The Power of Black Seed Oil

The Power of Black Seed Oil

Every home pantry has its staples. They are your daily essentials, the bread and butter fueling your every breath, the foundation to all of your kitchen creations. In our home, one of my pantry staples is black seed oil.

My story with black seed oil began roughly four years ago, just after I delivered my eldest daughter, Enaya. Her birth whisked me into a frenzy from which I struggled to recover: loneliness, fatigue, sleepless nights, diaper-laden garbage bins, and the rueful realization that the body I always knew was now as foreign to me as motherhood itself. All of this was my daily reality. Desperate and mildly neurotic, I searched for something to buffer the blows of these challenges. At that time, black seeds were like a formal acquaintance; I heard of them in flitting conversation, as protagonists in old wives tales or elusive elixirs from an archaic past. They were the “blessed seeds that cure every ailment,” Prophet Muhammad said, “except death.”

With these cultural and religious influences, I decided to add seed supplements to my daily regimen. A couple of weeks passed and the grogginess that haunted me in my waking hours began to dwindle and fade. I had energy. I could sleep better. I could speak coherently and maintain adult conversation, like once-upon-a-time before motherhood!

But the changes I experienced with black seed supplements went beyond internal. One time, I was nursing Enaya when friends and family noticed a change in my physique. “Batool,” they warned me, “You shouldn’t diet while breastfeeding. You’re losing weight too quickly!” But I wasn’t dieting. I hadn’t altered my meal portions, attempted Keto, or increased my jogging miles at the gym. My lifestyle resumed organically and without discipline, for my only goal was self-care amid the turbulence of motherhood.

The health changes I experienced were way too many to be incidental. As I was studying pharmacy, I gained access to scientific and medical literature, and with my newfound reading skills, I was determined to unearth the truth about black seeds, once and for all. A single database search generates over a thousand research papers on Nigella sativa (the Latin name for black seed). They spoke favorably of this humble, ancient seed, documenting it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, and immune-enhancing properties.

Today, I recommend black seed products to all of my patients, and their experiences with them never cease to amaze me. There is one particular patient whose story stays with me today. For years, respiratory distress compromised his quality of life, and activities we deem routine—moving, breathing, sleeping—became his daily struggles. He came to me after having given up on drug therapies and antibiotics, and he requested something different. “Have you heard of black seeds or black seed oil?” I asked him, handing him a bottle of the supplement. He recoiled, so I persisted. And with a sales pitch that bordered on the obsessive, I proceeded to share with him all of the health benefits these seeds have to offer. I told him of their unusual ability to fight bacterial infections, even drug-resistant  MRSA, as well as many other respiratory conditions. Two weeks later, before his next scheduled visit, he returned to my office just to tell me that these seeds helped him more than any other drug ever prescribed to him. “I feel amazing,” he said. I nodded, humbled by my experience seeing one of nature’s medicines work its magic once more.

Many published studies outline the safe and successful uses of black seeds and their various byproducts. Most notably, they can help treat these ten conditions:

  1.     Fighting Infections
  2.     Reducing Scars
  3.     Relieving Allergies
  4.     Enhancing Weight Loss
  5.     Relieving Breast Pain
  6.     Reducing Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
  7.     Relieving Indigestion and Heartburn
  8.     Improving Memory
  9.     Enhancing Men’s Fertility
  10.  Lowering Cholesterol

As creatures of habit, we are all guilty of defaulting to our built-in, subconscious choices. Our pantries and refrigerators look the same, week after week. We recycle the same meals, the same health foods, the same shopping lists. These habits, convenient though they are, deprive us of the health benefits that come with nutritional variety. So I’m going to challenge you, Dear Reader, to experiment with black seeds—as supplements, as an oil, as whatever form you can commit to as a health-conscious consumer. Just be sure to purchase the extra virgin, cold press black seed oil from a reputable company (my recommended brand can be found here).


The Untold Story of a Silent Superpower: Chaga Mushrooms

The Untold Story of a Silent Superpower: Chaga Mushrooms

There is a new food superpower in our midst, and it has gained ranking for its superb antioxidant properties: Chaga mushrooms. With a mix of charcoal and gold hues, these mushrooms slag and sprawl like infected meteorites on the backs of dead birch trees. They are powerful, parasitic, and (almost) as promising as Wakanda’s Vibranium.

…except you can’t make an epic suit out of it. But with the innate properties of Chaga mushrooms, you won’t need to. Research shows that this fungus contains promising health benefits for people of all ages. Its high antioxidant content makes it superior to its line of competitors, such as blueberries, pomegranates, acai, and their likes.

I’m going to get a bit personal now. Although I’m a pharmacist and functional medicine practitioner, I, too, like to live life on the edge. I indulged in some reading recently—just a casual afternoon cuddling with research studies and medical journals—and shortly thereafter, I decided to commit to Chaga mushrooms, once and for all. So I woke up the next morning, dumped my regular smoothie, and settled with a cozy cup of Chaga mushroom tea. My first sip brought with it a whiff of familiarity. I know this taste. It was like the shy little sister of bold black tea: humble, mute, and vaguely visible. I sipped some more.

