Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas And St. Nicholas

How did the kindly Christian saint, good Bishop Nicholas, become a roly-poly red-suited American symbol for merry holiday festivity and commercial activity? History tells the tale.
The first Europeans to arrive in the New World brought St. Nicholas. Vikings dedicated their cathedral to him in Greenland. On his first voyage, Columbus named a Haitian port for St. Nicholas on December 6, 1492. In Florida, Spaniards named an early settlement St. Nicholas Ferry, now known as Jacksonville. However, St. Nicholas had a difficult time during the 16th century Protestant Reformation which took a dim view of saints. Even though both reformers and counter-reformers tried to stamp out St. Nicholas-related customs, they had very little long-term success except in England where the religious folk traditions were permanently altered. (It is ironic that fervent Puritan Christians began what turned into a trend to a more secular Christmas observance.) Because the common people so loved St. Nicholas, he survived on the European continent as people continued to place nuts, apples, and sweets in shoes left beside beds, on windowsills, or before the hearth.
Dutch family waiting for Sinterklaas
"New Year's Hymn to St. Nicholas," colonial Dutch life, Albany, NY. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1881
St. Nicholas Center Collection
The first Colonists, primarily Puritans and other Protestant reformers, did not bring Nicholas traditions to the New World. What about the Dutch? Although it is almost universally believed that the Dutch brought St. Nicholas to New Amsterdam, scholars find scant evidence of such traditions in Dutch New Netherland. Colonial Germans in Pennsylvania kept the feast of St. Nicholas, and several later accounts have St. Nicholas visiting New York Dutch on New Years' Eve, thus adopting the English custom (New Year gift-giving had become the English custom in 1558, supplanting Nicholas, and this English custom lasted in New York until 1847).
In 1773 New York non-Dutch patriots formed the Sons of St. Nicholas, primarily as a non-British symbol to counter the English St. George societies, rather than to honor St. Nicholas. This society was similar to the Sons of St. Tammany in Philadelphia. Not exactly St. Nicholas, the children's gift-giver.
Eastern bishop with beehive and dog
Detail from broadside by Alexander Anderson, December 6, 1810
St Nicholas Center Collection
After the American Revolution, New Yorkers remembered with pride their colony's nearly-forgotten Dutch roots. John Pintard, the influential patriot and antiquarian who founded the New York Historical Society in 1804, promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both society and city. In January 1809, Washington Irving joined the society and on St. Nicholas Day that same year, he published the satirical fiction, Knickerbocker's History of New York, with numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character. This was not the saintly bishop, rather an elfin Dutch burgher with a clay pipe. These delightful flights of imagination are the source of the New Amsterdam St. Nicholas legends: that the first Dutch emigrant ship had a figurehead of St. Nicholas: that St. Nicholas Day was observed in the colony; that the first church was dedicated to him; and that St. Nicholas comes down chimneys to bring gifts. Irving's work was regarded as the "first notable work of imagination in the New World."
The New York Historical Society held its first St. Nicholas anniversary dinner on December 6, 1810. John Pintard commissioned artist Alexander Anderson to create the first American image of Nicholas for the occasion. Nicholas was shown in a gift-giving role with children's treats in stockings hanging at a fireplace. The accompanying poem ends, "Saint Nicholas, my dear good friend! To serve you ever was my end, If you will, now, me something give, I'll serve you ever while I live."
The 19th century was a time of cultural transition. New York writers, and others, wanted to domesticate the Christmas holiday. After Puritans and other Calvinists had eliminated Christmas as a holy season, popular celebrations became riotous, featuring drunken men and public disorder. Christmas of old was not the images we imagine of families gathered cozily around hearth and tree exchanging pretty gifts and singing carols while smiling benevolently at children. Rather, it was characterized by raucous, drunken mobs roaming streets, damaging property, threatening and frightening the upper classes. The holiday season, coming after harvest when work was eased and more leisure possible, was a time when workers and servants took the upper hand, demanding largess and more. Through the first half of the 19th century, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers and other Protestants continued to regard December 25th as a day without religious significance, a day for normal business. This was not a neutral stance, rather Christmas observance was seen as inconsistent with gospel worship. Industrialists were happy to reduce workers' leisure time and allowed many fewer holidays than existed in Europe.
All of this began to change as a new understanding of family life and the place of children was emerging. Childhood was coming to be seen as a stage of life in which greater protection, sheltering, training and education were needed. And so the season came gradually to be tamed, turning toward shops and home. St. Nicholas, too, took on new attributes to fit the changing times.
Sante Claus in sleigh
Sante Claus
The Children's Friend, 1821

