Posts Tagged ‘diabetes’

violet-wreathSpending time outside is something I often crave, especially during the winter months.  Today, the weather was gorgeous so I went out to harvest the most beautiful little violets from under a big oak tree that grows on our property. As I was picking the delicate little heart shaped leaves, I was joined by a bumble bee who excitedly buzzed from flower to flower gathering nectar.  What crossed my mind while sitting under that big oak tree. surrounded by those violets growing in the rich black soil, is how important it is for me to take care of this land that I harvest from.  I made sure that I left plenty of flowers so that the bees had their share and picked the leaves and not the whole plant so that the plant continues to flourish.

There are roughly 500 species of Violets (Viola spp.) that grow throughout the United States.  In my area of North Florida, I know of five different species, but only use two of those medicinally and as a food source (V. sororia, V. villosa).  It is important if you are going to harvest any plant that you make sure you have properly identified the correct genus and species.


Another thing that occurred to me as I picked and nibbled on the flowers (leaves and flowers are edible), is how fortunate I am to have Violets growing this time of year.  During the winter, I get really dried out from the indoor heat and violet is a moistening plant which helps to counter that dryness.  Violets are a “mucilaginous” plant, which basically means when crushed or infused in cool water, it becomes slimy and gooey.   Since I’ve written about mucilaginous herbs before, I’ll just quote myself here;

“When used externally a mucilaginous herb is called an emollient and helps to soothe inflamed and irritated tissue.  When taken internally a mucilaginous herb is called a demulcent.  Either internally or externally that gooey substance will soothe irritation, help to reduce inflammation and help to stimulate the innate immune response.

If you think about conditions that are hot, inflamed, irritated and dry you can apply this action just by knowing about the benefits of mucilaginous plants.  Some examples of plants with this mucilaginous quality include Plantain, Mallow’s, some Elm species, Cinnamon (to some extent), Violets, Mullein, Okra and Comfrey.”

viola-spp-feb-2011-mb-flaViolet is a wonderful herb to use to help reduce inflammation and to soothe irritation in a host of different conditions such as constipation (lubricates the bowels), sore throats, dry coughs, red and angry looking skin conditions, etc.  As a lymphatic herb, it can help to reduce swollen glands, abscesses and has also been used topically for mastitis and fibrocystic breasts. (though I’ve not tried it for the latter two conditions).

As I mentioned, the leaves and flowers are edible and can be added to salads, vinegar, as a thickener, candied, etc.  Steeping the leaves and flowers over night helps to extract the vitamins and minerals from the plant as well as creating a tea rich in soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber has numerous benefits to include:

  • bulking up stool, increasing peristalsis and helping to ease constipation
  • slows the absorption of sugar which may benefit those with diabetes
  • creates a sense of fullness which may aid in weight loss
  • is a prebiotic food source which helps to balance out friendly flora in the gut
  • traps lipids (fats) and therefore may help to improve cholesterol levels and lipid metabolism


One of my favorite winter tea’s is a recipe I like to call, “Violet Immersion Tea”.  Not only is this tea moistening, but it really has a great flavor which makes me enjoy drinking it throughout the winter.

Violet Immersion Tea

3 cups water

3 – 5 tbsp Violet leaves (Viola spp.) dried

1 tbsp Plantain leaves (Plantago spp.) dried

1 tbsp Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) dried

½ tbsp. Spearmint leaves (Mentha spicata) dried

Combine all herbs and pour boiling water on top.  Steep covered for 20 – 30 minutes.  You may leave this to steep longer to develop more of the mucilage which makes it even more moistening. You could also leave this until it cools completely to drink it cool or warm it back up.  Strain and enjoy.  May add a little honey for sweetness.

Another thing is that you can adjust the amount of the herbs to suit your taste. Experiment with this recipe and make it your own.

References and Additional Info:

Blankespoor, J. – http://chestnutherbs.com/violets-edible-and-medicinal-uses/

Mcdonald, J. – http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/violet-herb.html

Vaughn, K. –  http://www.henriettes-herb.com/articles/viola.html

Vickery, N. – https://thefamilyherbalist.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/celebrating-spring-with-violets/

A Modern Herbal – http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/v/vioswe12.html#med

Edible Recipes using Violets:

Violet Jelly – http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/violet-jelly.html

Candied Violets – http://userealbutter.com/2014/05/04/candied-violets-recipe/

Violet Lemonade – http://kitchenlane.com/2014/05/wild-violets-make-violet-lemonade.html

Old Fashioned Sweet Violet Syrup – http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2012/02/old-fashioned-sweet-violet-syrup-for-easter-mothering-sunday-cakes-bakes.html


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Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control

The amount of sleep we get and the quality of that sleep is crucial to overall health. While we sleep our bodies are repairing and rebuilding. If we are not getting adequate amounts of sleep we may feel sluggish upon rising and fatigued during the day.

