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I had the good fortune to try a new herb this week, dried Codonopsis root. It has an affect  similar to the herb ginseng, but it is less hot and less strong. It’s considered better than ginseng for women and during hot weather, too, when you don’t want quite so hot and strong an effect (Imbalancing with herbs can be a bad idea. Hot + hot = too hot)

History of Dried Codonopsis Root:
You may not have heard of this herbal medicine – I never had before I attended herbal medicine school in Boulder. The official name is Codonopsis pilosula or Dang Shen in Chinese herbal medicine.* (Beware, there seem to be multiple herbs with a similar-sounding Chinese name.) This herb grows in northeastern China, and is part of the Traditional Chinese medicine (called TCM).

Herbal Properties of Dried Codonopsis Root:
It is supposed to have these properties: It’s warming, slightly stimulating, increases energy similar (but weaker) than coffee, and “helps the body adapt to stress.”* This is called an adaptogenic herb. It’s taken for weak digestion, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing issues (asthma, mucus), general fatigue, and more. It has a shorter affect on the body than ginseng.

Chinese nursing moms take it to increase milk supply, as well as help their own health be stronger. This may be true, as lab tests showed that it increased red blood cells.

How to Prepare:
Because it is a root herb (i.e. hard) it is prepared through a decoction method, which means slow simmering instead of a tea method (called infusions). This root is not as hard as others; it can be squished a little. It feels spongy, and looks brown.

Seven to twenty grams of the root herb is added to 2 cups of water in a pot. Then the mixture is brought just below a simmer, and kept there for 40 minutes. After that, strain out the solids, and drink the liquid. The dose is half a cup per day.

When simmering, Codonopsis smells like warm bark and sweet, similar to another herb called Astragalus root.

Taste Test: What is Codonopsis Like?
The first taste is very sweet with a mild lemon flavor or sourness to the end note. It’s sweetness reminds me of Eastern spices like cinnamon.

Bodily Affects of Codonopsis:
After having some, I didn’t feel like my energy was being pushed, like I would with coffee and caffeine. (On coffee, I sometimes feel like my heart is outside my chest, in front of it, pounding there.) I just woke up a bit more, and got my work done in a gentle way. Before that I was falling asleep, probably because I also needed some more food just before lunchtime.

I stopped drinking it by 1:30pm in the afternoon. Some adaptogens can cause insomnia later in the evening, especially if taken too close to bedtime, or even afternoon, sometimes. I was able to fall asleep, and stay asleep, with no problems.

If you enjoyed this article about the herb Codonopsis root, please share it with your friends, using the social media buttons below. And let me know in the comments below.

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* Andrew Chevallier, Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, DK Press, 2000


Have you had the pleasure of seeing San Diego’s lush plants at the San Diego Botanic Gardens (website)? I had the good fortune to tour their 26.5 acres of plants, which include plants from regions afar, including New Zealand, desert, tropical, California natives, herbs and a children’s garden.

The garden started as the home of Ruth and Charles Larabee in 1942. It’s situated on a small hillside area in coastal California, near Carlsbad, California (actually in Encinitas, CA). In 1957 it was donated to San Diego county to be preserved as a park (originally named Quail Gardens).

The coastal locale means that plants get the warm sun and moisture, but the intense, drying desert sun is not as scorching to tender plants. Fog and clouds moderate the sunshine.

succulent desert plants, barrel cactus, photos, San Diego botanic gardens, succulent garden, California, San Diego Botanic Gardens, USA

Prehistoric Plants:
And this plant, African Cycads, have their own notoriety: it was present at the time of the dinosaurs!!
 This means that not only did it survive, but that this pocket of land had similar weather for millennia. Often the land and weather change through continental uplift, asteroids, glaciers coming and going, volcanic eruptions spewing ash that causes cloud cover for years…You get the picture.

Cycad plant sample
Cycad plant, a prehistoric plant from the dinosaur age

African Cycads’ spiny exterior are thought to have protected it from foraging animals in present (rhinos) and times long past (dinosaurs). These cone-producing plants (see photos) are believed to be distant relatives of tall conifers like redwoods and cypress. Today they are endangered from agricultural land use, animal grazing, and over-harvesting.

