Pu-erh (pronounced poo-air) is a uniquely fermented tea, made using an old, broad-leafed variety of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), withered and then pan-fried to remove excess moisture like the processing of green tea.  Unlike green tea, however, the heat processing part is shortened so oxidation can occur to the tea leaves.  The tea is allowed to ferment using methods meant to mimic the way it originally was discovered while tea leaves were traveling on the backs of horse or yaks on the Silk Road from Yunnan to the Tibetan Plateau for trade.  The flavor, caffeine, nutrients, & probiotic characteristics of this unique tea made it an indispensible beverage for many in China and in many indigenous communities throughout the Upper Mekong River Region of China, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and India.
Modern-day pu-erh tea is either fermented packed in clay jars, baskets, or buried in the floor of caves and allowed to oxidize and age, some for as long as 60 years. Like fine wine, certain pu-erh are considered more valuable and the flavor more desirable than others. Another method used to make pu-erh is to heap-ferment the loose tea leaves for hours to days to allow interaction with fungi, yeast, and bacteria that ferment the tea.  Some pu-erh is also intentionally inoculated with desirable microorganisms.
Pu-erh tea has many reported health benefits, including acting as an antioxidant, helping to stimulate metabolic processes (thereby increasing calories used), helping with fat digestion (therefore beneficial taken with a fatty meal), increasing mental clarity & energy, improving lipid profiles, & reducing cholesterol levels.  It is a source of polyphenols, like other teas, which are phytochemicals that can protect the body from free radical damage and degenerative processes & diseases.  Other compounds include: caffeine-producing methylxanthines (theobromine & theophylline), amino acids, & amino acid-derivatives including theanine, proanthocyanadins, gallic acid, coumaric & caffeic acids.  Theanine has been shown to help reduce mental and physical stress and improve mental function.
The fat metabolism, and general metabolism-boosting properties, have been the primary focuses of its use in the West, as well as its cholesterol-lowering effect, which has largely been explained by the discovery that pu-erh tea contains natural statins produced by the probiotic activity.  Polyphenols in the tea leaves are oxidized to create fermentation-derived compounds known as statins (a group of hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors), which have been shown to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels & prevent cardiovascular disease.
Generally speaking, you’d need to brew this tea at about 1 tsp/cup hot water for 5 minutes and drink 3 cups/day to achieve some of these desired effects.
There is a lot of interesting information out there on the internet about tea in general, and some on pu-erh.  I learned a lot about pu-erh and its ethnobotanical origins and use from an article in Herbal Gram, published by the American Botanical Council, entitled “Pu-erh Tea and the Southwest Silk Road” by Selena Ahmed, PhD and Michael Freeman.  There are also some research studies that are summarized on Pub Med, a database part of the National Institutes of Health (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/).

Slim Down Tea contains: Pu-erh tea, Cinnamon bark, Cleavers, Eleuthero, and Stevia leaves.
Ah, weight loss.  It’s one of the biggest issues people face that has no easy answer.  Once you’ve put on weight, it takes awhile to get it off, and there’s no way around dietary adjustments and exercise (calories in need to be less than calories out).  However, if you are focusing on these things, and preferably getting some guidance (afterall, most people I talk to think they eat and exercise JUST FINE, thank you very much), then there are things that can help support a person in their weight-loss goals.  Namely, herbs and nutrients that can support healthy metabolism and encourage fat burning.  There’s that word – metabolism.  What does it mean anyway?
Metabolism means change or transformation, and in the way we talk about it here, is referring to the processes in our body that convert food and other substances into energy and other metabolites used by the body.  Metabolism aids in digestive function as well as absorption of nutrients.  It is most affected by nutrition, hydration and physical activity, but is also regulated by the thyroid hormones and is affected by the adrenal and reproductive hormones systems as well.  Metabolism in the sense we refer to in weight control, is the regulator of our body’s fuel, in the form of calories derived from fat & carbohydrates primarily.  Therefore, when I refer to herbs that “increase metabolism”, these are herbs that are known to help speed up the rate at which you burn calories.
I know I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but I felt it was important to explain metabolism before I talked about TEA and how it can help with speeding up your metabolism and therefore help you get that edge over more calories out than are going in, so fat can be burned.  Green tea has had its praises sung for this effect, as has oolong tea, and now I will talk about pu-erh tea – another of the tea-plant forms of tea that is in my own Slim Down Tea blend.
Look at my article/post on pu-erh tea for more information, but suffice it to say that this herb is the foundation of this particular tea blend, designed to help increase metabolism (& therefore fat reduction), improve digestion & nutrient absorption, reduce fluid retention by increasing the flow of fluid through the kidneys (due to Cleavers), support the adrenal glands & their function and generally increase energy levels (due to Eleuthero) and help balance blood sugar (Eleuthero & Cinnamon bark both help here).  An excellent “side effect” of this tea?  It could help you lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and help you better digest fats, primarily due to the fermented pu-erh tea.

