Let’s Commit to 10 Servings of Fruit and Vegetables a Day

A recent February 2017 New Zealand study published in Journal PLOS One grabbed my attention this morning. The study reported that eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for as little as 14 days improved psychological well-being, specifically in the areas of, motivation, vitality and flourishing, in young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 whose fruit and vegetable consumption was low prior to the study. You may want to know, ‘So what is ground breaking about this study’? We have known for years that vegetables and fruits are good for us and consuming them protects us from obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc. While we have known that eating more fruits and vegetables is wonderful for physical health, this is one of the first few studies to establish a connection between consumption of produce and psychological well being.

The study, done and published by a team of researchers from the Department of Psychology in the University of Otago in New Zealand, recruited 171 participants between the ages of 18 and 25. The participants were divided into three groups for a time period of two weeks. The first group continued to eat the way they usually did during the study period. The second group was personally handed two extra servings of high quality fruit and vegetables in the form of oranges, carrots, kiwi fruit and apples for two weeks. The third group was given prepaid vouchers for produce at a grocery store and this group also got text messages every day reminding them to eat more fruits and vegetables. All the study participants went through psychological assessments that measured markers such as mood, motivation, vitality, depression and anxiety at the beginning and end of the study. At the end of 14 days of the study period, the researchers found that the first and third groups had no changes in the markers that measured psychological well being, but the second group that got fruits and vegetables handed to them had marked improvements in three specific markers namely motivation, vitality and flourishing in a brief period of two weeks. All three groups did not show any improvements in mood, depression and anxiety.

My Thoughts on this Thought Provoking Study

Although the participants of the study did not show any improvement in mood, depression and anxiety in the brief period of 14 days, sustained commitment to eating more fruits and vegetables, in my opinion, would have resulted in improvements in the above markers too. Improvement in vitality, motivation and flourishing has to lead to an improvement in mood, depression and anxiety.

Millennials, the age group between 18-35, are the most stressed out generation in America according to a 2015 survey done by the American Psychological Association (APA). I have a 19 year old and know first hand a thing or two about the stress levels of young adults. Every day seems to be a poster day for existential angst. What if an extra serving or two of fruit and vegetables could relieve stress and improve mental health and well being in this age group? Could the simple act of slicing fresh fruit and handing it over to a young adult relieve some of that angst?

The New Zealand fruits and vegetables study suggests that it just might. The current USDA guideline for fruit and vegetable consumption recommends 4.5 cups from 2.5 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per person per day. According to the New Zealand study, we may need to double that number as 10 servings of fruit and vegetables resulted in improved metal health.

Last night, I read these beautiful words in Anthony William’s latest book Life Changing Foods, “Snacking on spinach, no matter what the season, can fuel you with renewed purpose. Tanking on a bowl of tangerine wedges, the juice running down your chin and making your fingers sticky, can alter your vibration. Eating a mango in your darkest hour can (literally and figuratively) turn your life around.” He goes on to say, “Just more than ever before we need to get away from processed foods. In their place, we need to focus on eating a higher quantity of fresh, delicious, nourishing, water rich foods.” Today, after I read the about the New Zealand study, these words ring truer than ever.

While the study recruited young adults, I have a hunch that the results will hold good for all age groups. We have been eating 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables for some time now and have seen tangible improvements in health and well-being. However, we need to be eating two times that amount to lead us to the land of enchantment. 10 seems to be the charmed number. Let’s commit to 10, shall we?


  • Journal PLOS One; Let them eat Fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial
  • Fusion.Net; Millenials are Officially the most Stressed Out Generation in America
  • Anthony William; Medical Medium. Life Changing Foods

Garam Masala: Wish you a Warm 2017

fullsizerender-1There is something very special about cooking with a powdered spice blend that has been whipped up with your own hands. Pure, unadulterated, organic spices gently roasted until fragrant and then powdered in a coffee grinder are rocking my world these days. Over the holidays, I created a spice blend that has been adding flavor and goodness to several homemade vegetable, bean and lentil dishes.

Garam Masala, a staple in Indian cooking, literally means warm spice and is comprised of several spices. Rather than adding spiciness like chili peppers do, this blend brings deep flavorful warmth to dishes. Added at the end of cooking a dish, I think of Garam Masala as a blessing, the final flourish that ties up loose ends and brings the dish together for a pleasing, wholesome completion. While good Garam Masala is widely available in stores, it has been my heartfelt desire to DIY and nail this blend. Given its grand role in Indian cooking, making the blend was immensely satisfying for me.

Most store-bought Garam Masala blends have ample amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg. You may want include them if you love the spices, but I have eliminated them in this particular version. Eliminating the cinnamon and nutmeg makes this blend suitable for a wider variety of dishes.

To make my version of Garam Masala, you will need.

  • Coriander Seeds: 3 Tablespoons
  • Cumin Seeds: 2 tablespoons
  • Fenugreek Seeds: 2 Teaspoons
  • Fennel Seeds: 1 Tablespoon
  • Black Pepper: 1 Tablespoon
  • Cloves: 1 Teaspoon
  • Cardamom pods: 1 Teaspoon
  • Star Anise: 1

Gently roast the spices in a heavy bottomed pan until fragrant and grind into a coarse powder in a coffee grinder. Store in an airtight container.