William B. Gilley, publisher
1821 brought some new elements with publication of the first lithographed book in America, theChildren's Friend. This "Sante Claus" arrived from the North in a sleigh with a flying reindeer. The anonymous poem and illustrations proved pivotal in shifting imagery away from a saintly bishop.Sante Claus fit a didactic mode, rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, leaving a "long, black birchen rod . . . directs a Parent's hand to use when virtue's path his sons refuse." Gifts were safe toys, "pretty doll . . . peg-top, or a ball; no crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets to blow their eyes up, or their pockets. No drums to stun their Mother's ear, nor swords to make their sisters fear; but pretty books to store their mind with knowledge of each various kind." The sleigh itself even sported a bookshelf for the "pretty books." The book also notably marked S. Claus' first appearance on Christmas Eve, rather than December 6th.
The jolly elf image received another big boost in 1823, from a poem destined to become immensely popular, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," now better known as "The Night Before Christmas."
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . . .
Santa in knickers, climbing in chimney
T. C. Boyd
A Visit from Saint Nicholas
Facsimile, St Nicholas Center Collection
Santa head with pipe
F. O. C. Darley
A Visit from Saint Nicholas
St Nicholas Center Collection
Small elf-like Santa
ca 1869
Thomas Nast
Santa Claus and his Works
First red suit for a Nast Santa
St Nicholas Center Collection
Washington Irving's St. Nicholas strongly influenced the poem's portrayal of a round, pipe-smoking, elf-like St. Nicholas. The poem generally has been attributed to Clement Clark Moore, a professor of biblical languages at New York's Episcopal General Theological Seminary. Moore was a friend and neighbor of William Gilley, who had published Sancte Claus in 1821:
Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives the frosty night
O'er chimney tops and tracks of snow
To bring his yearly gifts to you. 
However, a case has been made by Don Foster in Author Unknown, that Henry Livingston actually penned it in 1807 or 1808. Livingston was a farmer/patriot who wrote humorous verse for children. In any case, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" became a defining American holiday classic. No matter who wrote it, the poem has had enormous influence on the Americanization of St. Nicholas.
Larger Santa
Thomas Nast
Harper's Weekly
January 1, 1881
Val Berryman Collection
Santa in red suit, filling bag
Carl Stetson Crawford
St. Nicholas for Young Folks
Vol. XXXIII, No. 2

