Monday, November 28, 2011

Herbal Medicine and Cancer

Before I continue this essay, I want to share that what I share is not meant to be a substitute for seeking professional help or for a doctor prescribed therapy. I am not recommending any individual to ignore the council of the healers that they have chosen to care for them. That being said, I do believe that we have a right to decide which course of treatment is right for us and a right to refuse a treatment that does not feel correct for us. We are the ones ultimately responsible for our lives. What follows are my own notes about herbs and cancer. These notes are part of a work in progress and will most likely be revised, added to, and updated many times. I like to call them "pioneer" notes written on the journey itself with no guarantee that the journey will reach the place desired. Much of the pioneer notes are compilations of the notes of other pioneers.

There was apparently a study that found about 3,000 herbs that had anti-cancer properties. I found mention of the list on several sites. None of them placed the whole list online. Some of them seemed to have broken down the list into the key ingredients. It seems that the original study, which was more in alignment with allopathic (conventional) medicine, did not distinguish between the various functions that the herbs had. There are, for instance, primary active herbs and secondary support herbs. In the latter category, some of the herbs may balance some of the side effects of the primary herbs. For instance, although herbal medicine is usually very safe, some herbs are a little harsh feeling on the intestines and intestinal soothers can often make the herbal brew feel more pleasant when drunk. Some herbs help the detox process. Others will help the active healing elements reach the places that they need to go. Others will provide a subtle nutrition or tonification which is often needed when undergoing a healing crisis.

I noticed that several herbs seemed to recur on many websites as primary active herbs:

reishi mushroom

None of the sites mentioned any dosage level for these herbs, though I gathered that one could make them according to what would be appropriate per a cup of tea. Chaparral can be toxic on large amounts and I would recommend researching this for a safe dose and err on the side of less rather than more. It seems that a product called Kyolic, an extract of the active ingredient in garlic, may be superior to garlic or at least easier on the intestines and breath of people. I did notice that it comes in a liquid and powdered capsule form, with the powder having whey, a dairy product. This does not fit my vegan diet and may be a concern for others, especially when I ran across an article (that I hope to post on this blog) sharing how cancer has three stages, (1) presence of carcinogens, (2) cancer igniters, and (3) onset of cancer. We get a lot of carcinogens, since even cooking food produces some. But they do not generate cancer unless something ignites them. The researcher in the article only found two. One was animal products, including dairy and animal flesh, and the other was nicotine. It seems wise to be a vegan nonsmoker to have a cancer preventative lifestyle. It could be that whey is not a cancer igniter. The article did not detail what aspect of dairy was the issue. I found the article interesting, because it fit every experience I knew of cancer. There was even two exceptions that proved the rule of a friend who was vegan and only got cancerous tumors after being convinced to give up her vegan diet and another person who kept a vegan macrobiotic diet for over 10 years and was cancer free, but then decided it was too much discipline, ate differently, got cancer and died. It is unclear whether becoming vegan after the fact of getting cancer can help reverse the process. One friend pulled this off, but needed to other things too, like receiving energy healing treatments. There are probably other cancer igniters, too, but I suspect that the researcher found the most popular ones. I also met with some people who went through chemotherapy or tumor removing surgery who ended up getting a tumor regrowth later on. All of them were either on the standard carnivore diet or had a lacto-vegetarian diet. I must admit, by scientific standards, my sample size is very small and this data may not hold up when more and more cases are studied. But I thought I would mention this and maybe others can check along with me. One caveat about diet, though, is that it is hard to get accurate data about the diet profile of a person. I found that many people are unclear about what a vegan diet is. Some people think being vegetarian still allows fish and chicken. While others are called themselves vegan but make an exception for feta cheese or accidently let dairy slip in through the soy cheeses that still have casein in them or protein smoothies that have whey in them. Merely taking the word of someone for what their diet is does not quite work. I have found too many people who fudge on this. When it comes to this kind of study, it would need to be more precise than only using the subjective testimony of what people think they are eating (though it might be good to note what they think their diet is anyway).

There are some people, like Hulda Clark, who believe that Cancer is the result of micro-viruses or pathogens. These people recommend doing an anti-parasite protocol with:

golden seal
black walnut
grapefruit seed extract
oregon grape root

I think that there is something to this theory. I do find that such powerful anti-parasite brews can help knock out a lot of stuff. It needs to be combined with a person avoiding "cancer feeders" like sugar and maybe flour products in general (though the kind of healthy vegan diet that I recommend would do this automatically, using stevia in the place of carbohydrate based sugars). If the tumor is near the skin, a tincture can be rubbed on the skin near where the tumor is. There is some risk in this procedure, though, since there are different types of cancer and some tumors are benign and maybe should be left alone. I had a friend die of a cancer that was misdiagnosed. The doctors cut into the relatively benign tumor and made it spread all over the body so fast it killed her in about two weeks. I have not heard of an herbal tincture rub nearby doing anything bad though. It seems that usually an herbal brew either hits the mark or it does nothing good or bad. The anti-parasite brew is intense. If it does work, there is something called "die off" where it kills the pathogens and the parasite bodies become toxins that the person must flush out of the system. This phase can be rough to experience. If does happen, it is a good sign, but it requires that a person continue to use the anti-parasite brew for about one month to make sure any hidden parasite eggs do not hatch and start the problem all over again. There is a challenge, too, with this process, because sometimes the pathogen in question is a good hider and finds a place in the body where the herbal brew cannot reach. Some have found success adding caster oil rubs to force the pathogens from these hiding places. It is also possible to use "transport herbs" to bring the active potency to the locations where the pathogens are hiding. P'arco on the list is considered anti-cancer on some lists I found on the internet and is also a good one for handling candida overgrowth. It is the easiest of the herbs to handle in this category, yet it seems to do a lot of good things.

The list above is a compilation of several anti-parasite lists and protocols. Hulda Clark mainly used Wormwood, Clove, and Blackwalnut (tincture). I have found clove oil to be very powerful, though it is important that the purity of the oil be food grade (steam distilled rather than chemically extracted).

