5 Back-to-School Immune Boosting Supplements for the Whole Family in Snohomish


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5 Back-to-School Immune Boosting Supplements for the Whole Family in Snohomish

kids going back to school

Selah started kindergarten last week! By the time her first week of school was over, she had already been given red licorice and M&Ms. I had to pop my eyeballs back into my skull so that I could see the computer screen in order to type OCD-ND-Mom words to her kindergarten teacher. Her teacher replied quickly, letting me know that Selah had only ate one bite of licorice and 3 M&Ms. I guess that won’t break the bank…

Candy + kids + back-to-school is not a good combo, especially for the immune system.

In my email discussion with Selah’s kindergarten teacher, I decided that it was OK for Selah to get 3 M&Ms a week, but to hold off on the licorice. We really value developing emotional health when it comes to food, and given that my girls have a lot of food restrictions, sometimes I want them to be a part of the herd.

The downside of being part of a herd, is the GERMS. I’m a little bit of a germaphobe in real life, but you’d never think it, since I love pediatrics and I see sick kids all the time. I’m less of a germaphobe in my office, where I can wash my hands regularly and wipe things down with Cavi wipes. If only I could be a little Clorox elf that magically wiped down every door handle before Selah touched it at school…

To boost my kids herd immunity during the school year, I give them these supplements on a daily basis. We’re not perfect with it — as you don’t have to be perfect with taking supplements to get most of their benefit. Selah doesn’t like chewable vitamin C, so we reserve that for when she’s sick, and the mom around here needs to re-stock the family’s medicine chest with more elderberry syrup. Re’uth, on the other hand, will probably grow up to love sour patch kids because she can’t get enough of the chewable vitamin C.

Families that take these supplements year round get sick less often. When they do get sick, they get over it faster without any complications. Staying on these supplements for the school year can decrease not only how often you get sick, but how severe the cold hits you and how long it sticks around. Maybe your family will get runny noses and everyone else will be hacking up mucous goblins. A runny nose doesn’t really need a trip to the doctor, but hacking up mucous goblins certainly warrants a visit.

Colds get under my skin because they are inconvenient. Way more inconvenient then taking a few supplements everyday.

1. Vitamin C

There are some people that can die from taking vitamin C (they should know who they are), so just an overly paranoid FYI. If the child or adult can swallow capsules, I prefer capsules. Chewable vitamin C ruins tooth enamel, so I usually recommend that parents give their little ones chewable vitamin C right before they brush their teeth. I like vitamin C when it is combined with bioflavonoids in the same supplement. It works better that way. I’m not a fan of Emergen-C, as I’ve heard several NDs say they’ve “never seen it work”.

2. Probiotics

I recommend 25 billion probiotics daily for both kids and adults. Infants do not need 25 billion a day, but they can take a daily powdered probiotic. Eating yogurt isn’t enough probiotics to hit 25 billion daily, unless you’re eating a special amped up yogurt I don’t know about (please tell me if you do!). You’d have to eat enough yogurt to fill Crater Lake to get 25 billion probiotics from eating yogurt alone.

3. Fish Oil

Fish oil does something amazing with modulating the immune response on a cellular level. Taking it on a daily basis will result in less total body inflammation. Cold symptoms = inflammation. Those whose bodies are already inflamed tend to be the most miserable cold survivors because their pre-existing inflammation amplifies the body’s response. Yes, your 3 year old, even your 2 year old, can take fish oil. I only recommend companies that spend good money purifying heavy metals out of the oil, which in turn results in you spending good money for a higher priced fish oil. Good brands are Nordic Naturals, Carlson, and Barlean’s just to name a few.

Please note that I often feel conflicted recommending fish oil to thousands of people because I do love having a healthy ocean. If the whole Earth decided to take the amount of fish oil everyone needed, the sea might become empty. Maybe you can say a prayer for the fish whenever you take your fish oil!

A study done in 2011 found that when pregnant mothers took fish oil during pregnancy, it decreased the occurrence of the common cold in their babies up until 1 month of age, and decreased the severity of symptoms up until 6 months of age.1

4. Elderberry Syrup

Everybody in the family should take elderberry syrup, not just the tots. Grandma Alma can take elderberry syrup because she lives with you and regularly plays with your 2 year old that goes to daycare. Elderberries are perfect for daily immune boosting support. Don’t confuse these berries with Echinacea, another herb used for the common cold. Echinacea should not be used on a daily basis.

5. Vitamin D

Not everyone should take vitamin D, so I do recommend that you get tested before taking it. I practice medicine in the Pacific Northwest, where nearly every person that walks through my door requires supplemental vitamin D to have normal blood levels. If you know your daily dose, you can add it up and take it once a week since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin.

In general, these are pretty safe recommendations for all ages, but I don’t know your body, so it is always best that you see a doctor prior to self-prescribing. Not everybody should take these supplements, as there are some health conditions that would require caution. 


1. Imhoff-Kunsch B, Stein AD, Martorell R, et al. Prenatal docosahexaenoic acid supplementation and infant morbidity: randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2011. Sep;128(3):e505-12.

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Learn About The Gluten Free Eating Husband: Genetic Testing for Celiac Disease in Mill Creek

baguette with butterphoto by my LA photography friend, Danae Horst

The Wendy’s Eating Husband lives for fresh bread. His favorite kind is a simple white baguette, and he likes to smother it with butter or dip it in basil pesto. Don’t try to surprise him with an organic whole grain baguette because he’ll be disappointed. I learned that the hard way.

It’s not surprising that the Wendy’s Eating Husband is all about the bread. He grew up in a vat of gluten, otherwise known as his dad’s bagel shop. A lot of our friends find this entertaining, since I am strictly gluten-free and minuscule gluten contamination gives me doubled over abdominal pain.

