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musings, insights and other thoughts from Shonda Parker
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"Therapeutic Grade" Essential Oils 
Robert Tisserand is one of my favorite essential oil experts. I've used his most excellent book, Essential Oil Safety, for years. I know a lot of folks are involved with a particular multi-level marketing company that gains most of its sales due to marketing their products as "therapeutic grade" essential oils. My purpose here is merely to present a different perspective from someone who is a recognized expert in the field of aromatherapy and essential oil safety, and my desire to do so is to encourage some freedom of thought and savings in the pocket.

I think it is great that so many are considering the use of essential oils; I'd just like to save you some money and some worry.

Tisserand Addresses Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils

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Healing the Liver 
As I mentioned in the "Confessions" post, I came out of the May surgery to remove an aggressive bone tumor in my spine with a few complications, one of which was an ischemic injury to my liver. An "ischemic injury" occurs when not enough oxygen and nutrients get to a particular body area, and tissue damage results.

As my numbers began to rise as I left the hospital and my brain even started climbing on the crazy train (woke up one night not knowing where I was - very scary), we basically came home from MD Anderson and were admitted to a local hospital in West Monroe. The collaborating docs told us my liver would either heal or cirrhosis would ensue. I was incredibly motivated toward the healing option.

What I Did to Encourage Healing
1. We prayed. We contacted our elders, one of whom attended me as my physician in the hospital...how great is that!, and three more came to the hospital to pray for us. We alerted all friends via e-mail, text, and Facebook (if you haven't friended me there and "liked" Naturally Healthy, please do so - would love to hear from you).

2. I immediately began taking a combination of herbs known to support and heal the liver:
Liver Health Formula by Natural Factors

I took 2 capsules twice daily.

Full Spectrum Ashwagandha root extract by Planetary Formulas

I took 3 tablets three to four times daily (it really depended on how early I awakened. I had extreme trouble waking early due to both the liver sickness and the pain meds I had to take during that time). Ashwagandha is an excellent adaptogen and was chosen due to both its hepatic-protective history and its ability to increase hemoglobin levels, as mine were very deficient at that time, and, lastly, because it has an incredibly quick calming action. I needed calm during what felt like a major life storm.

Liv-Gall Cleanse by Natural Factors

I took 1 capsule twice daily. I chose to blend both the Liver Health Formula with Liv-Gall Cleanse for maximum coverage of liver healing herbs.

Deep Liver Support by Gaia Herbs

I took 3 capsules daily on an empty stomach. This was chosen not just for its liver support value but because astragalus, Reishi and Maitake mushroom are known for their deep immune support efficacy. I was severely depleted from the blood loss, my body was forming and growing tumors in both my spine and soft tissue at a rather alarming rate, and I needed this deep support.

Because I was so depleted and having to take pain meds, my appetite wasn't worth much. Praise God it was summer, with summer fruit in season! Keith kept a steady supply of berries, with their potent antioxidants at my bedside, and I ate those freely. I did "try" to eat a bitter greens salad each day, but I have to be completely honest here...most days, I ate little more than my protein drink with added cultured yogurt and berries and berries and berries and berries.

Within two weeks, my liver enzymes were trending down. Within a month, they were completely normal and have stayed normal. While this may have happened without the liver and immune support, I choose to be grateful God has supplied good food and herbs for us to use to care for our bodies as they slowly self-correct, as He designed.

I have continued these at lowered dosages, except the Deep Liver Support and Ashwagandha - kept those at prior doses, and we got the best news thus far at MD Anderson last week...no change in bone tumors and no recurrence at the L1 site where my vertebra was removed.

A Few Good Herbs for Liver Support:
Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, Class 2 b; 2d – Can potentiate effects of barbituates.
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub found in arid regions of India. Its range extends as far west as Israel. Most people say it looks like a very large potato plant, and it does indeed belong to the Solanaceae family. We use the root medicinally. The Latin name of the plant means “sweat of the horse.” From that, you can guess the root is a tad odiferous.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the herb is usually prescribed for arthritis and rheumatism and to prevent disease in the elderly, as well as in pregnancy. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of 42 patients with osteoarthritis, ashwagandha combined with other herbs significantly reduced pain and disability. In another study, again with other herbs, ashwagandha proved superior to placebo to treat arthritis of the knee.

In healthy children, administration of ashwagandha increase body weight and hemoglobin. It also increased hemoglobin levels and hair melanin in a year-long study of 101 healthy males.

One study showed a significant inhibition of parasitemia in mice inoculated with Plasmodium berghei compared to controls with a maximum inhibition at a dose of 600mg/kg of body weight.

