Sesame Seeds are Health Promoting



Valerie Lull

Sesame seeds, Sesamum Indicum, are native to Africa. In today’s world they are found mostly in Asia. India is the largest producer of sesame which is a valuable cash crop. Historically sesame is thought to be the oldest seed grown for its oil. African slaves brought sesame seed to North America where it became popular in southern cooking. Tahini is made from crushed sesame seeds and is also known as sesame butter.

Sesame seeds come in black and white. The black seeds still have their hulls, the white seeds have had their hulls removed. The seeds are popular with bakers who use them for rolls, bread sticks, and crackers. They are a good source of fiber and unsaturated fat.

Sesame oil is popular in cooking. It has a distinct flavor. It comes in dark and light variations and is considered healthy. Sesame oil is considered heart healthy.  Sesame oil is also used for hair. It promotes growth and a healthy scalp.

Sesame seeds are rich in minerals like copper, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium and molybdenum. They contain vitamin B6, folate and thiamin as well as protein.

Some of the health benefits of sesame seeds that have been studied include hypertension, diabetes management, prevention of cancer, bone health, reducing inflammation, protection from radiation and boosting metabolic function. There are some side effects. Consuming too many can cause irritation of the stomach and the colon. Be sure to discuss the use of sesame with your health care practitioner before using sesame seed or sesame oil therapeutically.

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White Tea has Antioxidants

There are four teas that come from the Camellia sinensis plant. They are black tea, green tea, oolong, and white tea. White tea has an exotic past. It comes from China and historically was only available to the royal court of the emperor, not the masses. There was one emperor who nearly lost his empire over white tea.

The difference between the four teas mentioned above is that black tea is oxidized, oolong tea is less oxidized, green tea leaves are withered, and white tea leaves uncured and unfermented. The tea leaves for white tea are the very young leaves and buds. They are harvested at a much earlier stage in growth than the leaves for the other teas. The leaves have very fine silver hairs on them giving rise to the variety of white tea variety called Silver Needle.

Because white tea is the least processed, it has the highest levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals that are generated as a result of cell metabolism. Free radicals can damage DNA and speed up the ageing process. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals.

White tea ranges from pale yellow to almost clear in the cup. The tea has a very delicate taste. People who have compromised taste buds will probably think it is water. Adding lemon to white tea causes more antioxidants to be released. The action of the antioxidants help to slow down ageing and help to prevent diseases like cancer, and heart disease. White tea appears to be good for one’s skin and for oral health. People use it for weight loss.

White tea can be found blended with other things like green tea, rooibos tea, and fruits like raspberry, pomegranate, mango and pear. White tea is becoming more and more popular and so is more and more available. For people who are watching their caffeine intake white tea has less caffeine than black or green tea and a lot less than coffee. The caffeine content can also vary depending on how long it steeps and how hot the water is.

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Valerie Lull
Ten Spices for Health and Longevity

Teas for Women

There are the camellia sinensis teas (black, green, white and oolong) and there are herbal teas. I’m a fan of both. This week I am writing about herbal teas for women. Women have unique needs and there are many healthful teas that can help. Teas can influence, mood, hormones, anxiety and sleep. Sometimes a few minutes for ones self with a nice cup of tea can give that boost to help a woman get through her day. Here are some suggestions.

Peppermint Tea
This one is a very popular tea and has many uses. It is often used to calm the digestive system, soothe an unsettled tummy and relieve gas. I remember my grandmother giving me peppermint tea for menstrual cramps. Some women have used it for morning sickness. Be sure to check with your doctor before self-treating with peppermint.

Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is another tea that has been used historically for menstrual cramps and morning sickness. It is popularly used for nausea and vomiting. I like it because it has a warming and calming effect on cold winter mornings. You can buy a piece of ginger root in the supermarket and prepare it by grating it and boiling it in water for 10 minutes, strain it and drink it or you can buy it in tea bags. Some folks add a little honey. The use of tea by pregnant and nursing women is controversial, so be sure to consult your healthcare provider.

