterol. Other ailments that improve with eating the seeds are nausea, motion sickness and parasites.

If you haven’t explored adding these nutritious seeds to your diet, now is the time. To ensure your seeds are as fresh as possible (and don’t contain any moisture), store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’s best to eat them within two months but they will be OK for up to six. Always check for any musky smell, an indication the seeds have gone rancid. Of course, the freshest seeds are right out of the pumpkin. Clean the pumpkin flesh off the seeds, then let them dry by spreading them out for a few days exposed to the air.

The seeds are delicious raw or soaked overnight in a bit of water. One-third cup of seeds contains 90 calories, 4 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 11 grams of carbohydrates. Roasting the seeds is easy and brings more depth of flavor, especially if you are using them in a salad or to top baked bread.

To roast them, spread the seeds on a baking sheet or cast iron skillet. Drizzle a little oil over them if you’d like. Bake in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes till golden brown. Shake the pan often to prevent burning. For spicy pumpkin seeds, add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg to 3 cups of seeds. If you want them salty, add a little Celtic salt. If you want a little zing, add a pinch of cayenne pepper. Follow the baking instructions.

Other pumpkin seed ideas:

Add to sautéed carrots, broccoli and onions.

Sprinkle liberally over a salad for extra crunch.

Add crushed seeds to hot cereal.

Add to your meat or veggie burger for a delicious, nutritious treat.

Make a new habit of munching on pumpkin seeds instead of chips or pretzels. They are easy travel companions, too. Delicious, nutritious and good for the whole family, even your pets.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Gifts from the Sea

Add a powerhouse of nutrients

By Karen Frye

Walking along the shoreline in the northernmost part of Maine and into Canada at low tide, you will find beautiful sea vegetables on the rocks. Edible seaweed grows in an area of the ocean’s edge called the intertidal zone, a fertile area where the land’s organic mineral matter meets the ocean’s mix of water and sunlight.

Originating in Japan, the macrobiotic diet promotes the use of sea vegetables for improving health and includes them in many recipes. The Vikings carried dried seaweed on their voyages for sustenance.  Early New England whalers chewed on seaweed for its high vitamin C content to keep scurvy away. The Japanese incorporated sea vegetables in their diet regularly and used them in shrines and ceremonies.

Adding edible seaweed to your food will bathe your cells with a powerhouse of nutrients. Seaweed pioneer Evelyn McConnaughey has collected references from around the world of seaweed being used in the treatment of goiter and other thyroid problems, kidney ailments, ulcers, obesity, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries and hypoglycemia. Traditional Oriental medicine has always promoted the use of seaweed to lower the risk of heart disease. High in potassium and low in sodium, it reduces the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Some of the sea vegetables found easily are:

— Alaria: perfect in soups, loaded with calcium and vitamin A.

— Arame: mild flavor, soak for a few minutes and add to salads or stir-frys.

— Dulse: a reddish-purple seaweed that can be enjoyed as a snack out of the bag, or added to sandwiches, salads and soups.

— Kelp: the all purpose sea veggie, it comes in shakers to sprinkle over food (an alternative to salt); exceptionally high in all minerals, especially calcium, potassium and magnesium.

— Kombu: usually found in strips, you can tenderize (by soaking in water for a few minutes) before use; excellent to add to soups, stocks and beans; very high in iodine.

— Wakame: a very mild taste, cooks quickly; traditionally used for miso soup. 

— Nori: if you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve eaten nori; it has a mild, nutty taste, use it for wraps, or crumble it over foods; the highest protein content of the sea veggies with significant amounts of the B vitamins.

Here is an easy soup recipe that is delicious and can get you on your way to making sea vegetables a part of your life.

Basic Miso Soup

6 cups water or vegetable stock

1 medium carrot, sliced diagonally

1 3-inch piece of wakame or kombu

2 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally

3-4 tablespoons miso paste (found in the refrigerated section)

Bring water or stock to a simmer, add carrots and cook until tender.  Soak the seaweed in cold water while carrots cook, then drain.  When carrots are tender, add the seaweed to the stock and simmer for a minute. Add the scallions and simmer for another minute. Remove from the heat.  Dissolve miso in some of the broth and return to pot.  Allow to steep briefly before serving. You can remove the seaweed because all the nutrients are now in the soup. You can add other vegetables like celery, onion and ginger. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving.

