Healthy Concepts
Dana Schlies

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

Fall is here and winter is quickly approaching, and with them brings the numerous illnesses that can spread throughout our communities. Several practices can be considered to keep children healthy through these seasons, as well as providing immune support through botanicals and supplements.

As a main line of defense, four key factors play an important role in keeping your child healthy. Simple hand washing should be a priority, with plain soap and water. Avoid using antibacterial hand sanitizer, which can contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria and strip the skin of its beneficial microbes. Provide sufficient rest time for your child through plenty of sleep each night as well as naps, if needed. Switch from a cold, summer diet to emphasize a diet consisting of warming, hearty foods to bolster the body further. And finally, add in a few supplements and botanicals to provide additional nourishment and stability to the body.

There are a few supplements that have been proven to offer great benefit for direct immune support: Vitamins C and D, cod liver oil, probiotics and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. With children spending more time indoors, and our location in a northern climate, our bodies are not always capable of producing the Vitamin D necessary for overall health. The majority of Americans are not consuming adequate amounts of fish to provide the omega-3s necessary for overall health. Cod liver oil contains omega-3s and vitamins A and D. A probiotic and multi-vitamin/mineral supplement round out the vitamins and minerals and bacterial support for our children’s growing needs. With so much of our population deficient in common vitamins and minerals, supplementing with a full spectrum vitamin is reasonable.

Echinacea has been popular for home use for several decades and was prominently used by the eclectic physicians in the 19th century. It has proven to be effective in preventing illness and is safe taken daily, but it is not as effective for treating an illness. A safe and effective dose for echinacea for children 2-5 years old is 7.5 milliliters per day, given in 2 divided doses, once in the morning and once in the evening. The dose for children 6-18 years old is 10 milliliters per day, given in 2 divided doses as well. Umcka or umckaloabo has been demonstrated to reduce the length and severity for upper respiratory infections; dosage is 30 drops, 3 times a day, taken at the first sign of symptoms. Andrographis has also been shown to boost immunity, diminish the frequency and duration of upper respiratory infections; dosage is 50-200 milligrams a day, usually for five days, for use in children. Start at the lower end for small children and work up to 200 milligrams a day for teenagers.

Further, medicinal mushrooms are showing great benefit for immunomodulation. They benefit both under- and over-active immune systems to boost immunity, and reduce the frequency and severity of illness. Reishi, shiitake and cordyceps are excellent choices that have the most evidence and clinical studies for use in children. Other herbs that can also be considered and combined with those listed above are elderberry, astragalus and codonopsis. Astragalus and codonopsis can be given in the form of tea, or made into gummies for another creative way to give herbal remedies to kids. Elderberry syrup and a children’s version of fire cider can be used frequently during the winter months. There is an abundant number of herbs that can be used to address symptom relief from coughs, fevers, sore throats, ear infections and conjunctivitis.

When taking several of these supplements or herbs over the course of an entire season, illness can be prevented and the duration or severity may also be lessened. If you are uncertain about a certain illness or feel that something more serious is going on with your child, please see your child’s health care provider for further evaluation. Trust your instincts as a parent and partner with a pediatrician, functional or integrative doctor or nurse practitioner who supports you and your family. 

This information is for educational purposes only; please speak with your family’s health care provider before adding botanicals to your child’s diet.

References: “Healthy All Year.” Aviva Romm. Romm Enterprises. 2015.

The National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements.

“Fortify Your Life.” Tieraona Low Dog. National Geographic Society. 2016.

Thursday, 31 August 2017 03:28

Keeping kids healthy during the school year

Keeping children healthy throughout the school year is a daunting task. Infections spread rapidly at school. Beleaguered parents often feel like their kids come home the first day of school with sniffles and a dry cough that lingers throughout the year. Do not despair! With a little planning, parents can support their children’s immune systems with a high quality, nutrient dense diet, pleasurable exercise and simple routines. Your kids will have the resiliency to fight various infections, and the adults in the household will be healthier and happier too!