Sample of cycad plant with cones from the San Diego Botanic Gardens in California
Cycad with cone, a relative of modern conifers

Cork Tree
In the pre-rubber days, cork was used extensively for many things, including wine stoppers, flooring, car cabin noise insulation, anything that needed a pad against wear or vibration, and car head gaskets (that join between the two halves of the motor, sealing them). During World War II, the cork supply was threatened, and it was a patriotic duty for Americans to plant these cork oak trees (Quercus suber). (See, plants can be important in history!) When our guide mentioned WWII and the cork supply being threatened, I was thinking of Southeast Asia around Japan (oops!). [I had technical problems with trying to get this photo to display vertically. Sorry!]

photo of cork oak tree, San Diego Botanic Gardens, fully grown
Cork Oak Tree: A sustainable tree that offers its cork from its bark. The supply was endangered during World War II.

This online source (Wikipedia) says that the harvesting is renewable, because the bark is peeled off, and the tree itself left to continue grow. Apparently, a new layer of bark grows. (Most other trees are harmed by removing the bark, as it feeds the tree.) It can be harvested every seven to ten years.

cork oak tree bark, close up view, photo, image, where does cork come from, sustainable crop, cork oak tree
Close up image of cork oak bark

It’s native to Northwest Africa and Southwest Europe. Forest fires give an advantage to this Cork oak trees are protected from forest fires,  allowing it to continue to grow and spread its canopy. Other trees die and regrow from seed, or regrow from the base root. This means they are in the “shade” for several years while they catch up.

The bark looks funny, as you can see from the photo, and feels like cork to the touch. It’s slightly spongy.

Bamboo Garden:
There are many varieties of bamboo here. We learned a great deal from a cart driver and docent (who kept vouchsafing that he was not a tour guide). For instance, many areas of California have a problem with bamboo spreading underground and taking over. It’s so serious, that some friends spread concrete across a 6′ by 25′ area to stop neighbor’s bamboo from overtaking their yard. I learned from our intrepid  guide that there are two kinds: corm and riser. CHECK The riser kind is the one that spreads, causing California nurseries to advise planting only in pots.

garden information, bamboo, photo sample, San Diego Botanic Gardens
Bamboo Gardens
bamboo garden sample, San Diego Botanic Gardens, California
Bamboo garden varieties

The bamboo seemed very lush and pretty. The corm variety is what they plant in the botanic gardens–  they don’t spread unchecked. Rising up thirty feet in dark green hues, it reminded me of a scene from a Chinese film I had seen. People stood ten feet up on bent bamboo stalks (with the help of wires), that ultimately  rose sixty feet high or more, as soldiers fired waves of arrows at them. (See the 5th photo down on this web page, from the film House of Flying Daggers, I believe. View more on the film page photos.)

Desert Garden:
Succulent plants store water in their thick “leaves” that look more like blue or green, smooth branches. At least, they are smooth where there aren’t any spines. The leaves sometimes feel cool or waxy. There are many varieties, as you can see in the photos below. Amazing colors, aren’t there?
desert plant photo, succulent desert plants, images

Check out this yucca plant below. It’s bigger than me!! It just bloomed, and there was a “candle” (flower stalk) on the ground. The plant will die soon, and it’s progeny will sprout up.

agave plant

Here’s something creative- succulent plant topiary!!

desert topiary, woman, desert plants, succulent garden plants, photo, image
This is a desert topiary, made from succulent plants.
Desert plant photo, succulent, photo, images, agave, sample, California, San Diego botanic garden, USA
Doesn’t this plant remind you of Georgia O’Keefe’s close-up flower paintings? Did you notice the color variations?

desert plants, succulent, photos, images, California, San Diego Botanic Gardens, USA

Herb Garden:
As an herbalist, I enjoyed touring their herb garden, which included Heal All or Self Heal (Prunella lacinata or in my books, called P. vulgaris), an herb that I have yet had the pleasure to use. From the name alone, It had great importance to home herbalists.

