Simple Ways to Stay Healthy

P1090368 Spearmint tea

By Valerie Lull MH


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


Simple Ways to Stay Healthy By, Valerie Lull MH


Chaste Tree Berries for Menopause

Chaste Tree, Vitex agnus-castus, is a shrub that is native to the Mediterranean . It produces berries that are thought to suppress the libido. Monks in the Middle Ages mixed the berries in their food to help them remain celibate. They called it “Monks Pepper”. The berries were also thought to suppress a woman’s libido and the flowers of the chaste tree were sprinkled along the ground when novitiates were taking their vows. That is why the herb is called Chaste Tree.

Chaste tree can influence a woman’s hormones and is useful for balancing hormone levels. In large amounts it causes loss of libido. In small amounts it can actually increase libido. It has been used for PMS, Polycystic ovary syndrome, and breast pain.

Chaste tree seems to have some uses for menopausal problems. Some research has been done and “emerging pharmacological evidence supports a role for V. agnus-castus for the alleviation of menopausal symptoms”.  It works by causing the pituitary gland to produce more hormones. Chaste berry can be taken as a juice, a tincture, tablet, or elixir. Most women take it in tablet form.

Side Effects

Side effects include itching, nausea, headaches, or a rash. Some women may notice a change in menstrual flow when taking chaste berry. Do not take it if you are pregnant or nursing. This herb can effect hormone levels. Do not take it if  you  have a hormone sensitive condition or a hormone sensitive cancer. Chaste berry may interfere with treatment for Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia and other psychotic problems. Always consult your health care practitioner before starting an herbal regimen.

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Castleman, Michael, The New Healing Herbs, Rodale, 2009 h

Graeden, Joe & Graeden Teresa, The People’s Pharmacy, St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999

Simple Ways to Stay Healthy


By Valerie Lull, MH

Yerba Mate

Yerba mate tea (also called mate) comes from a South American plant called llex paraguariensis. It  has been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians as a beverage and as a treatment for a number of ailments. According to their tradition mate is drunk from a gourd with a silver straw.

Mate is made from the twigs and leaves of the plant and are usually dried over a fire. The dried leaves and twigs are steeped in hot water to make a tea. Some proponents consider mate better than coffee. It contains xanthines which are a class of chemicals that includes theobromine, caffeine, and theophylline. These same chemicals are found in coffee and chocolate. Many  people use mate as an alternative to coffee and tea.

The health benefits of Yerba mate include relieving fatigue, reducing risk of cardiovascular diseases, depression and mood problems, and cancer.It has been used for obesity, and hyperglycemia in diabetes. The tea is also anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and contains antioxidants.

Yerba mate contains polyphenols, saponins, and xanthines. Mate contains phytonutrients like tannins chlorophyll, flavonoids and 15 amino acids.  It also contains traces of zinc, potassium, aluminum, manganese, copper, chromium and nickel. Mate has vitamins B1, B2, and C.

There is some concern about the consumption of Yerba Mate and increased risk of cancer of the oral cavity, the esophagus and the larynx. Some authorities think it is because the beverage is drunk when it is extremely hot. Others think it is contaminated by PAHs, which are chemicals that are also found in tobacco smoke and grilled meat. For this reason it is recommended that the beverage be consumed in moderation. Always consult your health care practitioner when trying a new herbal remedy.

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References  a  drink to help de-stress.

Simple Ways to Stay Healthy




By Valerie Lull MH

5 Soothing Herbs for Peace and Calm

First posted on the American College of Healthcare Sciences Health and Wellness blog.

Feeling overwhelmed lately? Perhaps you feel stressed out and frustrated. Stress is a natural side effect of life. Some stress is good for us; it can relieve boredom and keep us on our toes. But it can easily get out of control. Everyday life is filled with stressful situations, so it’s important to have tools that promote calm and peace.

Herbs and essential oils are exceptional when used to combat the little stresses of everyday life and promote peace and calm. So if your cat threw up, or the baby cried all night, or any of the hundred little frustrating things that happen during the day, there are a number of soothing essential oils and herbs for peace and calm.

  1. German Chamomile Matricaria recutita

Chamomile is very popular for its calming properties. It has been used for decades to help promote peace and relaxation. It can help you get a handle on a stressful situation.

