Slow Cooked Kangaroo

Slow Cooked Kangaroo with Fig & Rosemary

 

Kangaroo is an under utilised Australian meat. For years this Australian emblem has been etched into our minds as a cute and cuddly cultural symbol. Because of this, kangaroo has remained for the most part far from our dinner plates. Meat culture in Australia follows a westernised diet of beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish. We think nothing of consuming these animals giving little thought or consideration to the environmental impact our diets leave in their wake.

The beef industry is a major contributor to the production of methane gas, however new modelling shows that when including the carbon sequestration and storage of grassland pastures, the methane production is reduced compared to grainfed beef. Regardless of the difficulty in estimating the negative impacts of agricultural practices on the environment, we can all agree that using wild caught, sustainable produce is best. Kangaroo, an alternative source of red meat, has an array of benefits on both our health and the environment. Depending on the cut of meat chosen, Kangaroo lends itself well to BBQ, stirfries, mince based dishes such as Bolognese and slow cooking such as the recipe featured below.

Features of Kangaroo Meat:

  • Highest meat source of the essential fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid (five times higher than lamb) the beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and also contains omega 3 fats EPA/DHA
  • High in minerals iron and zinc and B vitamins
  • All kangaroo meat harvested is wild, with the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia implementing tough guidelines around harvesting.
  • Being a wild caught animal, it is free of antibiotics, growth hormones and other chemicals used in modern farming.
  • Kangaroo over-population (now considered to be at pest levels) caused by European settlement causes land degradation.

 

RECIPE

Serves 4-6
What You Need
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 100g chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed & chopped
  • 2 anchovies
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1kg diced kangaroo meat
  • 2 tablespoons of besan (chickpea) flour
  • 375mL red wine
  • 500mL beef stock
  • 8-10 dried figs (stalks removed)
  • 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
What To Do

Preheat oven to 150°C or switch on slow cooker is using

Pour 4 tablespoons of oil into large frying pan.

Fry the onions, celery, rosemary and anchovies.

Once the onions are browned and beginning to caramelize, add the garlic and figs cooking for 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine and transfer mix to a large ovenproof baking dish or slow cooker pot.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in frying pan.

Lightly dust the kangaroo with besan flour and brown in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes

Transfer the kangaroo to the baking dish/slow cooker pot.

Heat the beef stock in the frying pan and once the stock is brought to the boil, pour over meat in the baking dish/slow cooker pot.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 3-4 hours or in slow cooker on low for 6-7 hours.

Transfer kangaroo to plate and allow to rest.

While the meat is resting, pour the cooking liquid into a frying pan.

Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce until liquid becomes a thick sauce – add salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle the sauce over the meat and serve with steamed or wok tossed vegetables on the side and your choice of cauliflower mash or rice/quinoa/polenta.

 

 

Recipe adapted from the Warm; Kunara Cookbook (2015)

Medicinal Honey

Medicinal Honey

Exploring Manuka Honey & Jelly Bush Honey for Health

The therapeutic use of honey can be traced as far back as early Egyptian civilizations. Despite this long traditional use, it was not until the twentieth century that honey proved its worth in scientific trials. In the past 100 years countless studies have shown manuka honey and other medicinal honeys to offer an effective treatment of coughs, sore throats, burns, wounds and ulceration with far less side effects than other topical treatments such as silver sulfadiazine.

Honey & Coughs

Honey has also been found to be equally effective as cough medicines for soothing coughs. This research paper highlights that most prescribed and over-the-counter preparations for cough in children are not effective and might carry the risk of adverse events. A single dose of honey before bedtime was shown to diminish cough and the discomfort experienced by children and their parents. And only regular honey was used in this study, so we can imagine that medicinal honey would be even better!

Honey & Wounds

Honey’s wound healing properties are attributed to osmolarity, pH, hydrogen peroxide production and nutrient content. The high osmolarity of honey draws excess fluid from the wound helping relieve inflammation. pH refers to the level of acidity and alkalinity of an environment. The low pH of honey creates an acidic environment that reduces bacterial growth and stimulates wound healing. These factors work synergistically in creating a favourable environment in the wound bed during the early stages of healing.

Manuka Honey

Not all honey is created equal.  Manuka honey comes from flower nectar of the manuka bush Leptospermum scoparium, a plant indigenous to New Zealand. Although all honey possesses generalised antibacterial activity, Manuka honey is a cut above. These unique antibacterial and antifungal properties, discovered by researchers in 1981, is what sets this honey apart from the rest. New Zealand native bees do not produce honey, however, the European honey bee was introduced to New Zealand and became the source of local medicinal honeys.

Jelly Bush Honey

Australian Jelly Bush honey also possesses similar antibacterial properties to Manuka honey. The Jelly Bush or Golden Tea Tree plant, Leptospermum polygalifolium, grows in certain areas of the coast between Kempsey and Bribie Island as well as in Far North Queensland. Tasting a lot like paperbark honey, with a strong malt taste, Jelly Bush honey is only produced in the spring when the coastal heath explodes into a shower of tiny flowers that the local bees love. Some say that Australian Jelly Bush does not crystallise as readily like its competition across the Tasman, making it superior for skin wounds that refuse to heal. The Australian Aborigines have a long history of using native bees - harvesting both honey, pollen and wax for many applications. See this article for more info.