A few months ago, the Wendy’s Eating Husband, the girls, and myself submitted spit samples to 23andme, in order to get an individual genetic profile for each of us. When we got our results back, one of the first things I noticed was that the Wendy’s Eating Husband was homozygous for one of the celiac disease genes. I text messaged him right away to inform him of what I thought he needed to do ASAP: go gluten-free.

For those who don’t know, homozygous means he has a double copy of the gene, acquiring one from each of his parents. A homozygous result makes the effect of the gene stronger, as compared to if he were heterozygous, which is when there is only one copy of the gene.

My interpretation of his 23andme results didn’t make him any more interested in going gluten-free. You figured that, right? I had hoped for him to convert into a fundamentalist health nut. Even though I cognitively know that spouses make the worst doctors, I couldn’t hold back my advice. What I told him is exactly what I would tell one of my patients if they had the same circumstance as him (except he got my advice for free). Not only is the Wendy’s Eating Husband homozygous for the gene, but he also has symptoms that would most likely improve with gluten elimination. Good thing my patients don’t find my advice as annoying as he does…

The Wendy’s Eating Husband needed someone else to break the news to him. Someone a little more macho that wasn’t a relative.

I made an appointment for him with the ND that all the other NDs in town send their spouses to. He’s the ND of NDs. I trust this doctor. If he didn’t think the Wendy’s Eating Husband needed to go gluten-free, then I’d drop the topic and let it go. Maybe I would reconsider making the Chocolate Chip Cookies the Wendy’s Eating Husband has been begging me to make him (they were requested to be made with white flour and white sugar only).

Major bonus points for the Wendy’s Eating Husband because he was open and willing to go see this doctor. He went to see the doctor last Wednesday, and because I was seeing patients that day, I couldn’t be the tag-a-long doctor wife. I had to settle for a voice recorder in my stead.

I was looking forward to getting home from work that day so that I could hear “the report” from “the doctor”. I ended up getting home late, so the kids were already in bed. While I was bummed to miss the girls, it gave me an advantage — I could get the doctor update with 100% pure OCD focus.

I put down my stuff at the door, took off my boots and stockings, and walked through the house to our back patio in my bare feet. I passed a plate of raspberries on the kitchen table, and brought them outside with me. I didn’t even stop to wash my hands, which is the usual protocol I follow whenever I come home from a clinic day.

On our back patio, the Wendy’s Eating Husband started grilling some nitrate free jumbo TJ’s hot dogs while I ate the raspberries. A few sentences into his report, I heard the magic words…

“He said it’d be best to cut out gluten as much as possible.”

I put down my raspberries on our glass patio table to go skip around the grass in our backyard. “I knew it! I knew it!”, I said excitedly, as if he were trying to surprise me with a trip to Hawaii and I had already figured it out.

“This is like Christmas morning for you!”, the Wendy’s Eating Husband exclaimed.

He was right. But not in a sadistic way. My heart almost went into atrial fibrillation from all the the good that going gluten-free could bring him. Better health. A better future. Longevity. Less pain. More life.

Here’s the summary of my passion:

It is a gift to become aware of an obstacle to wellness that can be easily removed.

The gift is the awareness that you have the power to remove something that can be removed. Some health obstacles, like cancer for instance, can not be removed as easily as taking gluten out of your diet. I’m not saying gluten-free is easy. It’s not. But you get to have the say as to whether you want it or not — gluten does not have object permanence within your body.

This can apply with other things as well. I use gluten as an example because it’s the theme of this post. Perhaps your obstacle to wellness is sugar. Maybe it’s fear, and the fear is giving you ulcers and diarrhea. You can choose to be brave. Maybe you have a desperate neediness for approval, where you’re willing to sacrifice your own health to get others to like you. You can choose to believe a better truth about yourself — that you matter, that your health matters, that you have a say in things.

I could do a dance about how incredible of a gift this is, but you don’t want to see me dance.

It is a sacred thing to be able to identify and resolve that which ruins your health.

This is why I love what I do so fiercely. I get to walk people through this sacred journey and watch their eyeballs bug out and hear their choked up vocal cords leak out, “So that’s why I’ve been sick.”  I live to be with people in this moment, where the curtain is pulled back on their health, and they find hope for the wellness they never got to have before.

The only sacred thing the Wendy’s Eating Husband sees in this gluten-free business is suffering. Don’t worry though, he’ll still be the Wendy’s Eating Husband. He’ll just go for the fries and the Frostys (he knows about the oil contamination but he doesn’t care about that).

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Detox Every Day 1: Eat Organic

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Improve Your Seasonal Allergies Naturally in Woodinville

tree flowers budding in spring

There are LOTS of things you can do for your sniffly, itchy allergies besides popping a pill– whether that pill be a supplement or a medication. These “things” are certainly not the easy way out, because they require brow-dripping-sweaty work. Most people do not want to do this kind of work, myself included. Sniffles or cheese? I’ll take the cheese.

I was forced into doing the brow-dripping-sweaty-no-one-wants-to-do-this work because of a little motivator called p-a-i-n. When you struggle with chronic pain, you get desperate. You’ll do anything. You’ll give up caramel lattes with extra caramel syrup and extra whip cream. You’ll give up granola with organic cow milk for breakfast. You’ll even give up cheese. Especially if doing the work means you could have a life without pain. Fortunately, the work I did to heal my interstitial cystitis, also drastically improved my seasonal allergies to where I no longer needed to take Allegra everyday.

Health is hard, hard work, specifically because it asks us to not only care about it but to do something about it. Supplements are not enough. You gotta do the work.

The beautiful thing about doing the work is that it gives back—you figure your body out. Maybe if you work on x, y, and z, you don’t even need to do a, b, and c. The lifestyle work you need to do will not look the same as the lifestyle work I need to do, and your diet falls under that same umbrella. When I got really serious about numbers 15-18 on this list, I didn’t have to be so anal about vacuuming daily and weekly washing my sheets. I would still greatly benefit from vacuuming daily and washing my sheets weekly, but going all out on numbers 15-18 is what got me off my allergy meds.