St Nicholas Center Collection
Santa in red suit, peeking in window
E. Boyd Smith
Santa Claus and All About Him
The New York elite succeeded in domesticating Christmas through a new "Santa Claus" tradition invented by Washington Irving, John Pintard and Clement Clarke Moore. Moore's poem was printed in four new almanacs in 1824, just one year after it was in the Troy, New York, paper. The poem and other descriptions of the Santa Claus ritual appeared in more and more local papers. More than anything else, "A Visit From St. Nicholas" introduced the custom of a cozy, domestic Santa Christmas tradition to the nation.
Other artists and writers continued the change to an elf-like St. Nicholas, "Sancte Claus," or "Santa Claus," unlike the stately European bishop. In 1863, during the Civil War, political cartoonist Thomas Nast began a series of annual black-and-white drawings in Harper's Weekly, based on the descriptions found in the poem and Washington Irving's work. These drawings established a rotund Santa with flowing beard, fur garments, and an omnipresent clay pipe. Nast's Santa supported the Union and President Lincoln believed this contributed to the Union troops' success by demoralizing Confederate soldiers. As Nast drew Santas until 1886, his work had considerable influence in forming the American Santa Claus. Along with appearance changes, the saint's name shifted to Santa Claus—a natural phonetic alteration from the German Sankt Niklaus.
Churches, influenced by German immigrants who loved Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore, Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, theOxford Movement in the Anglican church, and church musicians embracing carol singing, began to bring Christmas observances into their lives. The growth of Sunday Schools in cities exposed hundreds of thousands of children to Christianity. Initially oopposed to Christmas observance, by the 1850s Sunday Schools had discovred that a Christms tree, Santa and gifts, greatly improved attendance. So, in a strange twist of fate, the new "secular" Santa Claus, no longer seen as a religious figure, helped return Christmas observance to churches.
Santa going over list
Norman Rockwell
Saturday Evening Post
December 2, 1922

Michigan State University Museum
Used by permission
Santa in fur-trimmed red suit
N. C. Wyeth
Old Kris
The Country Gentleman

Print: St Nicholas Center Collection
Jolly Santa with girl and large bag
J. C. Leyendecker
Saturday Evening Post
December 26, 1925

Michigan State University Museum
Used by permission
Santa was then portrayed by dozens of artists in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and colors. However by the end of the 1920s, a standard American Santa—life-sized in a red, fur-trimmed suit—had emerged from the work of N. C. Wyeth, J. C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell and other popular illustrators. The image was solidified before Haddon Sundblom, in 1931, began thirty-five years of Coca-Cola Santa advertisements that further popularized and firmly established this Santa as an icon of contemporary commercial culture.
Jolly Santa with Coke
Haddon Sundblom
First Coca-Cola Santa
Permission courtesy of the Coca-Cola Company
Santa and map, studying list
Norman Rockwell
Saturday Evening Post
December 16, 1939
Print: St Nicholas Center Collection
Standing Santa with Coke
Haddon Sundblom
Time December 12, 1955 St Nicholas Center Collection
This Santa was life-sized, jolly, and wore the now familiar red suit. He appeared in magazines, on billboards, and shop counters, encouraging Americans to see Coke as the solution to "a thirst for all seasons." By the 1950s Santa was turning up everywhere as a benign source of beneficence, endorsing an amazing range of consumer products. This commercial success led to the North American Santa Claus being exported around the world where he threatens to overcome the European St. Nicholas, who has retained his identity as a Christian bishop and saint.
Nast Santa, St Nicholas, Coke Santa
Nast Santa, Bishop Nicholas, Coke Santa, illustration by Renee Graef, A Special Place for Santa Roman, Inc., 1991. Permission pending.
It's been a long journey from the Fourth Century Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas, who showed his devotion to God in extraordinary kindness and generosity to those in need, to America's jolly Santa Claus, whose largesse often supplies luxuries to the affluent. However, if you peel back the accretions, he is still Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, whose caring surprises continue to model true giving and faithfulness.
There is growing interest in reclaiming the original saint in the United States to help restore a spiritual dimension to this festive time. For indeed, St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. A bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life, his ministry, his entire existence. Families, churches, and schools are embracing true St Nicholas traditions as one way to claim the true center of Christmas—the birth of Jesus. Such a focus helps restore balance to increasingly materialistic and stress-filled Adventand Christmas seasons.

