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Healing Castor Oil Packs

Healing Castor Oil Packs

By Jill Edwards, ND, LM

Castor oil is absorbed through the skin and is an essential part of removing toxins and regulating inflammation. This treatment can improve the function of your liver and gallbladder, promotes digestion by improving gut motility, all while helping with relaxation and stress management.  As with any new treatment, please check with your doctor to make sure this treatment is appropriate for you.  Castor oil packs should be done for at least 20-40 minutes, four to seven times a week.


  • Pour castor oil onto flannel until it is well moistened but not dripping.
  • Place the flannel over your entire abdomen.
  • Cover with plastic wrap to prevent staining of clothes or bedding. Castor oil does not easily wash out.
  • Apply a hot water bottle or warmed flax seed bag over the treatment area.
  • Apply for 20-40 minutes. A good time to do this treatment is in bed at night accompanied with a healing visualization and deep breathing exercises. Whatever your preference, find a way to work it into your daily routine.
  • Store the flannel pack and plastic wrap in a glass container or Ziploc bag at room temperature. When the flannel begins to feel dry, apply more oil. This flannel and oil may be used for a few months. When the oil smells rancid or off, the pack should be replaced.
  • To remove castor oil, wash skin or towel in a solution of 3 tablespoons baking soda/quart of water.

Alternatives to the Castor Oil Pack

The method above is the most effective method for getting the most out of your castor oil experience. However, there are alternatives if this method is not working into your routine. The most important thing is to have castor oil on your skin regularly.

Rub a small amount of castor oil directly on to your abdomen, then take a hot bath or go to bed and allow the castor oil to soak in overnight. You will want to wear an old t-shirt to bed if you use this method as castor oil does stain. You can still cuddle up with a hot water bottle as you fall asleep to improve the action of the castor oil.

Spring Renewal

Spring Renewal

Spring is a time for renewal.  We see it all around us in the form of new life.  Flowers, babies, and sunshine are all around us.  This is a perfect time to put winter away, establish healthy habits, and focus on detoxification.

You will see plenty of spring cleanses, detox programs, and weight loss plans being advertised and started during this time of the year.  With the energy the sun brings; people are much more ready for change than they were at New Years.

There are plenty of things that can be done without making any major purchases or subsiding on juice alone.  Here are a few everyday things you can do to stimulate your built-in detoxification pathways.

  • Breathe.  Yes, this one is simple enough.  When we focus on taking deep controlled breaths, we exhale many toxins.  Carbon Dioxide is just one of them.  This will also help relieve stress.  One breathing exercise you can try is counted breathing.  Inhale slowly and deeply to a count of six being sure that your abdomen is moving more than your shoulders.  Hold this breath for a count of six, and then exhale for a count of six.  Repeat for 10 breaths and do this through the day.  Over time, you can slowly increase to a count of 12.  You can also try to make your exhale longer than your inhale.  This is a great activity for stoplights.
  • Drink water.  If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.  This is how your body works.  Many people focus on drinking half their body weight in ounces, for instance a 150 pound person would drink 75 ounces of water daily.  This is not exact; you may need more or less water based on your activity level and what you are eating.  The key is to have water available and to drink it through the day.  An hour should not go by without a drink of water.  You will notice an increase in urination as your body adjusts to your new level of hydration – plan accordingly.  You want your urine to be pale yellow or clear in color – except for your first morning trip to the bathroom which will be more concentrated.
  • Move your bowels.  Optimally, we will have 2-3 bowel movements per day.  If you feel that you need to increase your number, proper hydration, exercise, and increasing your fiber intake are great ways to do this.  Seeds are a fantastic source of fiber either chia seeds or fresh ground flax seeds are a favorite way to get this in.  Dr. Currey aims for 1-2 Tbsp daily.  Fruits and vegetables are another great source of fiber.  Always be sure to drink plenty of water with your fiber, otherwise it can cause constipation as it bulks up your stool.
  • Move your body.  Every day, get out and do something you enjoy that gets your heart pumping.  20 – 30 minutes per day is a fantastic goal.  If you hate the thought of exercise, don’t call it that.  You can dance, go for a walk, chase your kids, swim, hike, garden, clean out your garage, wash your car, or any other activity that you will enjoy or will make you feel accomplished.
  • Laugh.  Stress is another area where we need to detox.  Get the stress out by laughing.  Better yet combine your movement and laughing by playing every day in whatever form that works for you.  Playing and fun aren’t just for kids, but involving them can be helpful.