1. Buy an air purifier for your bedroom and run it at night. During the day, run it where you spend the most time.

If you’re sleeping 8 hours a night, that’s 25% of the day spent in your bedroom. An air purifier will enable you to breath the cleanest air possible while you sleep. The best brand for air purifiers is most likely Austin Air, and it shows in their cost. We use a Blue Air in our home, which we purchased at Costco, and I consider it to be in the top tier in terms of quality. We had it tested by an indoor air quality professional, and according to his tests, it worked really well.

2. Go scent free.

Synthetic fragrances are toxic volatile chemicals that you inhale. Those chemicals may smell nice, but they are not nice to your body. They are pro-inflammatory and make your allergies worse. They are another assault on your respiratory epithelium in addition to all the regulars: pollen, dust, dander, & mold. This kind of inhaled irritant can be easily fixed, but you can’t really get your neighbor to clean out all the ragweed from his lawn. Going scent free means nixing perfume, scented lotion, scented laundry detergent, scented dish soap, scented laundry soap, scented body soap, scented shampoo, scented candles, and those migraine bombs otherwise known as Glade plug-ins.

3. Buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter in it and use it often.

A regular ole’ vacuum won’t do. You need a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Vacuum daily to rid your house of outdoor and indoor allergens, every single day.

4. Get rid of the wall to wall carpet.

Carpet is an allergen sink hole magnet. If you want your allergies to go down a notch (or 100), take the carpet out. It’d be better for you to live on the plywood sub-floor than to inhale all the allergic particles that have built up in your carpet over the years.

5. Wash your sheets in super hot water weekly.

I’m tempted to say daily, but you’re already vacuuming daily and soon you’ll be making all your food from scratch because you’re eating clean and then you’ll read that you need to cut out the dairy… who do I think you are? I think you have 40 hours a week devoted to working on your health. Just kidding.  Let your weekly sheet washing be the imperfect thing. Daily is optimal, weekly will do.

6. Dust weekly, especially in your bedroom, and then vacuum afterwards.

Regular dusting increases indoor air quality, and you want that optimized where you sleep. If dusting flares up your allergies for 48 hours, ask a hypoallergenic loved one to dust for you (I’m sure your Wendy’s Eating Husband doesn’t have any allergies). Daily is optimal, weekly will do. Be careful with conventional dusting sprays that aerosolize chemicals. That would defeat the purpose. I like dusting with Murphy’s Oil Soap, but you can also use a fuzzy sock and some water.

7. Get an indoor air quality investigation by a professional associated with the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA).

A professional can help identify poor areas of ventilation in your home, how much oxygen to carbon dioxide is in each room, and even measure how many particles are in the air. The more ventilation, the more oxygen, combined with the least amount of particles = the best environment for taking a load off your allergies. If you’re miserable outside, you really, really want the inside of your home to be a safe haven for your health.

8. Take off your shoes at the door.

I don’t need to tell you why you should do this, right? You know already. Keep those allergens at the door.

9. Cover your pillows & mattress with allergy covers.

This helps to keep the dust mites from building up in your pillows and mattress. It’s not 100% perfect, but it certainly will reduce the dust mite and dander build-up.

10. Wash your pillow in hot water weekly.

If you sleep on your pillow, it’s the closest thing to your face, so wash it in super hot water weekly. Remember NOT to use any scented products when you wash it because that’ll defeat the purpose (inhaling chemicals all night vs. dust mites and dander).


11. Use a netti pot, daily.

A netti pot is an instrument used to irrigate your nasal cavity with saline (saline = salt water). Saline water is placed in the netti pot, poured through one nostril while the head is tilted, and out it comes through the other nostril. This procedure rinses your nostrils from pollens, dust, dander, and mold that you inhaled throughout the day. By clearing your nasal passages from the allergens, you decrease the allergic response because there will be less allergen for your body to manage.

13. Take a shower & wash your hair everyday before bed.

If you go outside, you collect pollen, dust, & mold spores on your skin and in your hair. You don’t want to sleep with pollen! He’s terrible in bed. Wash those allergens off with a shower, everyday before bed.


14. Eat lots of frozen blueberry smoothies.

Blueberries are super high in antioxidants, particularly proanthocyanidins. They are stabilizing to capillary membranes, which usually dilate when you are all snotty and congested. The antioxidants in blueberries help to inhibit the release of histamine. The best way to get the most bioavailability from those blueberry antioxidants is via frozen blueberries that are pureed in the blender. The blender breaks down the cell wall, which allows your body to slurp up the proanthocyanidins like a dog licks up water.

15. Stop eating dairy.

I seriously wish my mom knew about this when I was a kid. Dairy = mucous. Period. Your allergies might magically disappear if you stop eating it.

16. Get tested for IgE food allergies.

Some people who have severe seasonal allergies may also have undiagnosed food allergies. IgE food allergies are the more serious kind. They are responsible for anaphylactic reactions and hives, but even if you’ve never experienced anaphylaxis or hives, you may still have a hidden IgE food allergy. Avoiding your IgE food allergies 100% could make your seasonal allergies disappear in a snap! I am feeling like I’m in the magic allergy genie business…

17. Get tested for food reactions (in other words – IgG food allergies).

There are two kinds of food “allergies”. A real food allergy is an IgE allergy. That’s what conventional docs consider an allergy. The “fake” food allergy is the IgG food allergy. That’s a different antibody with a different pathway, and does not result in hives or anaphylaxis. That’s why it’s technically not accurate to label IgG food reactions as a food allergy. I like calling them “food reactions” but, for sure, your immune system is involved, just in a different way. Identifying and removing the foods that you react to can deflate your allergies, like letting go of a balloon you blew up but never tied.

