The Blog

Culinary Basil

The word basil comes from the Greeks meaning “king”, and is considered the “king of herbs” by many culinary authors and chefs. There are a wide variety of basil, but all belong to the botanical species Ocimum basilicum.  While there is a wide assortment of basil, only a few are used for culinary purposes. Look for fresh organic basil from the farmers market, because dried basil loses a lot of flavor and many valuable nutrients.

sweet basil, the most common basil

The following are some common varieties that you might find at the farmer’s market.

  • Sweet basil is the most popular variety throughout the United States and Europe,  and it’s by far the most common used in cooking. It has a full-flavored sweet, mint-like taste, with a hint of clove and anise. The color is a brilliant green. More recently this basil has been hybridized into other varieties with subtle flavors reflected in their names such as cinnamon basil, anise basil and lemon basil.
  • Thai basil, also called hairy basil or anise basil is similar in appearance to sweet basil except for its purplish stems and veins. Chefs may use this basil for a stronger anise like flavor and spiciness that is not found in sweet basil.
  • Holy basil, also referred to as tulsi is grown in India where it’s considered a holy plant seldom used in the culinary preparations. It has a pungent clove like fragrance, is smaller than sweet basil with tinges of purple and has mauve or pinkness flowers when it goes to seed. Interestingly, while most varieties of basil are considered annuals, Holy basil is a perennial.
  • East Indian basil is cultivated in many parts of the world, and is known for its culinary uses as well to keep mosquitoes away. It has a clove like fragrance.
  • Tea-bush basil is grown and used in West Africa. It’s the least aromatic of all the edible basil.
  • Purple basil comes in two varieties, purple ruffle and dark opal. It’s milder than sweet basil and is often used in salads for additional color.
  • Some other varieties of basils include; lettuce leaf basil, globe basil (French dwarf basil), hoary basil, camphor basil, queen of Siam basil, and rubin basil.

Each year new varieties are introduced for culinary and potential medicinal research and use. Be adventurous and explore your culinary abilities ~ basil makes a fabulous pesto, toss into soups, salads or even a stir fry. I often use fresh basil a garnish, the fragrance can be tantalizing!!! Oh YUMMY!!! or, is that OM NOM NOM???

Enjoy this lively recipe by Brenda Langton from the Mill City Farmer’s Market website.


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Black Cumin Seed – The Amazing ‘Cure-All’

Pat SchervenBlack cumin seed has been referred to as the amazing cure-all due to its therapeutic powers touted from religious pundits to ancient scholars.

Black cumin seed, a jet-black spice is a native of the Middle East and Western Asia, and is formerly known as Nigella Sativa. Scientific studies have indicated that this spice is among one of the most promising medicinal plants, but it’s yet to be fully understood.

Research suggests that black cumin seeds may help to prevent and treat a wide range of chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and asthma, to name a few.  The main component in black cumin is a unique potent anti-oxidant referred to as thymoquinone (TQ), a component yet to be found in any other plant. It’s rich in many nutrients including essential amino acids (proteins), essential fatty acids(fats), the vitamin beta-carotene and minerals calcium, iron and potassium. There are over 100 compounds in the seeds yet to be fully explored.

Immunity declines with age, and some believe that this is part of the aging process. Black cumin seed has shown to increase the activity of natural killer cells, which are immune cells that protect from viruses and prevent tumors.

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine stated that  75%  of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease, and the more belly fat those people have, the higher risk. The study in Pakistan included 123 people divided into two groups. Half of the group took black cumin supplements for 10 months and the other took a placebo.  The group receiving the supplements had significant favorable results. The spice has proven to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Numerous studies have indicated that TQ and black cumin seed can fight cancer by  preventing proliferation of cancer cells (from dividing and multiplying); preventing metastases or cancer cells moving from the initial tumor to others areas of the body; and preventing angiogenesis, the formation of a new blood supply to a tumor. Studies indicate that black cumin seed can actually stimulate apoptosis, the death of cancer. Research  continues in the hope that this spice may provide an alternative treatment in cancer prevention therapy.  Other conditions black cumin has shown to positively affect include; ulcers, pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, asthma, allergies and dermatitis.

Black cumin should not to be confused with cumin, are both very commonly used in Indian cooking. They do not look alike, have extremely different flavors(tastes) and are not from the same botanical family.  For further information about cooking with black cumin seed seek out an Indian grocery or cookbook, special spice shops or Google.

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Epicuren’s Reformulated Extreme Cream SPF 45+

Pat Scherven, owner and skin care specialist at Skin Theraprease, a Minnesota-based skin care clinic discusses Epicuren’s newly reformulated X-Treme Cream Propolis Sunscreen with SPF 45.

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What You Need to Know About Estrogens

Pat SchervenEstrogens, also referred to as Oestrogens are steroid compounds that are important for women’s development and reproductive functioning. The name comes from the Latin term estrus/oistros meaning period of fertility for female mammals and gen/gonos meaning to generate

The scientific structure of Estrogen was first isolated in 1929 and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1942 for treatment of menopausal symptoms. Estrogens come in a wide variety of forms, but for the purpose of this article we will focus on the three most common.

The three most dominant or common estrogens (hormones) are; estrodiol, estrone and estriol.

  1. Estrodiol, also known as Oestradial is produced primarily in the ovaries and is the most dominant and active of the estrogens. It can also be produced in the adrenal glands through different pathways or conversion process.  Estradiol levels vary throughout the menstrual cycle, with levels being highest just before ovulation. It’s considered to be a sex hormone and has a critical impact on the reproductive organs and bone development.
  2.  Estrone, the weakest of the estrogens is formed by estrodiol and is produced in the ovaries and fat cells of the abdomen.  After menopause estrone becomes the primary estrogen. Studies have indicated that estrone may be the cause of estrogen’s cancer-causing properties and sometimes referred to as the “bad” estrogen.
  3. Estriol is weaker than estrodiol, is produced in the liver, and is the primary estrogen during pregnancy. Estriol is considered the “good” estrogen as it may help to prevent cancer.

The effects of estrogen on the skin are primarily seen in post-menopausal women, and research has indicated that the skin levels or thickness can vary during the menstrual cycle. The loss of estrogen (or following the menopause phase) may cause hypoestrogenism, thinner skin, increase and depth of wrinkles, increased skin dryness and decreased skin elasticity and firmness. Presently, there are many studies being conducted that are focused around estrogen and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Through technology and research the future looks promising!  The good news is, you can make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle to improve the quality of your skin over time.

Estrogens are used as a part of some oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapies (HRT), and other treatment for disorders of the endocrine system. Estrogen may increase the risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining), a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.  Therefore, if you are considering using an estrogen product for one of the reasons mentioned or for any other reason, consult with your physician. Be sure to know all the risks and what products are best for your particular situation.

Healthy Skin. Healthy Lifestyle.

Pat Scherven

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Do You Need Sunscreen in the Winter?

Pat SchervenAt Skin Therapease, we’ve decided to address and reveal the truth behind common skin care myths.  Check back to our blog and social media on select Monday afternoons to learn about our skin care myth of the week and what you can do achieve the healthy skin you want.

Do You Need Sunscreen in the Winter?

Yes, you do and some sunscreens are better than others.


Healthy Skin, Healthy Lifestyles!
Pat Scherven

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