How Medicinal Honey Works

The chemical compounds hydrogen peroxide, methylglyoxal and dihydroxyacetone give active honeys their antibacterial power. These compounds, also known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is what Manuka honey is graded on. So far researchers world wide have not been able to identify all the exact compounds in the plant that the bees harvest and are specifically responsible for the efficacy of the active honey.

Image courtesy of Dr Ben McKee, Managing Director of Capilano Honey Ltd (2018)

Methylglyoxal (MGO) has been shown to be effective against the following bacteria infamous for causing skin infections, leg ulcers and peptic ulcers:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • Psuedomonas aeurginosa
  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Enterobacter cloacae
  • Helicobacter pylori

 

Grading System

Most manuka honeys use the UMF grading system. This grading system was set up by the UMF Honey Association of New Zealand (UMFHA) to ensure industry standards.  Another standard commonly referenced is the MGO level or methylglyoxal content.

Below is a conversion chart to help understand the two systems:

Image courtesy of Comvita (2018)

Active Honey Doesn’t Come Cheap!

The price of manuka honey is dependent upon the UMF or MGO rating. A higher rating denotes that the honey has a greater therapeutic effect and therefore a higher price. Because there are two grading systems, it is easy to get confused between what each means. UMF is largely thought of as the better grading system because it not only takes into account the methylglyoxal content but also the hydrogen peroxide and dioxyacetone levels. In a nutshell the higher the number, the better the honey. Active honey can range in price from $20 to $80 for a 250g jar – depending on its activity rating. I stock the Active Jelly Bush Honey in my Buderim clinic for $35 for UMF 15.

So while we need to be mindful of consuming too much sugar and honey is no different, active honeys from Manuka or Jelly Bush offer health benefits as well as a sweet taste.  Using these honeys topically on wounds, for inflammation and for a local antiseptic action on sore throats or for coughs is a great way of getting a simple natural remedy we can use at home!

 

 

lymphatic system

Lymphatic System

A key player in immunity, detoxification and overall health!

The lymphatic system is one that is regularly overlooked when it comes to health. Comprised of a complex interrelated network of vessels and lymph nodes as extensive as the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system is vital in maintaining our life force. The lymphatic system also includes the organs of the spleen and thymus gland as well as the tonsils and adenoids – highlighting its importance in immune function as well.

The lymph and its special role in regulating an entire host of functions, has historically held great importance in cross cultural medicinal traditions. Hippocrates, the father of both western and herbal medicine, was the first ever to document what we now know as the lymphatic system in the Hippocratic treatise ‘On Glands’or Peri adenon.  Since ancient times our knowledge of the lymphatic system has deepened although much of our understanding remains the same. Hippocrates postulated that lymph glands both attracted and received fluid and that the fluid or moisture in the body caused these lymph nodes to become overfilled in times of illness and imbalance. Contrast this to our current understanding and it is clear that not much has changed. Our current understanding of the lymphatic system’s role, though much more detailed than what Hippocrates first proposed, includes fluid regulation, waste removal and filtration and immunity.

 

Fluid Return

Our lymphatic system is the little brother to our cardiovascular system. Our heart and blood vessels work hard to deliver much-needed nutrients and oxygen around our body. Due to complicated reasons, the exchange of blood that happens at our tissues results in a little more fluid being given to our cells than received back by our blood vessels. This difference in fluid is where the lymphatic system comes in. The lymphatic vessels collect this extra cellular fluid and return it to the heart via a complex network of vessels and lymph nodes.

Without a proper functioning lymphatic system, fluid accumulates resulting in swelling and oedema. In naturopathic philosophy there are certain constitutions that are more prone to lymphatic congestion. If you find you are prone to swollen lymph nodes and oedema there are certain things that can be done to support your lymphatic system.  However, please note that if you are experiencing oedema of any kind it is best to talk to your medical practitioner to rule out any serious health conditions.

As the lymphatic system is comprised of vessels that run towards the heart, for most of the time the flow of lymph is fighting against gravity. Unlike the blood vessels that are aided by the strong muscular force of the heart beat to transport blood, the lymphatic vessels rely on a more passive process of muscular contractions to help direct the flow. This is why lymphatic swelling is usually located in the lower limbs – it is hard work moving against the downward forces of gravity. Manual manipulation can be used in cases of insufficient lymph flow to support the return of fluid back to the cardiovascular system. As the lymph vessels are located superficially – quite close to the skin surface, gentle pressure is best. Ways to support the lymph flow manually include a specific type of massage, known as lymphatic drainage massage, usually perfomed by a remedial masseuse or alternatively dry skin brushing that you can do yourself.

Dry skin brushing is a traditional technique used and recommended by natural health practitioners to encourage the drainage of lymphatic vessels. It involves applying a light amount of pressure to the skin using a soft-bristled brush in long stroke motions towards the heart. (NB: we sell these dry skin brushes over the counter at Noosa Holistic Health).

Another lifestyle recommendation that has been shown to improve lymphatic flow is movement. As mentioned above, muscular contraction aids the flow of lymph, so a sedentary lifestyle can aggravate lymph congestion. Whereas engaging in mild to moderate exercise – including simple walking and yoga, causes the muscles surrounding lymph tissue to contract helping to push the lymphatic fluid towards the heart thereby promoting clearance. Rebounding, which involves bouncing on a mini trampoline, is an excellent exercise to promote lymphatic flow as the gentle movements work against gravity.

