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Spice Up Your Medicine Cabinet

Spice Up Your Medicine Cabinet

No matter what is ailing you or your pets, you can typically find everything you need to recover, in the kitchen.  Mother Nature provides medicinal food, herbs and spices that rival any OTC pharmaceutical cold, flu, congestion, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, urinary tract, thyroid, diarrhea, digestion, probiotic and sinus medication, on the market (did I leave anything out?).  Make no mistake, Big Pharma works very hard to emulate what our Mother Earth has always provided naturally.  Think about it, hundreds of years ago, doctors used holistic medicine as their main practice, before the pharmaceutical companies took over our healthcare system and became mainstream Western medicine.  Natural remedies also provide nutritional value and boost the immune system, which heals the body, rather than masking the symptoms with drugs that have unhealthy side effects. 


Now, before you freak out on me, let me be clear. I’m not saying Western medicine doesn’t have its place in health care, as I know it is very important and necessary at times.  I just think pharmaceuticals are way over-used and should never be your first choice for a cure.  In our household, Big Pharma is our last resort and rarely used anymore.  We are all (pets included) far healthier than we were when we used to reach for the medicine cabinet before the spice cabinet.


My Aha moment, while studying the medicinal properties of food, was when I was introduced to the energetic properties of food, herbs and spices, explained through Eastern Medicine.  Understanding the Energetics of Food & Herbs, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is the first step to knowing how different food/herbs/spices react in the body and what path they take throughout the body.  This information helps you to understand why these natural remedies work and how to use them to treat various illnesses. 


As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, my research in holistic medicine began when my dog, Nola, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (incurable bone cancer) and we chose to treat her cancer holistically, since chemo and radiation would not cure her cancer.  Our goal was to keep her body strong and build her immune system, so Nola could remain healthy and comfortable for as long as possible.  Our vet, Cindy Baker, owner of Bargersville Veterinary Hospital & Wellness Center, practices both Eastern & Western medicine (which is why she is so amazing), and is the one who originally introduced me to the “energetics of food” concept and how it plays a huge role, when using food to fight any disease.  I purchased two charts from Dr. Baker, one Energetics of Food and one Energetics of Herbs, which are invaluable to me.  I reference my charts first, when seeking remedies for our various forms of sniffles, coughs, aches and pains.


Following are my favorite remedies I use the most, but there are thousands of natural remedies you can try.  It’s fun and rewarding when you create new concoctions that really work.  The more you learn, the easier it gets!


Cough, congestion & sinus inflammation:  GINGER!


Fresh Ginger Root is my first stop for almost everything, especially everything from the chest up.  I typically don’t have to go any further, as fresh ginger pretty much takes care of the symptoms before they become severe enough to call on Big Pharma.  According to my Energetics of Herbs chart, ginger takes a route through the Lungs, Spleen, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Heart and Uterus – so, pretty much your entire body.  It is a warming herb, which takes the action to help cold, phlegm, & wind cold (illnesses such as common cold, influenza, & laryngitis).  Ginger also promotes Qi Circulation, which is probably its most important aspect, because the Qi keeps energy flowing through your body and doesn’t let germs stay around long.  Do you now see WHY and HOW it works?  It isn’t voo-doo or magic – it is BASIC SCIENCE!


My homemade, natural version of Dayquil or Nyquil:  One inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped medium sized chunks, half a fresh lemon with rind (or lemon essential oil – about five drops, or more if you want), two tablespoons raw organic honey and a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper or cinnamon.  Bring them to a boil in approximately two cups of water.  I only let it boil for about a minute or less, cover and let it steep for an additional ten minutes.  For a “nighttime” Nyquil version of the tea, add a shot of your favorite whiskey. There is a reason why a hot toddy really works! 


Following is how/why my remedy above works for chest & sinus congestion as well as other symptoms from the common cold and flu:

·        Ginger - all the reasons mentioned above, plus sooths an upset stomach.

·        Lemon – all citrus breaks up phlegm and take a route through the lungs as well as a great source of vitamin C.

·        Raw Organic Honey – boosts the immune system and calms your cough

·        Cinnamon & Cayenne Pepper – both are great for cold conditions, take a route through the lungs, and enhance Qi & Blood circulation.

·        Whiskey – sleep aid and I’m pretty sure it kills germs on its way down too.


The ginger tea is great (without the alcohol) for our pets too!  My dog, Suri, has congestion issues at the peak of allergy season and it works like a charm.  I add the tea to her food, a small amount of canned pumpkin to spoon feed (which also breaks up phlegm and moves through the lungs) or I feed it to her with a food syringe.


Probiotic:  Milk Kefir!

Instead of popping a probiotic pill with no real nutritional value, try drinking a few sips a day of milk kefir instead.  I talk more about this in my blog, Got Milk...Kefir?


Inflammation:  Natural NSAIDS! (NSAID = non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)


Garlic & Ginger:

Garlic & ginger are both excellent anti-inflammatories and they both have natural anti-biotic properties, which help to fight infection.


Turmeric with ground black pepper:

Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine.  Always use turmeric in conjunction with fresh ground black pepper because the pepper increases the efficacy (absorption into the body) of the turmeric.



Bozweilla Extract is easy to find at any health food store and works really well, especially when blended with other natural NSAIDS like Devil’s Claw, White Willow Bark & Yucca.  This combination works well for pain relief from inflammation and is common to find a variation of the blend together in one pill. 


Keep in mind, when fighting inflammation naturally, it is important to combine various remedies that create synergy for healing throughout your body.  If you combine all of these remedies together, you will get the best results.  Not to mention the amazing boost you will give your immune system.


Diarrhea and/or constipation:  Canned Pumpkin!

I learned of this remedy for dogs & cats first and, let me tell you, it works amazingly well and it works for humans too.  I talk more about the benefits of canned pumpkin for your pets in my blog 5 reasons I feed my dogs canned pumpkin every day.


Urinary Tract Infection (UTI):  Uva Ursi & Juniper Berries!

If you treat a UTI early, your chances of healing it naturally are much greater.  A UTI can be very painful and the remedies I mention in my blog, Natural Remedies for a Urinary Tract Infection, work well to relieve pain as well as clear the infection.   These remedies work for your pets too, but if symptoms are not gone within a few days, a trip to the doctor or vet may be necessary.  Especially for your pets, since they can’t tell you how much pain they are experiencing.


I hope I’ve opened your mind, even a little, to cure yourself in the kitchen and leave your medicine cabinet for toothpaste and eye cream.


Please share your favorite holistic remedies too!  I bet your grandma has a few!

Natural Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Natural Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Urinary tract infections can be common for dogs with cancer for various reasons.  Since we know that cancer doesn’t thrive in an alkaline environment, we work hard to create alkalinity in our pets’ bodies, by giving them a lot of alkaline foods & herbs.  Unfortunately, PH levels that are too alkaline can cause crystals in their urine, leading to an infection and a lot of discomfort.  On the other hand, cancer causes PH levels to be more acidic when the proper foods/supplements are not given to help with alkalinity and a PH level that is too acidic can also cause crystals to form.  Having a balance of alkaline and acid foods is the key to a healthy PH level. 

A healthy PH for a dog should be between 6 and 6.5, which is slightly more acidic than a healthy PH for humans.  It is very easy to check the PH with PH strips that you can pick up at any health food store or pharmacy.  The important thing to understand is that there are certain times of day that the PH will range to seem more acidic or alkaline, depending on mealtime, supplements, first pee in the morning or many other variables.  The key is to check it several times throughout the day, if possible, and then take an average.  The best time to check it is a couple hours before or after meals and supplements.  Since it isn’t always possible to get your pet to urinate when you need them to, the more you can test it, the better. 

A more accurate option is to test PH levels with a blood test, which is very expensive.  Nola’s vet, Dr. Baker, explained to me that it is only taking a snapshot of the blood PH at that moment and it was not the best use of our money when there were so many other things that Nola needed with our limited funds.  I found the PH strips to do a great job of showing me how different foods affected her PH and how the overall environment in her body looked, with regard to alkalinity, throughout the day.  Of course my neighbors must have thought I was crazy, following my dog around with a pee strip and putting my hand down there every time she went to the bathroom.  And expect to get peed on a lot too.  It just goes along with the program and nothing that any parent wouldn’t do for their kids, right? 

Thankfully we never had to deal with UTIs during Nola’s journey, but our other healthy dog, Suri, recently showed symptoms of a UTI, so I started her on some of the following remedies right away - her symptoms went away before it turned into anything serious.  I believe that Nola’s diet and my regular monitoring of her PH levels helped us to dodge that bullet, while fighting cancer.  The earlier you can catch a UTI, the better your chances and results will be to fight it naturally.  If the symptoms do not go away within a few days of natural treatments, then it is important to get your dog to your vet as soon as possible.  I seldom advocate antibiotics, especially for cancer dogs, but there are times when they are necessary, so that your dog is not in distress or that it doesn’t lead to something worse.  UTI’s can be very serious and must be attended to immediately.  They can also be a sign of something else transpiring from the cancer, so it is always smart to keep your vet informed of their condition and let them know what you are giving your cancer warrior at all times.  I kept a very detailed journal of Nola’s diet that I updated regularly and gave a copy to Dr. Baker every time it changed.