This tea is a blend of herbs that can help increase insulin sensitivity of cells and therefore increase uptake of glucose (blood sugar) from the blood and into cells.  This is the primary action and intention of this blend, but other herbs – such as Devil’s club in this tea blend – also help with adrenal and immune function, while Eyebright and Bilberry leaves also can help prevent venous and eye issues that can result from hyperglycemic conditions by strengthening and toning the blood vessel walls.  The herbs Fenugreek, Cinnamon, and Devil’s club are the primary blood sugar regulators, helping to balance blood sugar levels in those with high blood sugar conditions, such as those with Diabetes mellitus, both insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent.  Fenugreek has perhaps the most research on it, showing a hypoglycemic effect, as well as helping to reduce cholesterol levels.  Cinnamon can also be a helpful herb for those wanting or needing to avoid high glucose spikes after meals.  This blend can also have a beneficial effect on digestion and help support the healthy digestion of fats in particular.  This tea is beneficial for those who suspect or know they are “pre-diabetic” and for those who have well-controlled diabetes, as well as those who know they could be headed that way if they don’t change course with dietary changes.
Contains: Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum cassia), Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis), Bilberry leaf (Vaccinium myrtillus), and Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus).
Enjoy this tasty tea daily for best results!
See my post on Fenugreek as well for more information.

This has been a thought on many health-conscious people’s minds: how do I protect myself from this invisible, potentially toxic, radiation that is drifting our way via air and water from Japan as I write.  I think it is a question worth asking, even though there are those who scoff.  I especially think it’s important when prevention and acting “as if” in sensible ways could only provide health benefits. From what I can find, iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, the radioactive element that can most effect/damage the thyroid gland, but cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years!  It also mixes easily with water and acts similarly to potassium in the body, and so is taken up and processed by the body similarly.  Cesium and uranium both have the most potential to negatively effect the kidneys.  Therefore, it appears that the thyroid gland and the kidneys are the most susceptible to nuclear radiation.
The problem with radiation  in general is that we don’t really know what damaging levels are, and our exposure has gone up as more radiation is continually being emitted around us, from electronics, cell phones, etc.  With the exposure to nuclear radiation through this current crisis,  we may not notice immediate health problems but could experience higher cancer rates years down the road.
How do we protect ourselves?  The reading that I’ve done now points to several things you can do right now, that are generally really good things for the body all the time.  Some of this is based on scientific studies that looked at mainly animals, but people as well, during and after radiation exposure, to nuclear radiation as well as radiation from cancer treatment, x-rays, etc.,  and some is based on information we know about how radiation is processed in the body.
Antioxidants:
Makes sense, right?  Radiation causes free radical damage and antioxidants can help reduce that damage.  Some antioxidants to consider: turmeric (or curcumin at 2-4 g/day, a compound extracted from turmeric, which has been shown to protect the body from breast cancer after radiation exposure), Ginkgo biloba (protective after radiation exposure), rosemary, beta carotene (from carrots, kale, tomatoes, blue-green algae, etc.), vitamin E, glutathione (a powerful antioxidant made up of the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamine;  found in high amounts in barley and watercress, but otherwise is synthesized by taking the amino acids in supplement form or applying a glutathione cream), superoxide dismutase (SOD) (another powerful antioxidant that you can take in supplement form and is found in horseradish), selenium cysteine (found in high amounts in broccoli and garlic), and the brassica family plants (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc.).
Mushrooms:
These wonderful fungi can help protect the body from radiation, probably partly because of a compound called beta-glucan, which is particularly protective to the bone marrow after radiation.  Mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, and cordyceps are also immune supportive and have many anticancer/tumor properties.  How much do you need to take to be effective?  A typical dose would be 1-2 g twice/day of the powder, capsules, or tincture.  You can also incorporate some mushrooms (shiitake, maitake)  into your food.
Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda):
This substance appears to bind to both uranium and cesium and minimize their damaging effects on the kidneys, which have to excrete them.  One source I found suggested 1/2 tsp, twice/day away from food.
Adaptogens:
This powerful category of plants is protective and supportive to the body in general.  Particularly of note are Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng), Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), RhodiolaEleutherococcus (Eleuthero), and Holy basil (Tulsi).

A therapeutic dose of these would be 2 dropperfuls (about 60 drops or 2 millileters) 2-3 times/day of the tincture (1:2 extract would provide 1 gram of herb per 2 ml of liquid ingested), 2-3 cups of tea at 1 Tbsp/cup simmered for 20-30 minutes for the roots and steeped 20 minutes for the leaves (holy basil), or 2 grams of the powder/capsules, twice/day.
Algae & Other Chlorophyll-rich greens:

