Tagged health

Elderberry Syrup


The cold and flu season is upon us once again, so I just made a batch of elderberry syrup to give our immune systems a boost, but also because it’s plain delicious and we love it. Elderberries are a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Iron and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber and Vitamin C (reference here, for FRESH elderberries, but you get a good idea of the nutritional value).

Elderberry extract is available commercially, but I prefer making our own version since I like knowing what I put in it and I’m able to control the sweetness, plus it’s more economical to DIY.

Disclaimer: This isn’t meant to replace medical advice — I’m not a health or medical practitioner, just a mom who loves good food and who has made decisions about our family’s nutritional needs based on experience plus the wisdom of other moms. Here’s some basic info from WebMD, and there are scientific papers linked below if you want to read more on elderberry, but your doctor’s the best person to ask if you have any questions. All I know is our family hasn’t been seriously hit with the flu since 2011, so we’ve just continued making/taking it. And there isn’t a consensus on recommended dosage, so we limit ourselves to a tablespoon or so a day, except on those days when we enjoy a bit more on our pancakes or mixed into a smoothie. Not for kiddies under 2 (because of the honey) and also, this review says not for pregnant women. If in doubt, always ask your doctor. Whenever we take something that’s not prescribed by the doctor I always make it a point to let him know that we’re taking it so he can put it in our charts and if there are any problems, he’s already informed.

To make this syrup, you’ll need:

2/3 cup dried black elderberries (I like these)
3 1/2 cups water
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped finely
2 cinnamon sticks (Ceylon preferred, like these) broken into pieces or run briefly in spice grinder (doesn’t have to be ground finely)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup raw honey (we like this)

(I prefer using organic ingredients, but it’s not necessary.)

Put all ingredients except honey into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for an hour, and then remove cover and boil on high heat 10 more minutes to reduce. Remove from heat and let cool, partially covered, to lukewarm. Strain into a large bowl, pressing on the solids to get all the goodness out of them, then add the honey and mix well with a whisk (or when I’m lazy, I run through the blender). Store in an airtight container (I like these flasks) and refrigerate. I honestly don’t know how long it lasts because there’s 7 of us and it gets used up pretty quickly around here.

Store in the fridge and take 1 tablespoon daily, or every 4 hours if you get hit with cold or flu.

More reading if you like:

Herbal Therapies for Prevention and Treatment of Influenza and Influenza-Like Illness
Anti-Influenza Virus Effects of Elderberry Juice and Its Fractions
The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines
Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections
Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama

Bacon and Contraception? Not the Same Thing


A pro-lifer friend shared his concern with me this morning, asking if we should oppose bacon along with contraceptives, since bacon has been declared a Class 1 Carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

First of all, the processed meat and cancer connection is nothing new. I’ve heard that since I was a child, that’s why my mom (who’s a pharmacist) never stocked it at home. Bacon, SPAM, hotdogs — especially the bright red ones available in the Philippines — rarely appeared on our dinner table.

What has always concerned me more as an adult and what I think has not been explored enough is the connection between GMO feed, antibiotic use in animals, factory farming, the use of pesticide in plants that end up as animal feed… and cancer.

My friend is concerned that we make a big deal about OCPs being Class 1 Carcinogens, but we proclaim our love for bacon all the time, and therefore we’re being inconsistent and hypocritical. That bacon is now a proven carcinogen (I don’t agree with this 100%) means we can no longer use “the carcinogen argument”. I still don’t think it’s the same thing.

Contraceptive pills are taken daily and are promoted by the World Health Organization as essential medicine. (Most recent list here.)

The message given to us by the WHO, by Big Pharma, by pro-choice lobbyists, by supposed philanthropists, is worlds apart from anything we’ve ever said about bacon. First of all they either don’t even acknowledge that OCPs are carcinogens, or they downplay that by telling a woman to do it for her family, her country, and for the man who uses her body. They sell it as a NEED and a COMMON GOOD.

By contrast, our position about contraception is so much more nuanced than “It’s a carcinogen.”

Contraceptive pills and bacon are both LIFESTYLE CHOICES. People can choose to take pills or not. They can also choose to consume bacon or not. We’ve never promoted bacon as a MUST. It’s food, and one that poor people can rarely even afford, if at all. We don’t go around giving away bacon for free or selling it at discounted prices. The Catholic Church doesn’t fund bacon distribution to the poorest countries saying that it will help them, whereas contraceptives have been touted as panacea for poverty and hunger. For much of the world, bacon isn’t even an option. One could even say “bacon is carcinogen” is a first world problem.

