Tag Archives: antioxidant

Looking for longevity…

Maybe it is the fact it is the beginning of a new year, or perhaps it has something to do with packing away the Christmas decorations for another year.  Whatever it is, I am thinking about things in a long term way, and I am trying to extend that long term for as long as possible.

longevity

I have been putting away my Christmas pressies as part of undecorating the house from the festivities and one of my presents was from my lovely hubby who bought me a book called “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar.  The boy knows me well.  Perfect present, right up my street.  So, in the bid for longevity of this blog, I decided I would do what I did for the month of November and plan out my blogs from here until Easter.  I am also borrowing from the #NaBloWriMo methodology I employed, and I am going to base my blog posts on the contents of this very book.  There will be interesting snippets to share and recipes for herbal treatments, combined with some extra research from me, and maybe the odd snippet about the rest of what is going on in my life.  The one thing I will not be doing is posting every day.  That nearly wiped me out entirely, and with the stuff I have planned for the rest of this year, I am not really going to have the time to write a blog every day.  So, I am going to attempt to blog regularly, three times a week, but maybe not always on the same days or at the same time.  2015 is looking like it is going to be really, really busy… so my devoted readers are now on notice!

book pressie

Handily enough, there is a section in the “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” book about herbs which help with longevity.  It is interesting that the author states that herbs which help to increase life expectancy tend to be related to the Eastern style of herbal medicine.  Her argument is that the Western and Native American herbal traditions were effectively stamped out due to persecution of those who were skilled in the herbal lore – be that because they were condemned by the Inquisition, or were deemed to be witches or whatever – whereas the traditions in the Orient and India were effectively handed down via oral tradition.  I know that a lot of the herbal traditions of Europe have been lost, but instead of dwelling on the negative, let’s see if there are some herbs which help to extend life, or at least increase the verve and vigour for life.

My research indicates that western herbal medicine says that herbs for longevity are mostly about being a tonic.  That really means that the herb is taken in small amounts and over long periods of time.  It is not intended to alter or effect any symptom particularly, but rather it is meant to give long term benefits.  Ideally, the tonic will nourish the mind, body and spirit… but to be honest, I will take something that can guarantee to banish the colds and coughs flying around at this time of year.

fire cider

In this spirit then, here is a recipe for a Fire Cider.  This is a tonic designed to “light your fires”…. judging by the ingredients, they are not kidding.  No open flames around your mouth after drinking some of this stuff!!  You take half a cup of chopped ginseng root, either fresh or dried, a quarter of a cup of grated ginger root, a quarter of a cup of grated horseradish, an eighth of a cup of chopped garlic and cayenne pepper to taste.  You place all of these items into a glass jar, pour in enough apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by an inch or to and then seal tightly.  You need to let this mix sit for 4 weeks.  After this time, strain out the herbs and sweeten with agave nectar or honey to your own taste.  I would suggest a tablespoon of the mixture daily ought to be enough to put some pep in your step… but perhaps I might suggest brushing your teeth after imbibing!!  Though I do understand that it makes a very nice salad dressing, so that might be another way of taking your longevity tonic!

Let me know if you have any success with the fire cider.  But one health warning…. do NOT sniff the grated horseradish root… it is very, very powerful and extremely tear inducing.  Great at clearing the sinuses… but… OUCH!

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Is star anise really a herbal star?

This will be the final post in our spicy mini-series.  It has been an interesting week for me to learn about some more spices, but I have noticed that my word count has been a little low each day.  I hope that hasn’t prevented your enjoyment in reading them.

 

So, today, I want to write about star anise.  It is used in the kitchen quite often as a culinary spice but it also has several medicinal properties.  It is the fruit of an evergreen tree native to China.  It is a very important constituent in Chinese Five Spice as well.

star anise

Star Anise is rich in a chemical called shikimic acid.  This acid is anti viral, and in fact, Tamiflu, which is used to fight influenza is the synthesized form of this chemical.   Star Anise is also anti-fungal and has been shown to clear up candida infections throughout the human body.

