Barley is one of the oldest domesticated cereal grains still being grown around the world today. It originated in Ethiopia and southeast Asia. It is most often used in bread and malted beverages such as beer (barley beer was likely one of the first alcoholic drinks humans developed). Over the centuries, barley water has been used for various medicinal purposes; it is good for clearing up urinary tract infections and is also said to be a good remedy for kidney stones.



What would our Thanksgiving Day feasts be without cranberries? This staple of our holiday dinner has a long, proud history in the United States. According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee (, Native Americans used cranberries as a food staple as early as 1550. They ate them fresh and mashed them with cornmeal and baked them into bread. They used maple sugar or honey to sweet them. They also mixed cranberries with wild game and melted fat to make pemmican.



My mother loved decorating for the holidays. From the tree in the den to the lights around all the windows and a big Santa decal on the front door, she was all in. She would also hang a sprig of (fake) mistletoe, complete with sharp-edged leaves and white berries, from the lintel of the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. She and my father always shared the first kiss under the mistletoe after she put it up.


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Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world, according to WebMD. The plant gets its name from a Chinese term meaning “person plant root” because the root is shaped like human legs. There are 11 species of ginseng. (Many other herbs are called ginseng, but they do not contain the active ingredient ginsenosides.) Ginseng grows in North America, where it is endangered in the wild, as well as Asia and Korea. It is especially prevalent in traditional Chinese medicine and holistic healing arts. Native Americans used ginseng for head- aches and to treat other ailments such as indigestion and fever.

Many claims have been made about ginseng’s efficacy, but there has been no solid or conclusive evidence proving it has all the health benefits attributed to it, despite the fact that its botanical name (genus), panax, means “all healing” in Greek. Some claims of ginseng benefits include memory improvement, cancer prevention, easing of menopause symptoms, lowering of blood sugar levels and treatment of heart disease and erectile dysfunction.

At any rate, the commercial sale of ginseng is a booming business; the industry brings in more than $2 billion annually. Ginseng is usually sold dried, but it is also available in powdered, capsule and tablet form. There is no standard dosing for ginseng. Korea is the largest provider and China is the largest consumer.

According to Food is Medicine (, fresh ginseng is less than four years old; white ginseng is between four and six years old and is dried after peeling; and red ginseng is harvested, steamed and dried when it is six years old. Older ginseng plants are more valuable and more expensive because ginseng benefits are more abundant in aged roots.

Ginseng is added to energy drinks or herbal teas and is also available as a dietary supplement. It is touted as a good way to help with depression and anxiety; tests on lab rats found it could be used effectively to treat stress-induced disorders. Ginseng is said to stimulate brain cells and improve both concentration and cognitive activities. One study appeared to show it improved the cognitive performance of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, although the improvements declined when treatment was discontinued. Some research shows ginseng tea works as a natural appetite suppressant, so many dieters turn to the root to help them battle the bulge. Chinese herbal medicine practitioners recommend adults over age 40 drink one cup of ginseng tea every day. You can use fresh, powdered or dried ginseng root to make the tea.

There are few side effects and cautions about ginseng, although long-term use or high doses of the herb may cause headaches and dizziness and upset stomach. Some people are actually allergic to ginseng. It can interact with warfarin and some antidepressants. Many experts suggest using ginseng for no more than three months at a time. As with many dietary and herbal supplements, you would be wise to consult with your primary care physician before adding ginseng to your diet.


Tanya Tyler is the Editor of Health & Wellness Magazine

more articles by Tanya Tyler