German chamomile Matricaria recutita (L.) has a pleasant apple-like scent. It can be prepared as a delicious tea or taken in capsule form. One research study examined its calming effects on patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) with positive results, although it was concluded that more research studies are needed.[1] An old folk remedy recommends stuffing a pillow with chamomile.[2]

You’re sure to enjoy chamomile’s relaxing aroma. Chamomile M. recutita tea can be safely used for children and babies in small doses, but consult your pediatrician first.

  1. Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus 

Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus (Stapf) is a fragrant herb that can be soothing on frayed nerves and has traditionally been used to promote calm. It has a lemony flavor that is used extensively in Asian cooking. The use of lemongrass in aromatherapy can encourage inner peace and relaxation.[3]

  1. Passionflower Passiflora incarnata

Passionflower Passiflora incarnata (L.) is a beautiful botanical. The fruit is often used in cuisine, but the flower, leaves, and stem have mild soothing qualities on the body and mind. It is native to South America, and has traditionally been used to induce calm and take the edge off a stressful day. It is also fantastic to promote healthy sleep patterns.[4]

Passionflower P. incarnata tea is a wonderful way to prepare this herb and experience its soothing properties.

  1. St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum

St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum (L.) is one of the most popular botanicals used to promote an uplifted, healthy mood.[5] Since stress and mood go hand-in-hand, a healthy feeling of happiness can calm you down … naturally!

It has been said that St. John’s Wort “brings the stork,” but the Herb Research Foundation says these fears are unfounded, as this herb has been used in Europe for centuries with no report of unwanted pregnancies.

It is recommended to use St. John’s Wort H. perforatum extract three times per day standardized to .3% hypericin at 300 milligrams.

This herb can be taken as a tea, a tincture, a capsule, or in pill form. Do not use St. John’s Wort H. perforatum if you are taking antidepressants.[6] If you are using Indinavir—a component of antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV—do not use St. John’s Wort as it is also contraindicated.

  1. Green tea Camellia sinensis

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention green tea Camellia sinensis (L.). Popular in many health and wellness circles, green tea is traditionally used for its soothing effects. Green tea contains L-theanine, which has been studied for its potential calming properties.[7]

Feeling strung out? Have a break and take a few minutes for yourself, relax, and sip the warm tea. Those few minutes may be all it takes to help re-focus and revive.

Some herbs interact with prescription drugs, so be sure to discuss any herbal preparations you use with your healthcare provider or registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild (AHG). Be especially careful if you are pregnant or nursing.

What are your “go-to” herbs for peace and calm? Tell me your favorites in the comments.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a graduate of American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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[1] Amsterdam JD, Yimei L, Soeller I, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009;29(4):378-382.

[2] Howe, M. Chamomile: Shelter from the storm. Webmd. Retrieved from

[3] Blanco MM, Costa CA, Freire AO, Santos JG, Jr, Costa M. Neurobehavioral effect of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus in mice. Phytomedicine. 2009;16(2–3):265–270. Retrieved from

[4] Passionflower. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from

[5] Archer, D. St. John’s Wort and Depression. Is St. John’s Wort a safe, effective alternative to medication for depression? 2013. Retrieved from

[6] Possible Interactions with: St. John’s Wort. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from

[7] Heese T, Jenkinson J, Love C, et al. Anxiolytic effects of L-theanine—a component of green tea-when combined with midazolam, in the male Sprague-Dawley rat. AANA Journal. 2009;77(6):445–449. Retrieved from

Topics: herbsstress 


Simple Ways to Stay Healthy

Close up cup of tea with cinnamon stick

By Valerie Lull MH

Cinnamon Tea and Blood Sugar Control

Cinnamon is a  popular spice that is used in teas, candies, chewing gum, cooking and baking. Cinnamon has been used as a traditional medicine in China for hundreds of years. In recent times cinnamon has been the subject of numerous research studies. Scientists have come up with some interesting results. The one that interested me was that cinnamon may be useful for the control of high blood sugar.