The following list are herbs that appeared in some lists and protocols for cancer:

green tea
slippery elm
bee propolis
codyceps sinesis

These seem to add well to the above formulas, though I would personally not use bee products because of being vegan. The status of insects in a vegan diet is mixed. Some people are calling themselves "begans" to indicate that they use honey and bee products. I do not think that bee products would ignite cancer like regular animal products, so as far as cancer is concerned either vegan or began is okay. I just think the poor bee has had a rough time lately and would like to give them a break. Even when their products are not used, they pollinate a lot of plants and do good service to life and humans.

Ginger on this list is probably a support herb that soothes the intestines, helps stuff move through the bloodstream, and transport the active herbs to where they are needed. I do not think it helps to directly fight the cancer, but I could be wrong. It is also a very good anti-inflammation and anti-oxidant, which may reduce cancer and other ailments by removing this basis for their existence inside us.

Turmeric is similar to ginger, but may be the most potent herbal anti-inflammatory.

Rosemary seems to be a Vitamin C reloader. This means that it allows us to use the Vitamin C we have about five times more than usual. This means we can get the benefits of Vitamin C with less acidity in our bloodstream. Cancer seems related to a more acidic internal environment.

Oregano seems to also have anti-parasite properties as well as many other good properties. I am less familiar with this herb and hope to learn more about it. The herb has come up quite a few times in a number of anti-cancer formulas.

Jalapenos and Cayenne are often on anti-cancer lists. They can be rough on the system, though, and person will need to see how well he or she is handling them. Since Hispanic culture uses them a lot in many recipes (and I sometimes go to a particular Mexican restaurant when I get a certain kind of flu and their salsa knocks it right out), people who like this kind of food may be more adapted to its use. I have noticed that many cultures have a certain kind of chili paste or curry that is very hot and this might do well too if you can handle it.

Ganoderma is one that I have not researched at all, but was on a few lists. I mention this one here so that anyone curious can follow through.

I added garlic again, because it recurred on a few lists. It seems it is both an active herb and a support herb.

These herbs were considered support herbs to the main active anti-cancer herbs. Notice that some of the herbs on this list have been mentioned in another context. Most herbs are multi-functional and so this is no surprise:

aloe vera

These herbs were found on some lists and I thought that they were worth listing here too:

saint johns wort
slippery elm
gingko (transport herb, especially for brain, increases blood oxygen)
grape seed extract
lemon balm (soother, like the mints, and also has some anti-cancer properties)
milk thistle (liver and kidney clease, anti-radiation)
sage (soother)
celery seed
oregano seed (also called ajwan)
mint (soothers)

Many of these are support herbs. Some are on other lists mentioned above. Sage is known as an intestinal soother. Celery seed seems to remove acidity from the body and may help to alkalize the system. Nettles can provide some nutrition and is high in chlorophyll and serotonin.

A note about Rosemary: It is very potent. You probably do not need for much of this. Even a few of its tiny leaves in a cup will do.

Finally, one last list which I thought interesting but have not fully researched at this time:

artemisia (wormword, but may suggest other members of the same family, like mugwort)
curcumin (may be like cayenne and ginger)

One possible brew:

chaparral (small dose because of possible toxicity)

lemon balm
celery seed
stevia (for sweetener and has some anti-cancer properties on one list)
oregano seed
green tea (or other forms of camellia sinesis)
cinnamon (small amount, creates a thickening effect in the brew itself that could clog the straining process)
black seed

I think that this would be a good base brew for an anti-cancer strategy and has enough good ingredients to strengthen health. The only consideration is how much of the anti-parasite protocol to add to this. Again, these are pioneer notes and will probably need to be tested and refined further. I have skipped a line between the primary herbs and the support ones.

I have been brewing these herbs in a pressure cooker and then straining them in a fine mesh strainer to remove the solids.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Medicinal Chai Formula

I am writing this formula down mainly because I have mixed it for myself and my brother James a lot of time and wanted to keep the notes from being lost.  The ingredients are:

Green Tea


Bitter Orange
(Lemon Rind)

The first group has only two herbs.  These are the main ones behind the formula.  Yerba Mate and Lichee Black Tea seem to be possible substitutes for the Green Tea, but it still seems, for our experience, that a high quality Green Tea is superior (Ecoteas makes an excellent Green Tea and is fair trade and organic to boot).

The second set of ingredients are support ones.  We actually had more of these ingredients on this list, but these are the ones that seemed the most essential.  It seems that Fennel or Anise or both work about the same.  I prefer some Star Anise that is fresh ground.

The third set has Fenugreek which is also a key essential.  The others are less necessary.  Lemon Rind supports the first set very well and only a small amount is needed.  Bitter Orange is a thermogen and adds with some similarity to both Lemon Rind and Ephedra (not on the list).  A tiny bit is all that is needed, perhaps 1/20th of the total amount, if even that.  If you are unsure, then just skip it.

My brother has recovered a lot from a long term chemical sensitivity, sinusitus, and/or universal reactor allergy.  He has some allergic reactions still left, but they are more identifiable, have less impact, and has episodes less frequently.  The Chai blend has dissolved his sinus headache and congestion usually within one to three cups.  He takes the Chai twice a day and possibly one more time a day if needed.  It is the main thing that is healing him.

As usual, I am only reporting what I have found from my experience and from the experience of my brother in this case.  I cannot guarantee the same results for others.  If there is any doubt about whether something is healthy for you or whether it fits any prescriptions or any special biochemical individuality that you have, it is up to you to check in with your favorite health professional and make sure that it is okay or at least take the risk for oneself and not put the responsibility totally on me.  I believe more in the older herbal and energetic models of healing, like Tibetan medicine and Aryurveda, where healing is not seen as a magic bullet that you eat and miraculously get healed, but as a matter of getting the seven stages of digestion functioning properly, detoxing from any adverse condition within the body, and building up a high quality diet.  I also feel that it is important to have a compassionate heart, a creative loving service to others for the livelihood that one has, a clean conscience, and a commitment to look at and eliminate any addictions, both obvious ones and subtle ones.  And I do think that meditating every day for at least an hour is necessary for health and sanity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Notes on Chicory

Picture from:

  • leaves can be eaten raw.
  • leaves are best when young and/or growing in areas protected from direct sunlight.
  • older leaves are best when cooked in several changes of water.
  • young plant, including flower heads can be cooked.
  • roots can be eaten raw when young.
  • roots can be split, dried and roasted to make coffee substitute.
  • look for chicory on disturbed ground, ranging from plains and foothills to montane regions.
  • warning: excessive/prolonged use may damage retinas and cause sluggish digestion.