Many health care professionals promote following a plant-based diet.  Don’t hesitate to include the sea vegetables as well. You’ll be glad you did.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Natures Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Okra Rules

A healthful Southern delicacy

By Karen Frye

Flashbacks of my summers growing up bring fond memories. No social media. The phone was a party line, so you had to be quick with any conversations. There was just the splendor of family and nature. Climbing the big mimosa trees in the front yard or exploring the woods around the house was what I loved most. My grandparents had a large garden that included everything you could imagine to help feed our entire family. Aunts, uncles and cousins would gather around the table to devour family-style portions of the freshly picked vegetables. Stormy afternoons were spent on the front porch shelling bushels of peas and butterbeans. My grandmother was efficient at everything. Nothing went to waste. She was an amazing cook and loved to feed anyone who came through our door. She canned, froze and preserved anything that we didn’t eat.

There was always a long row of okra in the garden. The pods grow on a large, leafy plant with lovely flowers that bloom before the pods appear. Native to Africa, South America and the Middle East, okra has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. It is a low-calorie, high-fiber food. Some of the vitamins and minerals most abundant are vitamins B and C, especially folate and potassium. One cup of okra contains 33 calories and 44 percent of the bone-strengthening vitamin K that you need per day. The vitamin A in okra is good for your eyes, as well the antioxidants beta carotene and lutein, which help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. The gelatinous mucilage in okra, especially when you cook it, is recommended for digestive problems such as constipation and acid reflux. Okra has been studied for its effect on blood sugar levels. One study published by the open access Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences noted a connection between okra and lower blood sugar levels. The polysaccharides in okra open up the arteries and improve circulation.

Even if you haven’t acquired a taste for okra, you may want to include it in your diet. It’s easy to add to soups and gumbos, and you can even eat it raw. Slice it up and add it to a stir-fry with other vegetables. In the South, we like it fried, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but remember to use a healthy oil for frying.

My favorite way to prepare it is roasting the whole pod in a cast iron skillet until it’s crispy. It is a perfect side dish to any meal, even eggs. In some countries the okra seeds are even used as a coffee substitute.

This summer, as always, I have a beautiful raised bed of okra growing, which usually yields in early November. If you didn’t plant any in your garden this summer, you can find some great okra at our local farmers markets. Buy extra and freeze it, so you can enjoy it all year.

As always, food is our best medicine.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Natures Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Good Natured

Be Optimistic

It’s good for your health

By Karen Frye

Some things are worth working for. Being optimistic may turn out to be one of them. Thinking of your life in the future, always imagine that you have the best of all possible outcomes. Maintaining an upbeat, positive frame of mind may even extend your life. Optimism’s benefits include better mental, emotional and physical health.

Many of us have a friend or loved one suffering from age-related dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The number of people with this health issue seems to keep increasing even with medications to slow it down. The gene APOEe4 is the risk gene with the greatest known impact, though its presence does not mean that a person will develop Alzheimer’s.

Yale University researchers have discovered that people who carry the gene but hold positive beliefs about aging appear less likely to develop dementia than those with negative aging beliefs. Just by having an optimistic outlook, you can reduce your risk. Feeling good overall about your aging experience can help you deal better with stress. We all recognize the negative effect stress has on our health. Having a positive outlook can help with reductions in stroke, heart disease and pain. It also strengthens the immune system. In a study of more than 2,500 men and women over the age of 65, those who were most optimistic had the lowest blood pressure. The simple fact may be that negativity contributes to deteriorating health and disease. Just by keeping an upbeat attitude you can reduce inflammation, lower cortisol, and lower cholesterol, underlying causes of chronic disease.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on becoming the optimist you want to be.

— Notice how you perceive the world around you; the more you recognize the positive things in your life, the easier it becomes to see them in the future.

— Even in difficulty and uncertainty, there is always a lot to feel positive about.

— Take a few index cards and write helpful reminders, positive messages and put them in places where you see them throughout the day to keep your thoughts on the right track.

As this practice becomes a normal way of life, your health conditions may start to improve and your quality of life will be better. You might find that people want to be around you because you boost their optimism.

See more goodness in life, and your life will be rewarded with a warm heart and a long healthy life.

All the best on your journey.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Natures Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.