Drinking Your Christmas Tree: How to Repurpose Your Tree After Christmas

Save Your Tree From the Bin !

Growing up, we've always had a fake Christmas tree in the house. Sure it didn't smell like the real thing, but it always brought with it the warm feelings of Christmas. The excitement of decorating it with all of the little crafty ornaments I made from school, mixed with mini brass horns, drums, and christmasy characters all dangling on string. 

I never subscribed to the tradition of going to buy a chopped down tree and decorating it for Christmas, only to have it thrown on the side of the curb destined for the dump. It made me sad that a tree with potential to live decades is chopped down in its prime for a short period of our enjoyment, then wastefully thrown away. To quote Marla Singer from Fight Club analogizing a vintage dress :

"It's a bridesmaid's dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day, and then tossed it. Like a Christmas tree. So special. Then, bam, it's on the side of the road. Tinsel still clinging to it."

This year my partner and I wanted to get a real tree. We looked at options of living trees, the ones that you can water and then replant at the end of the holidays, but they were out of our budget.  We decided on a small real tree and  instead of throwing it away we would use it for all that it can offer. 

How to Harvest Your Christmas Tree 

  1. To begin your tree must be dried aka dead.
  2. Using a large sharp pair of scissors or garden shears, cut off the younger, smaller branches , then cut into smaller pieces and place into a large bowl. 
  3. After you've cut as much as you'd like to harvest, squish down with your hands to begin to release the needles from their branches. 
  4. If you have an oversized pestle and mortar like I do here, you can use the pestle to press down on the needles which will make more room and release a lovely balsam fir aroma.
  5. Grab another large bowl. Working in batches, grab a large handful of branches and rub between your hands over the new bowl, releasing the needles into the bowl. 
  6. Pick out the branches that now have no needles on them and discard, or use for kindling. 
  7. Once you've rubbed all the little branches into the new bowl, with clean hands, start to crush the needles between your hands. 
  8. Transfer into a clean mason jar. It is now ready to be used for tea, crafts, bath soaks etc. 
Sharp scissors to cut the branches

Christmas Tree Tea Recipe

Yield: 2 cups or 32 single servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Balsam Tree Needles (Immunity)
  • 1/4 cup Schisandra berries (Immunity)
  • 1/4 cup Hawthorn berries (heart health) 
  • 1/4 cup Lavender (nervous system relaxant) 
  • 1/4 cup Hibiscus (Heart Health)

Method

  1. Add all herbs and berries into a bowl and mix well with a spoon. 
  2. Transfer to a mason jar. 
  3. Add 1 tbsp to a cup of boiling water. 
  4. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Make sure to cover in order to retain the medicinal volatile oils. 
  5. Strain and enjoy! 

Medicinal Properties of Balsam Fir Tree

Balsam Fir an Evergreen tree variety and the most common tree used for Christmas in North America. Click here to identify your tree. Believe it or not, Balsam Fir is very high in many minerals and vitamins, the ones most needed for cold weather seasons. 

  1. Very High in Vitamin C. By weight, Balsam Fir has 10x as much vitamin C as an orange. Great for boosting immunity when sick.
  2. Expectorant. This is a class of herbs that improves the action of relieving phelgm and excess mucus from the respiratory system,
  3. Antiseptic. It has healing properties and works great as a topical application. 
  4. Immune Support: It has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties great for helping to kick that bacterial cold infection you've been fighting off. 
  5. Anti-Inflammatory: Helps reduce the inflammation often associated with common colds. 
  6. Decongestant: helps to relieve congestion in the sinus tract. 

Other Uses for Christmas Tree Needles

  • Add to epsom salts for a healing bath. 
  • Infuse your soap for ant-micorbial properties
  • Make an Balsam Fir infused oil to produce a cream or salve.
  • Drink tea!

 

 

The Key to Your Anxiety and Depression is in your Backyard: Periwinkle Tincture Recipe 

A growing concern these days is feelings of anxiety and depression. Anxiety seems to always sneak up when it is least wanted, during social events, going out for dinner, even taking a walk. Many people suffer in silence for fear of judgment. But often times you'll find if you open up and tell people about it, you'll see how common anxiety actually is.

One of the oldest treatments in traditional medicine of anxiety is periwinkle tincture. Periwinkle is the covering plant that grows wild in many gardens during the spring. The colour of their flower, a cool bluish purple is famous, yet the leaves are incredibly beneficial for a number of ailments. The leaves are a dark forest green, pointed and slightly rubbery.


Because of its amazingly gentle tranquilizing properties is has the ability to calm during an acute panic or anxiety attack. It can also be used daily as a preventative. This is also a well researched treatment in helping the elderly with memory retention. Because it is a vasodilator, it can increase blood flow to the brain, not only improving memory, but promoting focus and alertness.

