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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!!

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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.

Bibhitaki

Bibhitaki

Bibhitaki is the Indian name for the a tree – and its fruit – which is known in English as Terminalia bellirica.

This large, deciduous tree is common in India and Southeast Asia where it is planted as a shade tree and often lines busy boulevards. However, its real gift isn’t shade, but rather its fruit and bark, which have been used for thousands of years as medicine.

According to Deepak Chopra, M.D., an Ayurvedic doctor and founder of the Chopra Center:

“Bibhitaki is an excellent rejuvenative with both laxative and astringent properties. It eliminates excess mucous in the body, balancing the Kapha dosha. In addition, bibhitaki is a powerful treatment for a variety of lung conditions, including bronchitis and asthma.”

You can read more about bibhitaki and its uses, including as part of Triphala, a three-fruit preparation used for health and cleansing in Ayurvedic panchakarma treatments for thousands of years, here: http://www.chopra.com/community/online-library/ayurvedic-herbs-foods/triphala

WebMD.com notes that bibhitaki is used for the following problems:

  • Respiratory ailments including infections, coughs and sore throats
  • High cholesterol
  • Digestive disorders including indigestion, constipation and diarrhea
  • Sore eyes
  • Chest pain and angina

In addition, it seems to have an inhibitory effect on the HIV virus though much more research is needed on the subject. Likewise some studies have shown it to be anti-malarial.

It also seems to have antioxidant and anti-aging applications and is used to protect the liver. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17049775

An excellent web article if you want to learn more about bibhitaki can be found here: http://www.toddcaldecott.com/index.php/herbs/learning-herbs/389-bibhitaki

It’s a pretty weighty read with a lot of scientific information but does a great job of rounding up the current research on the benefits of bibhitaki.

Strawberry Spinach Sunbutter Smoothie

Strawberry Spinach Sunbutter Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 large handful spinach leaves
  • 2 Tbsp sunbutter
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I use Fage 0%)
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides and breaking apart chunks of fruit as necessary. Pour into a glass or bowl and enjoy!

http://www.coffeeandquinoa.com/2013/03/strawberry-spinach-sunbutter-smoothie/

 

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/

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