In addition to being delightfully flavorful, the spices in this blend are massively healing. Coriander seeds decrease inflammation and prevent food poisoning. Cumin seeds promote the secretion of pancreatic enzymes and improve immune function. With their maple syrup like flavor fenugreek seeds not only add taste and aroma, but they also contain an amino acid called 4-hydroxy- isoleucine that improves insulin sensitivity. Fennel seeds promote digestion and contain several essential oil components that have antioxidant and carminative properties. Black pepper stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid and improves digestion. Cloves, according to traditional Chinese medicine, “warm the middle burner”. Ayurveda deems them supreme for internal warming and therefore, metabolism and digestion. Cardamom contains high amounts of volatile oils that are responsible for its pleasant taste and antioxidant properties. Traditional healers consider it warming to the body and stimulating to the mind. Star Anise is a beautiful spice. Rich in shikimik acid (Tamiflu contains this ingredient), star anise keeps flu and other infections at bay.

In Greek mythology cardamom is associated with a feeling of ‘grateful warmth’. That pretty much describes the feeling behind the creation of this spice blend. I wish you grateful, gracious graceful warmth in the New Year. May the gentle warmth of the spice blend nourish you for all of 2017.


  • Axe: Why you need more Coriander in your Life
  • The World’s Healthiest Foods: Cumin Seeds
  • Medical Medium: Fenugreek Tea
  • Nutrition and You: The Health Benefits of Fennel Seeds
  • Acupuncture Today: Cloves
  • Maharishi Ayurveda: Clove
  • Herbal Greece: Cardamom Mythology
  • Superhuman Coach: Star Anise

Natural D-Hist by Ortho Molecular Products: An Outstanding Remedy for Seasonal Allergies

I discovered Natural D-Hist by Ortho Molecular Products at Pharmaca, a natural health food store and pharmacy, when I was looking for a supplement to help me with a persistent night-time cough. The cough had followed a bout of the flu and continued to linger for long after. As soon as I lay down at night, the coughing (I started calling it The Rock Show) would start. The coughing attacks were long (some spells lasted as long five minutes), uncontrollable and uncomfortable and would often lead to vomiting, an inability to breathe and muscle soreness. Needless to say that I wasn’t getting any sleep at night and was desperate for relief.

After having tried almost every cough drop and cough syrup in the ‘Allergy and Immunity Support’ section of my local health food store, I had given up hope that anything would help me. I was at Pharmaca to pick up a prescription for my daughter and thought that I would pick up some Manuka honey to ease some of my symptoms. I had one of my long coughing attacks in the pharmacy aisle and a pharmacist who saw me walked up to me and recommended this product. Her kindness and the ingredient list on the back of the bottle compelled me to try this product.

Let’s go over the ingredient list of Natural D-Hist and examine how and why this formulation is brilliant at promoting respiratory health, strengthening the immune system and treating allergies and coughs.


Quercetin, a bioflavonoid found in apples and red onions and has strong antioxidant and antihistamine properties. According to the Ortho Molecular Products website, quercetin controls the release of inflammation increasing compounds called leukotrienes and prostaglandins. When I dug deeper, I found that leukotrienes are precursors to prostaglandins, and are the inflammatory compounds that are responsible for broncho-constriction in acute asthma attacks. A serving size of two capsules has 400 milligrams of the leukotriene-busting quercetin. In addition to supporting respiratory health, quercetin’s strong anti-oxidant activity makes it useful for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention.

Stinging Nettles Leaf Extract

In a 2009 study published in Journal Phytotherapy Research, researchers identified key mechanisms that led to a deeper understanding of the nettle’s role in alleviating allergies and hay fever. The study pinpointed several ways in which nettle extract inhibited inflammatory events, including the reduction of prostaglandins that lead to seasonal allergies. Two capsules of Natural D-Hist contain 400 milligrams of stinging nettle leaf extract. Additionally, stinging nettles is rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium and silica and helps in treating anemia, correcting hair-loss and healing wounds.


Found in the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant, bromelain is an enzyme that is supreme for protein digestion. While bromelain is often associated with digestion, a research study published in Journal Evidenced-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that the enzyme was helpful in preventing seasonal allergies. The study found that in addition to masking the primary immune response to allergies, bromelain addresses the key cause of allergies, that is, a hyperactive and hypersensitive immune system. Two capsules of Natural D-Hist contain 100 milligrams of bromelain. In addition to its allergy reducing and digestion boosting properties, bromelain helps with joint pain and muscle soreness and enhances the absorption of quercetin in the formulation.

N-Acetyl Cysteine

A precursor to glutathione (a super-star antioxidant), N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a modified version of the sulfur rich amino acid, cysteine. NAC is well known for reversing Tylenol induced toxicity, but in this formulation, it works as a mucolytic or mucus thinning agent. NAC changes the viscosity of mucus and thins thick phlegm associated with the flu. 2 capsules of Natural D-Hist contain 50 milligrams of NAC. NAC is an effective, safe and natural remedy for several conditions such as insulin resistance, tumor reduction in cancers, and stomach infections.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that is rapidly used up during times of stress and illness. In addition to its role as an antioxidant, vitamin C deactivates histamines and supports the immune system. Two capsules of the formulation contain 300 milligrams of vitamin C.