Chlorella & Spirulina in particular are detoxifying to the body and known to carry radiation out the body, partly due to the chlorophyll content and due to carotenes and minerals in these superfoods.  Wheatgrass is also very high in chlorophyll and shown to help with radiation.
Iodine & Seaweed:
Iodine can compete with iodine-131 for use by the thyroid gland, therefore limiting radioactive exposure.  Although potassium iodide is recommended for high levels of radioactive iodine exposure, it is not recommended for long-term use.  Seaweed and other iodine-containing substances (fish, iodized salt) are better long-term sources.  Kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, and other “brown seaweeds” are considered the best for protecting the body.  They also are a source of trace minerals that are helpful for metabolic processes in the body and have antioxidant effects.  3-5 g/day is recommended, with 3 g amounting to about 1 tsp of kelp powder.
Vitamins & Minerals:
Vitamins E, D3, C, and A are all antioxidants and vitamin D3 has been shown to support immune function, so all of these are potentially helpful.  The minerals selenium, iodine, & magnesium are most cited for their potentially beneficial effects during this time.
What would a good approach be?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing.  I take a tincture (a liquid extract) combining several herbs, including Adaptogens & Antioxidants.  Mine includes adaptogens (American ginseng & Schisandra berry, which protects the liver) and antioxidants/liver support (Turmeric, Rosemary, & Ginkgo).  I take 60 drops (2 dropperfuls) twice/day.  I take 2 – 500 mg kelp capsules twice/day, so 2 grams/day.  I also take 1 Tablespoon of a green powder blend once/day that contains chlorella, spirulina, kelp, alfalfa, and nettle.  I take about 5000 IU vitamin D3 once/day.
It may sound like a lot, but it takes me 5 minutes out of my day to do.  I put 2 squirts of my herbal tinctures in a little water, 1 squirt of my liquid vitamin D3, &  toss it back with my kelp capsules with breakfast.  At some point during the day I shake up my green powder in about 4 oz of water in a jar and get it down as quickly as possible (you could alternatively take this in a smoothie or with juice).  I then take 2 more squirts of my tincture and 2 more kelp capsules with dinner.  And I’ve done my best at getting in some good nutrients for the day, including broccoli and kale.  I was, by the way, doing all of this except for the faithful taking of my kelp capsules, before I found out about the nuclear radiation from Japan.
My hope in sharing this information is to empower you with tools you can incorporate into your life to help protect you from the radiation we are going to be exposed to in some degree over the weeks/months to come.   It is better to act than to ignore this potential danger or to freeze in fear.  Please give feedback/insights and feel free to ask questions.

This tea is a blend of flavors many people associate with the holidays, or this time of year anyway…  Cinnamon, orange, clove… and a hint of sweet with stevia leaves mixed in there.  Inspired by a wonderful customer of mine at Herban Wellness, she wanted to gift a small amount of this blend to her clients this month.  Everyone knows I can’t simply write about a tea for taste, can I?  So, what can one expect to feel from this tea?  Or what are some of the potential benefits from the herbs in this blend?
Orange peel, clove, cinnamon, and cardamom all have a beneficial effect on digestion, but helping to relax, promote the flow of digestive juices in the gastrointestinal tract, and to dispel gas.  They all, but particularly clove, also have antibacterial effects.  Orange peel and cardamom also have an effect on the nervous system, helping to both uplift and invigorate, while promoting calm.  Hibiscus flowers, another addition to this tea blend, not only adds its signature rich pink color, but it has a very beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, helping to lower blood pressure and strengthen arteries and veins.  Also, interestingly enough, hibiscus is sometimes referred to as a refrigerant, meaning it has a cooling effect on the body, which is in contrast to the spices in this blend which tend to warm.
See my write-up on Cinnamon bark to understand its beneficial medicinal effects.
Stevia, other than being a hundred times sweeter than sugar without any sugars, also has been studied for its medicinal effects and seems to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar balance.  I love to blend a few stevia leaves into my teas for a subtle, completely natural, no-calorie sweetness.
Contains: orange peel, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, hibiscus, and stevia
A perfect blend for the holidays, no?  Sip while baking cookies or serve warm or cold at your holiday party in a glass pitcher.  Serve to family members when things start to get a bit snarly to soothe and brighten.

This tall plant which produces yellow flowers, is a member of the Asteraceae family.  Its Latin name is Inula helenium. A native to Europe, this plant is widely cultivated in North America, and the root is used in medicine.
Primary properties:
Lung tonic, expectorant, antitussive (cough suppressant), antibacterial, vermifuge (antiparasitic), liver & digestive stimulant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory
Primary uses: coughs, lung congestion, bronchitis, asthma, other lung issues, weak digestion, parasitic infections, edema
This is herb is strengthening and rebuilding to the lungs and digestive tract, while also being a good herb for acute lung conditions as well.  Carbohydrates in the root, including inulin, are strengthening to the immune system and used as food by the beneficial flora in our intestinal tract.  Oils and resins in the root give it aromatic, antibacterial, and antiparasitic properties.  This herb can be decocted (simmered in hot water) to prepare a tea or can be taken in the tincture (liquid extract form), which will extract more of the oils & resins from the plant.  The standard dose is 1 Tablespoon of the herb per cup (10-12 oz) of water, simmered for 15-20 minutes, consumed 2-5 times a day (taken less often if for rebuilding or a chronic condition, more often if acute).  Or take the tincture at a dose of 2-5 dropperfuls in a little water or juice every few hours for acute lung congestion/cough/bronchitis, and take 2-3 times per day for maintenance or a chronic condition.