Raspberry Leaf Tea
According to tradition and folklore raspberry leaf tea has been used for its benefits during pregnancy. It is good for the female reproductive system, toning the uterus and the pelvic muscles.Traditionally, midwives say it leads to shorter, easier labor. It is said to be helpful for PMS, and also during menopause. If you wish to use raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, be sure to consult a midwife or doctor first.

Red Clover Tea
This tea is popular among women for things like menopause symptoms or breast tenderness. It is also used for PMS. There are other medicinal properties. Red Clover has been used in folk medicine for cancer prevention, high cholesterol, cough, and asthma. It is also used on the skin for sores, and burns.The role of cancer prevention with red clover tea is very controversial. Be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before use.

These teas can be bought in bulk, or in tea bags. Loose leaf teas are probably better because often it is not known what chemicals were used in making the tea bag. Organic teas are also preferable to regular teas that have been sprayed with pesticides.


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Valerie Lull
Ten Spices for Health and Longevity

Herbs for Liver Health

milk thistle


Valerie Lull

One of the hardest working organs in your body is your liver. It plays a huge role in elimination from cleansing the blood to flushing out waste. The liver’s function is to purify the body. It is important to take care of your liver because without a liver we could not live. There are several important herbs that help keep you in tip-top shape. Among them are dandelion, yellow dock, burdock, red clover and milk thistle.


Dandelion is commonly considered a weed, but this weed is loaded with health benefits. It is high in vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium and grows just about anywhere. It is a natural diuretic which is helpful to your kidneys and your whole digestive system. Dandelion helps your liver to eliminate toxins by purifying the blood. Dandelion is available as a tea in both loose and teabag forms. It is also available as a delicious dandelion coffee.

Yellow Dock

Yellow dock has been historically used as a blood purifier; which helps to clear skin conditions and to assist elimination. This herb also has diuretic properties and stimulates bile production This helps both the liver and the gall bladder. Yellow dock aids in digestion and works as a mild laxative.


Burdock root has been used since ancient times as a blood purifier. It strengthens a weak liver. Burdock is also a diaphoretic.  That means it promotes sweating. This helps remove toxins through the skin.

Milk Thistle

Perhaps the most well-known herb for the liver is milk thistle. It contains silymarin which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This helps the liver function better. Some studies show that milk thistle may be helpful for cirrhosis. Milk thistle is available in capsules or as a tea.

Red Clover

Red clover helps the liver to process fats by causing it to produce bile. Red clover is also anti-inflammatory which helps to reduce inflammation in the liver. Red clover works to cleanse the liver. It is available in capsules and as a tea.

Remember before starting any herbal regimen to talk it over with your health care provider. Some herbs and medications do not mix well and can cause unwanted side effects.

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Teas for Fall

fallpumpkin teas


Valerie Lull

As we transition from summer into fall, it’s time to bring out the traditional fall foods and teas. There are the old favorites that we have learned to love and there are new blends that we can create. Here are a few recipes for fall teas.

Ginger Tea

When the fall season comes one of my favorite teas is ginger. It gives me a bit of an herbal zing and warms me up. It also helps soothe my arthritis. Ginger is useful for digestive problems and is also good for detoxification. Here is the basic recipe.

1 oz. dried ginger (or fresh if you prefer

1 Cup of boiling water

Cinnamon and/or lemon

Pour the boiling water over the above ingredients and let it steep 2-4 minutes depending on how strong you want it.

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea is from South Africa. It is often called red tea. There is no caffeine in it. Rooibos has a robust taste and is full of antioxidants. There is no relationship between rooibos and the teas that come from the camelia sinensis plant.  Actually herbal teas are not true teas, but everyone calls them herbal tea. Rooibos is a good base for a chai tea.

1 oz. loose rooibos tea

1 Cup boiling water

Cinnamon to taste

Cloves to taste

Sweetener of choice

Pour boiling water over the ingredients and steep to taste. Tea bags can be used in place of the loose tea.

Pumpkin Spice Tea

Pumpkins are popular around the fall holidays. Pumpkin Spice tea is a delicious addition to a cool fall evening.