Final Thoughts

After purchasing Ortho Molecular Products Natural D-Hist in Pharmaca and reading the instructions at the back of the bottle about the loading dose, I decided to do things a bit different by front-stacking the product and took 6 capsules at the same time. I found relief in about 20 minutes and slept through the night after almost 10 days of suffering through night-time coughing attacks. After the initial stacking, I have been taking the recommended dose of 2 capsules per day.

Natural D-Hist is a superior formulation to support respiratory health and relieve seasonal allergies. It has found itself a firm place in my medicine cabinet.


  • theBMJ; What are Leukotrienes and how do they work in Asthma?
  • University of Mayland Medical Center; Quercetin
  • Phytotherapy Research; Nettle Extracts affects key Receptors and Enzymes Associated with Allergic Rhinitis
  • Dr. Axe; 7 Health Benefits of Bromelain
  • Life Extension; The Overlooked Compound that Saves Lives
  • OrthoMolecular Products; Natural D-Hist

Kasturi Turmeric (Curcuma aromatica): The Retin A of the Ancients

If there is a plant that is medicine and magic in equal measure, it is turmeric. By now, you have probably heard about turmeric’s astonishing therapeutic properties. Thousands of research studies validate its healing prowess in calming inflammation, warding off infections, fighting cancer, lifting depression, reducing cholesterol, healing the liver, soothing the digestive system, making skin radiant and much much more. Most studies done on turmeric refer to the common variety of the spice-herb, botanically known as Curcuma longa. However, today I want to shine light on the lesser-known and wilder cousin of common turmeric, also known as wild turmeric, kasturi turmeric or vana-haridra in Sanskrit. The botanical name of this variety of turmeric is Curcuma aromatica, referring to its vibrant, camphoraceous aroma.

Belonging to the family Zingiberaceae or the ginger family, Curcuma aromatica is mainly cultivated in Kerala and West Bengal in India. It is considered an annual plant because the plant grows rapidly from spring to late autumn and the shrubbery dies down in winter. However, the rhizomes of the plant that remain latent produce new flowers and leaves during subsequent seasons.

It was the Retin A of the Ancients

Kasturi turmeric was historically used as a medicinal and aromatic skin healer and complexion enhancer. It was the Retin A of the ancients. Ayurvedic texts record at least 53 different Sanskrit synonyms/names for turmeric, out of which names such as, gandhaplashika (has a lovely fragrance), hridayavilasini (which delights the heart), nishawa (clears darkness and imparts light), varnini (which gives color), varavarnini (which makes you fair), varnadhatri (makes the skin radiant) and yuvati (young girl), probably refer to the skin radiance enhancing properties of kasturi turmeric.

It was (and still is) the go-to remedy for most common cosmetic complaints such as acne, sunspots, hyperpigmentation, dullness of complexion, etc. The herb’s strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties make it supreme for healing acne, erasing sunspots, and bringing radiance to the skin. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that with long-term use, the herb inhibits facial hair. With its in-built musk like fragrance, the herb has an inherent elegance that makes it well suited for cosmetic purposes.

Scientific research validates what the ancients held true. A 2010 study published in Journal Cell Biology Toxicology reported that extracts of Curcuma aromatica (along with extracts of Alpinia galanga) protected the skin from UVA induced melonogenesis. An overproduction of melanin (skin pigment) due to sun exposure can lead to hyperpigmentation commonly and melanoma (skin cancer) in extreme cases. The researchers concluded that the herbal extracts worked by inhibiting cellular oxidative stress and improving antioxidant defenses to protect the skin.

My Experience with Kasturi Turmeric

Kasturi TurmericIf you are from the southern region of India, there is a good chance that you have been exposed to kasturi turmeric. Growing up, our bathroom shelf at home always held a bottle of the powdered herb mixed with gram flour/garbanzo bean flour and we used the homemade formulation as a face and body scrub. Unlike regular turmeric, kasturi turmeric is relatively non-staining and will not leave you looking yellow and jaundiced after using it.

I had forgotten all about the herb until I experienced a recent bout of stubborn, hormonal acne along my jawline. Intuition guided me to make kasturi turmeric my herbal ally instead of the typical pharmaceuticals that are promoted to treat acne such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Just when I was wondering about how to source the herb, a friend (when I was discussing the herb with her) gave me some of the powdered herb along with some rhizomes (that I could grind into a paste) that were grown organically in her father’s farm in Kerala!

I am back to my childhood days now, joyfully experiencing the sensory and tactile pleasures of communing with a delightfully colorful, aromatic, magical and somewhat messy herb. The hormonal acne is gone, hope the hyperpigmentation left behind follows it too.

What is left to Say?

In addition to its topical use for enhancing the complexion and for various skin complaints, Ayurveda prescribes the herb for respiratory, circulatory and cardiovascular conditions. Recent research confirms that when Curcuma aromatica is ingested in the form of an extract, it has protective and healing abilities for various infections, inflammation, cancer and diabetes.