If you want to boost your spring detox, make an appointment with one of our doctors to discuss other treatment options.

Happy spring!


Spring, Dean Ward, March 24, 2009, Creative Commons Attribution CC by 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/69TW7d

April Recipe of the Month – Homemade Coconut Yogurt

April Recipe of the Month – Homemade Coconut Yogurt

Written by Danielle Currey, ND

Living in a dairy free household, there are some things that I miss, one of them being yogurt.  Buying coconut yogurt can get pretty spendy, so I decided to give homemade a try.

The results are a bit more of a kefir consistency, but this can be resolved through adding a thickening agent or by straining the yogurt through a tea towel or layered cheese cloth.


  • Slow cooker or Oven with a light
  • 1 quart glass jar with lid
  • thick kitchen towel


  • 2 cans coconut milk (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp or 2 capsules probiotic of your choice or 1/4 cup coconut yogurt (I used HMF powder and it worked nicely)
  • optional – thickening agent eg 2 tbsp tapioca starch, 1 tsp xantham gum, 2 tbsp ground flax seeds or chia seeds


  1. Mix coconut milk and probiotics or yogurt.
  2. If you will be adding a thickening agent, do so now

Slow cooker directions:

  1. Add mixture to your slow cooker and set on low.  Allow yogurt to warm on counter and ferment for 6-8 hours.
  2. Pour into 2 quart jar, close, and allow to cool and thicken in the refrigerator overnight (8-10 hours)

Oven directions:

  1. Heat mixture on stove until steaming (but not simmering/boiling – this will kill your culture).
  2. Pour into a 2 quart jar, close, wrap in a thick dish towel and place in oven with light on for 6-8 hours.
  3. Move jar into refrigerator and allow to cool and thicken overnight (8-10 hours)

At this point, you can enjoy your creation or you can strain it to thicken the consistency.  To do this pour mixture into a tea towel or several layers of cheesecloth suspended over a bowl and allow to drain for 2-3 hours in a refrigerator.

Mix in suggestions:

  • fruit
  • honey
  • nuts
  • granola

Or use in your favorite smoothy recipe.


What is a Food Allergy, and How do I Test for One?

What is a Food Allergy, and How do I Test for One?

Written by Dr. Currey

Food allergies are a pretty hot topic both in the naturopathic world and in conventional medicine, and if you are familiar with the subject, you know that there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the term allergy.

To help you understand the different types of food allergy and sensitivity testing, first we need to talk about the different types of immune responses that can occur in the body and which ones can be measured through a laboratory test.


When we are talking about allergies, we are usually talking about the type of reaction where you break out in a rash or hives, your airways may start to close up, and if not treated promptly, you could die.  These are very serious, and it’s hard to not know about them if you have one.

A perfect example of a food allergy is the child who cannot be around peanuts and needs to carry an epi-pen.  These reactions are life threatening and not to be taken lightly.  The portion of the immune system responsible for this type of reaction is an antibody called IgE.  The levels of IgE can be measured in blood, and if you were a child with allergies, you may remember skin scratch tests and allergy shots as diagnosis and treatment for these reactions.  This is the type of immune reaction most commonly tested for in allergy clinics and by medical doctors.


There are other immune reactions besides the life-threatening IgE reaction.  Some of these can be measured through laboratory testing, and others can only be recognized through use of an elimination diet.

IgA – this antibody is mainly found in the digestive, urinary, and respiratory tracts.  It can be tested for in salivary, stool, and blood samples.  It is a first line antibody akin to the body’s bouncer as it is found in the body’s entryways.  This antibody can easily be depleted by chronic immune reactions leading to false negative lab results, so a total IgA level should always be used side by side with any specific IgA test.  This test is commonly done in the diagnostic workup of celiac disease – an intolerance to the protein gluten that is found in wheat and several other grains.

IgG – this antibody is responsible for delayed sensitivity reactions.  In this type of reaction, the immune response may not occur until several days after eating an offending food making the culprit harder to identify especially if it is a food one eats everyday.  In this case, a person might not be aware that they have a food intolerance/sensitivity and they might feel “normal”.  It isn’t until the responsible food has been identified and removed from the diet that a person realizes the full affect it had on them.