 

Star Anise is anti-bacterial.  Researchers in Taiwan have tested 4 new antimicrobial compounds from star anise which were found to be effective against 67 strains of drug resistant bacteria.   It is also an anti-oxidant and could be useful in fighting cancer.  Star Anise is also used to help nursing mothers to promote breast milk production.

star anise 1

If I were to use it in medicinal remedies, I would use probably use it in decoctions for asthma, bronchial coughs, and for digestive complaints including flatulence, bloating, colicky stomach pain, nausea and indigestion.

 

Oregano, Oregano, Oregano…!

Sorry, I just sang that title to the Opera Aria “Figaro!”.  Just me then?  Oh, okay.  😉

 

Oregano (pronounced Oh-ray-gah-no in the UK and Or-egg-ah-no in North America) is a greatly underrated herb, native to tropical Asia.  Some people have never even heard of it, let alone used it.  It is very tasty on pizzas and in Italian cooking, but the name actually comes from the Greek words Oros (mountain) and Ganos (Joy).  It actually belongs to the mint family – so a nice continuation from yesterday.

oregano

Oregano contains all kinds of volatile oils and useful chemicals.  Phytochemicals are in there as well, and we know from yesterday that phytochemicals are potent little beasties.  Oregano contains fibre, iron, manganese, vitamin E, iron, calcium, omega fatty acids and tryptophan.  Wow.  Oregano packs a punch for little leaves.

 

Oregano is traditionally used in the treatment of respiratory tract disorders, but it is also useful in treating gastrointestinal disorders, menstrual cramps and urinary tract disorders.  It can also be applied topically to treat a number of skin conditions including acne and dandruff.

oregano oil

It is not only antibacterial (hence it’s use for acne) but it is also antimicrobial.  Oregano has even been used in hospitals to help treat the MRSA infection.  It can also help to clear up topical yeast infections, but it needs to be diluted before you use it.  It is also anti-inflammatory so may be of use against osteoporosis or arteriosclerosis.  It can be used in boiling water to create a steam inhalation for blocked sinuses and chesty coughs.  If you make a tincture (put fresh oregano in some alcohol like vodka and let it steep for 2 weeks or so, then dilute with water) and use it in a spritz spray, it is an effective insect repellent.  Oregano tea is also useful for stomach bloating.

 

The most amazing thing I found during my research was that it has been reported by biologists in United Arab Emirates have found that Oregano oil encourage cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in breast cancer cells.  Basically what this means is that it makes the cancer cells stop growing and actually die.  This working makes it a promising method of preventing the use of chemotherapy, though there needs to be a lot more research before we can shout from the rooftops.  It could be used in the future to modulate breast cancer growth and metastasis.

oregano allsorts

Amazing.  Now, there are some health warnings associated with Oregano.  It is quite potent, so use of the oil while pregnant is not suggested, but using the leaf is probably okay.  But if you take it internally or use it on the skin directly, make sure it is diluted or mixed with something.  Oregano and Coconut oil apparently makes an amazing soothing skin cream.

 

Who knew that a little used herb with two pronunciations had so many uses?  Plus, it really does taste FABULOUS on a Margarita pizza!

 

Our next wonder herb is Mint!

I think Mint might be the first thing I ever grew in any garden I was responsible for.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of it’s thuggish nature, and put one small plant in the soil expecting it to bush out and provide me with a lot of leaves for my purposes.  It certainly provided me with lots of leaves, but it spreads through the garden like wildfire.  If you do plant mint in your garden, make sure you plant it in a nice big pot to contain it slightly.  And if it spreads out of those bounds… get it.  Otherwise Mint will become the bane of your gardening life!!

mint 2

Mint is a perennial herb, with a creeping habit (see thuggish behaviour described above!) and it grows anywhere and everywhere.  You use the leaves when you cook or medicate with it, as the stalk is a bit woody and the flowers don’t really have much to offer the party.  Except bees.  Bees love the mint flowers.  Mint leaves are packed with phytochemicals and that is a very good thing indeed.  Phytochemicals are powerful anti-oxidants staving off illness and even slowing the rate of ageing.  They also have a strong anti-inflammatory effect.

