Probiotics to potions

Pop a pill or do a shot and all of a sudden you’re all healthy? From snake oil — which you can actually buy online — to guarana, throughout history we’ve looked for all kinds of ways to improve our health and extend our life. And the quicker and easier the better. If popping a pill or 30 will do it, or if downing a swig of cider vinegar daily will do it, sign us up.

I make my own turmeric tonic to keep in the fridge during cold and flu season, take probiotics and eat probiotic foods to keep the immune system strong, and pop a handful of pills every morning (or in my case as many chewables as possible). Besides a couple of prescription medications, my handful contains vitamins B12, C, D, K, a multivitamin, calcium, magnesium, and most recently ginkgo biloba (I’ll get back to you on how that works…if I can remember). The assortment has changed through the years, but seems to be only growing as I get older.

I have a part-time gig in a natural food store, and customers tell me what they take every day to stave off illness. Some do that shot of cider vinegar every day without fail; it’s said to have dozens of health benefits. Some eat a spoonful of coconut oil, which for many years had a bad rap, became  everyone’s favorite uber-superfood, and is now starting to fall out of favor a bit again. Solutions tend to wax and wane in popularity.


Some people are hooked on the yummy local ginger and lemon elixir ImmuneSchein, much more palatable, in my opinion, than that plain cider vinegar. Juices and smoothies, with or without a shot of wheatgrass, remain very popular. I like them but I’d rather have something I can chew! And a smoothie with all that protein and fiber included makes more sense to me than a sugary juice with all the fiber removed. But that’s just me.

Bone broth isn’t new, Grannie used to make it all the time, but its health benefits, like youth-giving collagen for the skin, are making it very trendy currently. You can even get it in powder form to add to your smoothies.

Many people swear by raw milk, which has been around a while but is not legal everywhere. Twenty states forbid the sale of it at all, and in some — like New York — it can only be sold from the farm. When I was a kid in Vermont we used to get it from a local farm. Connoisseurs rave about its creamy, “alive” flavor and texture. It’s touted to be tolerated by the lactose intolerant or those who just can’t stomach commercial milk.

The health claims of raw milk include that it has more vitamins B6 and C, essential fatty acids, manganese, copper and iron than pasteurized milk. Another claimed benefit is that it protects kids from asthma and allergies, although some say it’s too dangerous to mess with, especially for the very young and very old.

Vegan diets are getting more and more popular and trendy, and not always for humane reasons but for optimum health. Animal proteins have gotten a lot of bad press lately.

Of course, of all the things we can “pop” or swig to improve our health, a varied diet based on natural whole foods is best, especially if they don’t travel far to get to the table, and are sustainably raised, without antibiotics, hormones or pesticides. And I don’t think preservatives and the stabilizers and the cheap fillers that raise the sugar, salt and fat content of processed foods to make them more addictive, do our food or our health any favors, either.

Okay, I’ll get down off my soapbox for that one!


Because it’s hard to get 21 perfectly healthy, natural, home-cooked meals a week, I think popping multivitamins to take up the slack is not a bad idea. A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture report stated that  93 percent of us have an inadequate intake of vitamin E, 56 percent of  magnesium, 44 percent of  vitamin A and 31 percent  of vitamin C.  However, in a 2014 article purports that most vitamins are completely unnecessary, with only the following worth taking: niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin D, zinc — more useful than vitamin C to treat colds, they say, along with garlic and probiotics (and the latter only temporarily when taking antibiotics, with yogurt working just as well).

Probiotics have become mainstream, available on the shelves of any well-stocked supermarket. Many physicians even recommend them now to their patients when they prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics will clear out the 100 trillion bacteria in our systems, good and bad, the good being a crucial important part of our immune system that needs replenishment. Probiotics also assist us to absorb nutrients, help us digest our food and sometimes help ease diseases of the gastrointestinal system.

Another way (besides that yogurt) of getting probiotics in food form is to eat fermented foods like, kimchi, sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented vegetables or the fizzy drink kombucha, all more pleasing ways to get your probiotics than popping a pill. I can’t always afford to buy probiotics, but I can afford to buy or make fermented foods.

So whether you get your health helpers in pill or food form, whether you go with the classics or try the newest trends, there are myriad ways to ingest healthy substances.


Jennifer’s Turmeric Tonic


1 quart/4 cups filtered water or spring water

3 tablespoons organic lemon juice

2 tablespoons raw honey

1 tablespoon grated fresh organic turmeric

1 teaspoon grated fresh organic ginger

1 teaspoon organic extra virgin olive oil

⅛ teaspoon organic cayenne pepper powder

Pinch of Himalayan pink salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper, organic if available



Bring water to a boil and then let cool ten minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Transfer to blender and process until smooth. Put in a glass jar and shake before serving. Drink one or two ounces a day.