Newsletter: March 2023
Food as Medicine, Plants as Power
Hello, Happy Spring!
It’s been a while since I’ve published a newsletter, but wanted to share what’s new that you might find helpful or maybe inspiring. This newsletter’s theme is “Food as medicine”, and comes to you at the tail end of National Nutrition Month. It starts with a story.
Some years back a naturopath looked at my food diary and list of supplements, and she said: “Pamela, why are you taking all these supplements? You are getting most of your vitamins and minerals from your food”. At the time, I was momentarily stunned -- Just how did it come to pass that I no longer expected my food to have any nutritional value?
True, I do eat mostly organic whole foods, and very little processed foods. I’ve always grown some of my own food, and feel most at peace in the garden and in Nature. Prior to my career as a therapist, I owned and managed a certified-organic farm for ten years, and grew herbs, vegetables and fruit. My paternal ancestors have a seven-generation farm in Norway; sustainable farming and gardening is in my blood.
In prior years and continuing as a mental wellness therapist, I’ve continued to learn about herbal medicine, fermented foods, whole foods, and most recently, mushrooms for health and immunity. As I learned more, I came to view the ‘common plants’ and ‘weeds’ here in the Pacific Northwest in a new light: The mucilage within waxy leaves of Salal can stop bleeding, and Stinging Nettles grow near their antidote, Sword Ferns. During the smokey summer of a few years ago, an abundant crop of wild ‘Pearly Everlasting’ plants suddenly sprouted along the median of Aurora Avenue North, an herb that supports respiratory health. Plants are just quietly growing, offering their medicine and beauty, if we would only slow down and notice, and appreciate them. A simple stroll around the neighborhood or a park takes you on a walk through a parallel universe of the helpful plants.
One of my most meaningful pursuits was a certification course in early 2020 with Dr. Leslie Korn, about how to use food and herbs to enhance mood and mental wellness. It served to offset the turmoil of politics and early pandemic days. I learned what foods can help us sleep, calm down, wake up, detoxify, strengthen immunity, and rebalance. I ’m happy to share that knowledge with clients, along with tips about how to make and sustain changes in diet and lifestyle.
More recently I have been studying the humblest, prolific of plants: mushrooms.
Awareness of the merit of fungi ‘mushroomed’ with the release of the film “Fantastic Fungi”, where we learned of the amazing superhighway of mycelium that connects and transports nutrients among the roots of trees. The film raised awareness of the ways mushrooms can help us with immune responses, cognitive abilities, blood flow, and vibrancy. They also contain much protein and fiber. There is a lot of buzz right now about Psilocybin (psilocybe), which is being used in guided therapy sessions at Johns Hopkins, as well as other sites, to help clients reduce feeling ‘stuck’ in trauma or addiction, and change their patterns of unhelpful thinking. What is exciting is that mushrooms, which have been used as medicine for thousands of years in indigenous cultures, are now being extensively studied by Western medicine in double-blind clinical trials with positive results. Most widely studied is ‘Turkey Tail’ mushrooms, for their immunity-enhancing properties. Other mushrooms for health include Reishi, Shitake, Mitake, and Chaga.
You can set mushrooms out in the sun for 30-60 minutes and they will absorb Vitamin D2 in a form that your body can utilize when you eat them. You can boost this 10X by slicing just the ‘fruiting body’ to increase the surface area exposed to the sunlight.
You can grow and cultivate some of your own mushrooms at home (I’m growing Oyster mushrooms).
Turkey Tail mushrooms are the most widely studied and show much promise for immunity support.
Mushrooms have a lot of food value – They have the highest fiber content of any food for its weight, support good gut microbes, bolster immunity, provide high-quality protein, along with many minerals essential to our body.
I hope you have enjoyed this immersion in the power of plants for nutrition, health, mood, and medicine.
If you would like to talk with me and learn some ways to enhance your relationship with food, and improve your mental health, please reach out to me by phone at 206.399.2622 or email me at Woodroffe.firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m happy to provide a free copy of a recipe for Immunity-boosting Mushroom Soup. Just put “Mushroom Soup Recipe” in the subject line and email me your request.
With gratitude to the following teachers, mentors, films, courses, and books:
The Abascal Way to Quiet Inflammation for Health and Weight Loss, by Kathy Abascal. She also published a cookbook.
Medicinal Mushrooms – The Essential Guide, by Dr. Christopher Hobbs. He focuses on 10 mushrooms and their medicinal and food value, many of which are available in our grocery stores. His book explains the science well, and includes how to identify, grow, and preserve mushrooms.
The Good Mood Kitchen - Simple Recipes and Nutrition Tips for Emotional Balance, by Dr. Leslie Korn.
Fantastic Fungi, by Paul Stamets.
Metabolical – The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL. A deep-dive into 50 years of food and medicine and pharmaceutical politics, written by a pediatrician. Prepare to have your molecules re-arranged when you read this book.
Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer – an inspiring and beautiful book about the merging of indigenous plant wisdom with modern scientific studies.
Medicinal Herbs of the Pacific Northwest with Crystal Hamby of Bastyr University’s Botanical department – plant identification, and making medicine with herbs and spices.
Certification program: Nutritional and Integrative Medicine for Mental Health Professionals, taught by Dr. Leslie Korn. She also has published textbooks and cookbooks.
Course: Medicinal Mushrooms - how to forage, grow, and preserve them in a seven-week series taught by Dr. Christopher Hobbs.
Fantastic Fungi, 2019 (Netflix) or through Seattle Public Library’s Kanopy online film rental site.
Nutrition Counseling Services at Bastyr Teaching Clinic in Seattle costs just $35 if your insurance doesn’t cover it. You can meet with their supervised interns, while their supervisor listens in and joins you at the end. They are generous with handouts and have great suggestions.
Take good care!