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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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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!

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/

 

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