18. Eat a super clean diet (in other words, stop eating junk).

A super clean diet means eating mostly organic, whole foods. Note that I said mostly. We’re not aiming for perfection, we’re aiming for wellness. The more organic, whole foods you eat, the better you’ll feel. I have seen my own seasonal allergies drastically improve by the removal of white sugar from my diet.

I specialize in working with those with allergies, because I suffer from allergies myself. If you’re in the Seattle area, I’d love to see you. I can test you for both IgE and IgG food allergies in my office at Eastside Natural Medicine. The IgE food allergy testing is done through a blood test that is processed by Quest Labs. We do IgG food “allergy” testing through a company called BioTek. Don’t get too excited though, we can’t get to the food allergy testing in the first visit. There’s a lot to learn about you, and doing the testing in that little time, takes away from all I want to know about you. You can schedule an appointment with me online here.

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Your Sleep Deprivation Escape Plan

12 ways to break out of the sleep deprived lifestyle


Dr. Archer’s Simple Cold & Cough Tea

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Top 5 Supplements for Seasonal Allergies

Say goodbye to histamine

Top 5 Supplements for Seasonal Allergies in Monroe

farm field of sunflowers

As a child, my severe pollen allergies made me crazy with histamine. One of the most annoying symptoms, both to me and others, was how itchy the roof of my mouth would get. I would itch my palate with the back of my tongue until it was raw and painful. My family could not stand the sound I made when I did this. Oh, histamine, you make everything so itchy.  Too bad my childhood doctor didn’t know a thing about these supplements, because maybe I could have saved my sisters’ ears.

Below are my top 5 supplements for spring and summer allergies. I avoided dosing on purpose so that you talk to your doctor about the best dose for your health (maybe I’ll lighten up later). These supplements should also work when you’re going to a house that has a lot of dust, and 5 cats, and they never vacuum the carpet.

For those who have genetic mutations making their allergies unbearable, natural supplementation is needed to help their body clear histamine. People who are low in vitamin C or certain B vitamins also need supplementation so that the biochemical pathways for breaking down histamine can work really well.

I use these natural supplements both in my medical practice and real life—I’ve used them on myself for years. They work so well, that whenever I have a cold, I load up on them. They stop mucous production like the desert sun dries up a puddle of water.

1. Quercetin

Quercetin, a bioflavonoid, is number one for a reason. From my experience, this one works the best, but particularly when it is made by a company called Scientific Botanicals. Their quercetin product is called Maxiflav. I am careful not to mention too many brands around here, but this one deserves it. Other brands of quercetin have not worked as well as that from Scientific Botanicals. One time when I called to order some, they were just bottling it, so I had to wait an extra day to receive it. This stuff is fresh and potent and super high quality. Quercetin is a natural anti-histamine because it inhibits histamine release and it is a strong anti-inflammatory agent.

2. Freeze Dried Nettles

There’s something about freeze drying that makes nettles particularly effective for allergies. I view freeze-dried nettles as a natural anti-histamine. It inhibits mast cells from releasing histamine. It’s another strong anti-inflammatory agent (also used for arthritis) and a study showed it has some effect on histamine receptors1.

3. Fish Oil

Quality fish oil (not the stuff from Costco) is a systemic anti-inflammatory agent. It brings down total body levels of inflammation. It also modulates immune function2. I’ve noticed additional allergy relief when I take fish oil at the same time I take freeze dried nettles.

4. B Vitamins

Lots of B vitamins are involved in the many pathways available for histamine breakdown. See, when histamine is made, it doesn’t just hang out in the body! Your body has to do something with it, and what that “something” is, is break it down. Enzymes are required to break down histamine, and most of them require different B vitamins at different times. The most important ones for breaking down histamine include vitamins B5, B6, B12, and B1.

5. Vitamin C

Vitamin C wears several hats when it comes to relieving your allergies. It works to prevent histamine release and it also aids in histamine breakdown. It works best when taken with other allergy relieving supplements. I haven’t seen it do wonders by itself, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Next up I will be talking about supplement-free ways to improve your seasonal allergies.  Natural supplements are not enough to “cure” your seasonal allergies. While they help big time, there are almost always other things contributing to your allergic response. Once those “other things”, like food reactions, are addressed, the allergic response comes down a notch (or ten).

1. Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, et al. Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytother Res. 2009 Jul;23(7):920-6.
2. “The Textbook of Natural Medicine”. Edited by Joseph Pizzorno, ND & Michael Murray, ND. Fourth Edition, 2013.

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Detox Every Day 2: Watch Your Drinks

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Learn Why Your Allergy Meds Aren’t Working in Bothell

seasonal allergies blossoming trees

Drug companies target histamine to relieve your seasonal allergies. Histamine is the jackpot! They want to make loads of money on your allergies so that they can buy their families all the organic, gluten-free food in the world! OK, maybe not, but they do have something going for them when it comes to histamine.

Histamine is a big deal both in conventional and naturopathic medicine because he is “the guy” to point your fingers at for those annoying seasonal allergies. Your immune system responds to inhaled allergens by releasing histamine. Histamine triggers the inflammation that results in your drippy nose, itchy eyes, scratchy skin, sinus congestion, and postnasal drip. In the lungs, histamine constricts the airways.

An MD and an ND both want to get rid of your histamine, so they have the same goal, but they go at it differently.

Most conventional treatments for eliminating histamine induced symptoms revolve around anti-histamine drugs. These drugs bind to histamine receptors, thus preventing histamine from binding to its effector cells. If histamine doesn’t bind to its effector cell, than that effector cell won’t jack up your allergies.