Non-measurable responses – The immune system is very complex and it’s reactions are driven by many, many different chemicals and blood cells named by mashes of numbers and letters.  At this point, no test has been developed that can test all aspects of the immune system.  Because of this, the only completely accurate and all encompassing test for reactions to food is an elimination diet followed by slow reintroduction of foods and careful analysis of symptoms.  This approach when done well can take over 6 months.  If someone really wants to get to the bottom of their symptoms and is ready to fully embark on an elimination diet, I applaud them and have many resources to help them on their path.

A key point of confusion: if you want to go on an elimination diet, you need to remove the food you are testing for 100%, we are trying to turn off the ongoing immune reaction and any exposure to that food will trigger that response if it it your offending food.  Cutting down on gluten is not an elimination diet.

Available tests:

In our office, when a person wants to investigate the possibility of food reactions and is not ready for an elimination diet, we have several options for testing IgA, IgE, and IgG responses.  We do not do skin scratch testing but will refer out to an allergy clinic for that procedure when indicated.   We can, however, send samples of blood, saliva, and stool out for testing through several different labs.  Currently, our favored laboratory for IgG and IgA testing in our office is USBioTek.  We encourage you to feel free to explore their different testing options through their website or schedule an appointment to go over them with us.  As always we are happy to help guide you through this process.

A final note and an analogy:

When I think of food allergy/intolerance/sensitivity, I picture a burning house full full of smoke.

In this analogy, your body is the burning house and the smoke is the array of symptoms you are experiencing.  When you seek medical care, you want to feel better and be healthier – you want to rebuild your house.  The problem is, if you start the rebuilding process (herbs, supplements, diet, etc) without putting out the fire, your efforts will only bring temporary relief.

The first priority must be to put out the fire, clear out the smoke, and fix any repairable damage that has occurred.

Many people comment that they never had a problem with a specific food until they tried to remove it from their diet. Some think that the removal triggered a reaction.  What has really happened is the “smoke” has been cleared out and your old “normal” doesn’t feel so normal anymore.  Living without the symptoms you have become accustom to makes them much more apparent when they resurface.

I hope this has been a helpful review and cleared up some of the more common misconceptions surrounding food allergies and intolerances/sensitivities.


  • House fire by dvs cc by 2.0, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvs/3541139652/meta/
  • Us BioTek Laboratories, https://www.usbiotek.com/index.html
  • Vasquez, A. DC, ND, Integrative Rheumatology – Concepts, Perspecitves, Algorithms, and Protocols, OptimalHealthResearch.com 2007 Second Edition

A Special Message to Patients of Naturopathic Doctors

  • Does your insurance plan not cover NDs?
  • Does it have an annual cap of $1,000, $1,500 or some other amount on services of all “alternative care providers?”
  • Do labs ordered by your ND apply to your annual cap?
  • Did you have to purchase more expensive insurance in order to get better coverage of your ND?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, your insurance plan may be operating illegally, and we need your help to bring them into compliance with the law!


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a provision called “Section 2706 – Provider Non-Discrimination.” Insurance plans issued on or after January 1, 2014 are now prohibited from discriminating against providers like naturopathic physicians (and acupuncurists, chiropractors, etc) in either coverage in your plan benefits, or participation as an “in-network” provider.


If you are seeing your ND for a service or condition that your insurer would ordinarily cover if you were to see an MD or other provider, than your insurer must by law also now cover your ND – at a minimum as an out-of-network provider. This applies to ALL PLANS except for medicare.


What You Can Do TODAY to Help Bring Insurers Into Compliance!


Oregon’s Insurance Commissioner has requested that we file formal complaints any time a patient or doctor identifies a plan or insurer that seems to be discriminating against naturopathic doctors.