Some of the main symptoms of a UTI are frequent urination with very little success (dribbles instead of a steady stream of urine), urinating in odd places, excessive drinking, blood in the urine, fever, lethargy and excessive licking down there.   If you have ever experienced a UTI, you know how miserable they are and these remedies will help to treat the bacteria and soothe the uncomfortable symptoms.  By the way, they work for humans too.  I am including my favorite natural UTI remedies below, but I have also included links that have more information on UTIs and natural remedies that I recommend you read.  All of these herbs can be purchased at your local health food store.

Juniper Berries – Juniper berries work well on even a severe UTI because they increase the rate in which the kidneys filter out impurities and increase urine production.  They are safe for dogs and cats when used in moderation.  You can use the berries to make a tea, which is how I use them, or you can get a certified food grade juniper berry essential oil and dilute it with water.  I followed the directions for making the tea and dosing my dogs per Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer

(20) berries for every cup of water.  Steep in a tea pot or other pot with a lid and only steep for 5 to 7 minutes to preserve the volatile oils needed from the berries.  I use (1) to (2) Tbs of the tea in their food per day for no longer than four weeks for a medium to large size dog.  Small dogs should have only (1) Tbs per day.

According to my Energetics of Herbs chart for Traditional Chinese Medicine that I purchased from Dr. Baker, Juniper takes the path through the kidneys and bladder, which confirms the theory that it is a great option to cure a urinary tract infection.

Uva Ursi – According to Modern Dog Magazine by Dr. Loridawn Gordon, a naturopathic veterinarian, “Uva Ursi leaf is one of the most powerful natural astringents available. Holistic veterinarians use it to attack a variety of pathogens that are often the cause of UTIs. It can stop bleeding and reduce the inflammation associated with these infections.”

The article in Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer also recommends the Uva Ursi as a good remedy for UTI, so I followed their dosing recommendations, which are similar to the Juniper Berry, other than you do NOT want to use this longer than THREE DAYS at a time.  Like the Juniper Berries, I used the Uva Ursi leaves to steep and make a tea.  You can and should steep the Uva Ursi leaves longer than the Juniper Berries - per the directions you are to steep until the tea is room temperature. 

Goldenseal - Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer recommends Goldenseal because it is antibacterial and antifungal.  According to my Energetics of Herbs chart for TCM, Goldenseal takes the path through the bladder and it is a cooling herb, therefore confirming that it is another great option for a UTI.  You can use this in a dry herb form or tincture, so you should follow the dosage recommendations on the bottles and confirm them with your vet.  Goldenseal should not be used on small puppies and kittens or pregnant or lactating dogs or cats.

Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar – Is there anything that ACV doesn’t cure? It truly is nature’s wonder drug and typically my first choice for everything.  You should already have this as a staple in your cancer warrior’s diet, to aid in alkalinity and inflammation in the body.  If your pet’s UTI is caused from over alkalinity, however, then you may want to back off of it for a couple days and try the other remedies first.  ACV has great antibacterial properties and can be used diluted in water to wash the exterior of the urinary tract, which is also important to keep clean during a UTI.

Cranberry or Blueberry -  Quoted from Modern Dog Magazine, “Cranberry or Blueberry will prevent the bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract and is great for the prevention of recurrent infections.

Parsley - Dr. Loridawn Gordon also mentions in Modern Dog Magazine, “Parsley leaf is an effective diuretic that can aid in the elimination of waste and, in addition to being highly nutritious, parsley leaves have antiseptic qualities that are great for treating urinary tract infections.” 

Like ACV, Parsley should already be a part of your cancer dog’s regular diet because it has great cancer fighting properties and it helps with alkalinity.  According to my Energetics of Herbs chart for TCM, parsley takes the path through the bladder and kidneys, confirming that it is another great option for a UTI.

There are a lot of natural products on the market that combine several herbs, including the ones that I have listed above, as well as others that have been proven to successfully treat urinary tract infections.  Since I have not used any of them, I have chosen to not include information on them, but with a little research you can quickly find a lot of resources from which to choose.  As I have mentioned before, don’t fall into the trap of buying the “next best thing” – when in doubt, stick to the basic ingredients.  Your holistic vet should be able to recommend their favorite remedies as well.  

