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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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Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adult Americans and most adults deal with it at one time or another, and increasingly as we age.  While it is largely preventable with regular dental visits and good oral hygiene, certain factors – like genetics and hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy – make some people more susceptible to periodontal disease than others.

In its earliest stages gum disease is called gingivitis, characterized by puffy, bleeding gums. In its most advanced stages it’s called periodontitis and is characterized by the breakdown of the bone and tissues that support teeth.

Basically, what we’ve probably all heard since childhood is true. The mouth is a pretty dirty place, host to many, many different kinds of bacteria. That bacteria mixes with left over bits of food, saliva and mucous to form a sticky substance called plaque. If the plaque stays on your teeth long enough it hardens into tartar.

Tartar gives bacteria a place to shelter and flourish, and left long enough teeth become loose and begin to shift and the body begins reabsorbing the alveolar bone that supports teeth, creating a perfect storm that ends up with dentures.

Be sure to check out the following links for more information on periodontal disease:

WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/gingivitis-periodontal-disease

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm

While the airways are clogged with ads for dental products, most of us are left wondering if there are more natural solutions for periodontal disease than the alcohol and chemical-laden drug store pastes and rinses we see on TV. Fortunately, alternatives do exist. A solution of hydrogen peroxide and water can be a simple and economical rinse to use twice daily to reduce bacteria in the mouth.

Neem, a natural antibacterial from the tree of the same name, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Before the invention of disposable plastic toothbrushes, people would chew the tiny branches of the neem tree to clean their teeth.

A fascinating study from India estimates that 80 percent of the nation’s rural poor still use neem sticks for oral care. Remarkably, the study concludes neem sticks to be just as effective as regular tooth brushing at reducing plaque and gum inflammation.

If you care to read the whole report, it can be found here: http://www.ispcd.org/~cmsdev/userfiles/rishabh/09%20ajay%20bhambal.pdf <http://www.ispcd.org/%7Ecmsdev/userfiles/rishabh/09%20ajay%20bhambal.pdf>

Neem sticks may be a little hard to find in the United States, but plenty of Ayurvedic toothpastes contain it. Try your local health food store.

Another common ingredient in natural dental pastes and rinses is extracts from Salvadora persica, or as it is commonly known, the toothbrush tree. Native to Africa, the World Health Organization recommends using branches of this tree for brushing as equal to or better than traditional Western methods. You can read more here: http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5327e/x5327e1j.htm

Of course, if you do end up having to get dental work done, it’s best to stock up on plenty of smoothie ideas and ingredients since most dentists recommend soft, nutritious foods during recovery.

So Healthy Smoothie

So-Healthy Smoothie

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 small banana, sliced and frozen
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled mango, frozen
  • 1-1/4 cups frozen unsweetened sliced peaches

Directions

In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/So-Healthy-Smoothies

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