If Curcuma longa, the common variety of turmeric, is immensely healing, Curcuma aromatica, its wild cousin, is infinitely magical too. After all, it is the wilder cousin. Characteristically, a powerful, enduring life force is built into the nature of wild things. And coming in contact with a powerful life force, puts us in touch with our own life force, our own power, our own vitality and our own radiance.

What Else is left to Say?

You may have heard about the parable of the restless deer that scours the entire jungle in search of a beautiful aroma that always seems to follow him. The deer searches far and wide to no avail. It is only when he looks within, that he discovers that the musk (kasturi) was all along in his own belly.

I have seen women on a long-term regimen of kasturi turmeric literally glow and glisten. It is probably because they have a strong sense of their inner kasturi, their inner radiance, and outwardly reflect it.

Kasturi turmeric can do that for you also. Find a way to source the wonderful herb and work it into your skin care regimen.


  • Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry; Pharmacological activities of wild turmeric (Curcuma aromatica Salisb): a review.
  • Cell Biology and Toxicology; Modulation of antioxidant defense by Alpinia galanga and Curcuma aromatica extracts correlates with their inhibition of UVA-induced melanogenesis.
  • Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition; Turmeric, The Golden Spice





Satya, Chitta, and Ananda

All of my favorite health and wellness bloggers were making delightfully wholesome round sweets such as truffles and macaroons for the holidays and I decided that it was time for me to make a handcrafted contribution to the spherically sweet corner of the culinary universe. It was a given that the confectionary(s) had to be gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. The ingredients and sweeteners making up the treats had to be nourishing and wholesome. And what is the point in creating ‘treats’ if they are not delicious? They had to serenade the tongue. But that was not all, I was looking for something more..an ineffable quality that would make them achingly good.

I had been reading “Women who Run with the Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and was re-introduced to the word numinous in it. I had encountered the concept of numinous earlier in Carl Jung’s writings. Numinous, in Jung’s writings refers to extraordinary and awe-inspiring moments of awareness. Modern dictionaries define numinous as a reverential quality, a quality that encompasses divinity. Although I’m relatively new to the concept of numinous and don’t understand it completely (perhaps, because it is beyond logical understanding), I’m awed enough that it stays in my consciousness. The word itself has a palpable vibration that stirs me in a way that is not easily describable.

The Laddoos

The laddoos were inspired by the word numinous.

Satya, Chitta and Ananda were born. Sat-Chitt-Ananda is a compound Sanskrit word and a yogic concept that refers to the presence of divinity in all of us. Our essential or true nature is Satya, Chitta and Ananada. Satya means absolute or truth, chitta is consciousness and ananda is bliss.

Just like Jung’s concept of Self refers to the unchanging and god-image part of the psyche, Sat-Chitt-Ananda refers to our true nature that is already transcendent and divine. We don’t have to improve or embellish anything, instead we just have to meet that part of our Self that is already whole.

Inspired by these concepts, the laddoos are not created to remedy or cure any sickness, they are intended to put you in touch with your essential nature, that is already divine and whole.

The Nitty Gritty

Oats and sesame seeds were going to be the core ingredients for all the treats. Oats (gluten-free) are calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory and rich in Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 boosts levels of serotonin in the body and creates a feeling of peacefulness and well-being. Sesame seeds are a powerhouse of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese and zinc. The seeds also contain beneficial fibers called lignans that induce cholesterol reduction and protect the liver. In addition, Yogic scriptures praise sesame seeds for their ability to absorb and emit high amounts of Sattva (a calm, steady and peaceful state) frequency.

I powdered gluten-free oats into a fine powder in a Vitamix dry grinder and used organic tahini for all of the recipes. I don’t have exact quantities for the ingredients as this was a very intuitive (and magical) exercise for me, but I’m sharing all the ingredients and the method I used here.



  • Gluten-free rolled oats powdered fine in a high speed blender
  • Organic Tahini
  • Sunflower Seed Butter
  • Sweetened Organic Montomorency Cherries
  • Madre Labs Cococeps (combination of raw cacoa, reishi and cordyceps mushrooms)

The sunflower seed butter and Montomorency cherries used were already sweetened, so I did not use additional sweeteners in this recipe. Montomorency cherries are packed with antioxidants and their bright red color adds a lovely hue to this treat. Raw cacoa, in addition to its deliciousness, is a powerful heart opener. In Chinese medicine, medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps and reishi are said to promote Shen (spiritual radiance). The sea-salt in the sunflower seed butter and the natural bitterness of the mushrooms suggest an alchemical return to Satya.



  • Gluten-free rolled oats powdered fine in a high speed blender
  • Organic Tahini
  • Ashitaba
  • Ashwagandha
  • Bella/Gur/Jaggery as the sweetener
  • Cardamom

Bella or Jaggery, the honest country cousin of white sugar, used in this recipe is chockfull of minerals and has a complex and a nuanced sweetness. A rich source of vitamin B6 and B 12, Ashitaba, is known to be a vegan blood builder. In traditional Chinese medicine it is prescribed both for boosting the immune system, and for nourishing the ‘heart-mind’. Cardamom is calming and acts like a catalyst for all the other herbs. Ashwagandha is known as an elixir of life in Ayurvedic medicine and encourages a calm internal state of awareness and Chitta.