Contraceptives, on the other hand, are not only sold so people can purchase and use them freely as they wish, they are MANDATED and PAID FOR BY TAXPAYERS, even those of us who don’t use them and don’t agree that it’s beneficial to do so. When was the last time we lobbied for access to bacon?

And I say all this not just because I love bacon, but because I love people too. I am all for increased awareness of the dangers of processed meat consumption. Educating and informing people about it doesn’t dilute our advocacy against contraception one bit. As far as our family is concerned, we are always trying to increase our consumption of plant-based foods, just because we’ve read and learned enough to know that it’s the healthy way to eat. When it comes to meat I try to purchase grass-fed beef, pastured pork, naturally cured meats (or we cure our own without the use of things like saltpeter) whenever I can. I try to find out as much as I can about our local farmers’ practices so I can discern better what to feed my family.

I’ve only ever seen pro-lifers promote healthy diets, with everything in moderation, and that includes bacon, though we tend to agree that bacon makes everything better! Pills? Not so much. Besides, Bacon Causes Cancer? Sort of. Not Really. Ish.

More reading:
Save Your Bacon! Sizzling Bits about Nitrites, Dirty Little Secrets about Celery Salt, and Other Aporkalyptic News
Nitrites & Nitrates: Are They Harmful Or Actually Healthful?

College and Hypersexualized Kids (Rethinking College 1)


We send our kids to college because we want them to become positive contributors to society. To do that, they need to reach a certain level of maturity in the different areas of their lives, sexuality being only one of them. But in many colleges and universities today, sexuality issues seem to outweigh everything else. The imbalance adversely affects the campus milieu, making these places less conducive to learning and growth, and I’ve started to question their value in producing healthy, well-adjusted young adults.

In a university where most everything is sexualized, much of the vocabulary needed to define unacceptable sexual behavior is lost, and what remains are the umbrella terms “rape” and “rape culture“.

Rape is a heinous crime, but while each act of rape is ultimately the rapist’s responsibility, we cannot just look away and pretend we didn’t help build the culture where it occurs. Surveying the landscape and seeing all these damaged souls, one can’t help but wonder if college is still the best avenue to prepare for life and career.

One college has had to put up a safe room to protect students, a solution that would be largely unnecessary were college students unscathed from past sexual experiences.

The time to teach our kids self-preservation is while they’re little, not after they’ve played Russian roulette with their mental, emotional, and physical health. The stories of casual sex + alcohol in college are becoming all too ubiquitous, yet still we shrug our shoulders and say, “Kids will be kids.” Our society continues to operate on the assumption that young people’s health is simply about being “disease- and pregnancy-free”. But such an assumption leaves young people vulnerable, and once the damage is done, no sanitized, “bias-free” language can possibly protect them. Trauma will be processed by the brain, with or without triggers.

The hypersexualization of children led us here. This isn’t solely a religious concern. We conservatives are often derided for espousing morality, modesty and chastity, but it’s clear that teaching the opposite has negatively impacted our youth’s mental and emotional health. When dating, courtship, and marriage were tethered to morality, consent contracts would have been seen as ridiculous and unnecessary, because injudicious sexual behavior simply wasn’t the norm.

Here lies the difference between ideology and truth: Truth prepares and protects. Ideology leaves one unprepared and unprotected.

When we talk about human sexuality, we often end up in arguments centering on contraceptive use or access to abortion, when the essential word in that phrase is HUMAN. Compartmentalizing lessons on sex and seeing our sexuality as something that can be encapsulated within the “safety” message, takes away our focus on what’s key. Until we are able to see the truth about human sexuality, we will forever be stuck addressing symptoms of ill health, and pretending that our young adults are perfectly fine, despite evidence to the contrary.

Increasingly I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to quit university/college. Call it exercising the Benedict Option if you like. It’s not that different from the decision to opt out and homeschool when our children were younger. We have found, to our great delight, that we are indeed capable of educating our children at home, and grow adults who are fully in touch with what it means to be human. Finding alternative options for college/university could be the next logical step if we want to build and strengthen life and coping skills beyond the college experience.

More next time.