The first line of defense against illness is a healthy, nutrient dense diet of whole foods. Emphasize fruits and vegetables at all meals, along with quality protein sources such as meat, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt and milk. Include whole grains and quality oils and fats, such as avocados, olive oil, organic butter, nuts, and nut or seed butters. During fall and winter include warming foods in the diet. Plenty of soups, stews, cooked greens, seasoned with healing herbs and spices, will strengthen the body for cold and flu season. Monitor sugar consumption and try to avoid processed junk food or sugary beverages. Make meal preparation a shared family time. Invite kids to help set the table and choose their own fruits and vegetables. Give them simple tasks such as washing and slicing produce or stirring the soup. There are many cookbooks and internet websites parents can turn to for healthy recipes and fun snacks to keep children interested in eating healthy food. For picky eaters, patience is key! Keep exposing kids to new foods multiple times and let them take charge of how much they are willing to try. Eventually, children get on board and learn to enjoy a wide range of healthy foods, especially when their parents model eating in that manner.

Adequate rest is key for everyone in the family. Poor or inadequate sleep patterns inhibit immune response, increase vulnerability to infection, decrease healing, and may lead to more frequent infections and prolonged sickness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that children 3-5 years old need 10-13 hours of sleep per night. Kids 6-12 years of age need 9-12 hours, and adolescents 13-18 years of age need 8-10 or as much as 12-14 hours per night. 

Use of electronics or hunger often interfere with sleep for kids. Establishing a “no electronics rule” at least one hour before bed helps develop healthy sleep patterns. Serving a quality protein and carbohydrate with dinner will keep bellies satisfied and allay any hunger before bed. Chamomile, lavender, lemon balm or catnip tea included in an evening routine, is an excellent way to relieve any stress or anxiety and promote relaxation. All these herbs are safe for children.

Consider the routines you have in place during the school week. Are they working for your family? Children are less stressed and tired when they have a consistent routine with realistic expectations on what they need to accomplish in a day. We live in a fast-paced world with a lot of demands placed on our kids. Plan for how homework will get done and negotiate the number of activities your children will be involved in outside of school. Prioritize family time each evening and include relaxing activities such as reading books together or sharing tales of the day’s adventures. Scheduling free time each evening can be especially helpful in noticing early signs of sickness. Take time to slow down even more to let the body heal.

Finally, exercise plays a vital role in our overall health. With the emphasis on academics, children are getting less physical activity at school than in years past. Ideally, children should spend 1-2 hours per day engaged in fun physical activities. Exercise helps keep the lymph and detoxification systems moving, which is important to prevent chronic health issues. Compelling studies show that sufficient outdoor and activity time is equal to antidepressants! There are plenty of activities to be enjoyed during the fall including walking, hiking, biking or outdoor games like hopscotch and jump rope. When the weather gets cold, turn up the music and have a dance party in the house. This is a super fun way both kids and adults can attain exercise and stress relief benefits! 

References: “How Much Sleep Do I Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Healthy All Year.” Romm Enterprises. Aviva Romm.


As we enter the end of summer, the hot sun is high in the sky for a better part of the day, and the bugs seem to come from every direction. Prevention can be our best tool to avoid dehydration, burns, bites, stings, and rashes that can zap our energy and lesson our enjoyment of summer. Thankfully, we have several herbs to remedy any issue that may arise.

A delicious and easy way to stay hydrated and refreshed during the summer months is to keep a homemade electrolyte replacement drink in the refrigerator. It will replenish the minerals and salt lost from sweating after a hard day’s work, sports activity or a long day in the garden. Try this recipe at home with several variations. Swap regular ice cubes with frozen berries to add extra flavor, and add up to two tablespoons of fresh lemon, lime or orange juice.

Electrolyte Balance Drink

Recipe by Aviva Romm

  1. 1 quart of water or herbal tea
  2. 1-2 tablespoons of local, raw honey
  3. ¼ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
  4. ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  5. Mix and drink as needed.

Another discomfort that seems to creep up quickly for most people is sunburn. It’s best to avoid the outdoors when the sun is highest in the sky (from about 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.). Otherwise, wearing a wide brim hat, light pants or long sleeves is beneficial to avoid burning during those hours. Using a natural sunscreen with zinc oxide is beneficial while at the pool or beach (reapply often). Engaging in outdoor activities in the early evening is most pleasant and helpful in avoiding the hot sun.

In case of a burn, the most widely known remedy, for good reason, is aloe vera. The fresh plant can easily be grown indoors and used at a moment’s notice. Cut off a leaf, slice it down the middle to expose the slimy gel inside and apply to the burn several times a day. It is cooling, soothing and healing to the skin. Store the extra gel remaining in the leaf in the refrigerator for up to a week. Lavender hydrosol is also very beneficial for sunburns for its cooling and healing properties. The essential oil can also be used diluted in fresh aloe vera gel or witch hazel. Calendula and St. John’s Wort oils or salves are remarkable for skin healing and regeneration after a burn.