1 tea bag of black tea

Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste

Sweetener of choice

1 Cup boiling water

Add some milk to make a latte if  you choose

Pour boiling water over ingredients and steep 2-4 minutes. Steep longer for a stronger flavor, or less for a light flavor. Enjoy!


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Spearmint Tea for Indigestion

Spearmint, Mentha Spicata, is a member of the mint family. It is a separate plant from peppermint, but for most of history these two mints are often lumped together. Spearmint was the original medicinal mint and Peppermint was a hybrid that developed later.(1) Both help digestive problems. Today, I will be discussing Spearmint.

Spearmint is well known in folklore as a remedy for colds and sore throats, inflammation, hormonal, circulation problems, nausea, headaches, acne, and perhaps most popularly for digestive problems. It is also the flavor of a popular chewing gum.  Digestion problems include flatulence, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, increased bile production, and cramping .(2)

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of research on Spearmint. Most web sites about spearmint cite peppermint studies. I did find a few studies on spearmint, but not about digestion. According to one study Spearmint essential oil is anti fungal.(3)  Another study investigated hirsutism  (excess hair growth) in women and found it helpful for the mild form of the disease.(4)

Peppermint tea is a delicious way to use this remedy. Some folks just chew the leaves. It is easy to grow and you can grow it indoors. You can buy spearmint tea online or at a tea specialty shop. You can grow your own if you want it fresh. Leaves fresh from the garden  have more flavor than the dried leaves. Below is a recipe.

Spearmint Tea

1 oz. dried herbs or 2 oz. fresh
1 pint of boiling water

Pour the water into a saucepan. Do not use an aluminum pan. If you are using fresh leaves be sure to rinse them off well. Add the leaves to the sauce pan and simmer about 10 minutes. Strain out the leaves. Let it cool a few minutes then serve.

Spearmint tea can be bought in bags if you prefer them for convenience.

(1) Castleman, Michael, The New Healing Herbs, 2009, Rodale, p. 368-371

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Valerie Lull
Author, Master  Herbalist

Herbs for Tired Adrenals




Valerie Lull

The adrenal glands are two endocrine glands. There is one above each kidney. The cortex, or outer part of the adrenal gland, secretes hormones and the inner part, the medulla, secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine. Scientists are split on the concept of adrenal fatigue. Conventional doctors don’t think it exists. Natural medicine providers think it does. For this blog I’m going on the assumption that it exists and that there are herbs that can assist the situation.

Adrenal fatigue occurs when people are under mental, physical and emotional stress. One of the hormones that the adrenals make is cortisol. This hormone helps the body deal with stress. Too much stress causes the adrenals to release less of the hormone.  Some of the symptoms include chronic tiredness, mild depression or anxiety, lethargy, and brain fog.

There are a number of vitamins, minerals and herbs that help. Among them are the B vitamins and vitamin C. There are herbs that are helpful for adrenal fatigue. They are called adaptogens.  Let’s look at some of these herbs.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

A little known fact about ginkgo is that it can affect stress levels. In a study published in Clinical Nutrition, it lowered cortisol levels in healthy individuals being tested for glucose tolerance.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha comes from India and is useful for insomnia due to stress. It is said to improve DHEA-S levels. It also benefits the thyroid and adrenals and boosts energy levels. It is available as a tablet and a capsule.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Rhodiola comes from Siberia and is traditionally used for stress and and fatigiue. It is also used for enhancing mental performance and mild depression.

Astragalus (Astragalus membraneceus)

Astragalus comes from Chinese medicine and is usually used with other herbs. It can be used as a tonic or for adrenal support. It gives a boost to  the immune system and helps control blood sugar levels.

Herbs for tired adrenals are usually best as a combination. There are herbal formulas available with the combined herbs. These herbs are available in capsule and tablet form and many of them can be made into a tea or infusion and sipped throughout the day.

Remember to always consult with your health care practitioner before starting a herbal regimen for any disorder.

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Kudolo, G.B., Wang W., Javors, M Blodgett J., Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, MSC 6246, University of Texas HSC at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, 78229-3900, USA.