Related reading:
The Coddling of the American Mind
The Neglected Heart: The Emotional Dangers of Premature Sexual Involvement
Unprotected, by Dr. Miriam Grossman
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality

Vaccination Needs to Remain a Prudential Decision


Do you know how hard it is to be a parent these days? Oh goodness. The multitude of decisions we need to make on a daily basis, ON TOP of just living daily life and deciding what’s for dinner. To illustrate, today’s parent is often confronted with these choices:

– Food: Organic or Not, From Scratch or with “Helpers”?
– Organic Food: 100% Organic, or __% Organic?
– Cleaning: Store-bought Cleansers or DIY?
– Containers: BPA-Free or Not?
– Microwaves: To Use or Not to Use?
– Canned Goods: Lined or Not Lined?
– Diapers: Cloth or Disposable, Diaper Service or Launder Yourself, Organic Cotton or Regular?
– Infants: Breastmilk or Bottlefeed, Wean or Self-Wean?
– Water: Filtered or Unfiltered?
– Filtered Water: Reverse Osmosis or Over the Counter or Pur?
– Clothes: Synthetic Fiber or Natural?
– Allergies: Stay Away 100% from Allergens or Try to Develop/Rebuild Immunity Gradually?
– Education: Public, Private, or Homeschool?
– Homeschooling: Unschooling, Eclectic, Classical, Waldorf, Online, Offline, Charlotte Mason, Boxed Curriculum, Self-Designed? (AAAAARGH.)
– Essential Oils: To Use or Not to Use?
– Using Essential Ois: DoTerra, YoungLiving, Plant Therapy, etc., etc., etc.?
– Laundry: Storebought detergent or DIY?
– Beef: Grass-Fed or Not?
– Milk: To Drink or Not To Drink? Raw or Not?
– Deodorant: Store-Bought or DIY?
– DIY Deodorant: Use Baking Soda or Not?
– Fat: What’s Healthy and Not Healthy?
– Oils: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Regular Olive Oil, Lite Olive Oil, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Cold-Pressed Oil, Regular Butter, Organic Butter, Ghee, Sunflower Oil, Safflower Oil, Peanut Oil, Canola Oil, LARD, Lard from Pastured Pigs, etc., etc., etc.
– Diet: Paleo, Whole30, Fasting, Gluten-Free, Feingold, Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw?
– Yogurt: Storebought or DIY, Greek or Regular, Dairy or Non-Dairy?
– Carbs: Bad or Good?
– Wheat: Bad or Good?
– Cellphones: Dumbphone, Smartphone, or No Phone?
– Smartphones: Android, iPhones, No Label?
– Cellphones: Made in China or Not? (same thing with sneakers, jeans, toys, glue, paints, books, etc., etc., etc.)
– Television: To watch or not?
– Entertainment: Cable, Netflix, Amazon Streaming, DVDs, YouTube? Chromecast or Not?
– Video Games: I’m not even going to do a list for this.
– Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facetime, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc., etc., or nothing? Or what age?

OH MY GOSH. Make it stop already.

And then of course, the biggest issue of the past week or so: VACCINATIONS.

We need to stop and LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE.

Here’s the thing: There are educated people on both sides of the divide. There are people who do endless research about these matters, on both sides of the divide. There are LOVING, CARING PARENTS on both sides of the divide. There are FAITHFUL CATHOLICS on both sides of the divide.

You may say that most of the issues I listed above aren’t matters of life and death. Are you sure? ­čÖé That’s another argument for another post. Assuming that it’s true though, as Catholics, we do worry about the WHOLE person. How about mental, emotional, spiritual disease? The point is that we can argue about EVERYTHING and about how our choices might impact others’ children. (While I’m at it, we’ve spent so much time arguing about this, while Christians are still being slaughtered, young girls are still being raped and becoming victims of trafficking, and babies are still aborted at the rate of thousands daily.)

The only reason this is such a major topic is because we’re on social media (yeah, me included). There are thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions) of people out there who don’t have access to social media or just don’t care what we say here. Right now, I kinda wanna join those people, stick my fingers in my ears and sing lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala.

Reading this, you would not know whether my kids are vaccinated or not, or whether some are and the others aren’t, or which ones got more or less. You will just have to guess, because as a parent, that’s a choice I get to make, that’s information I get to keep, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s right to know unless I choose to tell them. My husband and I get to pick which risks are acceptable to our family or not, just like you get to pick what’s acceptable for yours. Why we need to get in people’s faces about this is beyond me.