One herb source^ quoted a 16th century herbalist as saying,

there is not a better wound herbs in the world than that of selfe-heale.[sic]

This source claimed it is antioxidant, and would be beneficial for inflammatory bowel diesease, diarrhea, sore throats.

An herb book by Skenderi* says it has antibacterial and antiviral, wound-healing, astringent (dry/tighten), and bitter tonic properties. It’s used as a tea for digestive and mouth inflammations, and for external sores.

About heal all herb, photo sample, herbal medicine information, learn, study herbs, plant medicine be
Heal All herb at The San Diego Botanic Gardens, in California, USA

Woodland Germander was also there, which had feathery leaves coming off a low, sprawly central stalk. Germander was used historically in herbal medicine, but apparently there are concerns now (with modern testing capabilities) that it could be toxic to the liver. The genus and species are Teucirum chemaedrys and others. It’s  in the mint family (Lamiaceae).(*Source)

Aren’t the pink blooms see below lovely on this Nutmeg Bush (Iboze riparia) ? What do you think?

nutmeg plant, flowers, in bloom
A flowering nutmeg plant at The San Diego Botanic Gardens, in California

I love looking up commonly-used kitchen herbs. There are always fun surprises when you find out your favorite herb can be used for serious herbal medicine.

Besides its use in desserts and some pastas, nutmeg is also supposed to have these properties: antispasmodic, anti-gas, good for general stomach issues, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial.*

In India, its considered an aphrodisiac, and the same tree is also the source of mace.^

There was a warning about not using it during pregnancy and lactation, nor mixing it with anti-depressant drugs and herbs like St. John’s Wort. And – stranger even – there was a warning not to use it in high doses above 5 gms, due to its ability to cause drowsiness, hallucinations, headache and confusion.* Who knew?!

Children’s Garden
The Hamilton Children’s Garden has a cool man-made tree house, with plants that get their moisture from the air covering its branches. It’s looks super fun, with rope bridges in places and more.

Children's garden tree house
Tree house at The San Diego botanic gardens in California
tree house, about, information, visit, children's garden, San Diego botanic garden
Sorry, more technical difficulties in turning this photo!

There are also alphabetical plant exhibits, with the letter J by a plant that starts with the letter “J”, for instance.

Have you visited this garden? Let me know in the comments below.

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*Gazmend Skenderi’s Herbal Vade Mecum, Herbacy Press, 2003

^Andrew Chevallier, Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, DK Natural Health, 2000

Great News! My Transform Health blog is now publishing through the Apple News app, which is available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers! This blog specializes in educating the public about functional nutrition, alternative & herbal medicine, common nutritional deficiencies, the Paleo Diet, special digestive diets like GAPS & SCD, and using holistic health knowledge to combat the spread  of common diseases, and incidence of chronic diseases.

Here’s the link to Transform Health on Apple News app– Please spread the word to your health-minded (health-obsessed?) friends:

Here’s the link to Apple News app on the website.

Why is this health education work important? Here’s a quote from Dr. Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain:

We spend nearly 20 percent of our gross domestic product on health care [in the US]… although we are presently ranked first in the world in health-care spending, we are ranked thirty-seventh in overall health-system performance, according to the World Health Organization. [bold added]

And another quote, from the same source:

We live in an exciting time in medicine…But we also live in a time when the number of people dying from chronic disease (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), maternal and perinatal  conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined.

The Transform Health blog is written by me, Diana Sproul, a health coach based in northern Colorado, who helps clients nationally. Besides free health articles and recipes on the Paleo, GAPS and SCD diets; articles comparing the nutrition between wild and farmed salmon, and info about the importance of the Omega 3 to 6 balance (nutrition geeks – you know who you are!), I have these free resources:

  1. free videos on YouTube  (channel link) and (channel link),
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  4. a Transform Health Pinterest page with recipes, health videos (including her own), and a lot of nutrition, alternative medicine and holistic health info. Also includes recipes for these diets: Paleo, SCD, & GAPS.
  5. The Transform Health Facebook page (includes local events)
  6. The Transform Health Google+ page
  7. E-books on (link) (1 is about baby sign language)

I hope you’ll join me online, or through our newsletter, and that you benefit greatly from reading my health and nutrition articles on the Apple News app! Self-education is the best path to preventative health and a healthy lifestyle.