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, calledmanna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
St Nicholas in prison
St. Nicholas in prison
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios' parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas' feast day approached, Basilios' mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios' safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king's golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.
St Nicholas rescuing boys
St. Nicholas rescuing murdered children
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families. And so St. Nicholas is thepatron and protector of children.
St Nicholas famine relief
St. Nicholas providing food during famine
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus' life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.
Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he isvenerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need (see list).
St Nicholas blessing ships
St. Nicholas blessing ships
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine(France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands (see list). Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.
St Nicholas with the angels
St. Nicholas' death
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
St Nicholas bringing gifts
St. Nicholas bringing gifts
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
Nicholas' tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas' crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe's great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari's great Basilicadi San Nicola.
Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
Children with St. Nicholas cookies
Celebrating St. Nicholas
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
Children with St. Nicholas cookies
Celebrating St. Nicholas
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

French Onion Soup

What a great soup for the first day of Autumn, french onion soup with a french baquette. I just love making this soup with vidalia onions because they are not to harsh, more on the sweet side of the onion family.
So here`s the recipe I use;


1/2 lb firm vidalia onions, -- sliced
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons corn or olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart beef broth
8 slices French baquette bread
1/2 cup swiss cheese, -- shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, -- grated


Saute onions in butter and oil until onions are transparent, but not well browned.
When tender, turn heat to lowest point and sprinkle with flour, stirring vigorously.
Pour into Dutch oven and stir in broths.
Heat thoroughly and divide among 8 oven-proof bowls.
Mix equal parts of cheese to smooth paste and spread over bread.
Float a slice ofbread atop each serving.
Place all bowls on oven rack 4" from broiler heat and broil until cheese melts.
Serve at once.
Leftover soup freezes well up to 6 months.

You have really got to try this, its really delicious!!!

Now onto the other end of the spectrum, in the Fall we start closing up windows and odors stay inside with us. So here is an all natural recipe for an air freshener for your home, minus all the chemicals...

I love the concept of Febreze and other products that are intended to remove odors and freshen things up. Goodness knows that our home has lots of places that can use just such a spray-- the kitchen garbage can, the diaper pail, the downstairs bathroom, the minivan.
When I began to switch over my household cleaning supplies to gentler versions that cleaned minus the toxic chemicals, I thought that my air-freshener days were over. Though it smells great, when you start researching the ingredients in products like Febreze (BenzisothiazolinoneSodium PolyacrylateCyclodextrin, and synthetic fragrance, for example), you quickly discover that it's not the sort of thing that you want floating through your home.
Sometime last year, I discovered this simple recipe for making my own freshening sprays. This is incredibly inexpensive, it smells pretty, it works on odors and it takes so little time to make.

You can double this depending on the size of your bottle.
12-15 drops of pure essential oil (I like grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lavender, but go with any scent that you enjoy)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
You can also make an even stronger version of this spray by using a higher ratio of vinegar to water and upping the essential oils (more like 20 drops) to use in a small diffuser bottle. This works better for just a quick spray into the air to freshen up a bathroom before guests, as opposed to the less concentrated spray that you would spray directly onto/into items.

Thats all for today!
Have fun freshenening your inside air, you can pick up any of these scents of essential oil at your local health food store.
As Always!
Keep It Clean!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fall Is In The Air !!!

A beautiful day in New England!

You have just got to love this time of year! The air is crisp and cool ! The sky couldn`t be any more blue!

What a great day to go apple picking!
So we jumped into the car and drove off to Greenville Rhode Island. We went to an old familiar apple orchard. And to our surprise they`ve added a hay ride down to the apple fields and back!

Pumpkins everywhere, fresh Rhode Island maple syrup (From Charlies Sugar House in Greene, RI), gourds, and apples galore!!!
The trees were loaded with apples. As we picked them, we had to sample a few of them too. Fresh, crisp and juicy...

We didn`t get enough, you can never have enough apples... Only kidding a peck of macs and a half peck of macouns. Some small orange pumpkins, a beautiful bright burgundy mum and off we went to find Nick some apple cider. The cider press was broken unfortunately at Steeres Orchard.

We can`t have a complete apple picking day with out apple cider. The orchard cashier in the barn directed us to Jaswell`s Orchard in Smithfield, RI. Their cider press is operating. So Nick got his apple cider and some fresh baked pastries. A BONUS!!!

Its nice to have Nick home for a few days from college!  A bonus weekend off, no classes due to Rosh Hashanah. He goes back on Tuesday night for classes on Wednesday.