In naturopathic medicine, we’re always hunting around the system with our specs, trying to see what we can do to make the histamine not happen in the first place or find a way to get rid of it once it’s made.

A lot of naturopathic therapeutics focus on minimizing the production and release of histamine. That can work miracles for many people. However, some people can’t break histamine down efficiently. When this happens, you get a histamine traffic back-up that looks like I-5 in Seattle at 8am. Too many cars jamming the highway, so no one is getting anywhere. If you’re not effectively breaking down histamine, it will build up in your body, cause allergy symptoms, and make it difficult for conventional allergy medicine to work.

The histamine breakdown pathway can be dysfunctional for two main reasons:

1. A Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrients are required as co-factors in the systematic reaction pathways that breakdown histamine. If you are deficient in a certain nutrient like B5, you can clog your histamine breakdown pathways. Your body may be making normal amounts of histamine, but it’s not able to get rid of it, so then you get “allergies”.

2. A Genetic Mutation

Several biochemical steps are needed to break down histamine through a variety of pathways. These “biochemical steps” require enzymes or they won’t work. Some people have genetic mutations in the enzymes involved in histamine breakdown. These mutations could also cause a huge histamine traffic back-up.

Below are four genetic enzyme mutations that could be impairing your body’s ability to breakdown histamine:

1. HNMT mutations

2. DAO mutations

3. MAO mutations

4. MTHFR mutations

The most important enzymes for histamine breakdown in the body are HNMT and DAO. They do most of the work.

What gets even trickier is that you could have a nutrient deficiency on top of several genetic mutations, which could be skyrocketing your histamine levels, thus making you feel absolutely miserable.

If your body can’t clear histamine, you will always have really bad seasonal allergies.

A huge thanks to Dr. Paul Anderson, ND and Dr. Benjamin Lynch, ND for helping me understand the genetic mutations and molecular pathways involved in histamine breakdown. 

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Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

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Dr. Archer’s Simple Cold & Cough Tea in Monroe

cold and cough tea thyme licorice

I’ve been prescribing this tea for my patients and I recently tested it on myself.  It works, and it works well! I’m tempted to give you a disclaimer for it being so…simple. There are a whole bunch of other amazing herbs I could have put in this tea, but I love the idea of a two herb tea. Easy for you, right?

In fact, it’s even easy enough for the Wendy’s Eating Husband, who’s currently feeling a little under the weather. I convinced him to make and consume a whole serving (1.5 cups). And he did! When I asked him if he liked it he said, “not bad”. Now if only he would have made two more servings today…

One serving of tea a day will not do your cold any kind of justice. Sure, it will help, but if you want that cold gone ASAP, you have to drink a lot of it in frequent doses. One way around drinking a lot of tea is making your tea more concentrated. Before naturopathic medical school, I used to think that 2 daily cups of echinacea tea from Trader Joe’s would get rid of my cold. Hah! I was totally under dosed.

One serving of this tea makes 1.5 cups, and you need to drink one serving three times a day, for the entire duration of your cold. Start drinking it as soon as you think you might be getting sick. If you’re already sick and wanting to take this, good news! It will still help, and it may even prevent your cold from turning into a nasty cough.

This recipe uses loose, dried herbs. In order to brew the tea, you will need a stainless steel tea strainer. I like the one I used in the photo. I use it every single day, and it’s available here.

When it comes to kids, a general dose is 1/2 cup of the brewed tea three times a day. According to weight, age, and the severity of the illness, the dose may vary (which means that I may not dose it like this if I see you in my office). Since the recipe brews 1.5 cups at a time, you can brew a day’s worth of tea for your kid all at once. Make sure the tea is not burning hot prior to serving it to your child. You knew that, right? You can also chill the tea and serve it cold, iced, in a sippy cup, or in a water bottle.

I particularly like this tea because it has your back when it comes to both viruses and bacteria. The licorice is anti-viral and the thyme is antimicrobial.

This tea can be used to:

  • shorten the duration of a cold
  • decrease the symptoms of a cold
  • prevent an upper head cold from progressing down into the lungs
  • relieve coughs
  • mitigate coughing spasms

Thyme tea by itself is like tasting vanilla extract off the teaspoon when you’re baking chocolate chip cookies. Brewing thyme leaves with licorice root is like you ate the chocolate chip cookie with the vanilla extract in it. Delicious. Okay, okay, so maybe drinking thyme & licorice root tea won’t be like eating a chocolate chip cookie. But you get it. The licorice root makes the thyme work in the tea.

cold and cough tea thyme licorice

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Detox Every Day 3: Drink More Water, Pure Water

your kidney water park needs more water

Best Underwear for Men: Tighty Whities Win

celebrate movember by giving your scrotum a lift

Turn Your Head and Cough: A Teenager’s Nightmare

A letter to adolescents about the male genital exam

Men: The 1 Thing You Must Do Before Shaving That Movember Mustache in Mill Creek

phone and note to call doctor

It’s Men’s Health Month, the month of all months to be all over your manly health. If you haven’t had an annual physical exam and screening lab work done in the past 12 months, it’s time for you to call the doctor and schedule an appointment. This annual physical exam and screening lab work is otherwise known as your yearly check-up. Don’t be like my pappy who hasn’t been to the doctor in over 20 years (sorry Paps). I don’t care if you’re 20 or 35 or 40 or 51. You still need a yearly physical exam with annual blood work. This stuff should happen every 12 months, not every 12 years.

Just because you feel fine doesn’t mean that you are. Many people are walking around with high blood pressure, not knowing that they are at risk for a stroke because they “feel fine”. Others are walking around with astronomically high blood glucose due to undiagnosed type II diabetes, and because they “feel fine”, they aren’t about to call the doctor. Using your “feelings” as a litmus test to decide whether or not you should get a yearly physical is a sure way to trash your future health.