There are certain herbal remedies with an affinity for the lymphatic system and fluid balance, such as dandelion leaf, calendula, red root, violet and cleavers. Incorporating herbal teas into your diet and ensuring you are drinking enough water are gentle ways of supporting lymphatic flow. For a more tailored and therapeutic approach consulting a naturopathic physician may be more appropriate for longstanding lymphatic congestion. 

 Immunity & Toxin Clearance

Lymph nodes are bean-shaped organs situated along the lymphatic vessels. There are approximately 500 lymph nodes within our bodies ranging in size from 1mm to 4cm. Their job is to filter unwanted pathogens such as bacteria and viruses from the blood and toxins from the environment. Sometimes lymph nodes become overwhelmed from the pathogens they are trying to destroy or the toxins they are trying to clear. High levels of bacteria or viruses might get trapped in the node, but due to an insufficient immune response these pathogens are not dealt with effectively. Likewise, if we are exposed to a higher burden of pollution or toxins, there may be a localized swelling as the toxins are cleared.  Both of these issues can result in lymph node swelling. Painful lymph nodes usually occur during infection whereas lymph node swelling not associated with pain or tenderness can be a sign of certain types of cancers. In cases of chronic lymph node swelling not associated with infection, it is best to consult your doctor for further investigations.

As the lymphatic system is so intrinsically linked to our immunity it is important to not only support the flow of lymph but also the immune system when addressing lymphatic congestion. It should come as no surprise that eating foods high in antioxidants and fibre supports your immune system. When fighting infection both the immune system and the bacteria and viruses themselves can produce chemicals and toxins that promote inflammation. Antioxidants help reduce this inflammation and promote healing. Usually most people think of fibre for improving gut function and regulating bowel motions. In addition to these actions, fibre also provides our healthy gut microbes with food. About 80% of our immune system resides in our gut and is influenced by the microbes that inhabit our colon. Supporting a healthy microbiome (the collective term for our friendly inhabitants) also supports a healthy immune system.

Given our current lives, most of us do not get enough sunlight to support the production of vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating our immune system and there are other important health benefits from exposure to natural sun light and full spectrum light. An article detailing the importance of sunlight exposure and vitamin D can be found here.

So all in all, a healthy diet, fresh air, regular exercise and keeping hydrated with pure water, will go a long way to support our lymphatic system – one of our most important, but often overlooked pathways of detoxification and immune function. If extra support could be beneficial for you to promote specific aspects of immunity or detoxification, then consider a tailored approach of herbs and nutrients to optimise your lymphatic system by seeing Karen for an appointment.

 

 

 

Paleo Muesli

Natural Muesli Recipes

for Busy Mornings

Popping some muesli and yoghurt in a jar can give you a healthy breakfast to go for those busy mornings!

It is important to start your day the right way with a decent amount of protein, fats and fibre. Sometimes our busy lifestyles prevent us from chowing down on a serving of eggs and veg, and ironically these more stressful times are the periods we need these food groups the most. Often when our busy lives prevail we reach for a less-healthy, more convenient breakfast food like cereal.

Muesli, like all cereals, should be thought of as an occasional alternative to a more protein rich breakfast. We can also get sick of having eggs every morning and sometimes we just need a bit of variety. While many cereals are loaded with unnecessary sugars, when we make our own wholeseome muesli we can be more in control of the fuel we give our body on those busy mornings when we need it most. Here are two recipes that you can try:

 

Toasted Oat, Macadamia & Cranberry Muesli Recipe

Why it’s good

Oats are a good source of B-complex vitamins, protein, amino acids and minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc and iron. As well as being a valuable source of these nutrients, oats contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, to which most of the food’s health benefits are owed:

  • Beta-glucans increase bile acid synthesis that inadvertently decrease blood serum cholesterol
  • Being a soluble fiber, beta-glucans slow stomach emptying thereby reducing the rise of blood glucose following a meal

Cranberries outrank many other common fruits and vegetables in antioxidants, with an antioxidant (ORAC) score of 8,983 per cup of whole cranberries. See this article for a discussion of the ORAC score and antioxidant ratings for many superfoods.

What further sets cranberry apart from others in the fruit family is it’s high content of A-type-proanthocyanidins, a more biologically stable counterpart of B-type-proanthocyanidins found in other fruits.

Coconut is a good source of copper, manganese, selenium, iron and potassium as well as being high in lauric acid, an essential saturated fatty acid that promotes HDL (the good cholesterol) and also weight loss.

Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to improve blood lipid profiles and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

 

Ingredients: What you need
  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • ½ cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup of shredded coconut
  • ½ cup of macadamias (raw or roasted)
  • ½ cup of sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup of pepitas

*This recipe makes enough for about seven servings

Method: What to do

Toast oats in oven, spread out on a tray until they develop a slight golden colour

Chop cranberries and macadamias roughly

Combine all other ingredients with oats, macadamias and cranberries

Serve up a bowl and enjoy your delicious yet nutritious muesli with your choice or milk or yoghurt and fresh fruit if desired.

 

Paleo Alternative

Why it’s good

Walnuts contain almost double the antioxidants compared to other nuts such as almonds and pistachios. They also contain the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA is renowned for its protective effects in the cardiovascular system whereas DHA is important in brain and eye health.  