Twenty minutes later, I found myself busting into my running shoes and bursting out my front door. Something felt different. A transformation occurred—like I had morphed from a suburban, mother-of-two pharmacist and into an unstoppable Wakandan warrior. I must wear out this energy! I ran for miles and miles, hours on end, until my feet met a previously unpursued path. I had never run that far before, but I continued anyway. And when I returned home, my newfound endurance carried me through more weight lifting and into a work day with utmost mental clarity. It was a beautiful sensation. That effect—that energy boost, that unabated agility, or whatever you want to call it—lasted for days.

What exactly is Chaga Mushroom?

In two words: a fungus. It’s not the prettiest plant in the woods, but what a Chaga mushroom lacks in outer beauty, it makes up in medicinal aptitude. Chaga mushrooms have one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity (ORAC) scores of any food, which speaks to their ability to protect the body from aging and fight disease-causing free radicals. Hmm, maybe they are just as good as Vibranium, after all?

What are some of Chaga Mushrooms’ superpowers?

  • Anti-Aging
  • Anti-Viral
  • Improve physical endurance
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Prevents and treats cancers
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts  immune system
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Lowers blood glucose

How do you consume this superfood?

You don’t need to be a Kimberly Snyder or a Dr. Mark Hyman to whip up a Chaga-infused concoction. The method is simple. Add two to three chunks of Chaga mushrooms to one to two quarts of water in a slow cooker/crock pot. Set the mixture on low and cover the pot while the mixture steeps for up to 12 hours. Drink it hot or chilled, as a base for flavored tea, coffee, or your favorite fruit smoothie. There are no rules! Chaga mushrooms are versatile enough to be bent to your preference, so be creative. For the little ones, blend half a cup of Chaga mushroom tea with ice and honey and serve! The kiddos will absolutely love it.

If you do give this superpower a chance, like I did, please share your experience with me in the comments below! I would love to hear all about it. Here’s a brand I really recommend.

6 Must-Have Supplements for Wellness and Vitality

6 Must-Have Supplements for Wellness and Vitality

In this pill-piling health industry, not all supplements are created equal. We’re here to teach you how to navigate the supplements aisle and make investments that matter.

Let’s be honest: the Standard American Diet is depleted of nutrients. And for every nutrient deficiency, we are sold a supplement to fill the void where food once belonged. This isn’t the sole fate of fast-food enthusiasts feasting from a drive thru; even health-conscious individuals are suffering. As it turns out, those bell peppers and kale bits starring in yesterday’s salad rank lower in nutrients than the ones our great-great-grandparents ate, leaving you curiously famished and raiding your snack cabinet before bedtime. There are many reasons for this epidemic, the first being our country’s mediocre agricultural practices.

Our farmers are racing the clock to meet the demands of bustling, industrial communities. In order to stock our grocery stores with glistening apples and picture-perfect apricots, farmers mass-produce their crops using old soils that grow stale with time. These old soils then produce crops that are inevitably depleted of essential vitamins, minerals, and microbes.

Crops are further stripped of their nutrient-potential after being doused in pesticides. These pesticides interfere with a plant’s polyphenol production—that’s nature’s secret trick to ward away bugs and pathogens threatening a plant’s growth. What happens when these plants are heavily covered in pesticides and herbicides? Their polyphenol production declines, along with their nutrient supply, leaving you, Dear Reader, famished and craving more.

Farmers try compensating for these agricultural practices and enhancing crop nutrition by using fortified fertilizers. Nutrition in these fertilizers, however, is minimal—just enough to keep the crops alive until harvesting, but not enough to support our health. What’s more, most plants are harvested prematurely; they are shipped for hundreds of miles across the country, finding temporary shelter in shelves, trucks, and counters for weeks before being eating. Their nutrient stores erode during this prolonged time.

This story ends with the rueful realization that we could all use some help with our nutrition. All of us, no exception. And while supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet, they are back-up sidekicks when your diet falls short (and most often, it will).

Below are the six supplements I recommend to all of my clients—the holy grails of wellness and vitality. Let the listing begin…

PROBIOTICS: These live bacteria are key players in our digestive tract. Their benefits range from increasing our resistance to illnesses, to enhancing our ability to maintain a healthy weight. That’s just the physical stuff. Research suggests time and again that probiotics boost our mental well-being, countering symptoms of anxiety and depression.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: These fats classify as essential—an intimidating and weighty word denoting their necessity for our bodies to function. Because our bodies cannot produce these fats on their own, we need to consume them through our foods and supplements. Sufficient amounts of omega-3s offer multiple benefits, too, including longevity, physical wellbeing, a leaner physique, a clearer mind, and softer, more youthful skin.

ZINC: This essential nutrient is nature’s elixir for the common cold. The body also requires zinc for basic body functions: to produce hormones, to grow and repair cells, to boost immunity, and to facilitate digestion. Like an antioxidant, it slows the aging process and restores hormonal imbalance. And to counter energy spikes and energy dips throughout the day, trust zinc to help you regulate your blood sugar.