  • Gluten-free rolled oats powdered fine in a high speed blender
  • Organic Tahini
  • Sun Potion’s Anandamide
  • Dates
  • Maple Syrup
  • Vanilla

Sun Potion’s Anandamide has a abundance of herbs and spices in it such as Mucuna Puriens, reishi mushrooms, astralagus, suma, turmeric, rose, cinnamon, etc that promote a surge of happiness as soon as it is ingested. Dates are a great source of iron and are a dream to combine into any dessert recipe. Maple syrup, with its woody buttery flavor and reminiscence of lush green forests, sweetly sweetens the laddoo. Vanilla, though rarely used for medicinal purposes these days, is an aromatic well-being inducing agent. Together these ingredients take you towards bliss or ananda.


Process all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until they are well-combined into a cookie dough like consistency. Roll into small laddooos.

What’s Left to Say?

These recipes, rather than being absolute, are conceptual. Throughout history, alchemists and magicians have shared the ingredients of, but never the exact amounts of the ingredients of their potions. Keeping in line with this tradition, my recipes are intended to be catalysts to make your own magic. Hope that these spark an idea to create your own laddoos. Here is to meeting your Sat-Chitta-Ananda state in 2016. May your new-year be filled with numinous moments.

Perfumed Kehva, a Fragrant Winter Tea

I had tried and loved kehva as a teenager when our family visited Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. The steaming cup of the mildly spicy perfumed beverage unexpectedly re-entered my memory today, after more than 25 years, and I wanted to make and drink it right away. Having a sensitive palate (which is both a blessing and challenge), reverse engineering a dish or a drink comes naturally to me. So I decided to create my cup of kehva without looking for a recipe online. I wanted my cup quickly, instantly actually, and so I simultaneously put on my thinking cap and started rummaging through my pantry, after I turned my electric kettle on.

Here is how I made my version of Kehva.




Remember, I wanted my kehva instantly, so I did not bother with a pot or a stove. The cup is where the alchemy and magic happened. After dunking the tea bag in the boiling water for about a minute, I took it out and tossed it, as I did not want the drink to have a strong taste of black tea.

Next, the saffron strands and the ginger-honey crystals went into the cup. The melody of the Pahadi music in the background and the intention in my heart seemed to transfer to my fingertips as I coaxed the ginger-honey crystals to melt in the cup and the saffron strands to infuse the tea with fragrance. Then, I added a heaping spoon of Vitamin D and E rich Tocos into the cup and mixed it in. Tocos, made from rice bran, is a recent ‘superfood’ discovery that adds creamy goodness to beverages and desserts. A new and beloved (and somewhat expensive) food crush, I drink beverages all day long just so that I can add a spoon of Tocos to them. As a finishing touch, I added a sprinkling of powdered cardamom to the cup.

The hallowed cup was ready and supremely satisfying.

After finishing off the cup, I discovered online that kehva is traditionally made with green tea leaves. Cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and slivered almonds are also added to the drink and milk is usually omitted. At least I got that part right.

If a cup of chai is delicious, a cup of kehva can put you in a state of bliss. It is like the Pahadi raga in a cup. It is also a tonic in a cup. Saffron has been clinically proven to ward off depression. Zingiber officinale (ginger) is your everyday, highly accessible and affordable, superfood. A powerful antioxidant, it is also a cherished anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial spice. Research studies suggest that ginger can help maintain cognitive function in middle aged women. Everyone must have at least one robust and honest encounter with it everyday. In addition, ginger and cardamom are excellent for digestion and circulation. Black tea is black tea. And oh, that beautiful Tocos, I could write another paragraph about it, but I have already raved about it

Whether you make kehva the traditional way, my hip-hop way, or your own way, this gorgeous drink will make this winter a little more cozy, a tad warmer and a lot more fragrant. Do give it a whirl.

The Healing Gentleness of Palo Santo

My first encounter with Palo Santo was in the Bastyr University’s annual health fair, a couple of years back. Instantly drawn to the booth, where small bundles of the wood were displayed for sale, catching a whiff of the burning Palo Santo stick was like catching a whiff of something otherworldly. The fragrance was at once achingly familiar and impossibly exquisite. Uplifting, vibrant and calming at the same time, it felt like the scent-substance that I had been waiting to discover all my life.

Needless to say, I came home with a small bundle of the wood. The small bundle of wood has been an integral part of my ‘raising my vibration, ‘bringing me back to myself’, ‘clearing negative energy’ or simply ‘removing musty smells’ arsenal. Whenever I feel moved to, I light the end of a Palo Santo stick, blow out the flame in a few seconds and allow the fragrant smoke that trails from the smoldering wood to purify a space. I also circle the smoke around my family and myself when they or I feel the need for an energetic cleanse. Palo Santo, when it touches fire, gives out a spurt of thick smoke that works like an instant reset button. The before and after is distinct and palpable.

