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Neem

Neem

Neem is a tall, tropical evergreen tree found primarily in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Also known as Indian lilac, the neem tree has long been used as a medicinal remedy and new uses and qualities continue to be discovered.  “Neem leaves have been used traditionally as a blood cleanser due to their antiviral, antifungal, anti-parasitic, and antiseptic qualities,” writes Kulreet Chaudhary, MD, in the Dr. Oz Blog. “Neem leaves are also used to treat many eye disorders such as conjunctivitis, skin conditions such as acne and rosacea, stomach ulcers, poor appetite, diabetes, gum disease, fever, liver disorders, and arthritis. It is also great for the heart and used to prevent blood clots.”  You can read the full article here:  http://blog.doctoroz.com/oz-experts/herb-of-the-month-neem

In addition, neem is currently being researched in India for the treatment of cancer. According to one review, more than 140 compounds have been isolated from different parts of neem. That’s a whole lot of complicated compounds for one simple evergreen. You can read more in this review: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15777222

One particular area of interest with neem – and one that is likely to become more important in the coming years – is that neem has antibacterial qualities but doesn’t cause bacterial resistance over time. Given the soaring rates of hospital infections and the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria – sometimes called superbugs – scientific    interest in neem is rising.  However, it’s very important to remember that neem leaves also contain spermicidal compounds.

If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should not consume products with neem because it may result in miscarriage and is dangerous for infants and very young children.  Despite precautions against taking it internally in those circumstances, neem can be an effective toothpaste ingredient, and is highly effective against many of the bacteria that cause periodontal disease (read more in my previous bog). It’s also a common ingredient in anti-acne products and intestinal parasite cures for the very same reason.

Hopefully all that talk of parasites hasn’t put you off your appetite.  In case it has, here’s a particularly pretty smoothie recipe to perk your digestive fire back up again, courtesy of the blog Girl Makes Food.

Healthy thin mint smoothie

Healthy Thin Mint Smoothie  

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients: 

  • ¾ cup plain, unsweetened Greek Yogurt (I used full fat)
  • ¼ cup Fresh Mint (tightly packed)
  • 1 cup Almond Milk
  • ¼ cup Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup fresh Baby Spinach
  • Maple, to sweeten, to taste (I used 1 tablespoon)
  •  1-2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder (optional, it will bump up the chocolate flavor, but it will make the smoothie a muddier color)
  • 2 cups Ice

 

Instructions: Combine all but ice in the blender Blend until smooth Add the ice and blend Add more ice to thicken and/or chill as desired. Slurp time!!

Cloves

 Cloves 

These tiny, fragrant, dried flower buds deliver a wallop when it comes to taste – and health.  While familiar to some of us as the teeny, tiny pin in a piece of baklava, cloves are flower buds harvested from an evergreen tree that ranges throughout Asia. Since ancient times its ability to numb, especially toothaches and mouth sores, has been noted.  A natural antiviral, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and anti-fungal agent, clove also holds aphrodisiac and circulation-stimulating capacities, according to Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.

Oil of clove has been used for a variety of health conditions including stress, indigestion, parasitic infestations, coughs, toothaches, headaches, and blood impurities. It is also great for skin problems such as acne. Cloves can naturally and effectively cure many digestive problems such as indigestion, nausea, loose stools and flatulence.  If you happen to be one of those people interested in clove oil pulling, an Ayurvedic tradition of rinsing the mouth with antioxidant oils to help, among other things, clear gum issues such as pain and infection, and generally remove toxins and mucous, an excellent page to check out is from the Institute of Complimentary Therapy’s page: http://www.ict-energyschool.com/ICT/GrassrootsBlog/Entries/2011/3/15_The_Benefits_of_Oil_Pulling_with_Essential_Oils.html