MAGNESIUM: If we could give one supplement a Pharmacists’ Choice Award for Most Beneficial to Americans, it would be magnesium. About 80 percent of adults are deficient in this essential mineral, creating an array of health problems: muscle aches or spasms, poor digestion, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

B-COMPLEX: This supplement contains all of the known, essential, water-soluble B vitamins that are absolutely needed for energy and healthy metabolism. Most Americans are deficient in these vital nutrients, resulting in energy slumps, a sluggish metabolism, and more.

VITAMIN D3: Most Americans are also deficient in this essential vitamin—an epidemic correlated with depression, insomnia, pain, osteoporosis, cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, and many other health conditions. This sunshine vitamin is closest to what sunlight naturally produced when shining its rays on our skin. Stock up on this supplement if you have limited outdoor time, cover constantly, or are from the snowy state of Minnesota.

Six supplements. Six new superheroes in your journey toward health. Do yourself a favor and invest in these little capsules, because even the best of diets is bound to fall short sometimes.

The Dangers of Canola Oil

The Dangers of Canola Oil

Unless you’re a raw vegan, whipping up your favorite dishes almost always involves oil. That pale, thick liquid is as diverse and versatile as the foods you pair it with. You fry with oil, you sauté with oil, you bake with oil, you roast with oil, you marinate with oil, and in some cases, you massage oil into your salads to humble those harsh greens and soften them before digestion. And when you’re not manually mixing this ingredient into your kitchen concoctions, rest assured that your favorite restaurants and food companies are doing it for you.

Oil. Is. Everywhere.

This reality demands an honest conversation about the nature of oil—canola oil, specifically—and its impact on our health. As this ingredient finds home in your mayonnaise jar and salad dressing, ask yourself: what do you know about canola oil?

Allow me to share a few things:

  1. Pick up the nearest bottle of canola oil and study its packaging. You’ll read words like “heart-healthy,” “anti-inflammatory,” and “high in omega-3”—words that conjure images of Future You, a gracefully aging (wo)man with washboard abs and glowing skin as you chase after your one-day-perhaps grandchildren. Ah, life is good with canola oil. Except…
  2. Except it’s not, because canola oil isn’t as wholesome as its labels suggest. Unlike olive oil or coconut oil, canola oil bears no origin from anything in nature; there is no canola plant or canola seed from which this oil began. Rather, it’s a manmade liquid hatched from hybridized, genetically-modified rapeseed plants, containing more trans fatty acids than its harmful counterparts, i.e. soy, corn, and vegetable oil.

Yet canola oil remains a celebrated companion to restaurant cooks all over America. Having swapped genetically-modified soybean oil for canola, these restaurants claim that their menu items are trans-fat-free. Before we swallow that statement, let’s scrutinize the case with some facts: canola oil goes through extensive chemical processing before being bottled up and shipped to your favorite restaurant. Food scientists hydrogenate and deodorize this liquid, granting it longer shelf life and an increased smoking point (so that it can withstand high-heat cooking), which consequently boosts its trans-fat content by 40 percent.

“Forty percent,” you ask, “is that bad?” Anything more than zero percent is plenty. The health risks for consuming trans-fat canola oil are many, and here at Enaya, we won’t mince the facts for profit. Brace yourselves for the full scoop on this common yet toxic liquid.

FIRST: Canola oil damages your lipid profile and can raise your triglycerides (body fat) by 47 percent.

SECOND: As we hydrate with brand moisturizers and lemon water, our canola oil consumption works to undo our efforts by aging our skin—and the body as a whole—by damaging our cell membranes. Skip the fifty dollar Estee Lauder cream and invest in some quality cooking oil instead. Your skin will thank you for it.

THIRD: Canola oil depletes the vitamin E levels in our bodies. Vitamin E, in case you’re wondering, is a major antioxidant, and its deficiency can trigger a wide array of illnesses (heart disease, Alzheimer’s, various cancers, diabetes, amongst many other conditions).

Being food-smart, label-savvy, and selective about your grocery list and restaurant outings isn’t enough to cut your canola oil consumption. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has loose regulations for food manufacturers; they allow a NO TRANS FAT label for anything with less than 500 mg of trans-fat per ½ cup serving. So how can you stock your pantry and meal plan confidently, knowing that labels aren’t always in your favor? For starters, here’s a list of healthy oils and their cooking purposes to begin incorporating into your kitchen today:

HIGH HEAT COOKING: ghee, butter, duck fat, or avocado oil


LOW HEAT COOKING or sautéing: olive oil (this oil has a very low smoking point. It turns into a harmful compound and loses all of its healing properties when heated on high temperatures)

DRIZZLING: extra virgin olive oil, sesame seed oil, hemp seed oil, or walnut oil

Conscious cooking doesn’t need to occupy your entire afternoon, and it certainly doesn’t need to occupy most of your financial budget. With small swaps here and there, you can enjoy dinner without the company of inflammatory, trans-fat-laden canola oil. Small swaps for large gains. Now that’s a deal worth bragging about.

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