Originally from South America, Palo Santo, literally meaning ‘wood of the saints’ is extensively used both in urban homes and in rainforests in Shamanic ceremonies. In homes in Ecuador and Peru, the smoke from the sticks is used both to symbolically purify a space and to literally ward off insects and mosquitos. In fact, most shamanic rituals begin with the burning of a Palo Santo stick to ‘clear negative thought-forms and bad spirits and reestablish balance and peace.” In addition to its use in smudging and as incense, the essential oil in Bursera graveolens, the botanical name for Palo Santo, which imparts the wood with a unique fragrance, also has immense healing properties.

The Healing Gentleness of Bursera graveolens

Bursera graveolens is widely used as an anti-inflammatory agent both in aromatherapy and folk medicine. In aromatherapy, the essential oil of the wood is used in massage to relieve pain and control inflammation. Folk medicine uses both the wood shavings and essential oil of the mature wood of Palo Santo to relieve symptoms of asthma, allergies, headaches, migraines and all manner of aches and pains.

The wood shavings are simmered in water and strained and the resulting tea is supremely delicious and healing. The shavings can also be added to boiling water to create a fragrant steam that is effective against a variety of pathogens and viruses. The expectorant properties of the wood also make it an effective medicine for thinning mucus and clearing the lungs of infection.

The Magic of Sesquiterpenes

The essential oil of Palo Santo is rich in a class of compounds known as sesquiterpenes. Sesquiterpenes, also present in the essential oils such as frankincense, cedarwood and myrhh are compounds that impart the characteristic herbal, woody and minty fragrance to these woods and resins. Research shows that these aromatic compounds can have an oxygenating effect on the brain and can prevent neuronal cell death. The oxygenating effect on the brain is probably the reason why Palo Santo has traditionally been used in folk remedies to ease symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Palo Santo’s capacity to prevent neuronal cell death can make it potentially beneficial for degenerative brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Power of Limonene

Limonene, as the name suggests, is a compound that lends citrus fruits their characteristic, ‘lemony’ scent. Also called D-Limonene, the wonderful natural substance that is abundant in citrus peels, is also plentiful in the essential oil of Palo Santo wood. The oil nutrient is excellent for detoxification, liver detoxification especially, and has been associated with several healing benefits including treating cancer.

A small 2012 study published in Journal Natural Product Communications showed that the essential oil of Bursera gravelons inhibited the growth of a specific type of tumor called MCF-7. The study concluded that the essential oil showed promise in treating breast cancer.

What is left to Say?

We usually think about healing substances in terms of what we ingest through our mouths, but what if scents we ingest through our noses could heal?

The plant world is infinitely glittering. It has lavished us and continues to bestow us with enormous gifts. Palo Santo, the fragrant wood of the saints, is one that I am tremendously grateful for. The smell of this divine wood makes my heart-strings sing every single time. Watching its gentle smoke travel heavenwards is a beautiful experience. I become familiar with a more refined, less dense part of myself when I’m in its company. That it contains D-Limonene, sesquiterpenes and lignans (shown in other studies) and has been clinically proven to have neuroprotective effects and shrink tumors is a huge bonus.


  • FoxNews; Pala Santo: A Fragrant Wood with Cancer Fighting Properties
  • Wellness Resources; D- Limonene
  • All about Smudging, Margaret Ann Lembo
  • Dr. LoBisco; The Power of Palo Santo – The Missing Quadruplet?
  • Natural Product Communications; Chemical Composition and anti-proliferative Properties of Bursera graveolens
  • Fitoterpia; Four new Sesquiterpenes from Commiphora myrrha and their Neuroprotective Effects.

How to Cure Mouth Ulcers Naturally

It is said that mouth ulcers frequently occur and recur in children and young adults in the age group of 10-20 years. It is also said that some children are especially prone to them. My 10 year old daughter is one of them and is going through a painful and agonizing attack right now. I have noticed that she gets mouth ulcers whenever she is overwrought, overextended and overworked. It is the end of the school year and she is involved in various school, after-school and community events, which are likely making her tired and a little edgy. So I’m putting this post together on curing mouth ulcers naturally to help heal my daughter. I hope that people in the same situation will find this post helpful.

Many people think that the terms mouth sore and cold sore are the same and interchangeable, but actually, they are very different. A cold sore usually occurs around the lips and the outside of one’s mouth, and is caused by the Herpes virus. A mouth sore, on the other hand, is a type of mouth ulcer that can be brought on by stress, nutrient deficiencies and allergies.

Mouth ulcers, also called canker sores and aphthous ulcers, are small ulcers that occur on the sides of the cheek, under the tongue, and inside the lips. While mouth ulcers are neither life threatening or contagious, they can be extremely annoying, and make eating, drinking, and talking very painful. About 1-2 millimeters in diameter, mouth sores show up as red craters with a white or gray coating. Even though mouth ulcers are common to all age groups, they recur frequently in children, teenagers and young adults. Recurring mouth ulcers are agonizing, and people who suffer from them look for solutions that really work, as opposed to temporary solutions like numbing gels that provide relief for a few minutes. Natural treatments are highly effective in not only providing instant relief, but also in treating nutritional deficiencies that cause these ulcers in the first place. Here are a few tips on how to cure mouth ulcers naturally.

