Nature’s Flu Remedy: Antiviral Anti-inflammatory Lemon

Now that flu season has begun, most of us are looking for ways to boost immunity and increase our chances of staying well. For some, this means getting the flu shot, for others it means restocking their arsenal of home remedies, for many it means a combination of both. Among the natural remedies, there seems to be no end to what’s available. But, sometimes it doesn’t take more than opening your refrigerator to uncover one of the best flu fighters of all: the humble lemon.

A slice of lemon in hot tea has been a standard flu remedy for centuries, often associated with other comfort symbols such as furry slippers and warm blankets. But lemon has served as a panacea since ancient times, beginning with the Egyptians, who drank its juice as protection against poisons. The sour-tasting fruit plays a big role in many folk traditions as well, where it is widely appreciated for its antibiotic and anti-nausea properties.

What’s so special about lemons? For starters, lemons are packed with vitamin C and flavonoids, well-known infection-fighting agents that destroy harmful free radicals that cause inflammation. And, while lemon juice itself is acidic (citric acid makes up 8 % of its juice), once it is fully metabolized by the body, it actually has an alkalizing effect. This is a good thing since maintaining a good acid-alkaline balance is essential to proper digestion and overall health, especially if we’re talking about staving off flu.

Lemon can help destroy free radicals that cause inflammation

As a flu remedy, lemon juice has also been shown to combat another nasty flu symptom: congestion in the sinuses and lungs. Not only can lemon juice act as a natural expectorant, it can also reduce inflammation in swollen membranes, helping to prevent these conditions from recurring. And, the fruit’s high acidity can make it difficult for harmful bacteria and viruses to reproduce by either killing them or inhibiting their growth.

Lemons are also a good source of other important minerals including iron, copper, potassium and calcium; all great for fighting flu. You’d be hard-pressed to find a flu remedy in the pharmacy that can beat the little fruit’s double punch of strong immune-building substances combined with so many potent antiviral and antimicrobial properties.

Are you acidic or alkaline? Take the test!

Take this simple test to see where you stand. Combine the juice of one lemon with one cup of hot or warm water. Does it taste sour to you? If it tastes very sour, your body is probably more acidic. If, on the other hand, it doesn’t taste sour at all, your body is most likely more alkaline (which is a much healthier state.) By keeping the ratio of lemon juice to water consistent and taking the drink daily, you should eventually reach a point where the drink doesn’t taste sour at all. You may even enjoy it!

Why wait? Act now and make yourself a flu remedy:

Recipe
Chop up one lemon, including skin and pulp
Add 1 cup boiling water
Steep for 5 minutes
Strain, add honey to taste and enjoy

Drink this hot ‘lemonade’ three to four times a day throughout your illness. Or, drink a cup every morning during the winter months to help stave off infection.

 

The Curious Story Of White and Black Pepper (Piper Nigrum)

The dried fruits and white seeds of black pepper, Piper nigrum

I’ve been a fan of black pepper since early childhood when my mom would sprinkle my morning eggs with the aromatic spice. Later I grew to love the coarser varieties. Ground at the table, the dried fruits tumbled onto my salad leaves, invigorating my meals with their gritty flavor. White pepper came later. A key ingredient in many Swedish dishes, it enlivened all of our family smorgasbords. Continue reading

Fall Is Back: It’s Time To Get Out And Smell The Leaves

Fall arrives slowly here in Maryland. Just when you think the temperatures have cooled, they shoot up again along with the State’s oppressive humidity. Finally, though, there comes a morning when the air has turned crisp and the colors more vivid. That’s when I throw on a jacket and go outdoors to smell the leaves.

Aside from the beautiful show, I take pleasure in all the small details of the season: the delicate remains of the tooth-edged brown oak, the fiery red maple formed like a palm and the heart-shaped yellow linden. I love how the leaves float on the pungent air, fluttering down to weave crazy quilts on the still-warm soil. As they crackle beneath my feet, I savor their earthy aromas; fragrant cinnamon, orange spice and the powerful scent of dry foliage roasting in the autumn sun.

What is it about fall that summons up our deepest memories? How can one whiff of a decaying oak stir my reflection, catapulting me back into the giant leaf piles of my youth?

I think that the answer lies not only in fall’s colors, but also in something less tangible – its smell. Harder to pinpoint than hearing or seeing, the experience of smelling opens pathways to a deep-seated awareness that sleeps inside all of us. This awareness, once awakened, recalls the child we once used to be.

Floating upward through the annals of time, the distinctive aroma of autumn leaves reconnects us to this child, reminding us of our own colorful story, our unique pathway through life and our timeless link to the natural world.

Wishing all of you a very happy fall.

 

Life On the Edge: The High Altitude Plants of the Grand Canyon

Point Imperial, Grand Canyon North Rim

Anyone who’s been to the Grand Canyon North Rim can tell you that hiking can be hard on the lungs given the altitude of just under 8,300 feet. And that’s just for starters, beautiful Point Imperial, the highest of the North Rim overlooks, tops out at almost 9,000. My daughter recently observed while gingerly approaching the edge, that she felt as though she were slogging through a pool of molasses. This prompted me to wonder; how do plants grow under such challenging conditions? I set out to find the answer.

How they do it

The first thing I discovered was that plants that are able to live at high altitude are not like their lowland cousins. In order to survive, they have made some structural adaptations. These include irreversible, highly evolved physical responses to high-altitude environments not seen in low altitude plants. This mix of strategies, while particular to each species, often benefits the surrounding plant and animal communities as well.

Following are just a few.