Chicory teas taken internally are believed to be effective in treating jaundice and liver problems. Additionally, as with many other herbs, a tea made from roots or leaves appears to be useful for those with digestive problems.

Save a little tea and try dipping a cotton ball into it for a refreshing and soothing eye wash. You can also add a spoonful or two of honey to thicken and use as syrup for a mild laxative for kids. For long-term use, try drying and pulverizing Chicory leaves into a powder for use in capsule form. Please see How to Make Herbal Capsules for more information.

For external use, bruise fresh Chicory leaves and apply to areas affected by gout, skin eruptions, swellings, skin inflammations, and rheumatism.

Chicory Root 4:1

If you thought Chicory was only a rich, caffeine-free coffee substitute, think again! The herb's diuretic and laxative properties have been used for thousands of years as a purifying tonic for the blood, liver and kidneys, and it will also support the body's efforts to counteract stomach acid after eating too much rich food. Recent studies show promise for Chicory Root in the area of good heart health by assisting the body to fight fat and helping to decrease blood cholesterol levels, as well as controlling rapid heartbeat.


Chicory is a rather scruffy-looking, weedy perennial that is native to Europe, and it was imported to the United States during the eighteenth century by early colonists. It is so plentiful that it is almost believed to be indigenous to North America, where it grows cultivated and wild and may be found in fields, pastures, marginal areas and even invades lawns and gardens. The leaves at the plant's base are large and hairy, somewhat resembling those of a dandelion, giving Chicory one of its common names, Blue Dandelion. It has been suggested that another of its common names, Succory, is of Latin derivation, from succurrere, meaning "to run under" because of the depth to which the root penetrates. From the base, many two- to three-foot, stick-like stems arise, producing widely spaced foliage and milky sap; and bright, almost iridescent, blue flowers bloom on the stems, as if stapled to the wrong plant. Chicory will grow in almost any soil but prefers rich, well-drained, neutral-to-alkaline soil in sun. The rootstock is light yellow outside and white inside and also contains a bitter, milky juice, and the entire plant has been used in herbal medicine (primarily as a cleansing and toning herb) for thousands of years. The ancient Romans used Chicory as a blood purifier and also as a food, and it has remained an important crop throughout continental Europe to this day. The sixteenth century herbalist, Parkinson, described Chicory as a "fine, cleansing, jovial plant," and French herbalist, Maurice Mességué, maintains that the reason Chicory is so popular in France as a coffee addition or substitute is that it is a good "liver herb," toning and detoxifying the livers of those who enjoy French cuisine a bit too much. The leaves of Chicory may be eaten as a vegetable and added to salads and herb butters, and the roots are highly valued for medical preparations and for use as a coffee substitute or enrichment to balance its flavor and to counter the coffee's acidic quality and adverse effects on the stomach. The leaves of the young roots, which have a slightly bitter, caramel flavor when roasted, are dried and roasted to create a rich and flavorful coffee blend or caffeine-free coffee substitute, called Chicory coffee, which is especially popular in France. In World War II, when there was a shortage of coffee in the United States, Chicory coffee was a great substitute. Chicory Roots are lifted in early spring of the second year, dried, and used in cuisines and as a bitter, cooling herb in herbal medicine. Some of the constituents in Chicory Root include a bitter principle, inulin and sugar.

Beneficial Uses:

Chicory Root is considered a fine herbal liver, gallbladder and spleen tonic. The herb is called a "cholagogue" or substance that promotes the production of bile and stimulates its flow from the gallbladder and bile ducts, and as such, it may help to purify blood and cleanse the liver and gallbladder, which may further assist the body's efforts to release and dissolve gallstones, expel excess internal mucus and treat liver complaints, such as jaundice and enlarged liver.

The bitter principle in Chicory Root is believed to be beneficial for the glandular organs of the digestive system. Acting as an herbal antacid, the root is said to support the body's efforts to neutralize acid and correct acid indigestion, heartburn, gastritis, vomiting, upset stomach and lack of appetite; and Chicory Root has been approved by the German Commission E as an appetite stimulant and a remedy for dyspepsia. Because it stimulates bile production, this action helps to speed up the digestive process, further aiding the stomach after eating too much rich food (a use very popular in France).

Chicory Root may be helpful in the area of good heart health. Recent studies have produced some very positive evidence that Chicory Root fights fat in the system. Those with a very high fat diet experienced a remarkable decrease in blood cholesterol levels in time after taking Chicory Root, which may prove very helpful in cases of hardening of the arteries. Moreover, Egyptian scientists have investigated the potential use of Chicory Root in treating tachycardia (rapid heartbeat). Their studies showed the presence of a digitalis-like principle in the root, which actually decreased the rate of heartbeat in laboratory animals. Hopefully, this will have a beneficial impact on human health.

Chicory Root has been used as a tonic that nourishes and strengthens kidney function and urinary organs. The herb has a diuretic action that increases and promotes the flow of urine, which may support improved kidney function by cleansing the kidneys of toxins and removing them from the body.

As a mild laxative, Chicory Root may help to expel morbid matter from the intestines, further purifying the system of waste and toxins and often helping in cases of constipation.

Used externally, Chicory Root is believed to have healing properties for skin lacerations, swellings, hemorrhoids, poison ivy and sunburn. In addition, it has been used in poultices to reduce the inflammation of rheumatism and the pain of stiff and sore joints.