1). Switch to a sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) free toothpaste. Natural food stores sell several SLS free toothpastes and based on our dental hygienist’s suggestion, we have started using the Tom’s of Maine SLS Free toothpaste. Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), a common ingredient in most toothpastes available in supermarkets and drugstores has been linked to mouth ulcers. SLS, a foaming agent used in shampoos and hand washes, is also a skin irritant. Hair loss has been linked to shampoos containing SLS, and a small study from the University of Oslo links SLS containing toothpastes to recurrent mouth ulcers.

2). Take a vitamin-B complex supplement after talking to a doctor. A 2009 study reported that a nightly dose of 1000 mcg of vitamin-B12 helped patients with recurrent mouth ulcers in reducing ulcers, and in decreasing the duration of their outbreaks. Even though Vitamin-B12 was used in the study, take a B-complex supplement as a deficiency of B vitamins such as thiamine (vitamin-B1) and vitamin-B6 have also been linked to recurrent mouth sores. If you are a vegetarian, as we are, B vitamin supplementation is not just important, it is paramount.

3). Try a licorice supplement that is deglycyrrhizinated (DGL)to shorten the healing time of mouth ulcers. Glycyrrhizin is the compound in licorice that can increase blood pressure, and so look for a supplement that has been deglycyrrhizinated. Licorice is routinely prescribed in Europe and Japan for stomach ulcers, and naturopaths suggest giving it a try for mouth ulcers also. Remember that chewing on Twizzlers doesn’t count and deglycyrrhizinated licorice available in the form of flavored chews is convenient even for children to take. Dr Andrew Weil advises patients to mix powdered DGL with water and swish it around in the mouth to treat canker sores.

4). Apply slippery elm on the mouth sores to soothe pain and irritation. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests applying a paste of slippery elm with water directly on the mouth sores for instant relief.

5). Go gluten free for a few months. Mouth ulcers are frequent in patients who have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Gluten is a compound present in grains like wheat, barley, oats, and rye, and a blood test can pinpoint a gluten intolerance. If celiac disease is diagnosed, a visit to a nutritionist will help in getting started with a gluten free diet.

6). Go to a dentist if braces, dentures, and dental fillings don’t feel quite right. Dental work can lead to mouth sores if they don’t fit properly, or cause abrasions in the mouth.

7). Help your children learn how to self-soothe and discover the tranquility that already exists within them. Teach them how to take deep breaths, relax their shoulders, appreciate the beauty of nature and tap into a joyful state, however hectic their life gets. And talking about hectic, take a day off, every now and then. As Maya Angelou beautifully said it,

“Each person (including children) deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.”

Wishing you peace, joy and a healthy, canker sore-free mouth.



  • Acta Odontologica Scandinavia; Sodium lauryl sulfate and recurrent aphthous ulcers. A preliminary study.
  • Science Daily; Vitamin B12 identified As An Effective Canker Sore Therapy, Study Suggests
  • Dr. Andrew Weil; Crazed by Canker Sores
  • Image Credit; freedigitalimages.net

A Big Bowl of Kindness

What could be more comforting than a big bowl of warming, energizing and immune-boosting soup full of antioxidants? I make this soup whenever I feel like my kids could use an extra dose of smiles and kindness. A typical peasant soup made with the most elemental vegetables, onions, carrots, potatoes and zucchini, a cup or two of satiating beans and a further dash of deliciousness and antioxidants in the form of cilantro, ginger and garlic, this soup is like the warmth of the sun on a icy-cold day. It has great potential to increase your bounce-back-ability quotient.

It’s easy to make and so tasty! Honestly, what is the point in eating healthy foods if they do nothing for your taste buds? The recipe is roughly adapted from a soup recipe in the phenomenal cookbook The Complete Superfoods Cookbook by Michael Van Straten, but as always it has taken a few twists and turns in the zone of my kitchen. I get requests for the recipe very often, so without further delay, and with immense gratitude to Mr. Van Straten, here is the recipe.

IMG_0500 IMG_0497 IMG_0499 IMG_0495 Ingredients

  • 1 large, actually make it humungous onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • A small piece of ginger
  • 1 or 2 potatoes grated with skin
  • 2 to 3 carrots peeled and grated
  • 2 to 3 zucchini with the ends trimmed and grated
  • 5 to 6 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3 cups of cooked chickpeas or cannellini or kidney beans
  • A bunch of the greenest cilantro you can find

Here is How you Make it

In a large pan, heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and sweat them for about 10 minutes in gentle heat.

Add the grated vegetables and continue to cook for five to six  minutes. You will have to stand there and stir the vegetables around to prevent the potatoes from sticking to the pan, even if you are tempted to leave to check your new notifications or friend requests on Facebook. Stand there, be present and watch the fresh vegetables and spices do their magical mingling. While you are at it, enjoy the aroma.

soup galaPour in the stock, mix well and let the soup simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. At this point, with the riot of colors and lovely aromas, it looks like a gala is in full swing in the pan. Turn off the heat and add the washed cilantro bunch (stems and all) into this mix. I don’t worry about chopping the cilantro, but if you have the energy and the inclination to do the chopping, go for it. The cilantro adds a nice color and taste punch to the soup, but it isn’t mandatory. So if you don’t like cilantro, feel free to skip it. You can add a bunch of baby spinach instead.