And according to the website Ayurveda Healing, clove is also an  effective acne treatment.  “Cloves help clear acne, thank to eugenol, a natural antiseptic that balances the skin, stopping future breakouts. Try combining 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, 1 teaspoon of honey and 3 drops of fresh lemon juice in a small bowl. Apply to your entire face and leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse with cold water for clear skin.”  You can read more here: http://ayurvedahealing.org/2012/08/28/cloves-not-just-for-cooking/

Speaking of cloves and deliciousness, here’s an incredible autumn smoothie recipe featuring the antioxidant power of pumpkin and clove from our friends over at Gourmandelle.

clove smoothie

 Super Antioxidant Pumpkin Smoothie  

  • 1 cup cubed pumpkin, frozen or fresh (I like it frozen)
  • 1 1/2 glass cold green tea, unsweetened (It’s best if you make this ahead and put it in the fridge to cool down)
  •  1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2g ginger powder
  •  1/2 tsp of turmeric (it doesn’t change its taste, just adds more antioxidant goodness)
  • 2g Ganoderma powder (optional – if you don’t have it you can skip it)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey or ginger cold pressed syrup (I love ginger syrup!)

Directions: Place the frozen or fresh pumpkin in the blender, add green tea and blend until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend a little more. Serve!

Alzheimer’s Disease

 Alzheimer’s disease 

Nearly 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).  This progressive, irreversible brain disease is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly, usually manifesting after the age of 60. As anyone who has seen a loved one go through this type of decline can tell you, it’s simply devastating.  Cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—along with behavioral abilities, become compromised to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Ranging in severity from the mildest stage, when it just begins to affect a person’s functioning with slight lapses in memory, to the most severe stage, when the person can no longer care for himself or herself and need assistance in almost all daily tasks.

Unfortunately, there’s currently no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, however research continues.  According to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, the best strategies for preventing Alzheimer’s in the long run may be the same things that keep your heart healthy in the short term.  “The strongest evidence so far suggests that you may be able to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by reducing your risk of heart disease.  Many of the same factors that increase your risk of heart disease can also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.  Important factors that may be involved include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, excess weight and diabetes.”

The whole story can be found here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161 The page goes on to say that programs under development “encourage physical activity, cognitive stimulation, social engagement and a healthy diet. They also teach memory compensation strategies that help optimize daily function even if brain changes progress. Keeping active — physically, mentally and socially — may make your life more enjoyable and may also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”  Really, this health recommendation isn’t anything outside of what we all know to be true – that being healthy, happy and engaged in our communities is the best thing for our futures.  Speaking of happy, healthy and engaged, here’s another smoothie recipe – this one chosen for its brain-boosting ingredients and rich, delicious taste.

Healthy chocolate smoothie

Healthy Chocolate Smoothie Recipe 

  • 1.5 Cups Hemp Milk
  • 1.5 Cup Walnuts
  • 2 Frozen Bananas
  •  2 T. Organic Raw Chocolate Powder
  •  2 T. Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 T. Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • .5 Cup Ice

Directions:  Place all of the ingredients into the Vitamix (or your blender) and blend until perfectly smooth. Enjoy!

Gokshuradi Guggulu

Gokshuradi Guggulu 

According to Banyan Botanicals, “Gokshuradi Guggulu is a traditional Ayurvedic compound used to support the proper function of the genitourinary tract. It strengthens and tones the kidneys, bladder and urethra as well as the reproductive organs.”  They go on to say that:  The main ingredient, gokshura, is renowned for its rejuvenating action on the kidneys and prostate. Combined with guggulu, triphala and trikatu, it detoxifies the urinary system and supports healthy urinary composition. Balancing to all doshas, Gokshuradi Guggulu revitalizes the genitourinary system by calming vata, soothing pitta and eliminating excess kapha. *” You can read more about it here: http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/prodinfo.asp?number=7141