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Botanical Name: Chichorium intybus

Indian Name: Kasni

Origin, Distribution and Composition of Chicory

Chicory, or endive, is a perennial herb with a long tap root. It has condensed, round stems, numerous light or dark green leaves and pale blue flowers. The leaves have a bitter taste; flowers open at sunrise and close at dusk.

Chicory is native to the Mediterranean region or, possibly, eastern India . It was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans and was cultivated in Egypt over 2000 years ago. The ancient physicians employed the plant in the treatment of several ailments. Classical writers like Horace, Virgil, Ovid and Pliny mentioned its use as a vegetable and a salad ingredient. Some scholars thought that the name succory came from the latin succurrene -which means to run under-because of the deep roots. Another suggestion is that succory may be a corruption of chicory, or cichorium, a word of Egyptian origin. Chicory has been mentioned as a special skin nourisher by ancient herbalists. A tea made from the pale blue flowers of this plant was said to give glowing skin.

An analysis of chicory or endive leaves shows them to consist of 93.0 per cent moisture, 1.7 per cent protein, 0.1 per cent fat, 0.9 per cent fiber and 4.3 per cent carbohydrate per 100 grams. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. Its calorific value is 20.

Chicory flowers contain a glucoside chichorin and bitter substances, lactucin and intbin. Seeds contain a bland oil and roots contain nitrate and sulphate of potash, mucilage and some bitter principle.

Medicinal uses of chicory

tonic, diuretic and laxative. A decotion of the root has benefit in jaundice, liver problems, gout and rheumatic complaints. The root, when dried, roasted and ground, may be added to coffee or may be drunk on its own as a beverage.

Healing Power and Curative Properties of Chicory

Chicory is a tonic herb when taken in moderate quantities. It increases the secretion and discharge of urine. It is also a stimulant and a mild laxative. This herb helps the functions of the liver and gall bladder.

Eye Defects

Chicory contains food elements which are constantly needed by the optic system. It is one of the richest sources of vitamin A which is very useful for the eyes. The addition of juices of carrot, celery and parsley to chicory juice makes it a highly nourishing food for the optic nerve and the muscular system. It can bring amazing results in correcting eye defects. Half a liter to one liter daily of this combination has frequently corrected eye troubles within a few months, to the extent that normal vision was regained, making the use of glasses unnecessary.


The herb is a natural laxative. It is, therefore, beneficial in the treatment of chronic Constipation.


The herb, in combination with celery and parsley, is very helpful in anaemia. It is an effective blood tonic.

Liver and Gall Bladder Dysfunctions

Chicory flowers, seeds and roots are medicinally used in the treatment of liver disorders. About 30 to 60 ml of decoction of he flowers, seeds or roots can be used three times daily, with beneficial results, in the treatment of torpidity or sluggishness of the liver, biliary stasis or, stoppage of bile, Constipation and enlargement of the spleen.. Endive or chicory juice, in almost any combination, promotes the secretion of bile and is, therefore, very good for both liver and gall bladder dysfunctions.

Respiratory Disorders

The combined juices of chicory, carrot and celery are most helpful in asthma and hay fever, provided milk and foods containing concentrated starches and sugars such as white rice, white flours, macaroni, sweets, pastries and cakes are eliminated from the diet. Powder of the dry root in doses of half a teaspoon, mixed with honey if taken thrice daily, is a good expectorant in chronic bronchitis.

Obstructed Menstruation

A decoction of chicory seeds is useful in treating obstructed menstruation.

Other Uses and benefits of Chicory

The young leaves, preferably blanched, are eaten in salads. They may be mixed with other greens to minimize their strong ­ flavor. The mature green leaves are sometimes used as a cooked vegetable. The root, when roasted and ground, is often used as an ingredient to -mix with coffee, or is taken as a beverage on its own.

---Uses---The leaves are used in salads, for which they are much superior to Dandelion. They may be cut and used from young plants, but are generally blanched, as the unblanched leaves are bitter. This forced foliage is termed by the French Barbe de Capucin and forms a favourite winter salad, much eaten in France and Belgium. A particularly fine strain is known as Witloof, in Belgium, where smallholders make a great feature of this crop and excel in its cultivation. The young blanched heads also form a good vegetable for cooking, similar to Sea Kale.

Enormous quantities of the plant are cultivated on the Continent, to supply the grocer with the ground Chicory which forms an ingredient or adulteration to coffee. In Belgium, Chicory is sometimes even used as a drink without admixture of coffee. For this purpose, the thick cultivated root is sliced kiln-dried, roasted and then ground. It differs from coffee in the absence of volatile oil, rich aromatic flavour, caffeine and caffeotannic acid, and in the presence of a large amount of ash, including silica. When roasted, it yields 45 to 65 per cent of soluble extractive matter. Roasted Coffee yields only 21 to 25 per cent of soluble extract, this difference affording a means of approximately determining the amount of Chicory in a mixture.

When infused, Chicory gives to coffee a bitterish taste and a dark colour. French writers say it is contra-stimulante, and serves to correct the excitation caused by the principles of coffee, and that it suits bilious subjects who suffer from habitual constipation, but is ill-adapted for persons whose vital energy soon flags, and that for lymphatic or bloodless persons its use should be avoided.

(the above site has a lot of detail, I am posting only the leaf comment because the leaf use is the most neglected on other sites).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Queen Anne's Lace: Herb Notes

Queen-Anne’s–lace (Daucus carota) is found in many parts of the world. It bursts with large, delicate umbels of white to purple-tinged flowers in spring and summer. Each umbel possesses a tiny single red or purple spot in the center, and as the seeds begin to ripen in late summer, the umbels contract to resemble a bird’s nest. Queen-Anne’s-lace earned its common name from a legend that tells of Queen Anne of England (who died in 1714) pricking her finger—drawing a drop of blood—while sewing lace.