Ashwagandha may help compensate for damaged neuronal circuits in those with dementia; stimulate thyroid function and increases physical endurance; has strong hepato- and renal-protective and antineoplastic effects; is cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory; antioxidant; and immunomodulating.

Although ashwagandha appears safe, one study did show it interfered with serum digoxin measurements. Another case report states that ashwagandha may have precipitated thyrotoxicosis in a patient taking the herb for chronic fatigue (report is in Dutch and thus the details cannot be examined). On the other hand, ashwagandha seems able to offset the side effects of some medicines, reversing haloperidol-induced catalepsy in mice and reducing reserpine-induced orofacial dyskinesia and cognitive dysfunction in rats.

Mills in EGHS reports a review of traditional Ayurvedic literature notes that list ashwagandha as an abortifacient in three of the five sources checked; however, the definition of abortifacient was quite broad, including emmenagogue, uterine contractor, and antimetabolite. Although it is used in Casablanca and West Pakistan for abortion and has also been used to tone the uterus in women who miscarry to remove retained placenta, another traditional source lists it for use as a nutrient and tonic in pregnant women. An animal study of rats administered the whole plant decoction (100mg/kg/day for 8 months) resulted in same litter sizes and frequency of pregnant to controls, though progeny on ashwagandha had higher average body weights. Withania root powder (25mg/day for 10 days) administered orally to male and female mice, later paired for mating, resulted in decreased litter size and produced some infertility. Mills notes the discrepancy in safety information may be due to use of different plant parts: “Withania leaf has a very different phytochemical content compared to the root.” The root may have an antifertility effect but does not necessarily imply harm during pregnancy. Bone in CGLH states no adverse effects expected.

Ashwagandha for whom?
* Those who are stressed with low libido;
* Anxious folks because it is not associated with insomnia unlike the ginsengs and eleuthero;
* Good choice for arthritic patients;
* Elderly suffering from various degrees of dementia.
Dosage: 3 to 6 g/day of dried root or by decoction; 5 to 13 ml/day of a 1:2 liquid extract or equivalent in tablet or capsule form.

Asian ginseng, Panax ginseng, Class d – Contraindication in BSH for hypertension; not present in other texts – explained below.

Like it’s American cousin, Panax likes to grow in shady forests and can actually cause some confusion with herb ID folks. The difference between the two is Panax ginseng’s berries grow 8-12 inches above the leaves while American ginseng’s berries grow at or just below leaf level. Dr. James Duke states that interbreeding has made it almost impossible to tell the two apart, though traditionally, we’ve viewed these plants as two distinct plants with two different ginsenoside profiles and different actions.

Studies on Asian ginseng, as well as a meta-analysis of these to date, conclude the efficacy of the herb for all its purported actions have yet to be established. As said before, this is true for most of our adaptogens. In many ways, you have to have the patience as an herbalist and a patient client to use the herbs long-term enough to see their gentle actions begin to resolve deep issues. In a review of clinical studies, Asian ginseng did demonstrate some degree of consistently improving quality of life, but the effect was not deemed well-established.

Cancer rates are low in areas of China and Korea where Asian ginseng is used as a food. In a Korean study, fresh Asian ginseng extracts particularly reduced stomach, lung, and liver cancer rates. Combined with other herbs and conventional treatment, Asian ginseng improved survival rates in a study of 54 patients with small-cell lung cancer.

The studies on physical performance, as well as on decreasing mental and physical fatigue, are a mixed bag. Some showed it helps. Some showed it didn’t.

In a study of healthy folks, Asian ginseng had a lowering effect on blood glucose levels, and in another study, this effect was achieved by raising blood insulin levels.

Asian ginseng’s reputation for increasing libido may be well-earned. One study found it to perform better than trazodone for erectile dysfunction. Its saponins raise sperm counts in men with normal amounts of sperm, with oligospermia (lowered amounts of sperm), and with asthenospermia (sperm have poor motility).

A long-term controlled study showed Asian ginseng to be beneficial for HIV infection and that it had a synergistic effect with AZT therapy.

Immunomodulatory effects have been observed; Reduced cholesterol and triglycerides levels while increasing HDL levels; directly-modulated cerebro-electrical activity better than ginkgo; has antineoplastic effect; enhances effectiveness of chemotherapy; improves brain metabolism; and protects from radiation damage.

In all studies of Asian ginseng, there have been no reports of side effects, save for minor events like acne or diarrhea that were equal to the placebo group in frequency.