Sleep deprivation is associated with a host of health conditions to include diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease (more…)

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So maybe your gaining weight despite diet and exercise and you just can’t seem to lose it. The weight seems to center primarily in your abdomen. Perhaps you have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, uterine fibroids, BPH (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy), fatigue, , PCOS, acne or even skin tags. Regardless of which condition(s) you may be experiencing they all have something in common…Insulin Resistance.

Normal Insulin Function:

When food is eaten the glucose and/or amino acids trigger the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin then binds to cells and like a key in a lock opens the pathway of the cell allowing glucose, amino acids, fats and various nutrients to enter. The cell in turn begins a process of converting these nutrients into fuel/energy. Once all these nutrients are cleared from the blood the pancreas stops producing insulin.

Insulin Resistance:

Cells are covered in insulin receptors. These insulin receptors either become resistant to insulin or begin to down regulate creating a condition known as Insulin Resistance. When insulin can no longer get glucose and nutrients into the cells glucose levels in the blood remain high and the pancreas then produces even more insulin to counter this effect. Now, not only is the blood stream saturated with high levels of glucose, but insulin levels are continuing to rise and nutrients are not able to nourish the cell.

Cells and Insulin Resistance:

The cells in the liver are the first cells to become resistant to insulin. The liver which normally stores glucose in the form of glycogen for energy isn’t sensing the presence of glucose and begins making more through a process known as gluconeogenesis. This newly formed glucose is now sent out into the blood stream adding to the already high levels of blood sugar. The liver also stops breaking down fatty acids and starts storing them in the liver which may lead to a condition known as Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Cells in the skin, lining of the arteries and some other cells never become insulin resistant. Most cancer cells do not become insulin resistant. However, immune system cells may become insulin resistant.

How do I know if I am Insulin Resistant?

– Elevated triglycerides (> 150) or depressed HDL cholesterol (< 40 male < 50 female) – Waist:hip ratio > or equal to 1 in a male, or waist > 40 inches

– Waist:hip ratio > or equal to 0.8 in a female, or waist > 35 inches

– Abnormal glucose tolerance // Fasting glucose > 100

Why people become Insulin Resistant:

 Genetics (accounts for 25% of cases)

 Diet high in simple carbohydrates with a lack of protein

 Lack of resistance exercise

 Lack of Essential Fatty Acids

 Too many trans fatty acids in the diet

 Lack of specific nutrients and trace elements

 Too much stress

 Lack of sleep

Some of the Effects of Insulin Resistance on the Body:

• Difficult time losing weight

• Increased risk of various cancers

• Obesity

• High Cholesterol

• Hypertension

• Thrombosis

• Atherosclerosis

• Osteoporosis

• Hypothyroid

and Increased risk of Diabetes

Difficult time losing weight and Obesity:

A number of different things happen when insulin levels are high. First, growth hormone is suppressed. Growth hormone promotes the growth of bones and soft tissues and helps to regulate fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. The consequences of suppressed growth hormone are numerous but include impaired fat burning especially in the abdomen, reduced muscle mass and strength and high levels of LDL “Bad” cholesterol. For people with high insulin levels due to insulin resistance they find it very difficult to lose weight and build muscle even when they exercise.

Increased Risk of Cancer:

Most cancer cells do not become insulin resistant. So, in other words these cells are still receiving nutrients which feed their growth and allow them to produce energy. Another thing that occurs when insulin levels are high is that the liver secretes more IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor). IGF-1 is a protein hormone which closely resembles insulin in its structure. IGF-1 helps to regulate cell growth and development and has insulin like effects. The combination of high insulin and IGF-1 levels creates oxidation of cells and promotes the growth of certain cells. Cell damage and growth relates to cancer leaving someone much more prone to various tumors of the breast, prostate, endometrium and colon. Increased IGF-1 levels may also play a role in Uterine Fibroids, Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH), Acne, early menarche and numerous other conditions.

High Cholesterol/Triglycerides:

High levels of insulin in the blood also elevate triglyceride levels and lower HDL which is the “good” or protective cholesterol. This in turn puts someone at a much greater risk for a heart attack or stroke.


Normally, insulin acts as a vasodilator and reduces the rigidity of arteries. However, with Insulin Resistance high levels of insulin start to create vasoconstriction which may lead to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Insulin also causes the body to retain salt and water which can potentially increase the risk of developing hypertension.