  1. File complaints at www.cbs.state.or.us/ins/consumer/tomake.html or call 1-888-877-4894 and select the Life & Health option
    1. Detail how your plan covers (or doesn’t) your naturopathic doctor with different limitations, restrictions, or caps than other doctors
    2. State that Section 2706 of the ACA prohibits this kind of provider discrimination
    3. Ask the Commissioner to ENFORCE THE LAW


Examples of discrimination might be (select any of the following or write in your own):

  • Not covering ND services at all, even as an out-of-network provider.
  • Applying a $1,000 or other annual cap for services that are identical to those of other providers not subject to this cap.
  • Applying labs and diagnostic imaging against a different “alternative care” cap instead of applying it to the plan’s normal deductible.
  • Refusing to pay for a pharmaceutical, lab, or diagnostic imaging where it would be covered when done by another provider.
  • Not covering mandated routine preventive screenings like mammograms, etc.
  • ND is in-network with insurer but some plans offered by insurer deny coverage of services by ND (i.e., you can see an ND in the Silver plan, but not the Bronze plan).
  • Reimbursement rates for same quality and performance of services done by an ND are substantially different for ND than for other providers.


  1. Go to http://www.CoverMyND.org to send a message to the Governor to ENFORCE THE LAW
Community Involvement

Community Involvement

Much of the talk in our office is about physical wellness, but since we treat the whole person, this post is going to focus on another area of wellness –community involvement.

A sense of connection with one’s community has many positive effects on one’s mental and emotional health:

  • You become a part of something bigger than yourself
  • You have a feeling of belonging
  • You have a feeling of purpose
  • You become involved in helping create health in your environment
  • You establish new friendships
  • You encounter new ideas
  • And many many more

VFM recently reached out to the community by attending a screening of the movie Numen that was hosted by Mountain Mel’s at the Sandy Public Library.  The focus of the film as well as the movie was on community involvement and herbal medicine.  It is a lovely film and comes highly recommended for those who would like to learn more about the subject of herbal medicine and its worldwide importance.  Mountain Mel’s is focused on bringing herbal and holistic medicine into the eastern county community specifically in the Welches area; be sure to contact them with any interest or ideas you may have.

The doctors of VFM also engage in many ongoing community activities, from teaching at all levels to directing plays and to being involved in our local schools and organizations we are always on the lookout for ways we can contribute to the community.  Let us know how you are involved in the community, and let us know how VFM can show our support.

January Recipe – Zucchini Lasagna

January Recipe – Zucchini Lasagna

Lasagna is a wonderful comfort food in the winter.  It is hot, it is tasty, and you can prepare it ahead of time and pop it into the oven when you get home from work.  The trouble arises when you have gluten and dairy issues.  Then lasagna seems to be a distant dream that you will never taste again.  Hold that thought, Dr. Currey lives in a gluten and dairy free household, and guess what she had for dinner last night: 

Zucchini Lasagna Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized zucchini squash sliced into about 1/4 inch strips
  • 1 lb non-GMO organic firm tofu
  • 1 lb ground sausage (we use Italian turkey sausage)
  • 4 cups tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp dried italian herbs
  • 1/2 onion – chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • Optional – 1 package goat cheese (our family can handle occasional goat milk)


  1. Saute onions and garlic, add in sausage and brown.
  2. Stir tomato sauce in with onion/sausage mixture and set aside
  3. In a large bowel crumble the tofu and mix in the 2 eggs and the Italian herbs.  Using your hands is easiest.  Set aside.
  4. In a large ungreased 13 x 9 oven safe pan, layer your ingredients starting with a thin layer of your meat mixture.  Follow this with a layer of zucchini slices and spinach – then 1/2 the tofu mixture – 1/2 of the remaining meat mixture – zucchini and spinach again.  Repeat ending with the zucchini slices.
  5. Optional – top with crumbled goat cheese.
  6. If you are eating this tonight, cover the pan with foil and pop into a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes.  After the 60 minutes remove the foil and broil until cheese is brown (about 2-3 minutes).
  7. If you are making this ahead, cover with foil and pop into the refrigerator.  On the day you want to cook it, let it come to room temperature before baking, or just add another 15 minutes to the bake time.

This recipe can be adjusted for most dietary needs and can easily accommodate more vegetables.  Please leave your variations in the comments section below and let us know how you enjoyed the recipe. (or didn’t)

image credits:Courgettes by adactio, cc by 2.0 attribution 

Cold and Flu Prevention

sick baby

Prevention really is the best medicine, and a good offense is the best defense.  Below are some tips collected by Dr. Zieman that may help you boost your immunity this cold and flu season.  Remember, that these tips do not replace the advice of a doctor, and do schedule a visit if you are feeling under the weather or are looking for more personalized prevention tips.