Pecans, like other nuts, contain a plethora of healthy fats and minerals. Contrary to popular belief these fats actually improve weight loss and reduce weight gain. This is because eating a diet high in healthy fats (and low in carbohydrates) helps our body switch from burning sugar to burning fat for energy. An additional benefit of these fats is that we stay fuller for longer as these fats suppress the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin.

Cacao powder, the unrefined brother of cocoa, is a good source of magnesium and antioxidants but still provides the chocolate hit we all crave. Recent studies have shown cacao to improve pancreatic beta-cell functioning (the cells responsible for producing insulin). Increasing cacao (while limiting sugar) may improve blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of developing type II diabetes.

 

Ingredients: What you need
  • 1 cup of chopped raw walnuts
  • 1 cup of chopped raw pecans
  • 1 cup of shredded coconut
  • ½ cup of macadamias
  • ½ cup of sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup of pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, rice malt syrup or honey
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons of cacao powder

*This recipe makes enough for 7 servings

Method: What to do

Mix ingredients together. It can be easier to mix the coconut oil, syrup and cacao powder together first before mixing it with the nuts and seeds. Spread onto a baking tray.

Toast muesli in oven on a low-medium setting for 10 minutes, stirring half way through to ensure even toasting.

Serve up a bowl and enjoy your delicious yet nutritious muesli with your choice of milk or yoghurt and a few mixed berries if desired.

 

 

 

 

References:

Martin, M.A., Ramos, S., Cordero-Herrero, I., Bravo, L., & Goya, L. (2013). Cocoa phenolic extract protects pancreatic beta cells against oxidative stress. Nutrients, 5(8), 2955-2968, 10.3390/nu5082955.

Feinle-Bisset, C., Patterson, M., Ghatei, M.A., Bloom, S.R., & Horowitz, M. (2005). Fat digestion is required for suppression of ghreline and stimulation of peptide YY and pancreatic polypeptide secretion by intraduodenal lipid. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, 289(6), 948-953, https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.00220.2005.

Prior, R.L., Lazarus, S.A., Cao, G., Muccitelli, H., & Hammerstone, J.F. (2001). Identification of procyanidins and anthocyanines in blueberries and cranberries (Vaccinium spp.) using high-performance liquid chromatography/Mass spectrometry. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 49(3), 1270-1276, 10.1021/jf001211q.

Ho, H.V.T., Sievenpiper, J.L., Zurbau, A.L., Mejia, S.B., Jovanovski, E., Yeung, F.A., Jenkins, A.L, & Vuksan, V. (2016). The effect of oat beta-glucan on clinical lipid markers for cardiovascular disease risk reduction: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Federation of American Sciences for Experimental Biology, 30(1), 10.3945/ajcn.116.142158.

eczema psoriasis natural treatments

Eczema and Psoriasis Natural Treatments

Getting to the Root Cause

Eczema is commonly a red, dry, itchy rash

Our skin is a major part of our immune system, and literally covers our insides to protect and shielf us from the outside world. Two of the most common disorders that affect the skin are eczema and psoriasis. Conventional management of eczema involves the identification and avoidance of allergens and aggravating factors, beyond this little is done to address the underlying cause. Pharmaceutical management usually relies heavily upon creams containing glucocorticoids and histamine blockers to reduce inflammation and histamine respectively. This limitation in treatment is because conventional treatment tends to view conditions and body systems in isolation of one another. However in more recent years, novel new treatments involving UV light therapy are showing good results for psoriasis.  Known risk factors for both eczema and psoriasis include food allergens, atopic family history, psychological stress and toxin exposure.

Underlying Causes

Psoriasis has thick scaly lesions

When viewing eczema and psoriasis through a naturopathic framework it is easy to see how food allergens, psychological stressors and toxin exposure contribute to the development of these conditions. Eczema and psoriasis are largely driven by an overstimulated immune system. Eczema is a hypersensitivity type-1 reaction, meaning that the condition is driven by an allergic response. The allergen causes chronic inflammation and activation of the innate immune system. Psoriasis, a much more complex condition involving increased cell turnover and skin keratinisation, is driven by different immune system pathways often involving the adaptive immune system.

So what is the difference between the innate and adaptive immune system?

Innate immunity can be thought of as the body’s first line of defense. It involves immune cells and molecules that are non-specific. Allergic reactions are a result of activation of these innate immune cells and molecules. The adaptive immune system can be thought of as the body’s second line of defense. It involves immune cells that specifically target an invader or foreign substance. Both the innate and adaptive immune systems interact and work alongside one another to identify and resolve threats. The innate immune system includes immune cells known as eosinophils.

The immune system is busy defending us from the outside world deciding what is safe or harmful to us

It is these cells that the body uses to fight allergens through the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE). If the body becomes over sensitized to an allergen, the body produces too much of these eosinophils and IgE molecules. Eczema is a condition largely driven by this immune response resulting in local inflammation and histamine release. Though both the innate and adaptive system is involved in all immune system responses, the adaptive immune system is primarily implicated in the development of psoriasis. This condition is largely thought of as a type of autoimmune condition meaning the body produces specific immune cells that, due to a case of mistaken identity, attack cells of the body. This then results in cell death, increased cell turnover and thickening of the skin resulting in plaque formation.

