Monday, July 18, 2011

Kids Health!! Herbal First Aid Kit

In my humble opinion, first aid kits are one of the most important items to pack for long trips, day hikes, or general outings.  Okay, I don't *pack* one for general outings, but I do keep one handy in the car and my backpack.  You just don't know when you're going to need it, and you know if you don't have one you most certainly will!  This, combined with the ability of a first aid kit to calm a scared and hurt child down, makes it invaluable.  The mere mention of "the kit" begins to quiet my little ones' sobs down, as they realize that there's a plan.  There's hope!  The pain will go away and the blood will stop!  Okay, I'm being a bit dramatic here, but it's true.  Kids have a fascination with first aid kits.  The band-aids, the medical tape, the tiny tins of salve.  Who wouldn't be fascinated?

If you want to treat those boo-boos naturally, then assembling an herbal first aid kit is the way to go.  It's easy, inexpensive, and they make great gifts.  Here's a list of what I put in my own kits, but feel free to adjust yours for your own families needs.

1. The Basics
    -Natural Bug Spray (See recipe below)
    -Protein Bar
    -Emergen-C: These vitamin packets are a great way to keep your nutrients up when
             traveling.  Add the powder to water and you have a great way to re-hydrate
             after a long hike, boost your immunity, and shorten illness.

2. The Meds
    -Tea bags:  I always include peppermint tea bags for digestive issues,    
                 chamomile tea bags to calm nerves (internally) and pink eye or burns (cooled
                 and applied externally).  Traditional Medicinals also makes a great line of
                 medicinal teas for a variety of issues.  Great to have on hand!

    -All Purpose Salve:  Look for a salve that contains comfrey, St. John's Wort, calendula,
                or plantain.  Apply to cuts, scrapes,  & bug bites to disinfect, soothe, and
                accelerate healing.  Also great for dry, cracked skin.

    -Tea Tree Essential Oil: Another great disinfectant!  Use sparingly on infected cuts to
                       speed healing.  Also great to sniff to ease nausea, and apply
                       externally to get rid of parasites. 

    -Lavender Hydrosol: Lavender flower water with fully emulsified essential oil.  This is an
                   excellent spray that can soothe burns, rashes, ease anxiety, and
                    induce sleep.  Also works as a great "monster spray!"

    -Echinacea Tincture: A must have!  This works as an internal and external antibiotic, boosts
                  the immune system, and has even been used an an antidote to poison!

    -Homeopathic Arnica:  These little pills work wonders!  Take to ease muscle soreness,
                      heal bruises, ease arthritis pain, and ease headaches.

    -Rescue Remedy:  Made from flower essences, this is a great tonic to ease trauma and
                stress.  Also great way to relieve anxiety.  Just take a few drops under the

3. The Hardware
    -Assortment of Band-Aids
    -Bandages, gauze, and surgical tape
    -Duct Tape
    -Cold Pack
    -Hot Pack
    -Ear Plugs
    -Sewing Kit

Carry these items in a waterproof bag or case, and you will be well prepared for any injury that comes your way.

Go have an adventure!
Kristin Henningsen M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kids Health!! Healthy Travel Tips

Summertime is usually synonymous with travel time.  In fact, next week I am packing up my 3 and 6 year old to travel by car, train and plane to the Midwest for 10 days.  I have a feeling I'm in for an adventure!  Traveling with little ones can be pretty stressful to say the least.  Trying to travel in a healthy and mindful way can be even more stressful, unless you plan ahead.  Along with healthy snacks, herbal products can be a great way to stay healthy during your excursions, and help keep you sane. 

My suitcase usually includes items to calm the kids, entertain them, and keep them healthy.  Here's a list of some of my favorite healthy & herb related goodies to pack for the kids.

1.  Snacks!  Hungry kids = whiny kids, so I try to plan ahead and pack some healthy snacks.  Our families favorites include the usual carrot sticks, apples, & non-sugary granola bars, but we also try to mix it up by baking crackers with dill, basil, or rosemary, packing dried fruit and nut mixes with herbal spices, or hearty whole grain muffins with lavender or elder berries.  Be sure to pack a water bottle and you're set!