Queen-Anne’s-lace belongs to the carrot family (Umbelliferae) and contains beta-carotene and other properties that are used to treat bladder and kidney conditions. Also known as wild carrot, Queen-Anne’s-lace grows taller than today’s cultivated carrots and the stalks are rougher. The 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper believed the roots to be “small, long and hard and unfit for meat, being somewhat sharp and strong.”
Nonetheless, early Europeans cultivated Queen-Anne’s-lace, and Romans ate it as a vegetable. American colonists boiled the taproots, sometimes in wine. They also mixed the leaves with honey and applied the poultice to sores or ulcers, to help heal and kill bacterial infections. Settlers also used the herb as a source of orange dye.
The seeds of Queen-Anne’s-lace have their own benefits. They are nearly flavorless and can be added to foods to help prevent flatulence. Historically, they were used as a form of contraception.
Throughout history, Queen-Anne’s-lace maintained its popularity in the home and garden. It was soaked in rainwater and used as a perfume. The flowers appeared frequently in cut and dried floral arrangements on dinner tables. Cooks prepared the young leaves in a green salad or tossed bits into soups as a spice, and the flower heads were sometimes dipped in batter and fried as fritters.
Wild carrot is high in sugar (second only to the beet among root vegetables); Irish, Hindus and Jews sometimes used the herb to sweeten puddings and other foods. The roots were roasted and used as a coffee substitute or infused as a mild diuretic tea. Queen-Anne’s-lace is native to Mediterranean regions, and grows in any well-drained soil. It blooms from May through August. In North America this plant is quite common in fields and landscapes, and because it grows without being cultivated, there are many colors, forms and varieties. Check with your county extension agent before you plant it, as this is designated a noxious weed in some states.
This biennial never forms a root mass, but it spreads rapidly and is a prolific seeder in well-drained soil. Gather handfuls of seeds in the fall to sow in early spring.

The Differences Between Poison Hemlock & Queen Anne's Lace. Hemlock stems are smooth; the stem of Queen Anne's Lace has hair. Hemlock stems have purple spots on the lower part; Queen Anne's Lace stems are plain green. Hemlock has a bad, musty smell that reminds some people of mice; Queen Anne's Lace smells like carrot greens. Hemlock gets much taller (3-10ft/90-300cm) than Queen Anne's Lace does (3ft/90cm). The easiest way to tell these plants apart is when they are in bloom. The flowQueen Anne's Lace flower ers of Queen Anne's Lace have a tiny dark purple flower in the center of the flower mass--the queen's blood, which can help you remember it. Hemlock flowers are all white. If you see this plant out in the wild, be especially careful about harvesting it, because it is very difficult to tell it apart from water hemlock, which is far, far more poisonous--one bite of a water hemlock root has been enough to kill a human being. Always wear gloves when handling this plant, and if you burn it, do not breathe in the smoke.

Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)
  • Not specified
Traditional Medicinal Usage:
  • Colic
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Painful urination
  • Ulcers
  • Abscesses
  • Sores
  • Wounds
  • Increase the menstrual flow
  • Expel worms from the bowels
Queen Anne’s lace blossoms were used as a tea; the root and seeds were often ground and used for colic, liver, kidney and bladder, painful urination, to increase the menstrual flow, and in expelling worms from the bowels. Grated root made into a poultice was recommended for ulcers, abscesses, sores, and bad wounds.
Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) - Also known as Wild Carrot and Bishop's Lace. It is the original carrot, from which modern cultivars were developed, and it is edible with a light carrot flavor. The flowers are small and white, and bloom in a lacy, flat-topped cluster. Great in salads. NOTE: The problem is, it is closely related to, and looks almost exactly like another wild plant, Wild or Poison Hemlock, which often grows profusely in similar habitats, and is said to be the most poisonous plant native to the United States. The best way to differentiate between the two plants is to remember that Queen Anne's Lace has a hairy stem, while the stems of Wild Hemlock are smooth and hairless and hollow with purple spots.
Queen Anne's Lace can be found on the borders of wooded areas, in meadows, and in cultivated wildflower displays. The roots of this plant are rich in vitamin C and contain carotene. The seeds have been used as a hangover treatment. A herb tea made from the plant can be used as a diuretic and a urinary antiseptic.
An infusion of the leaves helps keep kidney stones from forming. Queen Anne's Lace is also used as a diuretic, to soothe the digestion tract, eliminating a build-up of gas, and to treat kidney and bladder disease.
The entire plant should be harvested when the flowers bloom, then dried for later use. The seeds can be gathered in the fall. The tender roots can be eaten raw as a carrot or added to salads, soups, stews, and cake and muffin mixes.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Personal Diet

I occasionally get asked what my day to day diet is like. I did some postings of various meals that I made for myself on another blog, but felt it would be good to also do it here, using the comments section to add some of my meals as I make them for a while, and to include recipes when possible.

Having stated this intention, I would like to share a few disclaimers. One is that I am definitely an explorer who is very much in a learning process about the role of diet in the spiritual life. My opinions are going to change from time to time, probably not drastically, but it a way that shows some fine tuning and evolution in understanding.

I started out with the usual American diet, with lots of steak, potatoes, and some overboiled veggies on the side, occasional Chinese stir fried dishes, some Mexican food (or the American re-styling of this genre ala fast food), and occasionally some burgers and fries. Some salads would figure into the equation, but it was mostly an optional garnish and was not taken as a serious source of nutrition. There were some soups every now and then, too, with ever increasing amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate) that no one really knew was frying the brains of people and causing a number of mental illnesses, later to be classified as an "excito-toxin", increasing the speed that electrons crossed the synaptic gaps.

During that time I had severe allergies, especially to grass pollen and cat dander. The general feeling about allergies was that it was something you had or not had, that it was genetic or inherited, and that you could not do much besides take allergy pills. I just mainly lived with it. I got periodic sinus headaches with them and took aspirin, and spent one night in particular struggling to breathe each breath, not knowing whether I was going to live out the night and see the next morning. I got into a concentration about breathing then and was, after a long time, about to resume normal breathing and fall peacefully asleep.

