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Gymnema

Gymnema

Native to central and western India, tropical Africa and Australia, Gymnema sylvestre is a slow-growing, climbing plant that has been used to treat diabetes for 2,000 years.  Although scientific research and large trials are lagging, the area of study is picking up as diabetes grows as a world health concern. With more than 150 million people currently living with diabetes, and not all able to afford (or desiring to use) pharmaceuticals, research is going back to the body of medicine long practiced in India.

Considered an astringent in Ayurveda, Gymnema pacifies Kapha and Pitta and reduces blood sugar levels.  Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, is basically a disease caused by they accumulation of a lifetime of bad eating habits and over-consumption of refined starches and unhealthy carbohydrates, such as sugar. This type of diabetes accounts for about 90 percent of all diabetes cases in the world.

Gymnema leaves have been demonstrated to have an “anti-sweet” effect, although the exact mechanism is unknown. The leaves are also noted for lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides.  In addition to its use in diabetes and metabolic disorders, Gymnema is used in Ayurveda to treat the following conditions:

  • asthma
  • constipation
  •  cough
  • dental cavities
  • eye complaints
  • inflammations
  • malaria
  • snakebites
  • dental cavities

Check out the following link if you would like to read more about Ayurvedic treatment of diabetes: http://www.chopra.com/files/docs/teacherdownloads/actpapers/Diabetes%20-%20Madhumeha,%20Angela%20McGinnis.pdf

Additionally, Gymnema has antimicrobial properties and acts as a natural  caterpillar-deterrent in fields and farms. It’s also used in cosmetics.  If, like me, you happen to be the kind of person for whom too much information is never enough, you can read more about Gymnema sylvestre in The Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2170951/


Spiced Pear Smoothie

Spiced Pear Smoothie 

  • 1 medium pear, cored, quartered
  • 1 cup almond milk
  •  1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled, minced
  •  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  2-3 ice cubes

Directions: Place ingredients into a good powerful blender until smooth and creamy.  Thin with water or thicken with ice if desired. Enjoy!

Yield:  makes 1 serving.

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Chitrak

Chitrak

Chitrak is a pungent herb used in Ayurveda to improve digestion and circulation, and to detoxify the GI tract.

Described in Ayurvedic medicine as being heating and bitter or pungent, chitrak balances Kapha and Vata doshas but may aggravate Pitta. If you would like to read more about doshas and digestion check out the California College of Ayurveda’s page here: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/drhalpern/clinical/digestive

Often known as Ceylon leadwort and, tellingly, doctorbush, chitrak has been shown to fight H. pylori, the bacteria that most commonly causes stomach ulcers: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15708315

According to the Herbal Encyclopedia, Western research is once again playing catching up with “traditional” Chinese and Indian medicine where chitrak has been used for 2,500 years.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Human Oncology are studying the anti-cancer properties of this woody, herbaceous tropical plant. Plumbagin, a compound found in the root of this member of the plumbago species, has shown results against certain prostate and breast cancers in the lab, though much more research is needed.

The Herbal Encyclopedia has an amazing amount of information on Ayurvedic herbs and good articles on the uses and benefits of chitrak if you would like to read more: http://www.herbcyclopedia.com/index.php?option=com_zoo&task=tag&tag=GUJARATI:%20ચિત્રક%20CHITRAK&app_id=5&Itemid=193

Chitrak’s scientific name, Plumbago zeylanica, reflects how the plant’s pale flower resembles the color of lead. It is spread throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world, notably India, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, the southeastern United States and Central America.

In English folk medicine, the root of a closely related plant, chitrak’s European cousin, was used to make a special brew to relieve toothaches and other swellings and touted for its natural antibiotic properties, according to the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s website: http://ntbg.org/plants/plant_details.php?plantid=11896

Because of this herb’s potency, pregnant women should avoid it, and everyone should check with their doctor for any potential medication interactions.

Touted by Ayurvedic medicine for increasing Agni, or digestive fire, and its effect on spreading up metabolism, it is commonly used for weight loss.

The Indian city website for Chandigarh, http://chandigarh.gov.in/green_herb_gudu.htm, recommends chitrak for fever, gout, anemia, jaundice/ hepatitis, diabetes, itching, dyslipidemia, obesity, piles and geriatric problems. The wording is a little off to American English readers, but the information is pretty interesting.

Containing even further information about for chitrak’s use as medicine for thousands of years, consult a health care practitioner in case you might be thinking chitrak might be the herb you need to light a little fire in your belly.

Of course, here’s something else that could light a little fire in your belly, a beautiful smoothie recipe from reciperunner.com.

Sunrise Smoothie

Sunrise  Smoothie

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Mango Pineapple Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. honey

Strawberry Banana Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. honey

Instructions:

Place all of the ingredients for the pineapple mango layer of the smoothie in the blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the pineapple mango layer into 2 glasses and place in the freezer.

Rinse out the blender and place all of the ingredients for the strawberry banana layer in it and blend until smooth.

Pour the strawberry banana mixture on top of the pineapple mango mixture.

Top with shredded coconut if desired.

Serve immediately.

http://reciperunner.com/sunrise-smoothie/

Bitter Melon

Bitter melon is the fruit of a fast growing vine usually found in subtropic climates. The name comes from its bitter taste – it is considered the most bitter of all edible vegetables.  The fruit is oblong in shape with varying undulations – or warts –  on its exterior. It is the tender young fruit, usually 4″-6″ long, green to white in color, that are used in a wide variety of culinary dishes and medicinal applications. As the fruit ripens, the rind becomes tougher and is too bitter to eat. (http://bittermelon.org/)

As a culinary ingredient, bitter melon is an acquired taste. While in the same botanical family as a cucumber, it’s definitely different and much sharper on the tongue.  Why use such a bitter ingredient to cook with?  Probably because its such a unique and memorable flavor component. Many Asian culinary traditions, not to mention those in Central and South America, embrace bitter melon. The Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and so forth, counter the bitterness of the fruit with spicy, sweet, or savory components. (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/07/seriously-asian-bitter-melon-stir-fry.html)

In medicinal applications, Bitter melon is promoted as a remedy for diabetes, cancer and various infections.  For centuries, Ayurveda has recommended the use of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) as a functional food to prevent and treat human health related issues.

A few studies have indicated that it may be effective in reducing blood sugar levels (a hypoglycemic effect) and treating type II diabetes. Reductions in blood sugar after taking bitter melon can be seen quickly—as soon as 30 minutes—with the greatest reduction occurring at 4 hours and lasting for 12 hours. (http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?edition=1§ion=3&article=371 , http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21211558).

Studies have also shown some effectiveness of using bitter melon in the treatment of breast cancer- one of the most common cancers in women-  and prostrate cancer – the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20179194, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21911444).

One approach to controlling cancer is prevention through diet, and the anti-tumor activity of bitter melon has recently begun to emerge. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20198408)

One of the health risks of taking bitter melon is that it may work too well. Combining it with standard drugs can create an additive effect, reducing blood sugar levels too low. If you are already taking drugs for diabetes, you should your physician before adding bitter melon to your diet. (http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21580)

Bitter melon can be found in most Indian and Asian grocery stores.

Superpower Morning Smoothie

Bitter Melon 2013_1_31-green-smoothie-1

Serves 1

1 large handful roughly chopped kale, spinach, collards, or a combination

1 frozen peeled banana, cut into several pieces

1 cup pure unsweetened coconut water

2 tablespoons almond butter

1 tablespoon flax oil

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until completely uniform in color and all the bits of green are pulverized. Serve immediately.

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-superpower-morning-smoothie-recipes-from-the-kitchn-183353

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