Vitamins and Supplements

  • Vitamin C: 500-1000 mg/day
  • Vitamin D: 2000-5000 IU/day
    • Protective in both autoimmune disease and preventing infections
    • Ear and digestive infections in children have been associated with Vitamin D deficiency
    • Statistically, most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D especially in the northern latitudes (i.e. Oregon)
  • Calcium/Magnesium: 500-1200 mg/day either from food sources or combined with supplementation
  • Probiotics: beneficial bacteria that grow in your digestive tract, your mucous membranes, and on your skin.  They have repeatedly been shown to support and modulate immune function.
  • Adequate Zinc:
    • Deficiency suppresses the immune system
    • Found in foods such as oysters, grass-fed meats, nuts, and seeds.

Botanical Medicines

  • Garlic: reduces severity, duration, and incidence of colds and flu
  • Echinacea: increases white blood cells


  • Adequate sleep
  • Adequate water
  • Adequate fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Adequate Protein: amino acids are required to make your immune cells and antibodies along with cytokines
  • Minimal sugar: it suppress the immune system
  • Exercise: moderate exercise improves immune function
  • Fun!: it boosts white blood cells (your disease fighting cells) significantly


poor sick baby, mazaletel licensed by cc by 2.0


December Recipe

German Chocolate Chia Pudding

This recipe is free: gluten free, dairy free, grain free, and hassle free.

chia seeds

Chia seeds are the star of the show.  Two tablespoons of this food of the ancient Aztec people packs in 5 grams of omega 3 fatty acids and 11 grams of fiber.  They also contain essential minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.


  • ¼ cup chia seeds – dry
  • 16 oz coconut milk
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup mini dark chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup raw almond slivers
  • Stevia or raw honey to taste

coconut milkDirections:

Stir all ingredients together in a container with a tight sealing lid.  Be sure to mix well.  Allow to sit in your refrigerator for 2-4 hours or overnight.  As the mixture sits, the chia seeds will absorb water from the coconut milk forming a gel that will thicken the mixture.

Serves 4

Chia Seeds by Stacey Spensley is licensed under cc by 2.0

Benefits of Coconut Milk by John Revo Puno is licensed under cc by ND 3.0


The Therapeutic Order

Many people believe that naturopathic medicine is about what treatments it uses.  While the contents of the naturopathic toolbox are very important, those tools do not define the profession.  You can read more about the tenets of naturopathic medicine here.  As a reminder, they include the following six key concepts:

  • First – do no harm
  • The healing power of nature – the body’s innate ability to heal itself
  • Identify and treat the cause of disease
  • Treat the whole person
  • Prevention first
  • The doctor as teacher

There is another key foundational philosophy in naturopathic medicine which will be the topic of this month’s blog post – the therapeutic order.


The therapeutic order is used to determine which treatments are needed for each patient in their given condition.  The order is usually depicted as a pyramid as shown with treatments ranging from creating a solid foundation of nutrition and lifestyle habits all the way to heroic measures such as surgery and chemotherapy.

When considering the therapeutic order one can see that naturopathic doctors have many, many different ways of addressing their patients as well as their conditions.  In fact, within each level of the pyramid, there are multiple different options of treatment and focus allowing us to tailor treatment to the individual.  It can also be seen that without a strong foundation (nutrition and lifestyle efforts) in place, there will be a continued need for more complex and invasive treatments.

Finally, it should be mentioned that multiple levels of the pyramid can be addressed simultaneously.  For instance, in the case of hypertension, once the cause of the disregulation of blood pressure has been identified, a patient may be on an antihypertensive medication (level 6), be on an herbal combination aimed to strengthen the cardiovascular system (level 3), and be starting a new exercise regimen (level 1).  Another patient may be more apt to focus on diet and avoidance of pharmaceuticals and focus on the removal of foods that they react to (level 1) while taking an herbal antihypertensive formula (level 5).  Both approaches have their merits and areas to be cautious about.  The treatment plan that will work the best is the one that works for the patient while addressing the underlying causes of disease.

Naturopathic medicine is more than its tools it is a whole system of medicine with a very solid philosophical foundation to guide the use of its varied tools and practitioners.

What topics are you interested in learning about?  Send us your questions:  info@vibrantfamilymedicine.com or www.facebook.com/VibrantFamily