Can I help you on your journey toward better health?
 Just Contact me at this  link. I would be happy to talk with you further.

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Chronic inflammation is involved in many different chronic conditions and diseases. Learn strategies and methods for lowering inflammation in the human body through the use of herbal medicine, healthy foods, nutrition, and better lifestyle habits. These anti-inflammatory tips may be helpful for a variety of chronic conditions and illnesses, without actually treating the condition itself.

WARNING: If you would like to start taking fish oil, and you are already on heart medication, blood pressure medication, or blood thinning medication, it’s VERY important to talk with your doctor FIRST, as fish oil has blood thinning properties.

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How to Naturally Raise Our Immunity
Learn how to naturally raise your immunity with easy-to-find foods, herbs, teas, vitamins and lifestyle changes. Come join me at a free class at the Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers in Fort Collins, Colorado!

Join me on Saturday, Nov. 19th at 11 am for Free healthy  Lifestyle Education! Attending ~4 classes gets you a store coupon, too. **Please SHARE this event with your friends.

This class will talk about fermented foods, the microbiome and gut health, helpful and healthful herbal medicine like anti-viral herbs, a quick overview of the immune system, common nutritional deficiencies, avoiding sugar, and maintaining good nutrition with ample vitamins during the holidays.

Where: I’ll be teaching a free class at the Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers in #FortCollins (map).

Presenter Diana Sproul is the owner of #TransformHealth, in Fort Collins. Diana helps clients on their journey toward better health through nutrition, herbalism, and #holistic #health coaching. Read more about your host, Diana Sproul, here. Join Diana’s newsletter at the lower form on this Contact page. Read more health, herbal and nutrition articles online.

Hi,everyone! I have a new podcast channel for my company, Transform Health. It’s available now at this podcast channel link (by Libsyn), an will hopefully be approved to be on iTunes in a few weeks. I’ll keep you updated.

The first podcast is called Wheat Analogs: Foods that React Like Wheat in the Body. Listen at the above link.

Future podcasts will be on anti-biotic recovery of the micro biome (gut flora), a green tea latté recipe, functional medicine, beginning herbalism tips and info, alternative medicine, preventative health, recipes for the Paleo or GAPS or SCD diets, historical nutrition, Weston Price, food allergies, vitamin deficiencies, nutrient dense foods, and mineral bioavailability (sometimes we eat it but can’t use it). I hope you will tune in! But since it’s a podcast, you can download it and listen at your leisure.

~ Diana



Now that it’s Fall, I’m discovering smooth, brown acorns around the oak trees in the neighborhood. I think they’re so pretty! I wondered how to prepare and eat acorn as a wild-foraged food, even though I live in a city. One source said that acorns were eaten more commonly in the past than wheat and rice combined! Acorns were historically eaten on four continents: New England and dry California, Europe, Asia, and even northern Africa.(1) Isn’ that amazing? They are a nutritious food source, and work well as a cooking binder, similar to wheat products.

Plentiful Food:
One video producer estimated there was over 88 pounds’ harvest from one oak tree alone based on his gathering sampling of 8.8 pounds (250 grams) in 1 square meter. And because there were seventy-five large oak trees in one area, he was wondering why we weren’t utilizing this wild-foraged harvest as large as 3 tons!(4) (All video sources included at end of article, so you can watch them, too!) However, they are eaten by deer, squirrels, and other forest animals, so they’re not going to waste.

Acorn Nutrition Information- Vitamins and Minerals:
According to Arthur Haines, acorns are rich in nutrition: calcium, potassium, B vitamins, phosphorous. They have all eight essential amino acids (essential meaning that we need to eat these substances for fuel to build our own body proteins.)