He`s adjusting to college life and I`m adjusting to him being gone. It helps that I`m working everyday at my job and also in my shop!

A really fun filled day! And the weather was gorgeous!

Now its been a while, but I am getting back into the blog groove, now that it gets dark earlier and everything. When the weather is nice and it stays light out late, its hard to sit myself down and do my blog.
I`ve got some common herbs to share with you tonight and some basic information on them. If you can treat an ailment or condition naturally, then thats what I`m all about.

Aloe Vera (Aloe ferox, A. barbadensis).Internally, concentrate Aloe ferox resin is used as a strong laxative. Externally, the clear gel from the A. barbadensis leaf, is used to treat burns, abrasions, skin injuries, and in cosmetic products. A juice made from the gel is used as a drink by many consumers.
Astragalus(Astragalus membranaceous). Used in traditional Chinese and East Indian medicine for its immune-enhancing and tonic properties. Research has indicated its usefulness as a supportive tool for a variety of chronic immune problems.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). A European version of blueberry. Bilberry extract is rich in purple/blue pigments having numerous benefits for the eyes and cardiovascular system. In Europe, bilberry extract is used as an antioxidant. Also used to help increase microcirculation by stimulating new capillary formation, strengthening capillary walls and increasing overall health of the circulatory system.
Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana). The bark is used as a stimulant laxative, especially in cases of chronic constipation. The name "sagrada" refers to "sacred bark"—a name given to it by early Spanish explorers in the Pacific Northwest. As an approved, safe and effective laxative, cascara and cascara extracts are found in numerous over-the counter laxative preparations in the U.S.
Capsicum (Cayenne, hot pepper) (Capsicum species). Internally, cayenne acts as a circulatory stimulant, induces preparation, and is used to stimulate digestion. Several over-the-counter products for external use in arthritic and rheumatoid conditions contain capsaicin, the hot principle in the oil of capsicum, as the active pain relieving ingredient. Topical capsaicin preparations are also used for the relief of pain associated with herpes zoster ("shingles").
Chamomile (German) (Matricaria recutita). Used internally, chamomile flowers are antispasmodic and used to relieve digextive upset. A popular remedy for indigestion, flatulence, gastrointestinal spasms, and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Often used as a bedtime beverage, its mild sedative effects have not been adequately scientifically proven. Externally, chamomile extracts are useful for inflammation of skin and mucous membranes.
Cranberry (German) (Vaccinium macrocarpon). Recent research suggests that cranberry helps to prevent urinary tract infections caused by E. coli bacteria, particularly in people with a history of recurrent infections. Cranberry is an excellent example of how common foods can have health benefits beyond their nutritional qualities.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). The young leaves are widely used as salad greens and in tea as a natural diuretic. The roots are a mild laxative and promote bile flow and liver function.
Dong Quai (German) (also spelled Tang kwei or Danggui) (Angelica sinensis). One of the most widely used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, it is primarily used in herbal formulas as a "female tonic" to treat muscle cramps and pain associated with difficult menstrual periods. Dong quai should not be used during pregnancy.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and related species). Also called Purple Coneflower and native to the U.S., this plant was the most widely used medicinal plant of the Central Plains Indians, being used for a variety of conditions. The leaf and root are mildly antibacterial, antiviral, and used for wound healing. German research has confirmed, in numerous clinical studies, the usefulness of Echinacea purpurea in strengthening the body's immune system as well as prevention and natural treatment of colds and flu.
Eleuthero(Siberian Ginseng) (Eleutherococcus senticosus). This distant relative of true ginsengs grows in Siberia, Manchuria, China and Northern Japan. It has been used by Russian cosmonauts and Olympic team members as a general tonic and to reduce physical and mental stress. In Germany, Siberian Ginseng is approved as a tonic to invigorate and fortify the body during fatigue or weakness and to increase work and concentration as well as an aid in patient rehabilitation.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis). Evening primrose oil (EPO) is a relatively recent entrant in the herbal remedy world, having been marketed for only about 20 years. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as gamma linolenic acid (GLA) found in EPO are vital components of cellular structure; a deficiency of EFAs may be responsible for a host of conditions and diseases, including cardiovascular ailments, menstrual irregularities, arthritic inflammation and hyperactivity in children. The oil, usually available in capsule form, and taken orally, has been demonstrated to be effective in the symptoms of PMS.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Feverfew has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. It has been used as a folk medicine for menstrual cramps since Greco-Roman times. At least three published clinical studies in England in the 1980s confirm the efficacy of feverfew leaves for prevention and moderation of the severity of migraine headaches.