Further, mosquitoes and flies can become quite an instant nuisance. Prevention is crucial when trying to avoid the itchy mosquito bite aftermath, especially for those who get large, swollen bite marks. Lavender, rosemary, peppermint, sage, wormwood or thyme all contain bug repelling properties, and can be infused into vinegar to make a homemade bug repellent. Add two tablespoons of several of these herbs to a quart jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. Let sit for at least two weeks. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Use as needed and apply often. Catnip oil, oil of citronella or lemon eucalyptus hydrosol can be added to your recipe and are approved by the FDA for insect repellent. Light clothing and mosquito netting is appropriate for children under two years old.

Several fresh herbs can be used to stop the itchiness and relieve the inflammation attributed to a bite. Plantain is the most notable herb for bites, stings and rashes of all kinds. The fresh plant can be used immediately by harvesting a clean, unsprayed leaf, chewing it up thoroughly or mashing it with a utensil and applying it directly to the area. Other bite relief herbal salves made with jewelweed, plantain, calendula, chickweed or St. John’s wort can be prepared ahead of time and carried along for hikes and camping adventures. Clay can also be mixed with a small amount of water and applied directly to the skin for bites or rashes. The drawing action is helpful to relieve the irritation and swelling. Likewise, calendula tincture can be used alone as a spray on bites and stings, it is soothing and anti-inflammatory.

Many herbs in the home landscape can be used to prevent bug bites or stings, as well as to address them. If you’re new to gardening or have an edible landscape, consider growing any of the plants mentioned above. They will provide you with a toolkit to weather many ailments that may arise this summer. 


Monday, 26 June 2017 21:24

Refreshing herbal teas for summer!

Beat the summer heat with vibrant, vivid herbal teas and refreshments! You can keep cool all summer long using fresh or dried herbs and water. Many delicious combinations can easily be made in the home kitchen. Growing a few of your favorite herbs and edible flowers will make these recipes super simple to make at any time throughout the summer months.

Herbal teas are easy to make and are delicious, although, technically not tea. Tea is used to describe the tea plant, camellia sinensis. Herbal teas are more appropriately called tisanes, a fancy word for an herbal infusion. Commonly used parts of the plant to infuse into water are leaves, flowers and berries. To make a tisane, add 1-3 tablespoons of dried herbal material, or up to a handful of fresh herbs to a steeping vessel. Boil 8 ounces of water and pour over the herbs. Steep 15 minutes, strain herb material and sweeten to taste.

The easiest way to enjoy fresh herbs is by adding a few sprigs to water along with cucumber or slices of fruit. Mint is a favorite herb used this way along with fresh citrus. There are several varieties of mint to grow, including: peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, mojito mint, etc. Pick your favorite and add it to ice water with lemon, lime, or orange slices, watermelon, or infuse alone in water. Lemon balm is another herb in the mint family that pairs perfectly with ice water, imparting a subtle lemon flavor.

Check out some of these refreshing herbal recipes.

Hibiscus Mint Cooler

Hibiscus is a beautiful summer flower that makes the most delightful, bright red tea. Children and adults alike will love this red herbal ‘Kool-Aid’ replacement. Peach leaf is a great addition to summer teas as it is cooling to the body.

  • ½ cup hibiscus, dried
  • ¼ cup rose hips, dried
  • ¼ cup lemongrass, dried
  • ½ cup spearmint, dried
  • 3 tablespoons peach leaf, dried
  • Raw honey, to taste

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and steep, covered for 30 minutes. Strain and add enough cold water and ice cubes to equal 1 gallon. Pour into your favorite cocktail glass and drink through a stainless-steel straw!

Herbal Flower Ice Cubes

Any herbal tisane recipe can be frozen and made into ice cubes or popsicles. Add sliced fruit or edible flowers, such as borage, calendula, nasturtium, rose, violet, pansy or bee balm for a lovely touch!

Place one or more edible flowers in each square of an ice cube tray. Fill with filtered water and freeze. Enjoy in tea, lemonade or punch!

Strawberry Mint Sorbet

Any of the mints listed above can also be made into an extract and blended with fresh strawberries to make a sorbet that is out of this world. To make the mint extract, simply add fresh or dried mint to fill a glass jar half full. Add vodka or brandy to fill the jar and leave about one inch of headspace. Let sit four to six weeks and strain. Use to flavor baked goods, mixed drinks or ice cream. Yum!