Parenting is hard enough, and we’re making it even harder for everyone. We can argue about how our decisions as a family will affect another family’s health. But I’m all for parents keeping the right to decide what’s best to do for their children. The alternative, impinging on parental rights, simply isn’t acceptable. Are we forgetting all the threats to parental rights that exist these days?

I’ll tell you this: in our small circle of moms here where I live, there are moms who vaccinate their kids, and moms who don’t. There are those of us who have vaccinated and the kids are fine for the most part. There are those of us who vaccinated and the kids have significant health problems. There are those of us who didn’t vaccinate. We ALL agonize over our decisions, past and present, BUT we ALL respect each other’s decisions. We ALL let our kids play with each other. Our families hang around each other, and we practice prudence with our own families when children are sick. We practice KINDNESS, something that seems to be in shortage these days.

The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1832

Last thought: “nice” is different from “kind”. Prayers for all.

Recommended Reading:
Let’s Be Reasonable About Vaccines
Will Smugness Encourage Vaccination
Parental Rights Overshadowed By

Cold and Flu Arsenal, 2009

this is for my friend D, whose son is away at college and has had a cough and cold that has his mama worried. i said i’d give her some recommendations of natural remedies, and since i’ve been meaning to do a post on what we use here, including some new ones i just learned about this year, here’s my list:

I used to get acidophilus pills for the kids/us but I try to get the friendly bacteria now through other things like yogurt and kefir.

food items we stock esp. during the flu/cold season:

organic yogurt: we like
Oikos Yogurt
Fage Yogurt
Seven Stars Farm Yogurt

and kefir:
my kids’ favorite organic kefir from Lifeway

I also recently started making our own yogurt, using this method: Crock Pot Yogurt. It works!!

We also make smoothies often, using whatever’s on hand, usually some combination of the following:

  • fresh fruits like banana, pears, peaches, nectarines (esp at end of season they become affordable and you can freeze some for later use)
  • flax oil (see below) or flax seeds (ground in coffee grinder first)
  • frozen blueberries, peaches, strawberries (if local produce is not available, I usually use Cascadian Farms, or whatever organic brand is on sale)
  • sweeteners like maple syrup. honey, brown rice syrup, agave nectar; occasionally I use regular sugar, but only a bit
  • a pinch of sea salt to balance flavors
  • hemp protein powder (or an occasional flavored powder like vanilla, chocolate or strawberry)
  • pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or almond or other nut butter
  • canned organic pumpkin
  • cinnamon and/or nutmeg
  • a spoonful or so of superfood
  • vanilla extract
  • pre-cooked oatmeal
  • pineapple, canned or fresh
  • orange juice, lemon juice, apple juice or other fresh-squeezed juice I happen to have on hand
  • yogurt, cow’s milk, soy, coconut, or almond milk

a couple other favorite combinations that I do once in a while (they’re not as healthy, but still contain superfoods, and they’re very yummy!):
chocolate ice cream – frozen raspberries – chocolate protein powder – flax oil
honey – pecans – lowfat butter pecan ice cream – vanilla protein powder

I’m not able to make healthy smoothies for dh and dd daily (they leave so early!), so I try to make them other healthy things for their lunch boxes like copycat Jocalat or Larabars (I’ll try to do a post on that in the next few days). Here’s what some of the products mentioned above look like, to help you out at the store:

I learned a couple of new things this year from the ladies, like

olbas oil
terramin clay

but maybe we’ll try those next year. Still have to do my research.

Two other things that helps us a lot during this season (besides getting lots of rest, which admittedly we fail at often): honey-garlic-cayenne pepper, warmed in a saucepan and taken several times a day, and warm saltwater gargles. And of course, the universal remedy: chicken soup, usually with LOTS AND LOTS of garlic and ginger.

Links and a Recipe

Baby Poems over at Martha’s, Yes They’re All Ours!

The American Mathematics Competitions


Latin Spell Checker

Catholic Music Network

Spirit and Song

Why Eating a Big Mac is Cheaper than Eating a Salad

Latin Altar Card (pdf file)

Altar Cards in Word format

More Altar Cards

Blue Knights Lenten craft


Kids need to watch their #&!@* mouths: Cussing commonplace — Really…? Kids need to watch THEIR mouth? What about US adults? If adults don’t cuss and don’t allow cussing to enter the household via the TV, ‘net or music, kids will not have to watch their mouths. As the Spartans said, “IF.” This really shouldn’t be a NEWS article. Turn the TV on primetime, click through a few channels, and you’ll see exactly why.