In college, I decided to become vegetarian. It was not for dietary reasons, but for compassion for animals. The inspiration came from my studies, in a college class called "History of American Theology". I had chosen to study the Quakers and John Woolman in particular, and wrote an essay about his walkabout across the US at that time when he was alive. I decided to meditate Quaker style and found, like Woolman, a prompting from within to become vegetarian. Every time I thought of becoming vegetarian, a gentle joy waves through me. After a month of these wavings through, I surrendered to the impulse and made it into a decision. I was taking "Ethics" in philosophy that year also and going into the various ethical issues that are still hot topics in the world. My professor and later friend was not quite vegetarian himself, but had leanings in this direction and was reducing his intake. I went cold turkey and failed miserably. My body did not react well to the change. After only 3 days, I ate a steak and felt a little defeated in my purpose.

But life has a way of helping us out, a pastor gave me a copy of RECIPES FOR A SMALL PLANET, and I was able to make decent and tasty vegetarian meals for myself. I was still lacto-ovo vegetarian, since I was mainly into not killing animals for food. I transitioned in smaller stages for six months, first not buying any dead cow meat or chicken meat a month, then not eating any at restuarants the next month, and then not eating at friend's houses the next month, and then doing the same thing for fish for the next three months. This more gradual transition worked.

About two years into being vegetarian, I noticed that my allergies had weakened considerably and some people even remarked that I had a glow of health, something that in my previous days as a carnivore never happened. About four more years later, I dropped eggs. Or actually my body decided it did not like eggs anymore and spontaneously threw them up. Perhaps it was a bad egg, but I got that it was a signal that my body was changing and did not want eggs anymore. This rang true in the next two years.

I was reducing my dairy fairly rapidly after this and was near vegan, having only the casein in soy cheese and some yogurt as my only two dairy sources, with some occasional "sneak ins" of Parmesan cheese in some tomato sauces when I would go to an Italian restuarant and the chef did not get the request right. It was not that they would deliberately put in cheese, but that sometimes it was already sprinkled in while making the sauces and then forgotten. This phase ended when I was in deep retreat up on the coast of Oregon and realized that I had accidentally crossed the line into being completely vegan, so I decided to stay that way. I found that my allergies reduced to almost zero from this and from some emotional processing that I found in a Reiki book that I was reading. My eyes still itch and sometimes get red during the peak of hayfever season, and sometimes I occasionally sneeze. When I was a carnivore, I would go through boxes of allergy pills. When I was lacto-ovo vegetarian, I would only use about 10 tablets a year. When I was vegan, it might be one tab. After having gone through a year and quarter eating raw food only, it is down to zero tablets. I am not into raw food only now, because I feel that legumes are better cooked for me and my body likes a little occasional rice. But I do recommend that people try about 3 to 5 months raw food diet (at the right time) just for the cleansing it does. When you feel strong protein cravings, it is a signal that the cleansing time is complete. I interviewed a lot of raw foodists and found that they hit a specific protein craving at roughly the 3 to 5 month zone. They usually, at that time, ate too many almonds and got sick.

I did learn not to overcook food after my raw food phase. I take more care to preserve the enzymes that are usually lost in cooking and also keep a certain percentage of raw food and raw smoothies in my diet. It is somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent, more raw in the summer, and less in the winter. I love raw pea soup and regular cooked soups. It seems that having that much water in the food is helpful to digestion.

In the biography of Milarepa, the great yogi saint mentions getting lots of energy from having had nettles soup mixed with a little barley flour. It surged through his system and helped more kundalini energy through him. He had gotten the barley four as a gift from a hunter who thought his diet was weak in some carbs (he did not quite put it that way). Apparently his body was muscle glycogen starved and surged back into life after getting some. Milarepa did not forget this dramatic shift and made a note to himself that diet was an important factor on the spiritual path. I liked how Milarepa did maintain the attitude of a scientist and kept learning from his own experience. His conclusion rang true to me.

My first experiences with herbal medicine was through two events. One was getting some Celestial Seasonings Sleepy Time Tea and feeling it literally knock me out. A friend of mine in college gave the tea but warned me that it might make my already tired body want to sleep even more. I remember saying that something about that it was only a bunch of herbs and would probably be too mild to do that. I was wrong. The other event was my getting very sick in graduate school and had to not go to classes for two weeks. I was in a fever, trying to wait out the illness, and was not getting any better. After two weeks, a friend dropped by and asked if I wanted to go out from some Chinese food. I figured that I could be sick anywhere and that at least I could get some food. I was not particularly hungry, but my friend was willing to split a stir fry with me and that was enough. The waitress was a friend of mine, who apparently noticed that I was coming more to life when I drank some of their Oolong tea and kept filling the pot. I drank 50 cups and was feeling better and better. I went to sleep well that night and woke up feeling so well that it seemed as if I was never sick. Going from a fever that never left to a wellness with no linger signs of illness in about 10 hours felt like a miracle. I explain it better now. I was getting hydrated. I was getting a caffeine boost that jump started my immune system. I was getting a ton of antioxidants. And I was getting natural antibiotics from the fermented products inside the Oolong tea. Oolong, unlike the regular green tea that it is made from, it fermented. The bacteria that cause fermentation always secrete their own antibiotics to take over their space and claim it. In the process they often transform a lot of the acids into medicinal compounds. Then there is theanine to jump start the dopamine and polyphenols that clear up "brain rust". But like Milarepa's experience, I did not forget my entry into the world of herbs and diet for healing.

Since then I have been experimenting more and more with herbs and especially herbal teas for healing, and even herbal teas for nutrition. I find that it only takes a little tweak to prepare cooked food as if it were a herbal preparation, adding spices, not for flavor only, but for medicinal considerations. It is no accident that many old style Chinese cooks will saute onions, garlic, turmeric, and ginger in oil as a preparation for a stir fry. The antioxidants in ginger and turmeric help the oil to not degrade (low heat helps too, when stir frying only veggies, you do not need as much heat as you would with animal flesh). All the spices are really medicinal herbs. There is a Chinese saying that goes, "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food" that summarizes this kind of consciousness.