Here is how easy it is to make a periwinkle tincture:

Method

  1. Collect the plant: using shears, cut off the whole top of the plant, leaves flowers and all. Collect enough to fill medium sized bowl. Make sure there has been no pesticide use on the plant. 
  2. Next, rinse the plant thoroughly. This can take up to three times, removing twigs and other non-periwinkle parts as you go.
  3. Sort the plants on a sheet pan and thouroughly remove any leftover material that you don't want in your tincture. 
  4. Next, finely chop the plant. The same way you would chop parsley , continually going over the plant with a sharp blade until fine. 
  5. Place the chopped plant into a sterilized mason jar. To sterilize just place in a pot of boiling water for 10min. Make sure to use a new lid. The plant material should fill  just over half of a regular sized mason jar. 
  6. Lastly, fill the jar with regular 40% vodka until just covering the plant.
  7. Place in a cupboard that you use often. Shake the jar every day for 2 weeks.
  8. Place in a cold dark place for 3 months. After this time your tincture will be ready !
  9. Strain and place in a amber coloured glass dropper bottle.
  10. Dose 5-8 drops in water up to 3 times a day.

This tincture will last upwards of 20 years ! 

Be aware of some contraindications of this tincture.

Avoid if:

  • You're pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have liver, lung or kidney disease.
  • Have low blood pressure.
  • Avoid before surgery

Kawasaki Disease: Early Detection Could Save your Child's Life

Kawasaki Strawberry Tongue 
The leading cause of childhood acquired heart disease in North America is KAWASAKI DISEASE. Know the symptoms of this common childhood illness to detect KD early and prevent the chance of heart attack. 

What is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki Disease (KD) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the walls of the arteries throughout the body, known as vasculitis. Most importantly, it can affect the medium-sized coronary arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart. KD is also referred to as 'Mucocutaneous Lymph Node Syndrome' as it also affects the lymphatic system including lymph nodes, skin, mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat (MayoClinic.org).

It is most common in infants and young children under the age of five, usually of Asian decent. KD is considered the leading cause of childhood acquired heart disease in developed countries. Although the cause is unknown and doctors believe it is not contagious, it is hypothesized that a virus or other microbial agent may be the root cause (kdfoundation.org).

The acute stage involves hyperactivity of the immune system. In response to an unknown trigger, immunoregulatory abnormalities can be found as well as an increase in cytokine secretions which target the endothelial cells of the arteries, which produce antigens. Antibodies are produced in reaction to these antigens which target the vascular endothelium resulting in various events that lead to vascular damage (Taulbert, Shulman, 1999).

 

Know the Signs and Symptoms:

KD can be diagnosed based on these principle clinical findings, the main symptom being a long-term fever:

  • Fever that lasts for five days or more (peak 102-104˚F or higher)
  • Red bloodshot eyes (conjunctivitis) , without drainage or crusting
  • Rash, often worse in the groin area
  • Bright red, swollen, cracked lips, "strawberry" tongue, which appears with shiny bright red spots
  • Swollen hands and feet and redness of the palms and soles of the feet
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Organs Affected

Kawasaki is classified by vasculitis, making the cardiovascular system the main target. The heart is the main organ affected as myocarditis occurs in the acute phase of 60% of patients and coronary aneurysms pose the greatest risk. The second major system affected is the lymphatic system, causing swelling in the mucous membranes and lymph nodes. The immune system is affected as one form of diagnosis is marked by increased number of white blood cells. The gastrointestinal tract is affected as diarrhea and abdominal pain are common symptoms. The liver is affected as 40% patients experience mild hepatic dysfunction. The neurological system is affected as 90% cases show extreme irritability (hearing loss, cranial nerve VII palsy and seizures pose a rare risk). Urethritis and enlarged kidneys may be seen. Inflammation of the joints can lead to arthritis in the subacute phase and inflammation of the lungs may also occur (Lang, 2001).

Disease Progression

Acute Phase: Approximately 7-14 days. Mainly the mucocutaneous changes and the lymph system are most evident. Edema and inflammation of hands and feet develop at the end of this stage.

Sub Acute Phase: Week 4-6. Fever has abated and peeling of the skin on hands and feet begin. Coronary aneurysms develop at this stage. Arthritic symptoms of joints and lasting irritability occur.

Long-Term Complications

Coronary artery aneurysms, calcification and stenosis. Atherosclerosis, stroke (due to scaring and thickening of the arteries), aorta root dilation, scarring of the heart and dysrhthmia (Gordon, Kahn, Burns 2009).

2. Causative Factors

a) Contributory Causes: Diet

In the functional medicine community, a leaky gut has been associated with the exasperation of autoimmune disease symptoms. The lining of the small intestines has a selective permeability which is integral in moving pathogens out through excretion and releasing nutrients into the bloodstream. If the lining becomes inflamed and damaged by harmful bacteria or irritating food substances such as gluten, it becomes more permeable. 'Holes' in the gut lining will prematurely leak large food molecules into the bloodstream, causing the immune system to react and attack them as a foreign invaders. If the immune system is up-regulated due to constant attacks, it may begin to identity and attack self tissue as foreign as well (autoimmunity). This is the basis behind the leaky gut and autoimmunity connection. Dr. Terry Wahls has a theory that autoimmune disease can be cured by a very strict diet which is focused on the increased production and regeneration of mitochondria through nutrient dense foods. Her diet removes common allergens such as grains, legumes and dairy to reduce inflammation. It is very high in anti-inflammatory fats from nuts and seeds, fish and liver. It is considered a version of the paleo diet, as nutrient dense organ meats play a big role in providing certain nutrients which regenerate the mitochondria. Lastly, an immensely large amount of anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables are consumed to further reduce damage on cells. (Wahls, 2014)