And a recipe — which dh will use as a dip for his carrot sticks tomorrow:

Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip

4 handfuls spinach, washed well to remove all grit
4 canned artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and drained again
1/3 cup Vegenaise (vegan mayo)
1/3 cup water buffalo yogurt (or other safe non-dairy alternative if you like — or vegan cream cheese)
pinch hot red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste
vegan parmesan if you like
enough rice milk or soy milk to get mixture creamy

Mix. Bake everything in dish at 350 degrees, 15 minutes. Transfer to food processor, process, cook 20 minutes more or until thick and bubbly.

Soooo good with potato chips or tortilla chips or other chippy substance you prefer. Or eat healthier and serve with vegetable crudites instead.

Choosing a Multivitamin

It’s time to re-stock the multi-vitamin shelf! There’s a report I’ve been using for a few years now — I subscribe for 30 days and get my $10 report; I re-subscribe every year. To me it’s worth the $10 to know which vitamins are best for my family, and which ones are just money down the drain, or worse, could be dangerous for us because of overdosing or contamination. If you’d like to subscribe, it’s ConsumerLab.com.

The last update was 1/19/07, and I’m summarizing the current info here on multivitamins for ourselves, and maybe for some of you who need it. They evaluate individual vitamins and supplements as well.

These are the approved vitamins:


Floradix ® Epresat ® Multivitamin, Liquid Extract Formula at eVitamins
Kirkland Signature from Costco
Nutrilite Daily
Nutrilite Double X
Pharmanex ® LifePak ® Dietary Supplement, New! Anti-Aging Formula
Vitamin World ® Time Release Mega Vita-Min Long Acting Formula
Puritan’s Pride Time Release Complete One
Puritan’s Pride Time Release Mega-Vitamin

For Men:
Vitamin World ® High Potency Time Release Ultra Vita Man
Nature’s Bounty ┬« High Potency Time Release, Ultra Man
Puritan’s Pride ┬« High Potency Time Release Ultra Vita Man

For Women:
One A Day ┬« Women’s Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement
Vitamin World ® Time Release Mega Vita Min For Women
Puritan’s Pride ┬« Time Release Mega Vita Min For Women

For Kids:
Dr. Fuhrman Pixie-Vites Children’s Multi-Vitamin Wild Berry Blast
Flintstones Complete, Children’s Multivitamin/
Multimineral Supplement

Puritan’s Pride Children’s Multi Gummies
Vitamin World ┬« Children’s Multi Gummies

And for Mommy and Papa:
Centrum ® Silver ® Specially Formulated Multivitamin/
Multimineral Supplement for Adults 50+

Member’s Mark ┬« Complete Multi
One Source Complete ┬« 50 Plus Advanced Multivitamin and Mineral for Adults 50+, Improved Formula – this is the only one I can’t find information on
Puritan’s Pride ┬« ABC Plus ┬« Senior, Multi-Vitamin Multi-Mineral Formula, with Lutein and Lycopene, Iron Free Formula
Vitamin World ® ABC Plus ® Senior, Multi-Vitamin Multi-Mineral Formula, with Lutein and Lycopene, Iron Free Formula

Before Consumer Lab, I’d purchase whatever’s on sale at the natural foods store or through the co-op, usually pick an organic label and trust that the manufacturer knows what they’re doing. Lately it’s been more difficult to do that unless you’ve got a trusted authority like a knowledgeable doctor who keeps up on things and brands, etc. Ours combines traditional medicine with other treatments like acupuncture, nutritional therapy, massage, etc. Her trusted vitamin/supplements provider recommends Dr. Udo for probiotics. Another friend who’s had long-time experience with nutritional healing recommends Primadophilus.

One disadvantage about Consumer Lab is that they don’t (or haven’t yet) test the brands usually available at the co-op, so if I go by what CL recommends they’re not the organic/non-GMO kind.

Also, I’m being cautious these days about choosing a multivitamin that’s iron-free. I haven’t completed my research but what I’ve read so far tells me that the latest studies recommend an iron-free supplement because of links to heart disease and cancer increase. If you know more about this, I’d appreciate you sharing! Thanks.

Products We (Can) Use


Makeup Removers



Hair Care:

to be continued…