Asian Ginseng for Whom?
* Those weakened by age or significant infirmity (HIV, Cancer) – avoid for those with acute infections who run “hot”;
* Contrary to many reports out there saying don’t use Asian ginseng for those with hypertension, it may be appropriate to use it for the frail, elderly, cold person with hypertension
* For some sensitive people, the invigorating effect of ginseng may lead to insomnia. If this happens, reduce the dose and take no dose after lunch, though this is not a solid contraindication. Use caution – caution means caution, not avoid – when combining with anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs.

Dosage: 1.8 to 9 g/day of dried root or by decoction; 1.5 to 6 ml/day of a 1:2 liquid extract or equivalent in tablet or capsule form; 100 to 200 mg/day of a 5:1 concentrated extract in tablet or capsule form. GCE advises no more than a three month initial course, to be repeated if necessary. Mills in EGHS states “continuous use in the unwell or elderly is appropriate. Doses in excess of 1 g/day may cause overstimulation.”


Astragalus, Astragalus membranaceus, Class 1. Traditional medicine advises astragalus not be used in acute infections. Because of its immunomodulating effects, it could potentially reduce the effectiveness of immune-supressing medications.
Dosage: 9 to 30 g/day of dried root by decoction; 4.5 to 8.5 ml/day of a 1:2 liquid extract or equivalent in tablet or capsule form.
Astragalus is best known as an immune tonic and a gentle adaptogen that can even be used with children. It is useful in impaired immunity and to prevent the common cold, chronic viral infections; general debility, excessive sweating, decreased appetite, chronic diarrhea; Leukopenia; Ischemic heart disease, angina pectoris; as a tonic for elderly patients in combination with Salvia miltiorrhiza and Polygonum multiflorum; Postpartum fever and recovery from severe loss of blood, uterine bleeding, organ prolapse; and as a topical adjuvant therapy for chronic viral cervicitis. What we don’t hear a great deal about is its use in traditional Asian medicine to support patients with chronic renal failure. One formula for support for chronic renal failure includes astragalus, Chinese rhubarb, Asian ginseng, and licorice. Astragalus may also be helpful in diabetic nephropathy.


Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, Leaf- Class 1; Root – Class 2d – Contraindicated in blockage of the bile ducts, acute gallbladder inflammation, and intestinal blockage. For the root – as with all bitter herbs, an increase in gastric acid will occur, thus clients with gastric hyperacidity may have difficulty. A sesquiterpene lactone is present in both leaf and root that may cause allergic dermatitis, though contact allergy reports are low. Those with known allergies to the Compositae family (ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums) should avoid topical application.
Dosage: 12 to 30 g/day of dried leaf or by infusion; 6 to 24 g/day of dried root or by infusion or decoction; 6 to 11.5 ml/day of a 1:1 liquid extract of dandelion leaf or equivalent in tablet or capsule form; 3 to 6 ml/day of a 1:2 liquid extract of dandelion root or equivalent in tablet or capsule form; 6 to 15 ml/day of a 1:5 tincture of dandelion leaf; 15 to 30 ml/day of a 1:5 tincture of dandelion root.


Globe artichoke, Cynara scolymus L, No adverse effects expected in pregnancy and lactation. Theoretically, globe artichoke is contraindicated for bile duct blockage and gallstones, though this has not been clinically documented. Used in combination for its supportive effects on liver, kidneys and hypoglycemic effect in diabetes.
Dosage: 3 to 8 ml/day of a 1:2 liquid extract or equivalent in tablet or capsule form; Clinical studies indicate that doses need to be relatively high, especially when used to achieve a cholesterol-lowering effect – 4 to 9 g/day of dried leaves. CBM dosage allows for up to 15-30 ml/day of tincture.


Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Class 2b; 2c; 2 d – Not for prolonged use or in high doses except under supervision of a qualified health practitioner; contraindicated for diabetes and in hypertension, liver disorders, severe kidney insufficiency, and hypokalemia; may potentiate potassium depletion of thiazide diuretics and stimulant laxatives, as well as the action of cardiac glycosides and cortisol. BSH May cause reversible potassium depletion and sodium retention resulting in such symptoms as hypertension, edema, headache, and vertigo when consumed in therapeutic dosages over a prolonged period. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is usually free of adverse effects and is not contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation.
*Bone in CGLH states, “However, licorice has been safely used in combination with white peony (Paeonia lactiflora) in a clinical study involving pregnant women. The women were successfully treated with the combination (equivalent to 6 g/day of each herb for 24 weeks) for infertility resulting from PCOS. A number of pregnancies were recorded at the 12-week mark. Additionally, a study of licorice intake during pregnancy found no substantial health risks associated with its use.” For those who are prescribed a high glycyrrhizin licorice preparation for prolonged periods, a high-potassium, low-sodium diet and close-monitoring for blood pressure increases and weight gain is needed. There is a slight possibility that the glycyrrhetinic acid (GA) may counteract the birth control pill.
Bone additionally states that “doses up to 3 g per day (i.e. up to 3 ml of a 1;1 liquid extract or 3 ml of a 1:1 high glycyrrhizin liquid extract) are likely to be safe in pregnancy and lactation.
Mills in EGHS lists studies which show a high glycyrrhizin intake during pregnancy was associated with early preterm delivery (<34 weeks), though he also states 3 g/day or 3ml/day is likely to be safe during pregnancy. Obviously moms with hypertension in pregnancy should avoid licorice.
If using to reduce insulin resistance in PCOS, thus enhancing fertility, it would seem wise to not exceed levels listed by Bone above and used in the study, and wean off, if possible, when pregnancy is confirmed and established.
Dosage: 3 to 12 g/day of dried root and stolon or by decoction or infusion (limit to 6 g/day in pregnancy); 2 to 6 ml/day of a 1:1 liquid extract (limit to 3 ml/day in pregnancy); 1.5 to 4.5 ml/day of a 1:1 high glycyrrhizin liquid extract or equivalent in tablet or capsule form (limit to 3 ml/day in pregnancy); 1.2 to 4.5 ml/day of deglycyrrhizinated licorice extract BP (DGL should pose no problem in pregnancy)


Milk thistle, Silybum marianum, Class 1. Studies fail to show evidence of harmful effects to mom or baby. In fact, a silymarin phospholipid compound demonstrated a foeto-protective effect against ethanol-induced behavioral deficits in rats. EGHS. Caution for potential for mild allergic hypersensitivity to plants in the Compositae family (ragweed, daises, chrysanthemums). While herbalists primarily use this herb for its hepatoprotective effects, it has also been studied for its use in the treatment of diabetes and its complications with positive results.
Dosage: 4.5 to 8.5 ml/day of a 1:1 fluid extract; 200 to 600 mg/day of a concentrated extract in tablet or capsule form standardized to 70% to 80% silymarin.
Milk thistle is the premier herb for liver support. It is not a "cleanser," but rather a liver protector.


Schisandra, Schisandra chinensis, Class 1, though Mills and Bone disagree. See below.
Schisandra is a vine with beautiful red berries native to Eastern Asia. The berries are used medicinally. The Chinese name for the vine is “five-taste fruits” because the berries taste sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. How’s that for an all in one?

Traditionally it is used for nervous conditions, coughs, and liver ailments. It enhances immune response and reduces fatigue and sleeplessness. Thus it calms and invigorates.

In one report of 5,000 cases of hepatitis, schisandra lowered SGPT (anyone tell me what that stands for?) levels in 87-98% of all cases – WOW! Excellent liver herb!

A review of Russian studies show schisandra reduces fatigue and increases endurance in athletes, even athletic horses…thoroughbread, racer, polo and jumper horses fed schisandra typically reduced indices of muscle fatigue and damage while improving performance. Again, can I hear a “Naaaayyy!”

Another study abstract indicated a blend of schisandra, Asian ginseng, and ophiopogon, Ophiopogon japonicus, injected IV into 22 patients with primary dilated cardiomyopathy improved myocardial performance.

Schisandra’s effects are: neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, renal protective, antineoplastic, antioxidant, and immune-enhancing. The herb stimulated liver regeneration post-partial hepatectomy, had strong anti-hepatitis C activity, enhanced cognition and memory and enhanced physical endurance. The lignans within Schisandra appear to be able to reverse P-glycoprotein-mediated multi-drug resistance in cancer cells.

Schisandra has been traditionally contraindicated during pregnancy except to assist childbirth in a prodromal labor where mom is growing weary. In one study, 72 of 80 women with prolonged labor were given schisandra tincture, 20 to 25 drops per hour for 3 hours of a 1:3 tincture for three consecutive days. No negative effects observed for mom and baby. A 1:10 tincture at 30 to 40 drops, three times/day, improved cardiovascular symptoms in hypotensive pregnant women, and the treated group had fewer birth complications than the control group. Although 105 to 500mg/kg/day of schisandra extract (standardized to 2% schisandrins) given to rats and mice did not result in changes in implantation efficiency or other measures of reproductive function. Schisandra preparations did strengthen uterine contractions of non-pregnant, pregnant, and postpartum uteri in isolated tissue and in vivo. Until we understand more about how this herb works clearly in pregnancy, it is probably best to use only to assist labor.