2. Herbal tea bags and Emergen-C- Herbal tea bags are great for making calming or nourishing teas, but cooled chamomile tea bags can even be used for pink-eye or healing owies.  In case you're not familiar with them, Emergen-C packets are a great blend of vitamins in powdered form.  When added to water can be a delicious and nutritious drink for the kids.  I usually give the kids a 1/2 packet each.

3. Herbal First Aid Kit-more on contents of this in the next post!

4. Herbal Eye-pillow- These are really easy to make (see Fill them with calmative herbs such as lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm to ease little ones to sleep, even in unfamiliar places. 

5. Lavender "Monster" Spray.  Put a few drops of lavender essential oil in a spray bottle with 8 oz of water, add a tablespoon of witch hazel and voila!  A calming spray that can be used for everything from keeping monsters away to encouraging rest.

6. Regional Medicinal Plant Field Guide.- Hours of entertainment!  Kids love to page through the pretty pictures, and you can make a game out of identifying plants as you go into new places, even playing plant quiz games.  Definitely more interesting than reading Goodnight Moon over and over and over again!

7. Art Bags-I've filled each of my kids art bags with a felt roll filled with markers, pencils, and pens. See on how to make one yourself.  Then, I put in a journal (for drawing, pressing plants, writing poems about the sun, etc.), coloring books, and other goodies like a magnifying glass, cool stickers, or old postcards with pretty pictures.  Encouraging creativity can be a fun escape for the kids and you!

It sounds like a lot, but honestly all this stuff packs down small.  And really, wouldn't you trade that extra pair of shoes to skip the in-flight temper tantrum? 

Safe Travels,
Kristin Henningsen, M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kids Health!! Secret Herbal Nutrition

This week I've decided to focus on kids health.  Many parents are spending their summer days immersed in activities with their kids.  Going to the pool, park, library, hiking, bike riding, repeat.  This is a great time to make a meaningful connection with your kids, not only through their activities but also through their nutrition.  Herbs are a great way to add nutritive value to common dishes.  Many herbs contain a combination of Vitamins A, C, K, and all those B's vitamins.  Not only that but they also contain important minerals such as Iron and Calcium, along with the important medicinal compounds associated with a particular herb. 

Let's take mint, for example.  Fresh mint contains high amounts of Vitamin A, C, Folate and Niacin.  It is also high in Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, and Potassium.  Add to that the benefits of mint for digestive health and its use as an antibacterial and you have an excellent herb to add to foods and drinks!

Now if your kids are anything like mine, you may have to be…let's say…sneaky…at times in order to get them to consume fresh herbs.  Why my littlest one will eat basil straight off the plant, but balk at the sight of it in a sauce is beyond me!  Instead of forcing the issue, I get creative.

Here's a few of my favorite ways to sneak a little herbal nutrition into common dishes.

-Pureeing basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, or other savory herbs with a little olive oil first, before adding them to sauces to add iron, calcium, and Vitamin A.  The smaller the bits the better!  While your at it puree some white beans and add them to the sauce to add protein.

-Sprinkle cinnamon into pancake batter, on desserts, or fresh fruits to add Calcium, Vitamins A & K,  Potassium, and Magnesium.  Cinnamon is great for the circulatory system as well.

-Make smoothies!  You can sneak pretty much any fresh herb into a smoothie.  Try adding mint, lemon balm, citrusy herbs, even chamomile for nutrient rich and tasty concoctions.  Add yogurt for pro-biotic benefits, cold herbal tea or 100% juices,  fresh fruits, and a little ice for a refreshing and nutrient packed snack.  The possibilities are endless!

Here's  one of my favorite smoothies for the kids:

-2cups yogurt
-1 cup frozen strawberries
-1 cup frozen blueberries
-1 banana
-1/2 cup cooled infusion of peppermint, lemon balm, and chamomile
-splash of apple juice

*Blend ingredients well until you have the desired texture.  Top with a fresh mint leaf and you have a little bit of heaven.