One video producer, brawny03, said that a mere one ounce has 142 calories, 9 grams of fat and 2.3 grams protein. Historically, we needed a lot of fat to get through winter, even though our metabolism became slower during cold months. Today we still need fats for every cell wall in our bodies, brain function and more.

They are high in Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acid (EFA), which we can’t make in our bodies, but have to take in with food. This EFA is good, because its in a natural state, but most of us get too many Omega 6 EFA’s already from grains in our diets and our meat & dairy animals’ feeds. Omega 6 EFA’s are best if eaten with ample amounts of Omega 3 EFA, which is found in plants like flax seed and purslane herb, as well as wild and grass-fed (pastured) animal meats and dairy. But historically, food and fats were scarce, and most hunted animals were wild game anyway, and already high in Omega 3’s.

I found these beautiful acorns around several oak trees at our local mall, of all places! They were on a parking island. They’re really pretty. I found two kinds: long and thin, and wide and round.

Two acorns, 1 small and long and one large and round, sit on a wooden table. There is a bowl full of brown long acorns in a porcelain bowl. Wild food foraging in the city.
I found two acorn types in the neighborhood: long and narrow and round and wide with fuzzy cap.

Different Kinds of Oak Species:
According to Arthur Haines, there are two kinds of oak trees and acorns: black oaks and white oaks. Black oaks have a sharp end lobe on their leaf tip, the acorns have hairs inside the shell, and have a long collection season from Fall through Spring. I think he said that they ripen over a longer period, as well. This makes them super important historically, when food may have been scarce after October. Black oak acorns also dry more easily, and are less prone to spoilage than the White oak acorns.

White oaks have a blunt tip lobe on their leaf tip, no hairs inside the acorn shells. They have a shorter collection season because they drop all at once in Fall. And they are more prone to spoilage. There were other species differences on the leaf sides, too.

Different acorn and leaf types: narrow long acorns and round short acorns. Lobed oak leaf on left and on right, leaf is half narrow and half lobed.
On each side are the oak leaves matched with their different acorn types.

Within each of these two species there are many different kinds of oaks. They vary the world over as to the growing environment that they like, some preferring drier conditions, some liking having wet “feet.”

How to Harvest Acorns: Wild Foraging Instructions
Video producer Arthur Haines recommends avoiding collecting acorns with holes, caps still on (shows they are immature), and those with black streaks, which can show that fungus is present. Video producer Green Deane recommends avoiding eating green acorns, and waiting until they ripen (turn brown in color) before eating them.

Brown and yellow colored acorns are still in the oak tree, and have green caps attached. There are many green oak leaves and branches in the background.
Acorns that have fallen down to the ground with the caps still on shows that there is something wrong with them. The yellow acorns aren’t ripened yet. They will turn brown in time.

Tannins/ Tannic acid in Acorn Nuts:
Before being eaten, acorns need to be soaked in several changes of either hot or cold water to neutralize two things: 1) phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that becomes a phytate, binding to our vitamins and minerals and washing them out of the body, as well as 2) the bitter taste of tannins in the nuts. In the videos, people soaked (or leached) the acorns either whole in the shell or after grinding during their processing to remove the tannins. (Just FYI, phytic acid is found in all seeds and nuts, including our grains. We’ve just forgotten how to neutralize them through soaking, sprouting and sourdough processes. See cite 5 below to read more about this.)

According to Green Deane in his YouTube video channel “Eat the Weeds”, the larger the cap size to nut generally shows that they have more tannic acid. He collected or foraged acorns from a neighborhood Live Oak, explaining that hardly any leeching was needed as they were just not as bitter as other species. (I’m not sure where he filmed his video, but I know that Live Oaks grow in southern California with dark glossy leaves and great outstretched arms. They look cool and sinister in dusk light.)

How to Process Acorns to Eat as Food, According to Arthur Deane:
The most elaborate and traditional method was in the video by Arthur Deane, who used traditional preparation methods used by Native Americans with cold water leeching. Dried acorns store a very long time in the shell: two to three years! Important Tip: He said that acorns are much easier to shell after they’ve been dried, as the inner nut shrinks in a bit, and loosens from the outer shell. In fact, I saw another Youtube video (not cited), and the creator was trying to shell green acorns. It was a slow process with a lot of grousing.