Sick or not, you still need a yearly physical with yearly lab work, every single year. Both the exam and the lab work are equally important. The labs tell us things that a physical exam can not, and vice versa. Your yearly check-in can give you clues as to where your body is headed if you don’t do anything about it for another 10 years. Things don’t go awry overnight. They go awry little by little.

Catch that high blood sugar before it turns into type II diabetes. Catch that hypertension before you have a heart attack. Check those lipids and see if you’re at extra risk for gloppy, clogged arteries.

Make it your Movember Men’s Health Mission to call your doctor. Schedule that yearly physical exam. Get it on your calendar! The appointment doesn’t have to be in November, just your phone call. Get it scheduled this month, even if they can’t fit you in until January.

As far as your yearly screening labs go, your doctor can order those when you see him for your annual check-up. If he doesn’t offer to do this, ask for it. Things to check yearly include:

  • your lipids via a lipid panel
  • your vitamin D status
  • your liver and kidney function via a comprehensive metabolic panel or a more involved chem panel
  • your cellular health via a CBC
  • your blood sugar health via a HbA1C

Depending on your age, current health status, and health risks, there are other yearly labs that could be added to this.

And of course, I’m biased. I want you to call a naturopathic physician for your yearly check-up. You’ll get much more face time, an individualized treatment plan, and your health risks will be identified before they turn into a diagnosis.

Wendy’s Eating Guys — Can you be honest and let me know in the comments the last time you had your annual physical exam?

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Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

tonifies, detoxifies, protects, regenerates, and restores the liver

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

useful for nausea, motion sickness, digestion, dysmenorrhea, & atherosclerosis

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

useful for bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, and urinary tract infections

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) in Snohomish


When I think of cloves, the first thing that comes to my mind is a pick axe, a ginormous ant hill, and clove cigarettes. There was a kid on my first high school Africa trip who got in big trouble for smuggling his clove cigarettes to Zambia. Instead of sending him home solo on a plane from Africa to the U.S., our trip leader decided that for the rest of the trip, all of his free time would be spent on a taller-than-man ant hill with a pick ax. In other words, he had to chip away at the ant hill with the pick ax, for an hour, every single day. For the record, clove cigarettes are worse for you than regular American cigarettes, so don’t let the natural clove part fool you. The cloves both numb and bronchodilate your lungs, which results in deeper inhalation of the toxic smoke.4,5

Have you ever noticed that whole cloves look like little flower buds? That’s exactly what they are. Whole cloves are dried flowers that were picked before they opened.

Tooth Pain

One time I went to the dentist with severe tooth pain after a composite filling. He told me it was because I had triple A personality. Maybe if I had used some cloves to mitigate the tooth pain, he would have said I had the single A personality instead of the triple kind. It is the essential oil in cloves, namely eugenol, that enables it to numb dental pain. A randomized, controlled study compared a homemade clove paste to benzocaine gel in their ability to decrease the pain of a needle stick. Both the benzocaine gel and the clove paste lowered pain in comparison to the placebo. No significant difference was found between the clove paste and the benzocaine, which means that cloves can work just as well as benzocaine.1 The American Dental Association actually accepts the use of cloves for professional use.

The homemade clove gel mentioned in the study above was made by grinding whole cloves and then mixing them with glycerin. The study use a 2:3 ratio, with 2 parts cloves to 3 parts glycerin. Note that the homemade clove remedy was made from whole cloves that were freshly ground. Once cloves are ground, the essential oil in them disintegrates rapidly, which means that the anesthesia effect will diminish as there is less and less essential oil available. Making a clove paste from the ground cloves you bought at the grocery store won’t be as effective as freshly grinding your own whole cloves.

Essential Oil

Essential oil, otherwise known as volatile oil, is the main chemical constituent responsible for cloves’ medicinal properties. Although essential oil is found in whole plants or plant parts, the term is also used to describe the actual essential oil that has been extracted from the whole plant through a process called steam distillation. Essential oils of plants are very powerful forms of medicine that should only be used in drop doses. Clove essential oil is analgesic, antimicrobial, antiviral (can be used for warts), and antifungal. It fascinates me that a study found clove essential oil to inhibit cavity causing bacteria (Streptococcus mutans & Porphyromonas gingivalis).2Cloves

Dr. Archer’s Concerns

I have two big concerns when it comes to using cloves medicinally:

1. Contamination

Non-organic cloves can be contaminated with heavy metals and organochlorine pesticide residue. If you’re using non-certified organic clove essential oil, you’ll also be getting a heavy dose of these toxic environmental contaminants. If you’re a regular chai drinker like myself, make sure your chai is organic, since cloves are an integral part of the traditional chai spice blend.  Otherwise, you’ll be drinking pesticide chai!

2. Safety

I don’t like the use of clove essential oil for a baby’s teething gums because of the potential for clove toxicity. There are five published, pediatric case reports that motivate this concern. Each case is summarized and referenced in PubMed at Natural Standard, which is where I obtained the following information:

  1. A 2 year old had acute liver damage after ingesting 10 mL of clove essential oil.
  2. A 2 year old had disseminated intravascular coagulation and hepatocellular necrosis after ingesting clove essential oil (amount unknown).
  3. A 15 month old went into fulminant hepatic failure after ingesting 10 mL of clove essential oil.
  4. A 3 month old went into fulminate hepatic failure after ingesting less than 8 mL of clove essential oil.
  5. A 7 month old went into central nervous system depression after ingestion of 1 tsp clove oil (it was mistaken for mineral oil).

Besides the risk of whole body clove toxicity, when too much clove essential oil is applied directly to the gums, it can kill some of the fibroblasts living in the gum tissue.3  Fibroblasts are cells that help to keep the gum tissue intact. This makes the use of clove essential oil on baby’s teething gums all the more riskier. The cytotoxicity of clove essential oil is certainly a dose dependent response (lower doses are not cytotoxic), but it’s very easy to overdo it if you don’t know what you’re doing, so avoid using it on your baby.