Despite the differences between these two conditions, similarities exist. Both conditions are a result of immune system dysfunction.

Why Does The Immune System Go Awry?

 The immune system is responsible for our interactions with the outside world, and the majority of that interaction occurs in our gut. Seventy percent of our immune system resides in our gut in an area known as the Peyer’s Patch. The Peyer’s Patch is forever sampling the food we eat and the bacteria in our gut and deciding whether these molecules are friend or foe. When the Peyer’s Patch deems something to be a foe, a local immune system reaction occurs to protect the body. If our gut immunity is exposed to enough of these foes, chronic inflammation can occur. This inflammation causes the lining of our gut to become leaky allowing molecules to cross into our system. Our body initiates an attack on these molecules causing an allergic response. Through this, it is easy to see how food allergens and gut inflammation is a major causes of immune system dysfunction.  To learn more about food allergies versus intolerances, see my previous article.

Beyond Food - The Hidden Culprits

Gluten and other lectins in grains are often linked to autoimmunity and skin issues.

Gut immune reactivity is not only a result of the foods we knowingly consume but also the substances we ingest unknowingly. Pesticides, herbicides, food additives, preservatives and artificial colours are agents we ingest on a regular basis that our immune system also has to deal with. All of these substances place significant burden on our immunity and have been linked to the development of food allergens. For example, Glyphosate (round up) is a herbicide that is increasingly coming under the spotlight for its role in the development of a range of chronic conditions – including autoimmunity, autism and cancer. It seems that the irritation on the gut wall by glyphosate opens the door and lets proteins and lectins through, including the problematic lectin, gluten. Gluten sensitivity is widely linked to many autoimmune conditions and I have found many cases of psoriasis and eczema to improve when following a low lectin and gluten free/grain free diet.  Other food chemicals can cause histamine release and inflammation which also exacerabate immune issues and the skin.

To reduce immune reactivity it is therefore important to not only limit consumption of known allergenic foods such as gluten from wheat, casein from dairy and mold from peanuts but also limit our exposure to the more hidden chemicals found in our food. Choosing whole foods that are minimally processed and preferably organic foods wherever possible is very important. Check out my previous article here on organic foods and the different chemical load found in a variety of fresh foods left over from agricultural practices.

Personalised Treatments Work Best

When treating psoriasis or eczema it is important to get a personalized approach as these conditions need to be understood in a holistic and individualised way. Addressing diet change, gut health and repair is always a cornerstone of treatment, along with using a range of remedies – both nutritional and herbal – that are specific for skin health, immunity, gut repair and inflammation.

Our skin is our most major external defence against the outside world and its health is very important on our overall health. It is also one of the few areas we get to see the visible health of it. Afterall, most of our organs are hidden inside the body and we can’t see how they look to gauge their health. So perhaps we need to pay attention to our skin, teeth, hair and nails to receive important clues as to our overall health!

 

 

Herbal Tea as Medicine

Herbal Tea as Medicine

As we head into the cooler months, a warm cup of tea in our hands can be a real blessing. But aside from being a tasty beverage, herbal teas can also be a great way of getting our medicine. Plants contain all sorts of phytochemicals, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that are good for us in a general sense as well as having more specific actions on certain systems of the body.

 

History of Herbal Teas

Before the advent of modern manufacturing processes and herbs coming to us in tablets or brown bottles, herbal tea was the major way herbs were delivered as medicines. In many cultures around the world, households kept some basic dried herbs in the cupboard for simple ailments and this 'folk medicine' was passed down from generation to generation. Herbalists were often midwives or lay healers and often also in charge of spiritual matters in their communities. During the middle ages however, there was a push from the Church to gain more power and the practice of herbal medicine and healing was forbidden and many herbalists were persecuted and much knowledge was lost.  Over the past couple of hundred years, modern medicine has slowly gained power and prestige and despite many modern drugs coming from plants, herbs have lost much of their place and respect in the world of medicine. Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) still classifies herbal medicine as an important, effective and viable medicine for most of the world's people who have limited access to modern pharmaceutical medicines.

Bringing Back Herbs to the Household!

Many of us use both fresh and dried herbs in our cooking - and this is a simple form of food as medicine. But having a range of simple herbal remedies as teas in the cupboard is still a good way to care for yourself and your family for basic common health complaints. While herbs do not offer a replacement for modern drugs in every condition, having some basic knowledge and remedies on hand can give you other options and alternatives to mainstream approaches for simple complaints such as colds, coughs, digestive disorders, stress and sleep issues. Herbal teas are also great for children as they provide a gentle and safe option that is effective but without the side effects of some modern medicines.

Herbal Tea as Medicine

There are two main methods to make a medicinal tea - using dried or fresh herbs and boiling water. Plants contain different constituents in different parts of the plant - active parts can be found in the roots, the bark, the leaves, the berries, the flowers. Some constituents are easily dissolved in water, while others are not. Thus the preparation method employed in making a herbal medicine is important - and the best method will make it most potent and effective.

Infusion

An infusion is what we usually think of when we think of making a tea. Simply pouring about 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs is how to make a basic herbal tea infusion. Infusions are best for leaves and flowers that are more delicate and yield their active constituents easily in boiling water - and ones that contain essential oils are readily captured and not destroyed by simple infusions.