I also do read a lot of western medical stuff on diet. Our biochemical and physiological understanding has grown a lot. But the approach lacks the order of Aryurvedic and Tibetan healing knowledge. As a result, the medical data does not form a unified whole in the minds of people and is less of a guide for people. When you grok the Aryurvedic system, then the data falls into place more readily and supports the aims of the old rishis. I had to learn the harder path of trying out a lot of diets that were based on partial knowledge, like the Pritikin diet, the Macrobiotic diet, the high protein diet, and the gluten free diet. Most of their knowledge did get integrated into a larger picture. I learned something valuable from each of them, but some, like the high protein and the Pritikin were too unbalanced for the long term. It seems that balance and proportion are valuable keys to right diet. What goes against this is "addictive craving" which only cares to eat "comfort food" and "pleasure food". While food is meant to be pleasurable and comforting to eat, it needs to be primarily nutritional and medicinal. If this focus is not maintained, then one will never eat in balance. One will eat too much and not enough of the right things, and this indulgent way of eating does kill people or at least stresses people, ages them, and hurts them. Our diet is meant to be a support for our lives and not an adverse factor we are supposed to survive.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Aryurdvedic Kapha Tea

The Medicine Buddha teachings have a dovetail with Aryurvedic teachings. Although Aryurveda is associated more with Hinduism (Santana Dharma), it is an integral part of Vajrayana Buddhism (Arya Dharma). There is a section I hope to share more about some time where the three dosha of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha emerge from the three poisons of the mind (addictive craving, condemning negativity, and obscuring delusion). This can be represented as vata>wind>craving, pitta>fire>negativity, and kaptha>earth and water>delusion. There are seven dosha types, strong vata, strong pitta, and strong kapha, then the mixed pairs of each, and then the tri-dosha (this is considered a state of healthy balance and is the ideal, though I guess it is possible to have a near death state where all the doshas are equally aggravated, that would then make 8 types) of all three together. This kind of understanding serves as a basis of an integrated mind-heart-body healing approach. This fits in with Amritayana Buddhism's belief that aging and death are not necessary, but are due to causes and conditions that we can potentially master and cure.

I found a Kapha Tea which helps dissolve excess Kapha. This tea is very simple:

1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon dill seed
1 clove bud
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek
1 cup of pure water

Mix ingredients together, bring to boil, simmer (or steep as in the original recipe, the simmering is for the extra herbs mentioned below) for five minutes, and it is done.

I have made a few modifications to this formula to tweak it a little. I do 1/8 teaspoon dill seed and 1/8 teaspoon of dill weed powder instead of 1/4 teaspoon of dill seed, do about 3 clove buds ground, grind the fenugreek, add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom, half a stick of cinnamon (which can be used a number of times) and add 1/2 teaspoon of sencha green tea about halfway through the simmering period. Once the green tea is added, it is important to strain the liquid to remove the leaves in about 5 minutes, because more tannins enter the water after this. It makes a subtle and important flavor difference between a mellow more alkaline tea and a bitter more acid tea. I finish off this formula with two drops of liquid stevia as a sweetener and one drop of lemon oil as a support for the cardamom. Ginger powder seems preferable to fresh ginger root. I am noticing as I study that these two states of the same ingredient have different warming properties. Each has their place but do not function identical to each other. Ginger powder is more consistent in potency and is a very good warmer. I do find that the proportions of this tea are important, especially with the ginger.

Thanks to Aryurvedic chef Patti Garland for this recipe:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brain Blend

I have been exploring a combination of herbs that help the brain. There is a book called THE EDGE EFFECT by Eric R. Braverman. The book proposes that there are four major chemicals in the brain that we need to keep in balance in order to have optimal brain health and longevity. The book, in general, confirms my theory that we need to keep our brain healthy in order to achieve biological immortality. The four key chemicals are dopamine, acetyl-choline, GABA, and serotonin. These chemicals can sometimes be taken directly, but in terms of supplements they are usually delivered indirectly through taking metabolic precursors, chemicals that get converted to these four main chemicals. GABA can be taken directly. Serotonin usually comes from tryptophan, dopamine from tyrosine, and acetyl-choline from carnitine and a few other compounds.

I have been exploring getting these four key brain chemicals from herbal sources, rather than through supplements. I tried supplements and found that I did feel something, but found that herbal nutrients seem to have a better deliver system to get these nutrients to where they are needed in the body, even though theoretically they sometimes have less of these nutrients that a pharmaceutical pure powder. It could be that herbs have built in metabolic co-factors that the body is used to expecting from millions of years of evolutionary adaptation.

I am not against the use of pharmaceutical products, but want to be realistic about them as an option. There are some disadvantages. One is that there is a testing gap in scientific research about them. The nutrient tested in the research may not be identical to the actual product being used by people. I have run across a few consumer studies which have shown that what is labeled a certain chemical sometimes does not even have any of the chemical in it. There are also additives, fillers, and shelf life to consider. Even when you have the right purity and a good company behind it, very often they cannot afford to duplicate the original studies. I came to the conclusion I was only going to keep using stuff that I can feel working with at least a subjective sensation of feeling at least a little better and healthier. Even when considering the possibility of a placebo effect, many products have failed to meet this level, even when I have taken the product with some sense of optimism about the possible results. There is some danger of a misread, like perhaps something like a temporary caffeine boost that makes you feel better but does not in the long term. But I find that it is possible to use personal experience here and just keep sensitive in the long term to see what the effects are. I feel that the body can sort out temporary boosts from long term health strategies. There is also the herbal traditions on the past to check with in this regard. We have collective history experience to check with.

I have found that Macuna Puriens is a good herbal source for dopamine. Nettles, walnut oil, sesame oil, figs, walnuts and tahini are good sources for serotonin (through tryptophan, though Nettles does seem to directly give some serotonin). For GABA, Kava seems best with a GABA Oolong (Oolong cured in a nitrogen environment or high mountain Oolong) as also being very good. For acetyl-choline, soy lecithin is one possibility (which is oddly enough found in chocolate bars, if you take the 88 percent dark it is very low in sugar and has no dairy). I am still exploring the last one some to see what options I have. It seems that Rosemary, Fenugreek, Horsebalm, Gotu Kola, Gingko, Dandelion, Mung Bean, Fava Bean, Brazil Nuts (but sometimes these can carry a mold if not transported or preserved well), Nettles, and Willow all seem to help in some way.

