Castor Oil - Nature's Hidden Gem

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Castor oil is an incredibly versatile oil which dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Contained in the castor seed, Ricinus communis, this oil is rich in ricinoleic acid, which gives the oil its beneficial healing properties.  Castor oil is a folk remedy used around the world. Traditionally, it was used orally as a strong laxative, however, it can disrupt digestion and the beneficial flora of the gut. Castor oil provides best results when used topically. This gentle but powerful approach allows castor oil to deliver a multitude of benefits while being affordable and effective.

1. Skin
Castor oil is readily absorbed through the skin and can effectively work to treat acne by penetrating deep into the layers to remove any impurities. Apply on your face before bed and wash off in the morning.

2. Liver Detox
Castor oil packs are commonly used while on detoxification programs. Place castor oil on your upper right abdomen just below the breast to the bottom of the ribcage. Then place a flannel sheet over top followed by a hot water bottle to allow for the oil to penetrate deep into the liver. Sit and relax for 30-60 minutes while the oil stimulates the body’s natural detoxification process.

3. Muscle pain
Castor oil has been shown to relieve muscle aches through topical application by drawing out lactic acid from the muscles. Leave the oil on over night and it will relax and soothe aching muscles. I have found using castor oil on my back and neck to be very helpful. Usually the next morning, my muscle aches have subsided significantly.

Castor oil’s benefits extend far beyond the above uses such as treating dry hair, sore joints, fungal infections and inducing labor. Castor oil’s powerful properties and its plethora of therapeutic benefits make it one of nature’s hidden gems.

References
Marcheggiani, T. (2013, February 23). 6 Uses for Castor Oil . . Retrieved May 7, 2014, from http://www.myyogaonline.com/healthy-living/health-and-wellness/6-uses-for-castor-oil


(2013). Castor Bean. Natural Standard, Retrieved from http://ezproxy.ccnm.edu:2059/databases/herbssupplements/castoroil.asp


Paleo and Vegan take New York City

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I had the opportunity to go back to NYC to attend a seminar by Rajan Sankaran, one of homeopathy’s prestigious doctors. It was a great way to step outside of Toronto to learn, do some exploring and reconnect with the city I love. While living in NYC two years ago, I was not on any particular diet so I freely ate whatever I felt like. However, now that I am mostly paleo, while going back to NYC I had the opportunity to explore various paleo friendly restaurants. I went with my friend Orissa who is a vegan so it was a lot of fun going to restaurants where we could both enjoy our meals while sticking to our diets. Below is list of restaurants and food we ate while travelling.

Breakfast and Snacks:
Breakfast was super easy. We went to Trader Joe’s (grocery store) on west 72nd and Broadway and bought some Chia seeds, raw nuts, coconut milk, bananas and pears. We mixed all the ingredients together and waited 10 minutes as the Chia seeds combine with the coconut milk to make a gelatinous substance. The Chia seeds at Trader Joe’s are so convenient as it comes in a small bag for $4.99.

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For snacks, we bought a couple of things from Trader Joe's like fruit, Larabars, apple sauce and dried mangoes. Mangoes are one of my favourite fruit, however; I had never had dried mangoes before. This snack is incredibly tasty and on the plus side is unsweetened and sulphur free. I highly recommend the dried mango from Trader Joe's! 

Lunch:
During lunch we found an amazing paleo and vegan friendly restaurant that was fast food style called Dig in Seasonal Market. It was very similar to what I eat at home so I was really glad we found it. You first start off with a base of greens either spinach or arugula or both. Then you choose your meat which is naturally raised and hormone free. Some options where turkey, lemon herb chicken, braised beef, salmon, organic tofu and etc. Finally you get to choose 3 different sides. I chose the sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts and roasted beets with pumpkin seeds. This meal was quite big and I paid $10.50. Orissa got a small portion of the tofu with greens and she paid about $7.00. I highly recommend this restaurant. It was convenient as there are multiple locations around the city, inexpensive and best of all the food is real and healthy.






Dinner:
Dinner was a success as well! Before we went to NYC, Orissa had found a Groupon for Café Blossom in the West Village on Carmine street. I had already been to Café Blossom on the Upper West Side while living in NYC so I knew this restaurant would be perfect for the both of us. I had the Taco Trio with roasted mushrooms, corn tortilla, cabbage, carrots, onions and cilantro. The blend of flavours just melted in your mouth. This dish was so delicious I forgot there was no meat in it! I also had the house salad with greens, beets, walnuts, raisins and green apples.  This meal was exactly what I was craving. We decided to get the tiramisu for dessert as Orissa had never had it before. During the first bite, we were both so impressed that there was no dairy in the dessert. The frothy cream layers were made with coconut milk, which was so sweet and delicate. It was very close to original tiramisu. I was glad Orissa got to finally try it and really loved it! 




Another restaurant we were able to try was Hu Kitchen. Their philosophy stems on the idea of, “getting back to human way of eating without sacrificing the sensual experience of eating delicious food.” This restaurant was also perfect for the both of us as there were multiple things on the menu labeled “Paleo” which I had never seen before in a restaurant while also offering vegan friendly meals. I had the organic rotisserie chicken with a side of butternut squash and Orissa had the Grandmaster veg which was a vegan lasagna. They had multiple choices, a juice bar and various snacks or chocolate. I also got a dark chocolate bar made in Brooklyn with cacao and organic coconut sugar. The dark chocolate bar is so creamy it just melts in  your mouth. 