Fresh plant infusions are also possible with fragrant herbs like lemon grass, mint, lemon myrtle, lemon balm and they tend to be milder in taste and concentration. With fresh plant material, we tend to use a bigger volume as it already has a lot of moisture content. Chop or crush a decent handful of fresh herbs per cup of boiling water.

Decoction

​​​​​​​Decoctions are when herbs are simmered over low heat over a period of time (usually for at least 5-10 mins) to extract more of the constituents. Decoctions are best employed with woody stems, barks and roots that need a longer processing time to release their medicinal actives. There are some herbs that teas or decoctions are not suitable for, as the active products are not readily extracted in water. Alcohol is a better solvent in this regard - such as for certain resins and gums.

 

Cleansing tea - great for detoxing!

I have created different herbal blends that I make up from organic high quality herbal teas as well as some single teas. These teas offer tasty and effective medicine or a range of common conditions:
  • Lung and Cough Tea
  • Relaxation Blend
  • Digestive Blend
  • Cleansing Tea Blend
  • Lactation Tea
  • Peppermint or Spearmint
  • Raspberry leaf
  • Dandelion root or leaf
  • Nettle leaf

 

So next time your in the clinic, go grab a pack of herb tea - you will find it is vastly different from the tea bags you get at the supermarket and it will offer you a simple home remedy too!  I can also post teas out to you - details and purchase options can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Green tea

Green Tea - Camellia sinensis

tea

Green tea is a popular health promoting tea, enjoyed all over the world.

Black, Oolong and Green tea all stem from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, however differences in processing results in three very distinct products not only in taste but also in health benefits. Green tea is the least processed and therefore isn’t exposed to oxidation, resulting in a tea that retains more antioxidants. The specific antoxidants found in green tea include catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallate and proanthocyanidins.

In different parts of Asia, the tea is harvested at different times according to tradition. In Japan, only one cultivar of Camellia sinensis is used, the Yabukita variety, and the leaves are harvested any time from late spring all the way through until autumn - giving the leaves more time to grow on the plant.  In contast, in China, many varieties are used and the green tea is only harvested in the early spring, meaning the leaves have less time to grow. Not only the leaves are plucked, but in China the spring buds of the plants are also harvested. The Chinese method of drying the leaves uses a pan to dry fire them, or they might be oven dried or dried under the sun. The tea is then hand processed with workers rolling the tea leaves into shapes - such as balls, twists, spirals and swords.  Green tea is traditionally only brewed for 2-3 minutes and if you leave it longer it can be quite bitter and higher in the astringent tannins.

Genmaicha - Japanese green tea with roasted rice

Genmaicha - Japanese green tea with roasted rice

Some Japanese Green Tea can also contain twigs and roasted puffed rice along with the green tea, the popular variety is referred to as Genmaicha. Kyoto was the birthplace of genmaicha, where legend tells of a tea farmer who mixed roasted brown rice (as a filler) in with his cheapest blends of green tea so that even poor people could afford to buy his tea, and get some extra nutrients along with the tea. Genmaicha has a milder nutty flavour combining the fresh grassy flavor of green tea with the aroma of the roasted rice and it became a popular brew in time. Tea steeped from genmaicha has a light yellow hue and It is traditionally brewed for 3-5 minutes.

What it’s good for

Anti-Ageing

Green tea contains a potent range of antioxidants responsible for fighting a prime culprit in the ageing process; free radicals. Epigallocatechin gallate, a green tea polyphenol now incorporated into many skin care formulations, has been shown to reduce damage done to skin cells and is proported to offer antioxidant protection against mild sun exposure. To learn more about natural sunscreens, includling a recipe that includes green tea in it, please click here.

Cancer

Green tea has been shown in several studies to decrease proliferation of cancer cells and it can also increase apoptosis, which is what we call the highly regulated process of inbuilt cell death. Many cancer cells lose their innate programming for cell death and thus keep growing and spreading. Agents that can stimulate this process of apoptosis can lead to reduced cancer cell numbers. Epigallocatechin gallate was found to reduce the risk of skin cancer through its protection against UV radiation. Topical application of green tea half an hour before skin exposure was shown to be protective against sunburn. Systematic scientific studies and research suggest green tea possesses protective capabilities against breast, prostate and upper gastrointestinal tract cancers.

Weight Loss

Green tea consumption has been associated in several studies with moderate weight loss, reduced weight circumference and metabolic parameter improvements when combined with regular exercise. Animal studies found this weight loss to be due to decreased leptin (dubbed the obesity hormone), decreased food intake and an increase in metabolic rate due to increased thermogenesis. Green tea also contains caffeine which has a subtle stimulating impact on weight loss, but usually not strong enough on its own to exert much impact.

Memory and Mood
Matcha powder is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that is good for anxiety and stress.

Matcha powder is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that is good for anxiety and stress.

Green tea intake has been shown to significantly improve cognitive performance and learning ability with long-term consumption. This is thought to be due to a combination of improved cerebral blood flow and the neuro-protective effects of L-theanine, a compound found in green tea. L-theanine exerts this action through modulation of our neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. Despite these neurotransmitters being cut from the same cloth, GABA and glutamate have opposing effects in the body. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and is often released by the body in times of stress. GABA on the other hand is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and when released has a calming effect on the body. L-theanine works by blocking the glutamate pathway, in turn increasing GABA. Incorporating green tea into your diet is a nice way to gently reduce the effects of glutamate but for those suffering from anxiety and stress a supplemental dose of L-theanine would be more beneficial. I have found using an actual capsule of concentrated  L-theanine can be an effective supplement for anxiety and tension in my patients.