Remove non-food bits from your acorn bag. Rinse them. Dry acorns in 1 layer in the sun for two weeks, bringing the acorns inside each night to avoid dew fall and on rainy days. (These instructions are for black oak acorns; white oak acorns take 2-3 times longer.)

If you’re going to store the acorns in the shell at this point, it’s recommended to store them in a cold dry place, as the high fat content can make them rancid.The video producer brawny03 said that you should eat them immediately if they start to germinate. However, she said that long sprouts (3/4″) were not good to eat.3

How to Shell Acorns for Food Eating:
Shell them like this: hold the acorn’s pointy end down into a wood board. Pound the blunt back end with a rock and the shell should break apart. Other people showed pliers or nut crackers in their videos, or hit them with a hammer on their side. Don’t worry about removing the red paper on the nut. Grind the acorns to a fine meal or flour size. Mr. Deane used a corn mill (grinder) that he ran the acorns through twice.1

How to Leach Tannins from Acorn Meal:
Then Mr. Deane put the meal into a large bowl (much larger than the meal), and added water to the rim. The meal sank to the bottom. Change the top water once or twice daily for 5 days to prevent spoilage. The acorn meal is done leaching when it stops tasting bitter or astringent (dry & tightening taste on the tongue). (Acceptable bowl materials include glass, porcelain and stainless steel.)1

Acorn Meal Preparation: Draining After Leaching
Pour off the top water only into a drain, well above the sunken acorn meal on the bottom. Strain the rest of the acorn meal through a cloth-lined strainer, into a bowl. Gather the cloth and squeeze the water out well. Use the prepared acorn meal immediately, or dry it to use later. Brief recipes are below.

Acorn Meal Drying Process: Spread 1/4″ layer onto a flat baking sheet in the sun for a few days, or use a dehydrator for several days.1 (I am wondering how we can avoid having squirrels eat them at this point.) Avoid high temps until the cooking time. A different video producer said that if you introduce heat before the actual cooking time that the meal would lose its ability to stick together. I do know that if you heat soaked nuts over 150 degree Fahrenheit, that their enzymes are destroyed.4

Craft idea using acorns in a jar
Craft idea using acorns

Acorn Drying, Shelling and Leaching According to ACampfireProduction:
The video by ACampfireProduction dried the acorns in the sun for 5 days. To shell them, he cut off the top and bottom ends crosswise while holding them sideways on a cutting board. Then he cut down into the acorn lengthwise and removed the shell. He put them into boiling water, and changed the top water for new water about 5 times or more. He didn’t really say how long he boiled them like that. From other videos, I learned that they are done boiling when they’ve lost the bitter tannin taste. This might come out as an “astringent” taste, drying to the tongue similar to black tea.

How to Dry Acorns:
Then this video host dried them in a small, dry pot. There was no duration given. (Alton Brown videos used to make fun of chefs who wrote, “Cook until done.” When was that?} The video producer then pounded the acorns into a flour using a wooden post and wooden metate. He made the acorn meal into a pancake, using these rough ingredients (no measures given): acorn meal, white flour, egg, milk, small amount honey. He fried the acorn meal pancakes for ten minutes in fat, presumably turning the pancake halfway through.  He said it held together OK until the end. (This makes me wonder if the sickness factor goes away with overcooking, like it does for arrowroot powder.) The taste was sweeter than he would have thought, because he only used a bit of honey.

Leach Tannins from Acorns in Cold or Hot Water:
Green Deane from recommended leaching the acorns or acorn meal in your choice of either only cold water or only hot water. Mixing the two methods would make the meal bind to the tannins, and leave in the bitter taste, so avoid this! He wanted us to avoid cooling them in the middle of the heating process, for instance. Heating them probably makes the acorn meal lose its binding/stickiness factor. And different people leached the tannins from the acorns either when whole or after grinding.