Let the vegetable and broth mix cool. Transfer the mix to a blender and whizz till it is smooth. Return the blended mix to the pan.

Add the cooked beans into the blended mix and gently heat for five more minutes.

Wasn’t that easy? Bless the soup. Serve and eat with reverence and gratitude. 

The Therapeutic Potential of Massage

“Soothing touch, whether it be applied to a ruffled cat, a crying infant, or a frightened child, has a universally recognized power to ameliorate the signs of distress. How can it be that we overlook its usefulness on the jangled adult as well? What is it that leads us to assume that the stressed child merely needs “comforting,” while the stressed adult needs “medicine”?” — from Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork by Deane Juhan

Right now, maybe you are that jangled adult hunched over a computer, who could derive immense and immediate benefits from a great massage. If you think that massages are just a form of frou-frou pampering, think again. Massage has been linked to such an array of substantial and scientifically researched health benefits that The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society officially recommend massage as a part of a treatment for lower back pain. It may seem obvious that massage would reduce and soothe aches and pains, however as a therapy, its benefits are more far-reaching and profound than simple physiological improvements in the body. A large body of scientific research not only points to the tangible benefits of massage, but also uncovers the underpinnings of the therapeutic practice.

Mitochondrial Growth

In a fascinating small study done with just 11 participants at the Mc Master University, researchers discovered that massage aids muscle healing by activating compounds that calmed inflammation and promoted the growth of new mitochondria. In the study, 11 young men who pushed themselves to exhaustion on exercise bikes received 10-minute massages after exercising. Their leg muscles were biopsied prior to exercise, soon after the massage and 2.5 hours after the massage. The researchers found that just 10 minutes of massage had reduced signs of inflammation in a mechanism similar to pain medications. In addition, massaged muscles showed new mitochondrial growth. Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of our cells. They generate chemical energy in our cells and have them working in an optimal manner. More mitochondria translate to more energy. The new mitochondrial growth detected in the cells of the massaged muscles of the participants, further promoted quicker recovery from the exercise related muscle wear and tear.

Voice Restoration

Emerging evidence suggests that massage can make contributions to healing in avenues where conventional medicine doesn’t have all the answers. Dr. Claudio Milstein, a voice specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Head and Neck Institute treats functional dysphonia, a condition in which the muscles that control the vocal cord contract, tighten and lock and the patient loses his/her voice, with something as simple as a throat, neck and shoulder massage. A 2010 story in NPR reported the case of a mom, suffering from functional dysphonia, who got her voice back after Milstein did seven minutes of massage on her that carefully focused on loosening the muscles on her voice box! Earlier, CT Scans, an MRI and other conventional treatments had not resulted in any relief for the patient.

Other Studies point to a Wide Range of Benefits

Several studies have linked massage with various physical and mental benefits. There are too many to list, but here are a few significant ones. Massage therapy has been found to boost immune function in women with breast cancer, lower blood pressure in women with hypertension, reduce anxiety in patients who are about to have surgery, improve lung function in children with asthma and strengthen grip in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. And on the tiniest of all patients, premature babies, massages have helped with the all- important task of gaining weight. The perfect double blind study in a population that is devoid of any sort of bias!

My Story

Yesterday, I had an extraordinary massage. After writing down standard and somewhat vague answers to standard and somewhat vague questions, on the intake form, in the waiting room, I entered the therapy room that felt tranquil and safe. I lay down on my (new)massage therapist’s table not knowing what to expect.

Five minutes into the session, I knew that I was in the hands of a savant. My massage therapist and I had entered into a somatic and emotional space where there was little room for words. The standard and somewhat vague words on that form did not matter. My body told her a story and she responded with a knead, a roll or a push. On one level, the massage was about tense knots and soft tissue, but on another, it was far deeper than the physical.

I learned that the muscles in my shoulders and upper back were tense, tight and contracted. I also learned that I hold sadness and grief in my shoulders. After sixty minutes of massage, where my therapist worked primarily on my shoulders, I felt such pure, deep, unbridled joy and gratitude that I could have cartwheeled my way home. The sixty minutes brought back intensity of emotions that were seemingly lost to me in the last few years.

My story is yet another instance of the therapeutic potential of massage. Whether it is Deep Tissue, Swedish, Ayurvedic, Chinese or just a quick 10 minute chair massage at your pharmacy, make time for this safe, non-pharmacological, relatively inexpensive self care practice. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for this health edit.


  • Massage School Notes; Massage Quotes
  • NPR; With a Quick Massage, a Voice Returns
  • WSJ; Don’t Call it Pampering, Massage Wants to be Medicine
  • National Institute of Health; Massage
  • International Journal of Preventive Medicine; Durability of Effect of Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure
  • Image Credit; freedigitalphotos.net