Be real, Eat real, Just real   

The weather was really nice on Sunday so we decided to go to the High Line which is a public park built on a railway line above the city's west side. It is by far one of my favourite places to visit in New York City. It is like a small escape from the hustle and bustle of the city life to a quaint walk down a path full of nature and calmness. 



While walking down the path I am always thrilled to see People's Pops which offers fresh, local fruit popsicles and shaved ice. I got the apricot popsicle which was so refreshing and cool. It was exactly what I needed on our warm walk down the High Line. 



Also, another one of my favourite places is Juice Generation on the Upper West Side. They offer smoothies, fresh juices, raw foods, vegan soups, and much more. I am a big fan of Juice Generation. I got the Smooth Strawberry smoothie which has strawberries, bananas, pomegranate and coconut milk. This was a step up from the smoothies I usually make at home! The hint of pomegranate gave the drink a booth of flavour along with the smooth coconut milk. If you are like me and enjoy a quality smoothie with fresh ingredients I highly recommend Juice Generation. 




Overall, our dining experience was perfect. We were quite impressed as to how easy it was to find restaurants with food we could eat without sacrificing our daily diets. 

What is a Contrast Shower?

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After completing our hydrotherapy class at school, I am now a strong believer of contrast showers. A contrast shower is the same as a regular shower with alternating intervals of hot and cold temperatures. Contrast showers are an optimal way to stimulate circulation and metabolism.

When someone first explains what a contrast shower is, it can seem very undesirable due to the cold interval. I've always had very warm showers so the first thought of including a cold interval was not something I was fond of. However, many of my friends including myself have found many benefits of incorporating contrast showers into our daily routine. I know for myself, I have a lot of energy afterwards. I have now used contrast showers for almost a year and I actually look forward to the cold water down my body! 

IMPORTANT: Do not get discouraged after your first shower, it took me 3-4 days consecutively to get used to the routine. 

Below is everything you need to know about contrast showers including the procedure, benefits, contraindications, etc.

What is a Contrast Shower?
A contrast shower is alternating intervals of hot and cold temperatures.

How do I perform a contrast shower?
1. Start off your shower with the hottest temperature that you can tolerate for about 1-3 minutes.
2. Next change the temperature down to the coolest temperature you can tolerate for about 30 seconds.
3. Ensure that your whole body is covered in the cold water.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 about 3-4 times.

NOTE: Always ensure that you end with cold temperature. This will stimulate blood flow and metabolism, by first constricting followed by dilation of the blood vessels.

What conditions can benefit from a Contrast Shower?
-       Tiredness/fatigue
-       Decreased immune function
-       Digestive complains/detox
-       Cold hands or feet
-       Sensitivities to temperature
-       Tired or sore muscles
-       Acute & chronic pain
-       Injuries related to sports
-       Post-exercise soreness

How does a contrast shower work?
-       Hot water will allow the blood vessels to open up and supply the body with new oxygenated blood and immune cells  
-       Cold water will close the blood vessels sending blood back to the heart along with toxins in the skin and extremities allowing new blood to fill the body

Benefits of Contrast Showers
-       Boosts immune system
-       Improves circulation
-       Detox by eliminating toxins
-       Boost energy
-       Regulating temperature
-       Decrease inflammation

Useful Tips?
-       Start with the cold water on your back
-       Rub your skin while getting into the cold interval
-       Gradually increase the contrast between hot and cold for added benefits

CAUTION: Avoid treatment if you have any of the following conditions
-       Vascular insufficiency or stasis (extremely poor circulation)
-       Cardiac insufficiency (i.e. heart disease)
-       Pregnancy
-       Menstruation
-       Malnutrition
-       Diabetes
-       Asthma
-       Acute inflammatory conditions
-       Shivering or extreme cold

References: http://www.drmarr.com/DrMarr-ContrastHydro.pdf
Photo credit: kevin dooley / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Please consult your Naturopathic Doctor before using any medical advice on this blog. 

Simply Delicious Paleo Banana Bread

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I am always looking for new baking recipes so that I can satisfy my sweet tooth! This recipe is simple, delicious and does not cost very much. Almond flour has become a staple in my diet as the paleo diet does not contain any wheat flour. This bread is so moist because of the eggs, oil and honey it is great for your morning breakfast or in the evening as a dessert with a nice cup of tea! The oil really gives the bread a moist texture. I use grapeseed oil by President’s Choice. The MOST IMPORTANT part of this recipe is making sure you mix the egg whites until you form stiff peaks. Check out this video on how to ensure you have the right consistency. 


This banana bread is best when it sits overnight as the bread becomes thick and easy to eat. 
Try it out…. you will not be disappointed!

Ingredients
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsp raw honey
4 tbsp grapeseed oil/olive oil
3 mashed bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups almond flour
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Instructions
1. Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form (Learn how to make stiff peaks here
2. In a separate mixing bowl, with a hand held mixer cream yolks and honey until light and fluffy. Add grapeseed oil, vanilla, spices, and mashed bananas and mix until fully combined. Add nut flour and mix. Fold in egg whites with a spoon gently until combined.
3. Add in chopped walnuts or pecans if you like.
4. Pour mixture into greased pan (with coconut oil) and bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 F.



Recipe adapted from http://paleoonthecheap.blogspot.ca/2012/12/banana-bread.html