Buzz Off! Natural Flea & Tick remedies that actually work.

Buzz Off! Natural Flea & Tick remedies that actually work.

It’s that time of year again.  Ah yes, summertime.  For some of us mid-westerners, it is the symbol of rebirth, growth & victory for making it through another long winter; however, along with sunshine, fresh cut grass and gardening comes those pesky bugs.  If you are a pet owner, the peskiest bugs of all are fleas & ticks and the war against them is never won until winter rears its ugly head again.

So, what are our options?  Letting our pets get infested with fleas or sick from Lyme Disease is never an option, so does that mean that we have to use oral or spot on flea and tick treatments that have harmful chemicals that are dangerous for our pets, potentially making them sick?  No, it doesn’t because there are natural remedies that actually work, if used properly, and they are completely safe for you and your pets.

After I lost my dog, Nola, to cancer, I have been on a mission to find natural flea and tick remedies for my healthy dogs that actually work.  When I was told that my cancer dog should not have ANY toxic flea & tick medications (which are all of them on the market, except natural remedies) because it was so harmful to her immune system, I thought, then why the F@#! do I want to give them to my healthy dogs?  Finding the natural solutions that work was not as easy as I had hoped, though, until I found this blog 6 Ways to Naturally Prevent and Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs and learned about the use of lemons as part of my protocol.  I did not find that everything on the list in this blog worked for us, but lemons were a game changer with our war against fleas and ticks.  The reason why lemons work is because lemons contain D-limonene, which is a natural flea repellent as well as an organic insecticide.  I was already using the apple cider vinegar, but found that it did not work at all, until I added the lemon juice.  Once I read the article linked above about lemons versus vinegar for fighting fleas and learned that vinegar actually attracts fleas, it became painfully clear as to why it wasn’t working and most likely making the situation worse.  But the lemon juice works, my friends!  You can see it killing the fleas when they come into contact with it, right before your eyes!

I use the lemon juice in a few different ways.  First, I follow the directions in both of the blogs linked above to create a lemon juice tonic:

(2) cups of water

(1) lemon cut into 4 pieces (with rind)

Bring water to a boil, then remove from heat and add the lemon to the hot water (I squeeze the lemons into the water before adding them to get the juices flowing), cover and let steep for 6 to 8 hours.  I typically make mine at night and let it steep over night.  Remove the lemons and seeds and now you have a tonic that will work better than any toxic flea killer on the market and it is 100% safe for your pets.  It is a lot safer for you too, when you are hugging and kissing all over your fur babies.

Now that you have the tonic, you can use it several different ways:

1.     Combine it with your favorite non-toxic pet shampoo and use it as a flea bath. I love and trust Ava Anderson products and use their natural pet shampoo & conditioner in one.  If you are interested in purchasing or learning more about Ava Anderson products, or non-toxic products in general, please check out my friend Heidi Straub with Health Insight by Heidi, who has made it her life’s mission to spread the word and educate about harmful toxins that are in most products on the market and what to watch out for.  During her quest for safe products, she stumbled upon the story of Ava Anderson and eventually became a sales rep for Ava products because she was so impressed by their grassroots approach and dedication to education and creating safe and affordable products.  Using Ava Anderson products brings me a peace of mind that I am using a product that is non-toxic and completely safe for me and my pets.

2.    Pour some of the tonic into a bowl and dip your flea comb into it while flea-combing your pet – this way you don’t just catch them, but you kill them as well. By the way, a flea comb is a necessary item when fighting fleas and ticks naturally.

3.    Put the rest in a spray bottle and use it as a flea spray.  You can either keep the spray bottle in the refrigerator or change it out often.  Lemons are a natural substance, so it will go rancid after a few days if you don’t keep it refrigerated.  This is something that you want to reapply to your pets daily during peak flea/tick season, so you should be making weekly batches anyway.

Very similarly to fighting cancer naturally, I have found that fighting fleas naturally is more successful when several natural treatments are combined, creating a synergy between them.  A little of each treatment every day is more effective than one big dose once a week or once a month.  If you consider that you only treat your dog once a month with the toxic chemical treatments, which means that the poison lingers in your pet’s bloodstream for an entire month and it is so powerful that it will kill a flea or tick if they bite your pet, then you have to wonder what else it is killing in your pet’s body?  It should make you pause and question if this is the best option for your pet.  I’m not going to sugar coat it, fighting anything naturally is not easy and it takes diligence, but isn’t your pet’s health worth the extra effort?  Of course it is.