Green Deane leeched his acorns whole, then dried them, shelled them, ground in the food processor, added water, and then strained the meal through a cloth and sieve into a bowl. He made the acorn meal into an Acorn Bannock, but didn’t give an actual recipe. (Bannock bread is an Irish baking soda-risen bread, with no yeast for the riser. It’s a “quick-bread.”) It looked like flour, baking soda, acorn meal, and water from the time in the food processor. He fried it in oil on both sides to make a flat bread. (Maybe you could get a bannock bread recipe and replace some flour with the acorn. It sounds like acorn has binding qualities, like its more flour-like in recipes. Nuts can only be used to replace a small amount in a recipe, because they don’t act the same as wheat gluten and other binders.)

Green Deane said that if you’re boiling the acorns, the fat will separate and rise to the top. It can then be taken off.

Next – Trying to Prepare Acorns Myself:
OK, the next step is trying this process myself. Wish me luck! If you want to join me, write in the comments section. I’ll write again to update you on what I discover from doing it hands-on.

If you enjoyed this recipe, please share it with your friends, using the social media buttons below.

Did you try it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks! Happy Cooking!

Video Bibliography:

  1. Video by Arthur Haines – From Tree to Table: Gathering and Using, a New England food forager
  2. Video by Green Deane, EattheWeeds YouTube channel, and website #50 – Acorns
  3. Video by brawny03 in Acorns as Survival Food
  4. Video by ACampfireProduction: Acorns – How to Prepare and Cook
  5. Book <a target=”_blank” href=”″>Nourishing Traditions</a><img src=”//″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” /> by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig


This post contains a few affiliate links, which did not affect the content or information listed here. Diana Sproul of Transform Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This small affiliate payment helps me support this health education work, which a lot of information is offered for free to the public.

In the beginning of 2010, I made a radical decision: I voluntarily chose to give up all grains, all sugar except honey, and most beans for a long-term period to help fix digestive problems. I chose to follow the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet by Dr. McBride (found in a book by the same name).

Why would I go on this diet, you ask? Because I had major digestive issues, and I knew that they were related to issues with fatigue, digestive pain, bloating, intense anger, and brain fog. I had seen three Western doctors over seven years, and no one talked about gut issues like absorption, healthy gut flora, and testing for pathogenic bacteria. One told me it was just stress, which may have played a large part, but was not helpful.

One tested me for celiac, which was negative. (But the Western celiac test only tests for three out of fifty possible markers. And there is a condition called gluten intolerance, which isn’t celiac, but means a person still cannot digest gluten.)

Worst, one doctor (whom I like still) put me on Prevacid, an acid-blocker. The problem is that people with burning stomach may have many different things, including LOW stomach acid (not high!). If you have a lack, acid blockers make it less, and the person stops breaking down foods, and then the neutralizing base doesn’t get released later on. The person stops absorbing vitamins from their foods, which they need to function.

If a person has pain from bacterial overgrowth like H. pylori or other bacteria living in the stomach’s exit (instead of in the small and mainly large intestine where they belong), acid blockers can actually make it easier for bacteria to flourish in the stomach, where they never belong. If they weren’t there before, they can move in! Yikes! And their main goal is to further lower stomach acid to make it easier for them to live. Unfortunately, this  makes it harder for the person to digest their food.

And the last kicker: using acid blockers can lead to gluten sensitivity, I found out, which is where I am now. (croissant…I’m still dreaming of you!) Gluten sensitivity is not celiac (with physical ripping up of one’s villi (small hairs) in the intestine, but you still can’t digest gluten found in wheat, rye and cross-contaminated oats. Corn and sesame can react like wheat in the body, too. And then there is the possibility of grain cross-contamination between wheat and gluten-free flours. So fun!

But Back to the Special Diet to Stop Stomach Issues:
The diet plan is called GAPS, short for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It was adapted from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet plan by Dr. Hass, and publicized in Elaine Gottschall’s book Breaking the Vicious Cycle. The plan to starve out bad bacteria while nourishing the body. It avoids foods with double sugars (called disaccharides) that can feed colon bacteria. The GAPS diet emphasizes stages, meat and bone broths, yogurt and fermented foods– basically the addition of “good guys” to rebalance the gut. Other advantages are that this plan helps get you off potential allergens up front, like wheat and dairy, and they are slowly introduced. The introduction lets you see a food reaction.