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon mint extract
  • ½ cup honey

Puree until smooth, run in an ice cream maker for 15 minutes. Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

Blueberry Maple Syrup Switchel

Switchels, commonly referred to as haymaker’s punch in years past, are an invigorating vinegar and honey drink made to quench the thirst from a hard day’s work. Made with vinegar, honey, and herbs or fruit, there are endless variations to the recipe. Enjoy with fresh or frozen berries after a long summer day.

  • 1 quart of filtered water
  • ¼ cup of maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix everything in a glass serving pitcher. Refrigerate overnight.

Be sure to keep notes of which recipes you make or you’ll be scratching your head later trying to remember what you put in that delicious drink. Enjoy any of these recipes all summer long. You’re sure to find a cooling herbal blend that suits your tastes and keeps you hydrated. 

Wednesday, 31 May 2017 21:13

Healthy menstruation for all seasons

Enjoyable, symptom-free menstrual cycles are something most women wish for, but few experience. Many factors of daily life can contribute to an imbalance in monthly cycles, including: stress, changes in daily and nightly light exposure, sleep patterns, diet, exercise, travel, illness, etc. These disruptions affect the sensitive endocrine system, which is responsible for healthy hormone levels, and can result in menstrual discomfort or disorders. Even so, a few small changes and with the support of a few herb allies, most women can prevent these discomforts.

A healthy menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, with the average cycle lasting 26-34 days. Day 1 of the menstrual cycle starts with the menses — ovulation occurs around day 14. The cycle ends with the beginning of the next menses. Bleeding lasts about 3-6 days for most women. It is normal for young girls starting to menstruate to have irregular cycles for the first several years until reaching a regular length and duration. Likewise, menstruation for women in their 30s and 40s will also start to become irregular as they approach menopause. It is also normal to have an irregular cycle periodically during a woman’s lifetime, especially when she is exposed to high stress levels or while traveling. Raspberry leaf, partridge berry, motherwort and cramp bark are herbs well known for their uterine tonic benefits, and can be used as tea or tincture to promote a healthy cycle.

Maintaining a healthy body weight with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is ideal, as well as stabilizing blood sugar and ensuring adequate intake of healthy fats. A whole foods diet focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, vegetarian sources of protein, cold water fish, nuts, good quality olive oil, and essential fatty acids is beneficial. Consuming less refined flour products, junk food of all types, sugar, caffeinated products, red meat, and dairy products is correlated with a reduction in premenstrual symptoms, as well as menstrual disorders.

Moderate amounts of exercise can be very beneficial for the body, and specifically for menstrual irregularities. Stretching and movement can prevent pelvic discomfort or tension associated with dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation. Yoga, dance, tai chi, as well as many other forms of exercise will bring circulation to the pelvic area and improve overall health. In contrast, strenuous or excessive exercise is associated with amenorrhea, or absence of the menses. Rapid weight loss and excessive exercise should be discouraged. Replenishing the body’s normal caloric needs through a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight, will reduce the risk.

Stress and negative attitudes or beliefs about menstruation need to be addressed individually as they will affect menses. Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, light exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, along with adaptogen and nervine herbs can improve stress resistance. Some of these herbs, which can be incorporated as teas into your diet, include: ashwaganda, rhodiola, eleuthero, reishi, holy basil, lemon balm, milky oats, skullcap, chamomile, etc. Additionally, a positive attitude and belief system about the female body, and maintaining a positive body image, can also reduce menstrual disorders. Finding creative outlets and a professional to talk with are essential when dealing with a negative self-image. Setting time aside during the first few days of the cycle to enjoy a bath, a cup of tea, journaling, reading, hiking or any enjoyable activities helps replenish the spirit. A healthy attitude and knowledge about self-care will make an enormous difference in menstrual discomfort alone.

Finally, an abundance of chemicals in our environments called endocrine disruptors, act like estrogen in the body and contribute to hormonal imbalance. To reduce your exposure, eat organic whenever possible, avoid plastics, phthalates, fire retardants, BPA, etc. Furthermore, be mindful of the menstrual products on the market. Avoid perfumes and high absorbency products that can contribute to menstrual discomfort. Small, simple changes in diet, exercise, attitude, and environment can make an enormous impact on menstrual health, which will benefit overall health and vitality as a result. 

References: Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. Aviva Romm.

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