 

Mint is anti-bacterial.  It helps prevent infections of all kinds.  Bacteria, fungi and yeast are all killed by mint, and there is even some research to indicate that viruses aren’t very pleased if you use mint against them.  I am loathe to say that it is an anti viral herb, because that would be a very rare herb indeed, and I don’t want you to think that if you have a virus, mint will sort it out.  It’s good, but I fear it is not that good.

mint plant

Most people know that a cup of mint tea (made with a sprig of mint with 4 or 5 leaves on it and boiling water poured over it, and then steeped for 3 to 4 minutes) is a fantastic way of completing a meal.  Particularly if that meal as been quite rich and quite large.  Mint is a fabulous digestive calmative, it prevents spasms in the intestines and it has been shown to help with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

mint tea

A topical application of mint essential oil, which has a large component of menthol, has been shown to be effective in controlling the pain of headaches and some injuries.  It can help calm travel sickness, and it may even help those who suffer from allergic reactions.  Mint is a fabulous addition to your skin routine (antibacterial = anti acne!), would make a fine ingredient for a homemade mouthwash, and if you want to cut down on your salt intake, flavour your food with mint.  Salt and mint really do not work together, so the more minty it is, the less salty you want it to be.

mint imperials

It doesn’t matter whether you use peppermint or spearmint, the important bit is the mint.  Unfortunately, this does not mean you can go out and stuff your pockets with Mint Imperials, Candy canes or Wrigley’s Double Mint Gum.  Sweeties are not the best way of taking in the chemicals of mint.  Go straight from the plant.

Parsley… what can it do for us?

This is a blog post in praise of the humble parsley.  Many people sneer at this herb, remembering how it used to be so ubiquitous as a sad and rather solitary garnish on the plates of many restaurants in the 70s and 80s.  Poor Parsley.  Even now, it tends to be used as a “bulk it out” herb rather than for its actual flavour.   I actually have one of those supermarket pots of parsley on my windowsill and I wondered, while gazing at it at some point, whether Parsley is actually a healing plant?

Parsley

Hold onto your hats folks… yes it is!!  (It would be a rather dull blog post if it wasn’t, now wouldn’t it!)

Parsley is PACKED with volatile oil components including myristicin, limonene, eugenol and alpha-thujene,  Myristicin interferes with tumour formation in the lungs.  This action, and some others as well means that Parsley is a chemo-protective food, which means it neutralizes particular types of carcinogen.

Parsley also contains flavanoids, is a rich source of antioxidants, excellent source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A and is a HUGE source of folic acid.  It also has an enormous amount of Vitamin K and Iron.  For the health benefits, Fresh Parsley is better for you than dried.  Apparently the herb was brought to Britain by the Romans – with all those health benefits, it is another thing we can thank the Romans for (along with heating, indoor plumbing and straight roads!).  Another interesting fact is that Curly Parsley has more of the flavanoids and Volatile oils than the flat leaf sort… but both are pretty powerful!

flat leaf parsley

What can parsley be used for?  It is a great treatment for stings, bites, digestive disorders, bruises, eye infections, earache, toothache and hair loss.  It is a mild laxative, a diuretic and it reduces fever.  Traditionally parsley has been said to make freckles disappear, and it can also be a mosquito repellent.

Parsley is packed with Chlorophyll (that is what makes it green) and chlorophyll is great for removing smells.  There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that munching on some parsley will remove garlic breath, or chilli breath after a strongly flavoured meal.  You could also use it to create a mouthwash that won’t blast you backwards like some of the commercial mouthwashes can do.

parsley pot

I hope you will now look at that orphaned piece of parsley perched atop your meal in a slightly different way!