Why am I always hungry?

White adipose tissue (WAT) is found primarily around the abdomen and is used for storing easily retrievable fat which will be used later for energy. Leptin is a hormone secreted by white adipose tissue which sends a signal to the hypothalamus in the brain indicating that fat cells are full and that it is time to start burning fat. As Leptin levels rise a signal is sent to the pancreas to stop secreting insulin. Leptin is secreted when insulin is binding to cells or when fat cells are full. However, when there are high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream and excess fat around the abdomen there is a disruption in the Leptin signal and levels of Leptin begin to rise. In response to the high levels of Leptin the pancreas and hypothalamus go on the defense and reduce the number of Leptin receptors. This can cause a condition known as “Leptin resistance”. With the disruption of the Leptin signal the body still thinks it is hungry and the metabolism slows down fat burning. The pancreas continues to secrete insulin and the whole vicious cycle continues.

Another hormone called Ghrelin is secreted by cells in the stomach wall. Ghrelin sends a signal to stimulate the appetite when the stomach is empty. Growth hormone which helps to build lean muscle, burn fat and help to sensitize insulin resistant cells is also secreted in response to Ghrelin. However, high levels of insulin and glucose caused by insulin resistance once again disrupt the signal. The effect is that insulin levels continue to rise and Growth Hormone is blunted. Therefore, even when we have eaten we are still getting the signal that we are hungry, we are not building lean muscle or burning fat and the cells are exposed again to high levels of insulin.

Insulin Resistance and Thrombosis:

High levels of insulin in the blood have been shown to promote fibrinogen which increases clotting of blood and decrease PAI-1 which inhibits clot breakdown. These two factors greatly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Insulin Resistance and Stress:

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in response to stress, exercise, lack of sleep, hunger, etc. When cortisol is released due to stress a reserve of energy in the form of glucose is secreted by the liver. This glucose then signals the pancreas to release insulin. If the stress becomes prolonged and this cycle continues it can eventually lead to Insulin resistance. Someone who is pre-diabetic has the potential to go into full blown diabetes when cortisol is present. This vicious cycle of high levels of insulin and cortisol can eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion.

The Thyroid and Insulin Resistance:

When blood levels of insulin are high thyroid hormones are less able to convert T-4 to T-3 hormones. Because thyroid hormones are not converting sufficiently a condition of hypothyroid or underactive thyroid may occur.

Insulin Resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

There is an established link between PCOS and Insulin Resistance. About 50 – 70 % of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. (Diamanti-Kandarakis) When insulin resistance is a factor, high levels of insulin lead to increased levels of androgen hormones such as testosterone. As testosterone increases symptoms such as infrequent or irregular periods, increased body hair and acne can develop.

Insulin Resistance and Osteoporosis:

Insulin is important in helping to protect bones from breaking down and also helping to promote collagen formation. When bone cells become insulin resistant they no longer provide this protection which sets the stage for Osteoporosis.

Exercise and Insulin Resistance:

Exercise increases the production of growth hormone. Growth hormone helps to build lean muscle, burn fat and increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin suppresses Growth hormone. Growth hormones response to exercise lasts about 90 minutes. Therefore, it is much more beneficial to take (3) ten minute walks per day than one 30 minute walk. Trained muscle also has the ability to clear glucose more efficiently than untrained muscle. Also keep in mind than after exercising if you decide to rehydrate using sports drinks they actually blunt growth hormone and negate the beneficial effect of exercise.

Trained muscle also has the ability to clear glucose more rapidly than untrained muscle.

Overcoming Insulin Resistance:

The body is a marvelous machine and has numerous mechanisms to correct imbalances. However, the body has no response to insulin resistance and therefore cannot correct this imbalance without intervention. Lifestyle and dietary changes are a must for overcoming Insulin Resistance. If you are interested in establishing a program to overcome Insulin Resistance check with a Natural Health Practitioner who specializes in this condition.  Some things that you can do to increase insulin senstivity are:

  • Eat a breakfast high in protein
  • Avoid simple carbohydrates and focus on complex carbohydrates
  • Exercise (At least three 10 minute walks per day along with some type of resistance training)
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid hydrogenated fats found in margarine and processed foods
  • Reduce stress (See Article on Tips to Reduce Stress)
  • Get good plenty of good fats (Olive and Coconut oil, fish oil, nuts)
  • Replenish nutrients (see below)

Those who are Type 1 or Type 2 Insulin dependent diabetics must work in conjunction with their health care provider.