What it’s not good for

  • Due to its caffeine content, high intake of green tea may increase central nervous system (CNS) stimulation of drugs such as nicotine and salbutamol and conversely reduce drug effects of CNS depressants such as benzodiazepines.
  • Green tea contains high amounts of tannins that are capable of binding to and reducing the absorption of iron and other minerals. Caution in iron deficiency and iron supplementation should be exercised.
  • Caffeine content of green tea may effect blood glucose, monitoring in diabetes is advised
  • Due to its caffeine content, green tea may exhibit a diuretic effect, so ensure you drink an extra glass of water for each cup of tea consumed.

Here is a guide to all the different types of green tea with some of the benefits and highlights to choose from when selecting the best one for you.

greenteachart

 

Excessive intake of anything, even something that is seemingly good for you, is indeed not good for you. Drinking 3-4 cups of green tea per day is sufficient to get the beneficial effects according to the research. I also recommend combining green tea with other herbal teas that can have additional medicinal benefits for your individual needs.

Drinking very high doses of any caffeinated beverage including green tea is unsafe and can cause major health issues due to caffeine content.

 

 

Herbal Home Remedies

fennelHerbal Home Remedies for Digestion

  • There are many herbs that can be effective to support digestion. Different herbs have different actions and can be employed for spasm, pain, bloating, wind, constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Incorporating herbs into you daily routine in cooking, as teas and tonics can bring the healing benefits of herbs without having to take another supplement or pill.

 

The following table lists a range of effective herbs and their actions on the digestive tract.

Herb Actions Suggested Use
Fennel Carminative, relaxant, antibacterial, antioxidant rich Use in cooking or crush and use as a tea – ½ teaspoon crushed herbs – steep for 5-10 mins in boiling water.

 

Oregano Antimicrobial, antioxidant, digestive tonic, antispasmodic, carminative (relaxant) Use fresh herb in cooking or as a tea or for stronger antibiotic effect use the essential oil capsules.
Barberry / Oregon Grape / Golden Seal Bitter, stimulates digestive enzymes, high in berberine and natural antibiotic action, astringent, mucuous membrane tonic Dried roots can be made into a bitter tea or macerated with vinegar for a natural digestive tonic. Capsules and tinctures are also available.
Gentian Bitter, stimulates enzymes, improves digestion, stimulates persistalsis, improves appetite Key ingredient in classic Swedish bitters, the tincture can be used to stimulate digestion and activate the bitter receptors.  Take 10 drops in water before meals.
Ginger Warming stimulant, stimulates hydrochloric acid and enzymes, improves digestion, stimulates persistalsis

Antiemetic (relieves nausea)

Grate fresh ginger and add to cooking, stirfries, marinades.

Have fresh ginger tea – ½ teaspoon of grated ginger per cup boiling water

Globe Artichoke Liver and gall bladder tonic, stimulates bile output, promotes digestion of fats, high in minerals and prebiotics Can use the artichoke heart as vegetable in cooking, however the leaves are the potent medicine.

Use fresh or dried leaves as tea or mixed with vinegar as a digestive tonic.

Myrrh Antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, antiinflammatory Best to use as a tincture or tablet as the bitter resin that gives Myrrh its medicinal action is not well extracted in water. Also can be irritating on the stomach lining if used for too long

 

Get my recipes for herbal vinegar and ginger and turmeric oxymel below or click on the picture to the right.

Herbal Oxymel & Vinegar Recipes

  • To learn more about the benefits of turmeric, please check out this blog post.

 

  • For personalised support for your digestive issues and to get access to practitioner quality herbal teas, medicinal tinctures or tablets please make a time to see Karen in person or over skype or zoom.

 

Healthy Easter Treats

Healthy Easter Treats

eggIt is that time of the year again when consuming copious amounts of chocolate moves from everyone’s wishlist to their to-do list! Unfortunately (and not surprisingly) eating large amounts of the sugary stuff is not good for either our waistlines or our insides.

While the old saying, "everything in moderation" is a sound one, there are some things we need to be even more careful with. Sugar is one of them! And there is a big difference in types of sugar and types of people, so we need to be aware of individual circumstances and proceed carefully.

Of course, the problem with sugar for most of us, is that we are hard wired to want more of it and it is a very addictive substance. It was a relatively rare thing in the past to have access to lots of sugar and our bodies learnt that it was a super big energy hit, so it was good to consume lots of it when we happened upon some - saving the extra for storage for the lean times that would inevitably come. The common issue these days is that we tend to over consume sugar, it is abundant in so many different forms and rarely have our seasonal lean times and so we never get good break from it. A little bit of sugar can easily turn into a whole lot of sugar.

Choc ChicksI don't recommend extremes of anything as a general rule, and so a little bit of sugar here and there is not going to cause too much harm for most people.  And the tradition of Easter lends itself to us needing to find a healthy medium for sugar and chocolate intake. Many a recipe is deemed to be healthy if it is branded with the Gluten Free or Dairy Free tagline, but beware. Any sweet treat, despite its relative benign and healthy appearance, should only be consumed in moderation.