Schisandra for Whom?
* Children because it tastes GOOD as a glycerite!
* First choice adaptogen/tonic for chronic liver and heart ailments;
* Menopausal women and others suffering from night sweats;
* Mills in EGHS states a TCM contraindication in the early stages of cough or rash (traditional contraindication rather than documented), Mild GI symptoms and headache are possible;
* Schisandra may have similar activity to inhibit medicines effect the same as grapefruit juice – keep in mind if someone’s on medication when you consider this herb for them;
* For those taking pharmaceuticals as schisandra may actually have a protective effect against drug’s side effects.
Dosage: 1.5 to 6 g/day of dried fruit by decoction; 3.5 to 8.5 ml/day of a 1:2 liquid extract or equivalent in tablet or capsule form.


Turmeric, Curcumin longa
, protects the liver, is anti-mutagenic against environmental mutagens and inhibits the mutagenicity of cigarette smoke. Its antioxidant activity is stronger than vitamin C and is more than 50% better at protecting our cells from DNA damage induced by lipid peroxidation in comparison to beta-carotene and vitamin E. In recent cancer studies, turmeric has been demonstrated to be cytotoxic to human leukemia cells and Dalton’s lymphoma, has anticancer and healing effects on skin cancer, and inhibits reoccurrence of melanoma in high-risk individuals.
Dosage: 1 to 4g/day of dried rhizome powder; 3 to 9g/day of dried rhizome as an infusion; 5 to 14 ml/day of a 1:1 liquid extract or equivalent in tablet or capsule form.

Resources I Found Helpful
Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills and Kerry Bone
Botanical Safety Handbook Edited by Michael McGuffin,Christopher Hobbs, Roy Upton, and Alicia Goldberg
Clinical Botanical Medicine by Eric Yarnell, ND, Kathy Abascal, BS, JD, and Robert Rountree, MD
A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs by Kerry Bone
German Commission E Monographs published by the American Botanical Council

Where You Can Find This Information and More....
Naturally Healthy Herbs, a new book I'm working on and hope to have published in 2012!

Copyright 2011 Shonda Parker. All Rights Reserved. If you want to share the info above, please link to this page and give credit to the author. Thanks!




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Love Above Preferences 
I noticed a friend posted a prayer request recently on Facebook for a friend of hers. She listed all the natural living qualifiers for this woman: homebirthing, freebirthing, no vax, organic, green, baby-wearing, attachment parenting, co-sleeping, long-term breastfeeding...I can't even remember all of them. The list revealed a truth about us, friends. Without intending to, we've created an "in" club whereby other mamas get to be respected and loved by us only after they've fulfilled all our pet preferences.

All I could think when I read it was Jesus doesn't create a club with a list of requirements in this area. When He invites us, no matter our stinky or self-elevated behaviors, to sit at His family table, He loves up on us as a brother or sister and gives us a whole world as a kingdom to tend and rule. What He asks of each of us is that we accept His brothers and sisters as our own, too, just as they are. He has their self-improvement courses covered. The only thing He asks us to do is love them and not create ANY burden beyond what His Word makes clear - and whaddaya know, His greatest commandment is LOVE - to make His plan for them more difficult.

If our social life does not include a diverse group of people: home/hospital birthers, SAHMs, WAHMs, WOHMs, TTCs, single ladies, married gals w/o children, (this list could go on and on); those who vaccinate and those who do not; raw eaters, meat eaters, veggie-only eaters, McDonald's eaters; the green and the chemical-happy; baby-wearers and baby toy holders; parents who discipline a variety of ways; co-sleepers and crib fams; breastfeeding mamas and mamas who have, for whatever reason, chosen to do otherwise at this moment...A pastor friend once said, "If you don't have people in your church, in your life, that make you uncomfortable, you are not living out the Gospel."

I not only believe these words, I have seen what my own personal preferences have yielded over the years. I don't regret creating some preferences for our family; I do regret having pressed those preferences on others through the years in ways that made them feel they were less.

As for me and my house, we welcome you to our home, no matter your own personal preferences. Ours may be different. That's okay for both of us. If and when Jesus wants to change either one of us, He'll do it without either of us needing to make the other feel badly about our efforts to be good mamas or holy women of God. Yes, there may be times when one of us has to confront the other about a sin, but how about we all make certain we limit those times to what God calls sin rather than what WE think is best for others. Our understanding is so limited, folks. Let's try the love He asks of us and see where that could get us.

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