Happy Hiding!

Kristin Henningsen, M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rooibos Tea

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty 
School of Health Sciences

In the morning I have to have a couple of nice, dark cups of coffee, but in the afternoons and evenings, I am a tea drinker. I prefer to drink caffeine-free organic teas and at any given time I have a variety of both loose leaf and bagged herbal teas on hand. Lately I have been drinking rooibos loose leaf tea as my afternoon pick-me-up which is purported to have a host of health benefits, so I thought I would see if there was any scientific evidence to support the claims. Rooibos (Afrikaans for “red bush” and pronounced Roy-Boss) is the national drink of South Africa. And it isn’t actually a tea but an herbal infusion made by fermenting and sun drying the leaves and twigs of the rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis). It is this fermentation process that gives the tea its characteristic red color. 

According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (, red bush tea contains polysaccharides, flavonoids, a low amount of tannins, and a relatively high amount of vitamin C. Some evidence suggests that daily intake of the acid polysaccharides found in the extracts could suppress cancer and delay age-related changes to the central nervous system, however to date there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these claims. A PubMed search turns up data on the antioxidant, immune enhancing, and cancer protective properties of this herbal tea in animals, with limited studies completed in people.

In the athletic world, the tea is gaining popularity as a healthy antioxidant rich fluid and electrolyte replacement drink. Having an antioxidant rich diet is important for maintaining health in general and especially for athletes who are engaged in regular physical activity. Physical activity creates oxidative stress in the body and some of the negative effects of this stress can be offset by including foods and beverages that are rich in polyphenolic compounds that fight free radicals like rooibos tea.  

While many of the claims have yet to be supported by scientific studies, this tea tastes fantastic and incorporating it in your diet on a regular basis is a great way to reap the benefits of its antioxidant content.

Friday, July 1, 2011

2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty
School of Health Sciences

2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce
Summertime is here and there are so many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables available that you almost can’t help but get in your 5 servings each day. If you are lucky enough to have locally, organically grown produce in your area you should definitely take advantage of what summer has to offer. But if you are buying your produce at the local grocery store you may not know how the produce was grown and if it contains pesticide residue or not. And while it would be great if we could all afford to buy 100% of our produce from organic growers, for most people this isn’t feasible economically. So how do you know which foods have the most pesticide residue and which have the least? This is where the Environmental Working Group comes in. They have just recently released the 7th edition of their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce which has updated information on 53 fruits and vegetables. Wow – 53! That should about cover all of the bases. 

Produce is ranked according to how many pesticides are on a peeled and washed sample and the results are based on data collected from the USDA and FDA from 2000 to 2009. You may have even caught the headlines on the news about apples becoming the new number 1 most contaminated type of produce replacing celery from last year. But should you really be concerned about pesticides on your produce when you are already worrying about GMOs, hormones, and antibiotics in your food? You betcha, especially if you are feeding little ones. Children are the most susceptible to the health problems associated with pesticide ingestion since they are developing and growing. The Environmental Protection Agency posts information on its website about the potential health effects of pesticides. Some pesticides contain carcinogens while other have affects on the nervous, hormone, and endocrine systems. Have a look at this graph to see how the levels of pesticides have increased over the years

If you still aren’t convinced, consider this: eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables from the dirty dozen list would mean ingesting an average of 14 pesticides a day, while eating the same number of servings from the clean 15 list would result in consuming fewer than 2 pesticides a day. I do want to throw in the caveat that it would still be better to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables that have pesticides on them then to eat none at all, so don’t use this as an excuse to stop eating fresh produce.

To help you make informed decisions about what you buy, you can download a free copy of the guide by going to the Environmental Working Group’s website What I really like about the guide is that you can cut it out and stick it in your wallet or purse for easy reference while you are shopping.

Enjoy the bounties of summer produce and happy eating!

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