If I Were Queen:
For all this good, however, I feel like I would make my own changes and additions to the GAPS Diet. At the beginning of the diet, the goal is to maximize absorption: this means eating soups with simmered meats and soft-cooked vegetables. This can be very helpful for anyone with digestive issues.

This does help people with impaired gut absorb their food, however, all cooked vegetables and fruits lack vitamin C. The GAPS diet does encourage vitamin C from sauerkraut. I feel like there should be more emphasis on eating light vegetables like young arugula and mixed greens, as well as easy to digest fruits like blueberries and cherries. And maybe taking a buffered supplement.

The GAPS Diet does not eliminate many common food allergens up front. I think this would be helpful in reaching overall health faster. For this reason, I think the auto-immune Paleo diet may be more helpful. These include:

  • Eggs: Egg yolks are a super great source of many B vitamins. However, eggs can cause issues due to the presence of enzyme inhibiters. In short, they can stop you from digesting them.
  • Nightshades that are allowed: Tomatoes, eggplant, mild peppers like orange and green, hot chilies.
  • Fibrous foods are allowed: It took me a long time to figure out that raw lettuce, cabbage and dried fruits were never going to be my friend. Even after two full, dedicated years on the GAPS diet, I was still only able to eat these three in small amounts, occasionally. Dr. McBride does cry against high fiber diets for digestive illness, and I sure agree!Turns out things that are eaten in hot weather are cold energetically. They tend to be high fiber and harder to digest for those of us who are impaired. And with digestive illness, you are probably already too cold in your insides, where one should have “digestive fire.” Cabbage and dried fruits are both super cold and fibrous.

    Other problem fibrous foods include coconut flour (yikes!), dried figs, nuts/seeds (scratchy) and seedy fruits like raspberry (tend to be moldy), and strawberries (common allergen).

  • Seeds: Sesame seed can react in the body like wheat does. Strange, huh? I kept making Asian pork with salt in place of soy sauce, and lots of sesame oil.
  • Butter: Butter still includes dairy, sometimes even the milk protein, not just the fat. Although I ate a ton of it on the diet, I had brain issues with my own yogurt. Using other animal fats in place of butter benefitted me.

Avoid all Disaccharides on GAPS Diet:

Burdock root (Arctium lappa) is not allowed due to it’s double sugars called disaccharides, which can feed bad bacteria, according to Dr. McBride. However, Burdock root only promotes good bacteria, and helps kill off bad bacteria, I learned in school for nutrition and herbal studies.  We should be using it! It’s part of a trio of root herbs used historically for colon issues. (Sick people – have you noticed that you are mostly too cold?)

Two other herbs have been very helpful to a sore digestive tract: marshmallow root and slippery elm. These two both have disaccharides in them, too, so they are technically not allowed on the GAPS diet. However, they have been my best friend after painful bouts of indiscretions (sadly, from lettuce). Marshmallow root has mild wound healing properties, and is moistening to the digestive tract.

Marshmallow root can be simmered on the stove for 40 minutes, then strained and the liquid only is drunk. It can also be prepared in cold water for 8 hours to overnight on the counter (called a cold-infusion). Refrigerate and use within 2 days.

Slippery elm (finely ground) is also very moistening and soothing to the digestive tract, as well as the lungs. A small amount (1/4 tsp) of slippery elm can be added to applesauce, and eaten. Even though it is finely ground bark, it doesn’t bother me. However, I don’t have Crohn’s disease. You could also add it to your tea after brewing, because it will clog up a French press pot like no one’s business, and won’t travel well through tea bags, either.

**One caution with marshmallow root and slippery elm is that you need to avoid taking them within thirty minutes before or after medications, as they can impair medications’ absorption.

I hope to write another post about herbal medicine on the GAPS diet, so please look for it.

So there you have it – I hope this will help you on your journey– If you would like my help, please Contact me on the top of this page. Thanks, and I wish you better health!

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