Organic, food grade essential oils can be another excellent addition to your natural flea spray or bath.  You must use caution when using essential oils on your pets and dilute them in water or coconut oil.  A dog’s sense of smell is approximately 10,000x more sensitive than ours, so you can imagine how strong some of these oils can be to them, if they are very fragrant to us.  Only one or two drops at a time are all that is needed to create your own flea killing concoctions.

There are many essential oils that have been proven to both repel and kill fleas & ticks and this link has a nice list of the ones to try, as well as other natural remedies that you can try.  We have tried all of them listed, but didn’t have success with some of them, such as the food grade Diatomaceous Earth – this does not mean that they aren’t worth trying for yourself, though, because I have heard others say that they have had great success with the DE for flea control.  I do still add food grade DE to my dog’s food every so often, to kill parasites from the inside, but this has not made it into our main protocol, by any means.  I typically use it as a preventative if they get into old food or something questionable in the yard, but I also make sure they get daily doses of garlic for this same reason.

My dogs are extremely sensitive to the smell of the essential oils, so there are only a couple that I have had success with.  One that passes their approval and is also a natural insecticide is cedarwood oil.  I add a few drops into my spray bottle with the lemon tonic to spray onto their coats daily as a flea spray.

I have found two natural bug sprays on the market that work great and are made from essential oils.  The first spray that I found at Petco is made by Sentry, Natural Defense Flea & Tick Spray, worked very well as a mosquito repellent on myself, but the scent was so strong that my dogs would only allow me to apply a couple squirts to them before they would run off, carrying on as if I had sprayed it right up their noses.  After a couple attempts, they began running as soon as they saw the bottle, so I ended up only using it on myself as a bug spray.  It really did work great as a bug spray and I loved knowing that I was only spraying essential oils on my body and not a nasty, toxic bug spray.

The second spray that I recently discovered, once I discovered Ava Anderson’s non-toxic products is the Ava Natural Bug Spray that is made from all natural, organic ingredients, including many essential oils that have been proven to repel and kill fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, flies and ants.  I have only recently started using this spray, but I can happily announce that my dogs will allow me to apply this one without a lot of drama, which is the first step to it actually working!  I have also used it on myself as a bug spray and so far I find it to work really well against flies & mosquitoes, so I am hopeful that it is working as a flea & tick repellent on my dogs too.  You can purchase the Ava Natural Bug Spray from Heidi Straub with Health Insights by Heidi for you, your kids and your pets and they are sold in sets of (2) bottles, which I also love, so that you can keep one on your porch and one in your car for those impromptu hikes through the woods.

Another natural pet product that I have recently discovered is made by another friend of mine (I have a lot of really cool friends who are passionate about living naturally) Melanie Pool with Nature’s Proportions Soaps & Such.  Among her many amazing, homemade natural soaps are her Deodorizing Dog Bar Soaps, which not only make your dog smell great, they also have eucalyptus essential oil, which is one of the oils that are used as a natural flea repellent.  Melanie’s body scrubs and lotions for humans, made from organic ingredients, are absolutely divine, making you feel like you are treating yourself to a day at the spa every time you use them.  Her packaging and presentation are so beautiful too, that you almost don’t want to open them, which makes them great gift ideas for family and friends.  Do yourself a favor and check her out!

Fighting fleas & ticks from within is the last step of my protocol.  I learned in this article about natural heartworm prevention that a healthy immune system actually tastes bitter to mosquitoes and other blood biting bugs, such as fleas and ticks.  Foods such as garlic & turmeric are great for creating a bitter bloodstream that will help to deter these pests.  PLEASE NOTE THAT CATS SHOULD NEVER HAVE GARLIC, but one clove a day for your dog has many health benefits, as does turmeric, and I cover more information on the topic in my blog Simple Ingredients to turn your Dog’s Meal (and your own) into a Cancer Fighting Powerhouse.

This is the natural flea, tick and mosquito repellent protocol that I have come up with thus far, but I am always looking for more natural remedies to try, so please share your favorites, with which you have had success, in the comments section below!  The more natural remedies that you can combine together, the stronger your fight and the more successful your outcome will be.  As with anything, it is best to stay in front of it by starting early in the season and dedicate yourself to daily (or at least every other day) treatments so that you can kill any eggs that might have been recently hatched before they can hatch and multiply.

Good luck in your quest to tell fleas, ticks & mosquitoes to BUZZ OFF, naturally!