Supplements and Herbs which may Increase Insulin Sensitivity:


• Chromium picolinate

• Cod Liver Oil for a dose of docosohexaenoic acid (DHA)

  • B-Complex, in the form of a multivitamin

• Magnesium

• Zinc


Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-gracium)

– This culinary herb which is often used in Mediterranean cooking also exhibits benefits for increasing insulin sensitivity. However, in order to be beneficial the dose would have to be 1 ounce per day. This dose would be extremely difficult to ingest in the course of one day.

Cinnamomum (Cinnamon)

– Cinnamon is thought to help lower blood sugar in the same manner as the pharmaceutical drug Metformin by suppressing the production of glucose from the liver. As little as 3 grams of cinnamon per day may be beneficial in lowering blood glucose levels by increasing insulin sensitivity at the cellular level.

Grifola spp. (Maitake mushroom)

– Research indicates that either a powder or water extract of Maitake mushroom may help to increase insulin sensitivity and therefore lower glucose and insulin levels.

Caffea aribica (Coffee)

– Coffee appears to contain constituents which increase insulin sensitivity.


Despite the fact that Diabetes has become an epidemic in this country we can now see that there is hope through dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, exercise and supplementation. Anyone with diabetes should consult their doctor before beginning any type of program that may affect blood sugar levels. The information given here is for educational purposes only and should not be used for the treatment or diagnosis of any disease.


Bergner, P. (2006), Insulin Resistance: Pathophysiology and natural therapeutics for the metabolic syndrome. North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, Inc. Boulder, Colorado. http://www.NAIMH.com

Insulin resistance and the polycystic ovary syndrome: mechanism and implications for pathogenesis. Endocr Rev. 1997 Dec;18(6):774-800. Dunaif A1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9408743

This article is based on a summary of a class given by Paul Bergner at the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism. The course title is Insulin Resistance: Pathophysiology and Natural Therapeutics. If you are interested in learning more about this class or others given by Paul Bergner visit his website at:


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Yes, you heard me right….with the right anabolic steroids you can grow a chicken in 40 days.  But wait a second….if we consume food that is treated with steroids won’t they affect us as the consumer?  According to information obtained from Cornell University, ” there are six different kinds of steroid hormones that are currently approved by FDA for use in food production in the US: estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate, and melengestrol acetate. Estradiol and progesterone are natural female sex hormones; testosterone is the natural male sex hormone; zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengesterol acetate are synthetic growth promoters (hormone-like chemicals that can make animals grow faster).”

The European Union no longer allows the use of these steroids due to concerns that they may pose a risk to pregnant women and children and because of the impact on the environment from the transfer of hormones through animal excrement.  The EU has also banned imports of meat from Canada and the U.S. because of the continued use in animals to promote growth. (Assessment of Potential Risks)

What about the use of pesticides on the food we consume?  There are numerous studies which indicate that pesiticide exposure may contribute to serious health conditions such as breast cancer, non-hodgkins lymphoma, diabetes, and parkinsons disease.

 Check out this preview of the movie, “Food, Inc.,” which discusses how big business is putting profit ahead of safety when it involves our food supply.  You may never look at your food the same way again.

Food, Inc. The Movie

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GarlicToday there is a bit of a chill in the air and I’m thinking about soups and stews.  One thing I love to put into my soups and stews is Garlic.  What a phenominal herb it is.  Not only does Garlic add a wonderful flavor to hundreds of dishes, but it also has a list of health benefits and uses that is almost endless.  Garlic is best eaten raw, but still contains some beneficial properties when lightly cooked.

Sometimes refered to as Poor Man’s Penicillin, Garlic is a premiere substitute for antibotics without the harsh side effects.  When my son was really young and it was apparent he was coming down with something I would mash up several cloves of garlic and pour enough olive oil over the cloves to cover them.  I would then let the mixture sit for as long as I could, at least 30 mins or more, and then I would strain it.  I would then take the olive oil and apply it to the bottom of his feet and put him on a pair of socks.  Off to bed he would go and in the morning you would never know he had been sick.  The fever would be gone and he would be feeling fine.

Garlic is a mild blood thinner, can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and increase circulation.  Some research indicates that Garlic may help to lower blood sugar levels in some people making it beneficial for diabetics.  Because of Garlics antimicrobial,  and anti-bacterial properties it may be beneficial with any number of infections and may help to rid the body of parasites.  Garlic is also a wonder antifungal and may be used both internally or applied externally for conditions such as nail fungus and athletes foot.

So when dinner rolls around tonight don’t forget the Garlic.  Bon appetit!

P.S…another bonus to eating a lot of garlic is that it will not only keep people away such as salesmen, but you won’t have to worry about those pesky vampires this Halloween.

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