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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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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!

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/

Sun Tai Chi

Sun Tai Chi

By now you have probably heard of tai chi.

If not, you have probably at least seen people in parks practicing coordinated, slow, smooth, whole-body movements and wondered what they were doing.

Characterized by slow, smooth, circular motions, tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that has been practiced for health reasons for hundreds of years.

Sun style tai chi, or just simply Sun tai chi, is a style of tai chi which emphasizes flow of motion and gentle movements while building strength and flexibility – an ‘all gain, no pain’ approach to exercise.

It was founded by Sun Lutang, son of a poor Chinese farmer who lived from 1861 – 1932 and dedicated himself to the study of martial arts and their use in health. This form of tai chi is the most modern.

You can read more about the history of Sun tai chi at www.suntaichi.com.

Sun tai chi is a mindfulness practice, with a strong mind-body link and pays special attention to breath. Some consider it meditation through motion.

One of the many great attributes of tai chi is that is can be adapted for most anyone, from the most fit to those confined to wheelchairs and people recovering from surgery, notes this excellent article in Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

It can be done indoors or out and requires no special equipment, just comfortable clothing that is easy to move in.

The Harvard article goes on to mention that tai chi has been linked to improvements in overall health in people with conditions including arthritis, heart disease, breast cancer, heart failure, osteoporosis, stroke, insomnia and Parkinson’s disease.

Even the world-renowned Mayo Clinic recommends tai chi: “When learned correctly and performed regularly, tai chi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health. The benefits of tai chi include:

  • Decreased stress and anxiety
  • Increased aerobic capacity
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Increased flexibility, balance and agility
  • Increased muscle strength and definition

Some evidence indicates that tai chi also may help:

  • Enhance quality of sleep
  • Enhance the immune system
  • Lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Improve joint pain
  • Improve symptoms of congestive heart failure
  • Improve overall well-being in older adults
  • Reduce risk of falls in older adults

You can read more here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087

So if you are looking for something low-impact with a wide array of benefits, try searching the web for local Sun tai chi classes.

Apple and Beet Smoothie

Apple and Beet Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 gala apple peeled and diced
  • ½ cup frozen mixed berries
  • ⅓ cup raw or roasted beets, diced
  • 1- inch piece ginger
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon agave
  • ¼ cup coconut milk or soymilk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Instructions:

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

http://citronlimette.com/recipe_archive/drinks-and-smoothies/apple-and-beet-smoothie/

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