The creamy flowers of cliffrose, blooming at 8,800 feet

Taking a breather

As chests heaving, we make our way to Point Imperial, I pause to reflect on the many plants that border the trail. How are these species thriving at altitudes of 8,000 feet plus? For one, air pressure is much thinner at higher elevations, making it difficult for my veins to pump oxygen throughout my body.

It turns out that at high altitude, the reduced pressure makes it harder for plants to pump water from soil to stem as well. But unlike humans, high altitude plants have come up with a solution. Rather than struggle to draw water and nutrients through inefficient transport systems, they have evolved smaller sized pathways. These vascular pathways allow them to channel fluids more quickly through a tighter area.

Firecracker penstemon, a desert native, growing at 8,800 feet

Partly due to these reduced hydraulic systems, trees and plants at high elevations tend to be smaller (to conserve energy) and to grow more slowly. They also are more likely to be spaced further apart. Western juniper, for instance, prefers to make its home on dry, rocky sites where there is less competition from larger species. And in exposed areas, it often assumes a stunted form, growing low to the ground.

Western juniper is sometimes described as looking like ‘polka-dots on the hillside’ for this reason.

Juniper growing on the slopes of the Grand Canyon

Taking it slow

Slower growth has the added benefit of longevity. Some of the oldest trees in existence grow at high altitude. This includes the bristlecone pine, which is said to be the oldest known living tree, with some believed to be over 4,000 years old.

An old bristlecone pine

Putting down roots

But I’m particularly impressed by the resilience of the Utah juniper, which can survive even the harshest of conditions. It can grow a 40 foot-long tap root that extends straight down through rocks and crevices, while its lateral roots can travel as far as 100 feet away. This strategy ensures that parts of the tree survive even if the tree itself is knocked down. In extreme cases, Utah juniper can even concentrate nutrients in just a few branches, keeping the main tree alive while the rest of the body shuts down.

Crooked remains of a Utah juniper – is it just conserving energy?

Drilling down

There’s no mistaking this shaggy, twisted shrub that grows high on dry rocky slopes in the Western United States. A member of the rose family, cliffrose has fragrant, creamy blooms that appear from spring to fall and provide important forage food for deer, cattle and sheep, especially during the winter. Its highly absorbent bark enables the plant to retain moisture as do its evergreen leaves.

Gnarled branches of cliffrose

But here’s the coolest thing about cliffrose; its mature seed has a long-tailed hair that attaches to the end of it. When the wind disperses the seeds, the hairs act like tiny parachutes and once the seed lands on the ground, the hair acts like a drill, rotating with the wind to drive the seed into the rocky soil.

A silver lining

Finally, who can resist the allure of gray and silver foliage? These plants employ an altogether different coping strategy. Gray and silver-leaved plants have tiny white hairs covering the leaf surface. The hairs reflect solar radiation, cooling the plant tissues and trapping moisture, which slows evaporation. This is especially important given the low moisture levels of the higher elevations.

Silver-leaved Winterfat, a species of flowering plant in the amaranth family

Gray-green Big Sagebrush growing on Point Imperial

One has only to look at the sun reflecting off their brilliant leaves to see these plants’ strategy at work.

These are just a few of the many fascinating plants that populate the upper reaches of the Grand Canyon. For more information on plant and tree life, as well as great hikes to see them, click here for the National Park Service’s Official Site. We stayed at the Grand Canyon Lodge, a spectacular property run by the Park Service, located on the lip of the North Rim.

 

All’s Fair At Macy’s 44th Annual Spring Flower Show

Revolving carousel at Macy’s Spring Flower Show

New York City’s Macy’s Day Parade is an American fall tradition with its festive floats, high school marching bands and trademark balloons. But until this weekend, I had never heard of another spectacular show sponsored each spring by the 100-year-old department store. That is, the Macy’s Flower Show; a show so big that it transforms an entire floor of the giant Herald Square building into a veritable garden extravaganza. Continue reading

Seasonal Eating: The Best ‘Warming’ Foods to Try This Winter

cover garlic

The downside of winter is that it can be a tough time to find fresh produce. But, if you look beyond the imported berries and other out-of-season foods in the grocery, you can still find many great options available. Eating foods that are in season is not only good for the body; it puts a person in sync with his environment. Small wonder that nature has already prepared for cold weather by producing some of the best ‘warming’ foods around. Continue reading

The Fringe Benefits of Wearing the Same Outfit Every Day

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Donna Karan: FashionStock.com/Shutterstock.com

Many years ago when I was working in Paris, the head of the firm’s accounting team came to the office each Monday dressed to kill. I can still remember a couple of her trademark outfits: skinny black leather pants with a stretch lace top and a bodycon pencil skirt with a billowy silk blouse (black bra underneath.) A pair of sky-high black heels accompanied each look. It was an exciting show, yes. But what really got my attention was that once she (let’s call her Claude) chose her outfit, she purposely wore it every day, all week long. Continue reading

How to Add Swing to Your Relationships

rowing.cover

I’m just finishing up the book, Boys In the Boat, which is a fascinating read about nine college boys who rowed to glory at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book talks a lot about crew and boats, but also about the nature of teamwork and how sometimes-dissimilar individuals can come together as one and accomplish something they have never done before.

Continue reading

Boost Your Recall with A Trip through the Memory Palace

memory.cover2

There’s a great book by John Crowley called “Little Big” that unfolds in multiple dimensions, leading the reader on an ever expanding journey of the mind. Much of the journey is made possible by an ancient memorization technique called the memory palace. The idea of a palace that lived in the mind so intrigued me that I began experimenting with creating one of my own. Now, when I need to remember things, I just stroll through my memory palace and recover what I’m trying to recall. Continue reading