If you have children in your home, clove essential oil should be stored both out of their sight and out of their reach. It would be best to keep it in a locked cabinet.

If you would like to start using  Syzygium aromaticum medicinally, please consult your naturopathic doctor. A licensed healthcare practitioner can tailor the dose according to your needs.

1. Alqareer A, Alyahya A, Andersson L. The effect of clove and benzocaine versus placebo as topical anesthetics.  Journal of Dentistry. 2006 Nov;34(10):747-50. Epub 2006 Mar 13. 2. Yazmín Rosas-Pi˜nón, Alicia Mejía, Gloria Díaz-Ruiz, et al. Ethnobotanical survey and antibacterial activity of plants used in the Altiplane region of Mexico for the treatment of oral cavity infections. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 141 (2012) 860– 865. 3. Natural Standard Professional Database. Clove Monograph. 4. Sherman, John A., N.D. The Complete Botanical Prescriber. Third Edition, 1993. 5. Sargenti, Sarah. Clove-Flavored Cigarettes More Dangerous? abcNEWS: Health. October 10, 2009. <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WellnessNews/clove-flavored-cigarettes-dangerous/story?id=8780899>

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Be Nerdy, Get Herby

nerd up on one herb every month

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

an ayurvedic herbal treasure that’s excellent for adrenal fatigue

Make Your Own Health Management Notebook

bless your body by documenting your health journey

Chamomile (Matricaria recutitia) in Mukilteo

bee on chamomile flower

If all your chamomile knowledge was gleaned from reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Madeline’s Rescue, you might actually know a thing or too. You may notice that chamomile is excellent for wee ones (but don’t let that stop you if you’re a grown-up). Peter Rabbit and Madeline both received chamomile tea after they were nearly frightened to death, indicating how well chamomile can calm the nerves. Peter Rabbit barely escaped Mr. McGregor and Madeline “would now be dead but for a dog that kept its head” after she fell off the bridge and into the water. Both characters had their chamomile tea in bed, which tells us that chamomile tea drunk before bed can make for an awesome night’s sleep after a really rough day.

I do wonder if it was an upset stomach Peter Rabbit had when Beatrix Potter wrote that he “did not feel very well that evening”, since chamomile does such a good job at calming a queasy belly. And perhaps Miss Clavel was also banking on chamomile’s ability to stimulate the immune system, in hopes that it would prevent little Madeline from getting too sick after being drenched in the water.

Is it the root or the flowers or the whole thing?

Remember that when a plant is medicinal, it doesn’t always mean that the entire plant is used. There’s usually a specific part of the plant that contains most of the medicine. In this case, it’s the flowers. Chamomile flowers are about the diameter of a ping pong ball, and are especially delicate once they are dried. All it takes is a scoop from the herbal bulk bin, a ride in a purse with a sippy cup, and the petals look like graham cracker crumbs.

dried chamomile Matricaria recutitia

Skin Fix

Matricaria recutitia contains flavonoids that stop skin inflammation like water thrown on a fire. Chamomile is an excellent choice to use topically for eczema, wounds, and hemorrhoids. It can be taken internally to help heal the skin from the inside out, and it can be used as a compress for the nasty eye itch otherwise known as pink eye.

Squashes Fevers

Herbs can work with fevers, in a way that stimulates the immune system instead of suppressing it. I’m all for letting a fever run its course, but the key part in fever torture is getting to the peak of it. The fever summit kills all the bad guys. Once it’s over, chamomile can dilate your capillaries to cool your body down and help it sweat, all in hopes to bring down the fever.

Stomach Savior

In case you’re not interested in the boring stuff, I’ll cut to the chase with some situations in desperate need of chamomile:

  • when stress gives you the skitters
  • when you have so much unexplainable gas that all your friends think your dog has an uncontrollable fart problem
  • when you’re green around the gills on an airplane and you’re about to contaminate all the ice in the beverage cart with your pre-flight Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • when your worry has dug some holes in your stomach otherwise known as ulcers
  • when you’re partying at cosmic bowling hour but you have to go home because the greasy cheese fries just about killed your gallbladder

Now for the straight-up talk. Chamomile is anti-inflammatory, wound healing on the inside (and outside), cuts gas, and alleviates intestinal spasms. If left unsweetened, it improves digestion. Chamomile can heal stomach ulcers and is an alternative to ginger in the treatment of nausea. It really is the perfect herb for any kind of gastrointestinal complaint, and should come on board when someone has a lot of food intolerances.

Serenity Brain

I’ve been looking for patience recently, and maybe chamomile’s my answer. After all, it’s useful for anxiety, which tends to snowball when I’m lovingly tapping my foot like Sonic the Hedgehog waiting for someone to get going. Aggravation happens to be married to impatience, and maybe if I calm my bean sprouts with some chamomile, it’ll be a real pleasure to be late to preschool because my younger daughter soiled her diaper right after I buckled her car seat.

If you’re all jacked up on stress when you’re trying to go to sleep at night, you have more problems than chamomile can help, but it won’t hurt to try it. If your name is Nervous Nellie and you get too hot at night, try drinking a glass of iced chamomile tea right before bed.

Chamomile Essential Oil Is Not the Same

A sacred, concentrated oil can be extracted from chamomile flowers through a process known as steam distillation. The special oil collected from this process is called “essential oil”. It’s basically the plant’s essence. Essential oils of plants always have different therapeutic benefits in comparison to products made directly from the plant. There are two big reasons. One is that essential oils are extremely concentrated, making them super potent and dangerous if used incorrectly. The second reason is that they are lipid soluble, meaning that water soluble constituents won’t be in the essential oil. Chamomile essential oil can be likened to Superman when it comes to stopping inflammation and intestinal cramping.