These recipes below offer a way of having some sweet treats at Easter time and can be made with the kids and while not super good for you, they are certainly much healthier than the standard alternatives! Some of these recipes call for protein powder, so please check out my other blog post for more info about the best protein powder for you. It can be fun to make these bliss balls into egg shapes or little chicks to fit with the season.

Remember to find other ways to celebrate Easter that doesn't just involved eating chocolate! Dying boiled eggs and doing other easter crafts can be a nice activity and try getting outside for a walk in nature to ponder the changing seasons and the spiritual significance of easter.

So please enjoy these recipes and then remember to give your body its sugar break again after easter!

Fruit & Nut Bliss Balls

Chocolate Coconut Easter Chicks

Protein Fudge Balls

Chocolate Strawberry Bounty Balls

chocstrawberryballs

Natural Sunscreen

Natural Sunscreen

sozAustralia, despite being the lucky country in so many ways, is unlucky when it comes to sun radiation. The hole in the ozone layer (what protects the earth from much of the sun’s rays) unfortunately stretches along much of the eastern coast of our sun-drenched country. This coupled with high temperatures and the outdoor lifestyle so many of us enjoy has resulted in a staggering 750,000 people treated for non-melanoma skin cancer each year.

While adequate sun exposure has a host of benefits for human health, including production of vitamin D, overexposure can lead to damage and negative health impacts. As in all things, getting the right amount for our skin type, for the climate we live in and current season is the key.  Avoiding the sun is not good for our health and, likewise, getting too much is also not optimal.  I find that many of my patients are fearful of skin cancer and actively avoid the sun and as a consequence suffer health issues from insufficient sun exposure.  You may wish to check out my other article on vitamin D to learn how much sun is enough for your skin type.

Sun radiation comes in the form of ultra-violet-A (UVA) and ultra-violet-B waves (UVB). Despite both of these waves associated with skin cancers, UVB waves are generally thought of as the most damaging to the skin. In order to protect your skin against radiation damage when we are exposed to extended periods of time in the sun, sunscreen in some shape or form is a must. sunscreen differencesUnfortunately most of the sunscreens on the market protect your skin at a price. Chemical based sunscreens work on different UV spectrums and are often combined to get a stronger effect and generally require a chemical reaction in the body to block impact of the UV rays.  Active chemicals (meaning they protect against UV rays) commonly found in sunscreens have been shown to have negative impacts on our health. Some such as the common oxybenzone and oxtinoxate have been shown to be endocrine disruptors and can effect sex and thyroid hormones in human and animal studies. Other people develop skin sensitivities to sunscreen, and some skin specialists recommend natural based sunscreens as a better tolerated alternative.

If you are after more in depth information regarding sunscreen and its constituents and health implications check out the Environmental Working Group’s overview  here.

There is less incidence of adverse reactions from mineral based sunscreens such as zinc and titanium dioxide. These are known as physical block outs, because they provide a mineral based or physical layer on the surface of the skin that prevents UV light and is not absorbed into the skin. Use of these mineral-based sunscreens offer a safer alternative to the chemical based oxybenzone and oxtinoxate types.

sunDWhen examining sunscreen we use the common standard of SPF rating. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and it is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UV radiation from damaging the skin.  For example if it takes 10 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen in theory will prevent the skin reddening 15 times longer – which would equate to 150 minutes – or 2.5 hours. SPF does not equal the amount of protection per se, but rather indicates how long will it take for the skin to redden when a particular product is applied, as compared to unprotected skin.

 

Aside from natural mineral based sunscreens, there are a range of other food and plant based oils and substances that serve as mild natural sunscreeens due to their carotenoids and natural pigments. Even plain coconut oil or sesame oil has a mild ability to screen UV rays and protect the skin. See chart below for an overview of different sunscreen agents and benefits.

Table

 

rasoilThe very pigments that make blueberries blue and raspberries red protect those berries from oxidative damage from the sun. Plants have adapted to create inbuilt defence mechanisms to prevent free radical damage, and thus we can utilise some of the natural chemicals that these plants make, to protect our skin from the negative effects from the sun. Like any natural product there can be variability between batches and quality of the oil and due to different weather patterns and seasons the amount of carotenoids and actives contained in the oils may vary influencing the SPF potential. As such, I do not advocate using these oils in isolation or as a substitute to more reliable sunscreens when you do need good protection.

Making your own sunscreen is another possibility and ensuring it also has some zinc oxide in it can boost the UV protection considerably.  I found this recipe for a natural homemade sunscreen and have adapted it.  Get the recipe here.

 

 

References:

Korać RR, Khambholja KM. Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2011;5(10):164-173. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.91114.

Oomah, B.D., Ladet, S., Godfrey, D.V., Liang, J., & Girard, B. (2000). Characteristics of raspberry (rubus idaeus L.) seed oil. Food Chemistry, 69;1, 187-193, S0308-8146(99)00260-5.

Kostyuk V - Natural Substances for Prevention of Skin Photoaging: Screening Systems in the Development of Sunscreen and Rejuvenation Cosmetics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28661208

Kaur, C.D., Saraf, S. (2010). In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics. Pharmacognosy Research, 2(1), 22-25, 10.4103/0974-8490.60586

 

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