Guggul is made from the sap (gum resin) of the Commiphora mukul tree, which is native to India. This tree has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and Ayurvedic texts dating back to 600 BC recommend it for treating atherosclerosis.  While it has a long history, it still has modern uses.  “Today guggul gum resin is used for arthritis, lowering high cholesterol, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), acne and other skin diseases, and weight loss,” according to the website WebMD.  Triphala is a three-herb mixture known for detoxification and one of the most commonly recommended Ayurvedic preparations for basic, internal health and cleansing. Trikatu is a digestive tonic and detoxifier.  Together this combination provides powerful support for vital systems.  Of course we all know one other thing that can help support all your vital systems – and that’s a delicious and nutritious smoothie.

perfect breakfast smoothie

The Perfect Breakfast Smoothie  

 

  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 – 1 banana [always depended on how many I had left]
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave or honey
  • 1 teaspoon matcha [for your caffeine-kick]
  • 1/2 scoop whey protein [if you have any]

Directions:  If you have whey and/or matcha, what you want to do first is pour in the almond milk and then add the whey and/or matcha and blend.  Not only does this make the smoothie deliciously frothy, but it also mixes up the powders so they aren’t gross, ruining your smoothie one clump at a time later.  Once blended add blueberries, banana, agave and yogurt. I like to keep the blueberries by the top so they don’t stunt the movement and yogurt closest to the blades to help with blending. I also like to hide the agave in between the fruit and yogurt so it doesn’t get stuck to the sides.  With the bullet I blend it for about 2 minutes, 3 tops and then that’s it. You are good to go! If it’s too thick, add extra almond milk until you have it to your liking. If you’re full time fancy, feel free to put it in a glass… but be warned, that will take longer and create extra dishes.

Chelation

Chelation

Chelation therapy is the administration of certain substances to the body in order to clear the build up of certain metals, such as mercury or lead, or certain minerals, such as calcium, which can poison the body when present in large amounts. In western medicine, chelation is used to treat heavy metal poisoning – most commonly in people exposed to highly toxic levels of dangerous heavy metals -such as through use of lead paint. A solution is injected intravenously, and this binds in the bloodstream with the offending molecules and helps move them quickly through the body’s system and allow them to be more quickly eliminated by simple urination.

Current research is also heading towards the use of chelation therapy for Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, since it is and effective and non-surgical way to remove calcium deposits and plaque. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has an interesting article on their preliminary findings on chelation therapy which you can read here: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/mar2013/nhlbi-26.htm If you a looking for a bit more personal information about what to expect from chelation therapy, physician and natural health guru Dr. Andrew Weil has an excellent page on the subject: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03408/Chelation-Therapy.html He is a bit dubious of the practice outside of its use for heavy metal poisoning, but it’s a well-written article with good information.

In Ayurveda, chelation is a very common, basic principle. In fact, many of the most commonly prescribed herbs – such as guggulu for high cholesterol – are considered chelation agents. Although few of these compounds have been studied in the same way pharmaceuticals have been, that is starting to change, as the NIH study on chelation for heart disease shows. And so far, this is just one more case where modern medical science is actually proving principles that have been practiced in eastern medicine for millennia, or at least in this case.

Of course there are also simple and accessible ways to help detoxify. You may want to try this amazing detox smoothie recipe from lexieskitchen.com.

cheery cherry detox smoothie

Cheery Cherry Detox Smoothie

 

Serves: 2 large or 4 small glasses

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen cherries
  • 2-4 kale cubes or a handful of fresh kale
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I use SoDelicious® Coconut Milk Beverage)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chia seed
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla exact
  • Liquid vanilla Stevia to taste
  • Optional: 1 pack Emergen-C Kidz Fruit Punch (if tolerated)

Directions:  Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender (like a Blendtec or OmniBlend) and blend on high until super smooth. If you like your smoothies cold and frosty (like I do) throw in a few ice cubes at the end and blend until smooth.

Turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric, the spice that gives many curries a rich, golden color and a warm, satisfying flavor, is also an antioxidant powerhouse that has been used for thousands of years in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.  Considered anti-inflammatory, turmeric is used to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds.  Closely related to ginger, turmeric is an herbaceous herb native to the Indian subcontinent. The root can be used fresh, although it’s more commonly sold and used in powdered form, like we probably have on our spice shelf.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most of the current research on the uses of turmeric focuses on one chemical constituent, curcumin.  “Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge molecules in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.”  You can read more about this and other current research on turmeric here: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric#ixzz2iZQz2RqW

If you still feel like learning more, Dr. Andrew Weil wrote an excellent article on the benefits of turmeric for the Huffington Post. It’s a few years old but well worth the read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/turmeric-health-have-a-happy-new-year_b_798328.html In it, he highlights research studying the possibility of turmeric – or more specifically curcumin – shrinking melanomas, making cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation and delaying the liver damage that leads to cirrhosis.    His conclusion?  “The bottom line that the therapeutic advantages of turmeric and curcumin are almost too numerous to list.

An overview published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology in 2007 states that, “Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses.”  But if you want a more delicious way to work turmeric into your day, why don’t you try this week’s smoothie, from our friends over at Green Kitchen Stories.

Turmeric lassi

Immune-Boosting Turmeric Lassi 

 

Serves: 2 large or 4 small glasses

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic yogurt with active live culture
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tsp honey, preferably unpasteurized
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 2 tsp rosehip powder (optional but delicious, and a good C-vitamin boost)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or ground vanilla
  • 3-4 tsp ground turmeric (or fresh turmeric root)
  • 4-5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix on high speed until smooth.  Add more yogurt if you prefer. Pour the lassi in two large glasses. For a more stunning presentation, dust 1 tsp ground turmeric on top before serving. Add a straw and serve.

Guggul

Guggul

Guggul, the sap of a tree native to India, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia – with texts going back to the year 600 B.C.  recommending it for treating hardening of the arteries.  Harvested by collecting the hardened sap that flows out of small cuts made in the tree’s papery bark, guggul is something of wonder drug from the ancient world. In Latin, Hebrew and ancient Greek it was known as bdellium.

Guggul is one of Ayurveda’s most powerful purifiers. The long list of conditions it has been used to treat includes:  Weight loss, arthritis, acne, atherosclerosis, gingivitis, high cholesterol, inflammation, and thyroid problems.

Guggul is sometimes recommended as a way to remove long-accumulated toxins naturally from the body. The Chopra Center recommends guggul for those who have spent a lot of time on antibiotics or for those quitting the use of drugs or alcohol.  You can read more about Ayurveda and guggul from the Chopra Center website here: http://www.chopra.com/community/online-library/ayurvedic-herbs-foods/guggulu

Be sure to consult with a health professional before taking guggul as it can have a number of interactions with medications.  If you want to know more about the pharmacological aspects of guggul – and don’t mind a bit of a technical read – check out this excellent page: http://www.toddcaldecott.com/index.php/herbs/learning-herbs/363-guggulu

With a fragrance similar to myrrh, guggul is also used for incense and perfume. Many people are worried about sustainable and ethical management of the Commiphora mukul tree. While the tree is native to India, it can be found growing in arid regions from northern Africa to central Asia.  Loss of habitat due to human encroachment and over harvesting has focused attention on the plight of this fragile gift of nature.

If you would like to read more about one herb company’s effort to rally around sustainable harvesting and protection of the plant’s habitat, you can read more at Pukka’s blog: http://www.pukkaherbs.com/blog/the-organic-guggul-cultivation-project/

soymilk carrot cake smoothieSoymilk Carrot Cake Smoothie

Makes four servings

Ingredients:

  • 20 to 30 ice cubes (depending on how thick you want your smoothie to be)
  • 2 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 cup carrot juice
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:  Place the ice cubes in the blender first, then add the rest of the  ingredients.  Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

http://www.lafujimama.com/2011/10/soymilk-carrot-cake-smoothies/

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