Medicinal Vehicles

Chamomile flowers can be used therapeutically in tinctures, teas, salves, lotions, and capsules. Because chamomile brilliantly heals the skin, you can use it to make chamomile infused olive oil by following the same directions for calendula infused olive oil. You can also crumple up the flowers and use them in food or replace water with chamomile tea in recipes.


While chamomile is a very gentle and safe herb, it should not be used in large amounts during the first trimester of pregnancy. Avoid using chamomile if you have an allergy to the Asteraceae plant family.

If you would like to start using Matricaria recutitia medicinally, please consult your naturopathic doctor. A licensed healthcare practitioner can tailor the dose according to your needs.

1. Kingsbury, Sheila. Matricaria recutitia. Herb Monograph from Botanical Medicine 1. Bastyr University. Fall 2006.
2. Yarnell, Eric. Compendium of Pharmacological Actions of Medicinal Plants and Their Constituents. 2009.

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Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

useful for belly pain, bladder pain, dry cough, and lactation

No Wonder Your Allergy Meds Aren’t Working

A nutrient deficiency or gene mutation could explain your severe seasonal allergies

The Gluten Free Eating Husband?

the post I never thought I’d be writing

Natural Help for Your Child’s Cold in Woodinville

herbal treatments for kids

We read about Lachie MacLachlan and his bairns of 10 last week when the girls had the sniffles, so I had to put that bairns word in the title (forgive me).  Selah didn’t like the bairns book until the WEH read it in his fake Scottish accent. Fake meaning a terrible job at imitating his SWEF (Scottish Wendy’s Eating Friend). Fortunately, my daughters don’t need to hear any kind of special accent to get them to take their natural medicine when they have a cold.

Medically, the ‘sniffles’ is an upper respiratory infection. The girls had a runny nose, congestion, headache, and sore throat. A cough developed later for both of them, but didn’t hang out too long, thanks to all the herbs I was pumping in their veins. In little bairns, the sniffles can easily progress into ear infections, which is why I like to stay on top of it.

Here’s their get well booty:

1. Licorice Root Tea

Selah loves to drink licorice root tea even when she’s not sick. I let her drink it out of my favorite tea cup, which makes the experience all the more worth it for her. Re’uth has an obsessive thrill with dumping out beverages, so she has to drink it cooled out of a plastic sippy cup. We wouldn’t want to put hot tea in a plastic sippy cup, because that would be TOXIC, and then we’d be giving our kids toxins in the hopes of making them feel better, just for the measly sniffles. Anyways, licorice root is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and a demulcent. It works perfectly for the common cold. I used organic, dried licorice that I bought in bulk from a local herb shop.

2. Traditional Medicinals Just for Kids Organic Cold Care Tea

Selah loves this tea too, and I have no problem getting her to drink it. Re’uth isn’t as interested in tea, probably because she’s 2. Traditional Medicinals’ kids tea is mysteriously more expensive than the adult tea in my local grocery store, but I like the herbs in it, and they can’t have the adult one I’d give them because it has orange peel in it. This tea contains European elder flower, linden flower, chamomile flower, and peppermint leaf. The peppermint opens up stuffy nasal passages. I brew it double strength and add a teaspoon of honey. Of course, I let it cool a bit, but I aim to serve it pretty warm but not burning hot.

3. Elderberry Syrup by Wise Woman Herbals

Both girls LOVE this so much that they ask for it when they are not sick. This is a sweet tasting, glycerin based syrup made with elderberries. It’s anti-viral and helps to boost their immune system.

children's glycerite4. Children’s Glycerite by Wise Woman Herbals

It’s no new news to tell you that Selah also loves this one. She’s most definitely the daughter of a  naturopathic doctor. Re’uth is just learning to like it. During the neverending illness back in February, she wanted NOTHING to do with it. We had to hide it in applesauce. This time around, she took it off the spoon only because she saw Selah doing it. She’s totally in that Monkey See Monkey Do phase right now. Re’uth says it’s too spicy (it has ginger essential oil in it). Oh, and yes, this has orange essential oil in it, but the kids have done OK with it, and since it works so well, we just deal. At least the orange essential oil doesn’t contain any proteins in it. Although, if a child had an anaphylactic reaction to oranges, I would not give them this glycerite. I try to keep this magic kid’s potion stocked in our house at all times.

5. Vitamin D3 Gummies by Nordic Naturals

It’s easy giving candy for the sniffles, so of course, they gobbled this up. Selah got a whole gummy everyday until she felt better, and Re’uth got a half gummy. With their pale skin, GI inflammation, and Seattle latitude, they are most likely low in vitamin D. Since vitamin D plays a large role in the immune system, I wanted to bring it on board. This particular product has tapioca syrup in it, so it’s not something I’d give to them in their sniffle free life (they don’t do well with any kind of tapioca).

6. Juicy Fruit-C Chewable Vitamin C by Metagenics

When we cleaned underneath our couch over the weekend, I found two of these tablets. That was Selah. She doesn’t like them. I think she got some ideas from the childhood story I told her about that time I hid all my vitamins behind the dresser in my bedroom. My mom didn’t find my stash until she moved my dresser to clean the room. Re’uth, however, loves these, which is good since she’s not as eager to take everything else.

7. The Regulars

Everyday, the kids get a multi-vitamin, quercetin, a chewable probiotic, and a methylated folate/B12 supplement.  Sometimes I give them a few other things, but they didn’t get any of the extras while they were sick.

kid playing with herbal treatment tea

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Switched to CFLs for Earth Day? Beware.

maybe you should reconsider, especially if you have kids


Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)

useful for slow digestion, fat maldigestion, eczema, liver detox, and pretty skin


Men: The 1 Thing You Must Do Before Shaving That Movember Mustache

schedule your yearly check-up