Family remedies

 Cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks

Cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks

I grew up with the old fashioned grandmother. Nanny grew her own food, raised chickens out back, wore an apron most of the day, hummed old gospel hymns over collard greens and black eyed peas, made dumplins from scratch, and frogs legs on special occasions. 

Culture is critical to one's foundation. It stays with you long after folks pass on, long after the lessons end. 

Maybe it's that I am the oldest grandchild or perhaps because I was the slowest eater ... whatever the reason, of all the things I learned from Nanny, her love of food is what stuck with me. And as I raised my own children, those family recipes brought comfort, healing and a few new twists. Seeing as it is the cold season, I wanted to share one with you.

This concoction came in handy whenever my family came down with sniffles, sore throat, upset stomachs, fever, or chills. Make large batches to hot drink throughout the day, using local and organic ingredients when possible.

3 cinnamon sticks

3 whole cloves

3 whole Chinese* star anise pods

1 piece fresh ginger root (at least 1")

2-4 quarts water

lemon (optional)

honey (optional)

Bring water to a low boil in stainless or glass pot/kettle.

Add cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and ginger root.

Turn off heat, cover, and steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain.

Serve alone or with a little raw honey and/or lemon.



  • Potential for regulating blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and improving memory
  • Improves circulation, lowers risk of infection, and healing to the sinuses.
  • Increases digestion
  • Excellent source of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, vitamin A, and niacin


  • Warming and soothing
  • Antispasmodic properties help to relieve coughing
  • Useful at relieving indigestion, nausea, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure
  • Great source of manganese, vitamin C, potassium, selenium, calcium, fiber, vitamins A, C, B1, B6 and K

Star Anise (Illicium verum)

*CAUTION: Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) is highly poisonous!*

  • Energy building
  • Immune system strengthener
  • Relieves respiratory pain and cough
  • An important ingredient in Tamiflu
  • Good source of calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamins A and C

Ginger root

  • Settles the stomach
  • Relieves nausea and vomiting
  • Promotes healthy sweating
  • GRAS to use during pregnancy
  • Good source of magnesium, B6, potassium and copper


Eating is always an adventure and I am continually amazed at the volume of lessons one can derive from food.

Over recent months, I’d gotten very good at listening to my body’s voice. People were commenting on how nourishing my food was, how healthy I seemed. And Ah! I had amazing physical energy.

Then Ramadan, a lunar month during which we abstain from all food and drink (as well as sex, gossip, anger, etc) between dawn and sunset hours, arrived bringing much needed spiritual recentering. As always, it is destined to be a life-affirming experience!


For me, the first four days are the most difficult. Not because of hunger, headache, weakness or thirst but due to the emotional energy needed to break free of habits centered around food, like going to the refrigerator out of boredom, random snacking, mindless eating and the annoying habit of leaving the grocery store with more than I ever intended to buy, only to get home and realize that my eyes are indeed bigger than the shrinking ability to stuff myself. We are so addicted to food.

But with consistency, transition doesn't take long.

Ramadan is about so much more than food. The word translates as “a burning off” – of greed, vanity, gluttony, lust, wrath, envy … those all-too-familiar desires. The fast requires daily self-imposed restraint from all that feeds the physical (lower) self, in order to elevate the spiritual (higher) self. When the physical things are removed, we are left with a sharper focus on introspection, reflection, charity, humility, positive productivity, gratefulness, worship, and the development of an environment conducive to inner purification.

It never fails that every year, at the very moment I am pondering this powerful integration, someone asks how I can go without food and especially water, all day long . Often the inquiry ends with them saying, “I just could never do it”. I’ve given this sentiment a lot of thought over the years. Oftentimes I’ve explained how it is not really difficult or how we have way more than we actually need or how I am used to it after so many years.

I am not saying that fasting for 30 days is a walk in the park. But the truth is that we are reminded of the Creator's promise that the fast will be easy. It is then, up to us to foster a mindset which embraces that truth. When the mind shifts, the body follows suit, adapting and solidifying a new consciousness of and appreciation for the the ability to self-regulate and choose how we move through this life.

Separation of food & drugs

It's an absolutely nutty notion that a whole room full of people get together and manage to come up with a bad idea. 

Case in point: have you ever thought about why or how the nation's food and its drugs are administered by the same governmental department? I mean, how did they even get lumped together? Food. Drugs. They don't go together. And yet we're so accustomed to the idea, that it just rolls off of our tongues ... "the Food and Drug Administration". See? ... Bad idea.

As hard as it is to believe, many still do not understand that the food manufacturers, the food police (FDA), and the pharmaceutical companies are working together. Or worse, that 'certain' food crops receive staggering government subsidies to keep them affordable for the unsuspecting and disadvantaged (how else can they afford to put corn, soy and wheat in just about everything?). My friend, Michele (thx Lady!), recently shared a video from The Guardian that breaks it down, links the growing incidence of chronic illness to the evils in our food system, AND offers grassroots, corporate and government solutions.

The bottom line: both Food and Drugs are big business, and profit is more important than people to too many. It's the truth and everyone knows it. It's time to cut the cord and wean our food system off the drugs. In order to offset what's offered in the marketplace, one man, Ron Finley, took on his local city government to start what is now referred to as Guerrilla or Urban Gardening. He is but one of many examples of people reclaiming the land for food. I started with a commitment to being informed and selective about what ends up on my fork from the marketplaces I frequent. 

How will YOU demand the right to eat real, living, wholesome food?

Another word on avocados

Every time I go food shopping I'm tempted to buy avocados to add to salads, accompany beans, make guacamole, or mixed with lime juice and salt atop corn thins. The body loves all the healthy fats and fiber in avocados too. In fact, in people with mildly elevated cholesterol levels, the monounsaturated fats in avocados have been found to lower LDL (bad fats) and raise HDLs (good fats).

Between the versatility and health benefits of avocados, who can buy just one? Certainly not me!

Unfortunately, if you don't eat them fast enough, they go bad. And refrigeration doesn't really help. So, my dilemma became what to do with really ripe avocados. Inadvertently, I found a solution: pudding. Yes, pudding ... made from avocados. 

Of all the recipes I tried, Louisa Shafia's 5-Minute Carob Pudding (get the printed recipe here) has become my favorite for the following reasons:

  • It's vegan - no dairy or eggs
  • It uses carob instead of chocolate (which I can't have)
  • Avocados + Carob = Super Nutrients
  • It requires minimal and natural ingredients
  • It makes two satisfying servings
  • It refrigerates nicely for the next day
  • Clean up is a cinch
  • The resulting texture and flavor are enjoyable
  • And most importantly, it is quick, healthy and delicious!

Here's how mine came out ...

 Image: Avo-Pudding by  Aqiylah Collins . All rights reserved.

Image: Avo-Pudding by Aqiylah Collins. All rights reserved.

Let's face it, when you want dessert, you want it right then, not in 30 minutes, but now! Although Shafia's recipe claims to take 5 minutes, I find that to be true once you have all of the ingredients assembled and measured out. So in reality it's more like 10 minutes, which is still a short time to satisfy a craving for something decadent ... and healthy!

Image: Avocado FruitnFoiliage by Geographer is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic license