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I’m thrilled to announce the launching of my first healthy lifestyle online course, Raising Your Immunity Through Healthy Lifestyle Practices. This holistic health course shows you natural, alternative medicine practices that may help enhance your immunity. There are seven short video lessons that last three-twelve minutes each, and they cover these topics:

  • Fermented Foods – Why Eat Them, How to Make, Recipe Resources
  • Gut Flora and their importance to the immune system
  • Probiotics – How to Use Them, Cautions with Chronic Illness
  • Prebiotic Foods that feed Gut Flora (easy to find at the market)
  • Herbs That Raise Immune Function, with Cautions
  • Foods That Raise Immune Function (some are well-known to you already)
  • Nutrition: Vitamins that help immunity
  • Lifestyle Practices (like pulling all-nighters) that can lower immunity
    (doing the opposite can raise immunity!)

Helping our immune system is important for great health. As an alternative medicine practitioner, I encourage you to stop reacting to/collecting colds and flus, and then treating them with antibiotics. This can lower your immunity for the future, especially when repeated over and over again. Instead, try exploring natural methods to raise our immune system function naturally, before you are exposed to whatever is going around.

Rebuild and strengthen your gut flora with probiotics and fermented foods before cold and flu season! Eat foods that feed your gut flora to help them flourish. Why not?!

Changing simple daily-life things can have an impact on raising immunity. You could eat certain easy-to-find foods, learn about herbal (or plant) medicine, start adding fermented pickles or yogurt cheese to your menu, or examine your menu to see if it has enough vitamins (certain vitamins impact immunity).

You will learn about several easy-to-find herbs that can help raise immune system function. They are often found at local health food stores. There are some cautions when using these, however.

I walk you through an easy slide show, include links to more videos and resources with each section, and have included a video of yours truly that talks about gut flora recovery and rebuilding after using antibiotics. The whole course is a short hour, with each part from three-10 minutes in length. It includes four quizzes at the end. (And you can take them or not – I won’t tell!)

I hope you will like this course, my first one! Read more and sign up now at this link to Raising Your Immunity Through Healthy Lifestyle Practices online video course. Thanks!

Do you have a friend who would completely love this article? How about sharing it with them using the email and social media links on the left side of the screen, and below? And here’s a short link to this article:

You can get articles like these delivered to your in-box when you sign up for my free, monthly email newsletter.

On this Earth Day, you can save money paying extra utility costs, while helping the planet at the same time. It’s a win-win! I’ve put together some resources to help my neighbors, local Fort Collins residents, save green while going green. (Please share with your friends – they like saving cash, too!)

This Energy Star website lists many different appliance, water heater and heating system (including geothermal) rebates that are available. Just put in your zip code, and you’ll be on your way.

And there are more local rebates at the Fort Collins Utilities website that include lighting, solar power rebates, and water bill rebates for dry-plant installation in gardens. The solar rebate is 30% of the total costs with installation!! The low-water planting program (called xeriscaping) can credit your bill 75 cents per square foot of lawn converted to either low-water plants or hardscape (cement, rocks, patio, etc.). There are even audits for sprinkler systems, which apparently are the leading water need at our homes (I thought it was long showers!) I had my system checked last year, and they found a sprinkler head leak. (That explains the lush green patch – oops!)

Want to know how green is your home? You can schedule a home efficiency audit here, at the Fort Collins Utilities website. The website says that this service is normally $400, but only $60 now.

If you enjoyed this article about green home energy efficiency conversions, please share it with your friends, using the social media buttons below. And let me know what you think in the comments below.

Want to sign up for our newsletter? Includes healthy recipes, nutrition and herbalism tips, and more. It’s free, and once a month. Just click here to sign up in 10 seconds.

And check out my online course, Raising Your Immunity Through Herbs, Nutrition and Lifestyle Methods. Here’s a course coupon, too! Thanks!

  • Eat grass-fed meats and wild fish [for high omega 3 which converts to DHA in the brain]
  • Eat seaweed 1 time/week [for iodine]
  • Eat 3 cups of greens per day
  • Eat 3 cups bright colors vegetables and fruits [for antioxidants (fruit is 1x/day)]
  • Eat 3 cups sulfur-rich vegetables per day [cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rutabagas, kale, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, onions, leeks, garlic, shallot, collard greens]
  • Eliminate gluten and dairy, possibly eggs

– From Dr. Terry Wahls, The Wahls Protocol

It will cost more to eat this way. You will pay the price now for food that restores your health and vitality, or you pay later for doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, surgeries, missed work.”

From Dr. Terry Wahls, The Wahls Protocol

Gluten and Casein (milk protein) and leaky gut: “do not get digested properly and turn into substance with similar chemical structures to opiates, such as morphine and heroin.”

– Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. McBride


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.

Want to sign up for our newsletter? Includes healthy recipes, nutrition and herbalism tips, and more. It’s free, and once a month. Just click here to sign up in 10 seconds.

And check out my online course, Raising Your Immunity Through Herbs, Nutrition and Lifestyle Methods. Here’s a course coupon, too! Thanks!


* 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.

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

Want to sign up for our newsletter? Includes healthy recipes, nutrition and herbalism tips, and more. It’s free, and once a month. Just click here to sign up in 10 seconds.

And check out my online course, Raising Your Immunity Through Herbs, Nutrition and Lifestyle Methods. Here’s a course coupon, too! Thanks!


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

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

Black Bean Brownie Recipe – Why Add Black Beans to Dessert Brownie? The beans in the recipe add fiber, which can slow down the absorption of white sugar and white flour in the recipe box. Slower sugar absorption slows the body’s reaction to sugar, which causes the release of insulin. This yo-yo of raised and lowered blood sugar can lead over time to insulin resistance and diabetes. And it is now thought that the body deposits cholesterol in the arteries to protect it from insulin, NOT from the eating of cholesterol.

This recipe came from my friend Mary. It can be made with wheat or made into gluten-free brownies if you use a gluten-free brownie mix.


  • 1 can 15 oz black beans
  • water
  • Brownie Mix (Mary suggests Trader Joe’s gluten free brownie mix- 18-20 oz)
  • 1 egg (optional)


Heat the oven to the temperature listed on the brownie box. Choose the right pan size and type (metal or glass). Grease pan if required, but only halfway up. You actually want the brownies to be able to cling to the sides about halfway up the pan.

Drain and rinse one 15 oz can of black beans. Return drained black beans to can and add new water to cover. Then blend to a puree.

Combine bean puree and one box of brownie mix in a mixing bowl. Add 1 large egg if you would like a softer spongier consistency. Mix well and bake according to box directions.

*Note: You may need to cook the brownies longer than usual, because of the increased water, from the beans. Cook until the edges start to pull away from the sides, and the middle is no longer liquid. You can test them by dipping a toothpick into the brownie, and pulling it out. Normally you want to see no crumbs on the toothpick. In this case, you want to pull them out a little before its all the way done, so it doesn’t end up overdry. The brownie will continue to cook after its removed from the oven.

Cool on a wire rack. Cut from the pan.

Taste The Results~
The resulting brownies tasted just like normal brownies, but with a nice moistness, and earthiness that was satisfying. You won’t get quite the blood sugar spike from eating them, either. The color looked just a little darker than normal chocolate brownies. Enjoy!

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),
  2. a free monthly newsletter (subscribe here),
  3. an online course, “Raising Your Immunity Through Nutrition and Herbalism.” (Free course coupon here)  (read more about)
  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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