Garlic (Allium sativum). Garlic mildly displays a host of benefits: it is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, hypotensive (lowers high blood pressure), and lowers cholesterol and fat in the bloodstream. Garlic is used in Europe as an approved remedy for cardiovascular conditions, especially high cholesterol and triglyceride levels associated with risk of atherosclerosis. It is also generally regarded as a preventive measure for colds, flu and other infectious diseases.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Ginger is another great example of how a plant can be used as a food, spice or medicine. It has been used to treat nausea, motion sickness and vomiting. Ginger has a long history of use for all types of digestive upset and can be helpful to increase appetite.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Standardized extract of ginkgo leaf increases circulation and has shown antioxidant activity. Hundreds of European studies have confirmed the use of standardized ginkgo leaf extract for a wide variety of conditions associated with aging, including memory loss and poor-circulation. Ginkgo extract is also used clinically in Europe for tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo, and cold extremities.
Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng). One of the world's most famous herbs. Ginseng is classed as an "adaptogen," a relatively recent term coined by Russian researchers to describe ginseng's general tonic properties. Adaptogens are herbs that increase the overall resistance to all types of stress. Other herbal adaptogens include Astragalus, Siberian Ginseng and Schizandra. Asian Ginseng (Chinese and Korean) is renowned for its ability to increase energy and endurance.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Goldenseal root has a long history as a native American herb used by Indians and early settlers for its antiseptic wound-healing properties. It is also used for its soothing action on inflamed mucous membranes. A popular remedy for colds and flu.
Hawthorn (Cratagus oxyacantha). Hawthorn has a long reputation in both folk medicine and clinical medicine as a heart tonic. In Europe, hawthorn berry preparations are widely used by physicians in heart conditions, such as mild forms of angina. Hawthorn is safe to use for extended periods of time, according to European studies.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra and G. uralensis).Licorice is one of the most widely used medicinal plants in the world, commonly used in European, Arabian and Asian traditional medicine systems. It is soothing to inflamed mucous membranes; often recommended in treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers and cough and asthma remedies. Licorice extract displays a stimulating action on adrenal glands and is thus useful in fatigue due to adrenal exhaustion. Licorice and its extracts are safe for normal use in moderate amounts. However, long-term use or ingestion of excessive amounts can produce headache, lethargy, sodium and water retention, excessive loss of potassium, and high blood pressure.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum). Milk Thistle has a long history of use in European folk medicine as a liver tonic. Silymarin from milk thistle has shown a protective effect against many types of chemical toxins, as well as alcohol. An extract of milk thistle is used to improve liver function, protect against liver damage and enhance regeneration of damaged liver cells. clinical studies have confirmed the usefulness of standardized milk thistle extracts in cases of cirrhosis, toxic liver and other chronic liver conditions.
Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata). Contrary to the implications of its name, passion flower is not a stimulant, nor does it incite passion; instead, it has mild sedative and calmative properties. Taken internally, passion flower is usually combined with other sedative herbs for various types of nervous conditions, including insomnia and related disorders.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita). Internally, peppermint has an antispasmodic action, with a calming effect on the stomach and intestinal tract. As a tea, extract, or in a capsule, peppermint is useful for indigestion, cramp-like discomfort of the upper gastrointestinal and bile duct, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammation or irritation of the gums.

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