The term “simple” has long been applied by herbalists to describe a single herb that is prescribed for treatment of a health problem. The practice of using a simple is in contrast to the more difficult method of designing a complex formulation. The term is adopted here to describe health care steps that can be applied at home as you may need them. You will get additional details for the best way to use these simples from your practitioner. The short summaries offered here will serve as a reminder.
Wet Socks Night Treatment: For Onset of Common Cold, Sinus Congestion, or Headache Take a pair of thin cotton socks, get the foot portion wet with cold water, wring out, put on and then cover the wet socks with thicker dry wool socks. Do this just before going to bed. The cold on your feet will cause circulation to open up and bring warmth to your feet, while at the same time warming up and drying the cold wet socks. This shift in circulation stimulates the immune system (a slight exposure to cold like this is healthful, while a longer or more extensive exposure to cold can weaken immunity) and clears the sinuses by changing the pattern of circulation in the capillaries surrounding them. If this treatment is done on the first day of common cold symptoms (which often starts with a stuffy nose, as the virus begins its activity there) you may stop the virus in its tracks. The shift in circulation to the feet may also alleviate tension headaches.
Bitters: To Promote Digestion Bitter herbs can stimulate the digestive functions. The likely mechanism of action is that the bitter herbs cause the gallbladder to discharge a small amount of bile. Bile that enters into the small intestine initiates a slight peristalsis; gallbladder and intestinal movements are two responses that occur soon after eating. These activities signal the stomach to get busy digesting food, even though there might not be any present, and the stomach then releases more of its digestive fluids, including digestive enzymes. If you take the bitters before a meal, your body will be prepped for digesting so that you will have a quicker and more complete digestive response to your meal. Bitter is not a very common taste in most foods, it is mainly found in salads (some types of lettuce as well as special additions like endive, radicchio, and spring greens) and in coffee and chocolate. Bitters can be made from several herb ingredients; a well-known preparation is Angostura Bitters, but there are hundreds of different bitters preparations from which to choose. You can make your own from a good bitters recipe or be creative using your own selection of herbs known to be bitter but safe. Put several drops (15 to 30) of the bitters in water (or another beverage) and drink before a meal; be careful not to overly dilute the bitters by using a large amount of water, otherwise the digestive properties are not likely to be experienced.
Sour Cherry: For Arthritis and Gout Cherries, and especially sour cherries, contain anthocyanins; these contribute the red color to the fruit. Sour cherries provide about 50% more anthocyanins than sweet cherries. While anthocyanins are found in many fruits (currants, blackberries, and elderberries have large amounts), the particular types of these compounds in cherries are the reason for their relatively higher therapeutic action. The dominant anthocyanins in cherries are cyanidin rutinosides; they can be effective in reducing inflammation of the joints, possibly through inhibiting the COX-2 enzymes that are the target of modern anti-inflammatory drugs. Eating sour cherries, fresh or dried, or consuming sour cherry juice may alleviate joint discomfort and reduce gout attacks. The amount of fresh cherries to consume is rather high, about half a pound each day (50 cherries) or take ¾ cup of cherry juice, straight or diluted, or consume about an ounce and a half of the dried fruits.
Protein: For Health When making an effort to avoid foods that might be considered unhealthy (perhaps because of saturated fats or food sensitivities) or that might be otherwise deemed unsuitable for the daily diet (because of vegetarian or vegan philosophy), it is common for those hoping to improve health to end up with a diet that is too low in protein. Protein helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, contributes to muscle strength, is a key component of the immune system, and aids recovery from injuries, surgery, and stress. The typical amount of protein recommended to be consumed daily under ordinary circumstances is about 50 grams (around 10% more than that for men and 10% less than that for women). However, those recommendations are for people who are mostly sedentary. As physical activity increases, protein needs also increase. A person who undertakes some vigorous exercise daily may need to double the protein intake that would be consumed by someone who does little or no vigorous exercise. Since the highest protein food sources are from animals (milk products, eggs, meat, and fish), anyone avoiding some or all of these sources may consume less than optimum levels for health. An easy way to compensate is to obtain a protein powder derived from those food substances that you are confident using, and take 12-15 grams of protein powder per day by mixing the protein powder (which is tasteless) in water, juice, or a smoothie. While one of the most popular protein powders is Whey Protein, that does come from milk (and mixed protein powders typically add egg albumin, the protein from egg whites, to the whey); collagen powders are also becoming better known (they are derived solely from animals) because of their potential for nourishing skin, hair, nails, tendons, and other connective tissues. There are vegan protein powders available that are usually made from legumes, such as soybeans or peas, alone or combined with some other plant sources.
Omega-3: or Reducing Inflammation The fats we consume in foods are subdivided into saturated and unsaturated, and then the unsaturated fats are divided into major categories depending on the location of certain chemical bonds: omega-3, omega-6, omega-9 are among the ones frequently mentioned. Animal foods have a relatively large proportion of saturated fats; plant foods are not free of saturated fats, but usually have less (coconut oil and palm oil are high in saturated fat). The dominant unsaturated fat in plants is omega-6. During the metabolism of these fats, some of the byproducts enter into biochemical pathways related to the inflammatory processes. Saturated fats and omega-6 unsaturated fats are readily converted into inflammatory compounds; by contrast, omega-3 fats are not. Therefore, a diet that has a larger amount of omega-3 fats (“fatty acids”) and a smaller amount of omega-6 and saturated fats may result in a lowered level of inflammation. One of the richest sources of omega-3 fats is fish, and the relative quantities of these omega-3s varies considerably among the different species. Overall, shellfish are relatively low in omega-3, the main exceptions being mussels and oysters. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, trout, and swordfish are especially high in omega-3s. Eating fish is a good way to get protein as well as these healthy fats. However, most people do not consume enough fish to make the difference necessary in the balance of fats to alter inflammation. Since fish naturally accumulate mercury, there is some concern about eating large amounts (especially during pregnancy) to get the desired fats. One solution is to get fish oil in capsules; that way, it is possible to consume enough of the healthy fats yet avoid the mercury. Make sure the fish oil you select is third party tested (independent testing) to assure no rancidity or impurities. Omega-3s are also found in eggs, flaxseed, and walnuts in good quantity. One of the fish and egg omega-3s that is not found in plants is DHA, which also nourishes the brain and is considered an important nutrient for babies to help with brain development; DHA is absent from plants except for plankton. Of the common cooking oils, canola is highest in omega-3; walnut oil can also be used to get the omega-3s, but at a higher cost.