b) Environmental

A recent theory is held that there may be a strong environmental contributing factor to the development of this disease in susceptible patients. 'The Windborne Theory' was initiated by the discovery of a consistent pattern between seasonal shifts in winds coming from Central Asia and fluctuations in the numbers of KD cases in Japan, Hawaii and San Diego. The wind is thought to carry certain fungus and bacteria which can sustain the temperature and travel time across the ocean, although the specific infectious agent is yet to be identified.

c) Infectious Cause:

Because cases of the disorder tend to cluster geographically and by season, researchers have suggested that an infection may be involved. However, no infectious agent (such as a virus or bacteria) has been identified.

d) Predisposing Cause:

Genetic:

KD was originally discovered in Japan by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki, and today the Japanese see ten times more yearly diagnoses than the US, with 10,000 new cases per year in Japan (Gordon, Kahn, Burns 2009). A recent study analyzing 2,544 Japanese KD patients found that there is a susceptibility gene called ITPKC which has a significantly higher rate in those of Japanese decent, that can be attributed to pathogensis of this disorder (Onouchi, Fukazawa, Yamamura 2016). The ITPKC gene provides instructions for the production of the enzyme inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate 3-kinase C. This enzyme limits the activity of T cells in the immune system. (T cells are attributed to identifying foreign substances which defends the body against infection). Inositol is important because it reduces overproduction of T cells which can lead to excess cytokines (immune proteins) which lead to excess inflammation and subsequent tissue damage. If there is a variant or defect in this enzyme inositol as seen in a variation of the ITPKC gene, there may be an interference with the body's ability to reduce T cell activity, which can lead to inflammation and damage of blood vessels and result in the symptoms of Kawasaki. This is one of many suspected gene variations and causes of KD (US National Library of Medicine).

Hereditary:

There is hereditary link in the prevalence of KD. This familial predisposition can be passed on through family members, and it is considered that children of parents who have had KD are twice as likely at risk of developing the disease. Those with a sibling affected with KD are ten times as likely in developing the disease. (US National Library of Medicine).

Hydration, The Key to Peak Performance

On average, a soccer player can cover 12-16 km within a 90 minute game. With little to no shift changes, soccer players must ensure they're well hydrated before the game starts. This means hydrating not only the day of a game, but also several days before and after to make sure your stores are replenished.

Why is hydration so important?

  1. Water is needed to cool the body down by sweating to prevent heat stroke.

  2. Fancy footwork requires proper hydration. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, diminished focus and slowed muscle reaction time. Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium are essential for muscle movement.

Prevent Injury: fatigued players are more prone to injury. Dehydration and sodium loss can also contribute to cramping.

Drink before thirst. Exercise dulls the thirst mechanism.
  • Hot temperatures contribute to dehydration and potential heat stroke. Increase volume of hydration on hotter days.

Signs of Dehydration:

  • Urine colour is the best indicator of hydration. The clearer the urine, the more hydrated you are. Dark urine is an indicator of dehydration, drink water immediately if this happens. Hypo-hydration (too much water intake) can also occur, use urine colour as an indicator and pace your intake.

  • Skin Turgor, a sign of dehydration: skin with decreased turgor will remain elevated once it is pulled and released. This can be tested on the back of the hand.

Sports Drinks:

• Chocolate milk is a good way to replenish your energy stores and increase fluid intake, although it also comes with a high dose of added sugar. Limit consumption to 8 oz maximum (a small bottle) or make your own to reduce added sugars: blend raw cocoa powder, raw honey, vanilla extract and organic milk.

• Coconut water makes an excellent electrolyte replacement drink due to its potassium content. If a lot of sweat has been lost, add a sprinkle of pink salt for complete electrolyte replacement.

• Sports drinks such as Powerade contain high fructose corn syrup, which is so heavily processed it’s detoxified like a poison by the liver. Not to mention the inflammatory synthetic dyes used. Try this recipe that provides all the correct ratios of quick-absorbing carbs (for energy), electrolytes and hydration:

Homemade Sports Drink Recipe

  • 500ml water (infuse with hibiscus flowers for flavour)

  • 2 tbsp unpasteurized honey

  • ¼ tsp Pink Salt (contains more minerals)

  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Make in a large batch, store in the fridge (up to 4 days) to drink throughout the week. You’ll save money and improve your performance!

Nicole Di Nardo CNP

iNutrition for Football: Hydration Strategies. Zurich: FIFA: Fédération Internationale De Football Association, n.d. A practical guide to eating and drinking for health and performance.

ii"Coaching Association of Canada." Fluids for Athletes. N.p., 2016. Web. 24 Sept. 2016.