In 2012 a study was done in China to see if cinnamon extract would improve fasting blood glucose in the treatment of type 2 diabetes patients. Sixty-six patients were recruited and divided into three groups. One group received high-dose cinnamon, the second group received low-dose cinnamon and the third group received a placebo. The researchers saw hemoglobin A1c levels and fasting blood glucose levels in both the high-dose group and the low-dose significantly reduced. The placebo group was unchanged. The researchers concluded that cinnamon supplements could significantly improve blood glucose control in Chinese type 2 diabetes patients. (1)

There are a number of studies that seem to indicate cinnamon lowers glucose levels, but there are also studies that show the opposite. A meta-analysis was done in 2011 that compared 8 clinical studies. They concluded that cinnamon intake results in a significant lowering of fasting blood glucose. (2) The general consensus is that more studies need to be done on cinnamon and glucose levels.

My take on all this is that cinnamon is a healthful spice; even if it is controversial about lowering blood glucose, it has other potential health benefits that make it worth taking. However, don’t use it for self-treatment without first discussing it with your healthcare practitioner.

Cinnamon tea is delicious and  easy to make. Simply immerse a cinnamon stick in a cup of boiling water. Cinnamon tea in teabag form is available and cinnamon is often mixed with other things like cloves and ginger. It is often included in chai teas which make a delicious drink. Some folks like to add cinnamon to their cocoa.

Here is a link to a fantastic website that can tell you more about the benefits of cinnamon.


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Valerie Lull
Ten Spices for Health and Longevity

Simple Ways to Stay Healthy


By Valerie Lull MH

Dried Plums

Dried plums have been used for decades for various disorders. Our grandparents called them prunes. I remember my grandfather drinking a glass of prune  juice every night before going to bed.The folks in the prune industry found that people responded much more favorably to the name “Dried Plums”, than the name prunes, so  in the United States they changed the name.

Prunes are best known for promoting regularity. But did you know they have a host of other health benefits? They are used for weight loss, diabetes, cancer prevention and even osteoporosis.

Prunes are full of beneficial nutrients. They contain good things like vitamins A, B complex, C and K, copper, fiber, iron, boron and potassium. They contain prebiotics which means they feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. Prunes also have antioxidants that help to fight free radicals. This is important for slowing down chronic diseases  that are part of the ageing process.

Can prunes help with weight loss? A study was done at the University of Liverpool. A group of 100 overweight people were given prunes as part of a weight loss study for twelve weeks. The folks in the study were divided into 2 groups. The group that got prunes experienced greater weight loss than the group that did not receive prunes.

Can prunes help high blood pressure? A study was done to see if prunes had an effect on hypertension. The results showed a significant reduction in blood pressure and the conclusion of the study was that the data showed positive effects of prunes on the cardiovascular system.

In 2011 a study was done on prunes and osteoporosis. The researchers compared dried apples and dried prunes on a group of 160 women who were not on hormone therapy. They were assigned to 1 of 2 treatment groups. one  group got dried plums and the other group got dried apples.  The results of the study were that the dried plum group had significant increased bone density in the spine.

I like prunes because they taste good and make a delicious sweet snack. Perhaps we should pay more attention to the lowly prune because it can do more than just  have a laxative effect.

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University of Liverpool. “Eating prunes can help weight loss, study shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2014. <>. http://



Simple Ways to Stay Healthy by Valerie Lull MH

lemons (1)


The Healing  Power of Lemons

Lemons are wonderful little fruits that are packed full of nutrients that can help in the healing process. Not only do they heal, they play a role in prevention of disease as well. Lemons contain vitamin C, flavonoids, B-complex vitamins, calcium ,copper, iron, potassium and fiber.

.Lemons have negative ions. Negative ions cause the wonderful feelings we get when we are around waterfalls and on the beach. These ions refresh the stomach and the whole digestive system.They improve the uptake of oxygen and enhance brain function.

Lemon juice helps problems like heartburn, and bloating. It enhances the efficiency of the bowels in eliminating waste. Lemon water can give you an energy boost. I know it certainly boosts my energy when my day begins to lag. I take the juice of one small fresh lemon every day diluted with water. Taking this tonic is a wonderful detox remedy for the liver. Lemon water does wonders for the digestive system

Lemons are inexpensive and available in any supermarket. It is easy to make lemon water every morning. If you are worried about the lemon hurting the enamel on your teeth, drink it through a straw. What is your favorite remedy that uses fresh lemons? Your comments are welcome.

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