In addition to those mentioned, Ginseng seems to be very helpful. There was a legend of an herbalist who lived in China that lived to about 256. He taught, at least according to one author, being vegan, doing Chi Kung (the Eight Silken Brocade or Jam Jung exercises), doing Chi Kung breathing, and taking Ginseng, Foti, and Gotu Kola. Ginseng was so important and powerful by itself that when he chose to let go of his body he could not die until he had stopped taking Ginseng for two weeks. There is some mention also of the Reishi mushroom in some formulas connected with him. I do not know if this was integral to his formula or not. It may have been his general knowledge of Taoist herbal medicine which is meant to be used as well.

I found when scanning the literature for "immortalist herbs" that several have appeared, from White Tea, Reishi, Ginseng, Ephedra (Ma Huang), Gotu Kola, Foti, Licorice, and Aloe. There are a few others that seem to come up from time to time. I hope to at least footnote the promising ones. I have found a number of herbs that have a positive effect on the brain and on mood, from Saint John's Wort, Kava, Ginseng, Mugwort, Chamomile, Ephedra, Macuna, Ashwaganda, good quality Green Tea, wild mint, Valerian, Cardamom, Gingko, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Pineapple, and Coconut Milk. Some of these are not potent by themselves, but help other herbs. Kava has many healing alkaloids and some of them extract in hot water, some through pineapple enzymes, and some through coconut milk. Kava can be very potent in a green smoothy with banana (potassium), cucumber (alkalizer), pineapple (enzymes), rice protein powder, and Vita-Mineral Green (or anything with dehydrated greens, though this is the best one that I have found).

There is a tricky part to this exploring, because I find I do not always have time to fully extract the potencies of the herbs. I suspect that mere pill popping of vitamin pills also has a similar limitation. Some herbs combine well with each other, others need special separate extractions. Roots tend to combine well and need more boiling time to extract their potencies. Too much boiling of leaf herbs can even weaken the formula (too long a boil and more tannins come out of Green Tea, ideally you bring to boil for about one minute and steep for about five minutes, and then take the leaves out of the water). I have learned to treat herbal brews with the same attitude as gourmet medicinal food cooking. I have been able to standardize the formulas some, but not perfectly yet. I am still working out an ideal set. I almost always improvise in practice, adding a few extra things according to some temporary felt need. If I am getting a cold during the winter because of "moist damp chi" energy in the Oregon rains, then I might add more thermogens. I like Ephedra a lot, but have to measure it carefully as it is very strong. My brother gets a racing heart if he takes too much. I have used it more over a longer period of time and my body has adapted to the herb. However, I have to be careful of hidden synergists and how they may multiply the potency of each other. I suspect that Bitter Orange synergizes very well with Ephedra and makes the former have an effect similar to Ephedra. While this is good for me to have, my brother may need to take an even smaller dose of the two combined than when they are separate. I put Ephedra is a salt shaker type bottle and only sprinkle a little into a brew, one shake for every cup.

My main meditation practice these days is a kind of Tumo Yoga where I visualize Hreeh in red at the base of the spine, Ah in silvery blue at the heart, and Om at the 3rd eye in white. This is not exactly the usual practice but is a valid derivation of the principles when linked to chanting Om Namo Amida Buddha Hreeh and calm abiding in the primordial state as a support. I have recently concluded that an "herbal tumo support" is possible with a skillful combination of herbs, some thermogens to support the hreeh, some brain nutrients to support om, and some lung openers for ah (the aromatics, cardamom, and hawthorn berry).

I have recently been exploring Gynostemma which has similar potencies to Ginseng but, being a leaf, can grow more easily, cheaply, and productively. Because it is a leaf, too, it can brew with other leaves in the same pot and matures in about the same amount of time. It synergizes with Gingko and Green Tea. I am suspecting that it is not a perfect replacement for Ginseng, but may substitute for a certain amount. It could be that while the active ingredient is similar that the root has more grounding properties. It could be that adding some licorice, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and burdock to the three synergists just mentioned may help the ginseng like active ingredient in gynostemma. I would recommend only a small amount of each of these so as to not overwhelm the brew (so that all five together in mass is equal to only one third of the total mass when combined with the three leaves). And maybe a pinch of Ephedra...

Green tea varies in quality a lot and it is worth finding something organic and loose. I would shy away from the tea bag herbal blends. It is more affordable to buy in bulk. I have been very happy with Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon, but I am sure there are other sources. I have a friend who wild crafts herbs, especially Nettles, and who finds some very good ones in this local region. I prefer using herbs fresh when possible, but drying them, tinturing them, or refrigerating them is useful for the seasonal downtimes. Mugwort seems ideal for winter hibernation and needs to be dried and preserved for then. It makes a "lucid dreaming tea" when combined with "calming herbs" like chamomile, Saint John's Wort, Kava, and Valerian (the last one is very strong and you do not need very much, just a few pinches, in its essential oil form, one drop per a pot in enough and is very strong, take it only when you are ready to fall asleep within 30 minutes). Young leaf Green Tea is naturally low in caffeine. I have found that some caffeine seems essential to deliver the herbal potencies to where we need it in the body and so staying totally away from caffeine is something I would not advise. Powdered Sencha tea is very very good, but also is a little expensive (worth it).

In another blog I would like to go into some cleansing herbs and routines. I wanted to write this entry in more stream of consciousness fashion and give a sense of some of the considerations I have been processing in my mind about various brain, health, and longevity herbs that I have found useful and where my research edge is. I feel I am gaining a lot of useful knowledge about herbs, but it is not as linear as simply saying herb X is good for problem Y. There are issues of best preparation, seasonal changes that alter how much some herbs are needed, some need to sense what you need from time to time, what kind of key herbs work best together, and which support herbs are worth adding or omitting according to need. I think there is some room to experiment and find out what works best for you, especially with the safe herbs. I think there are also herbs that are too potent to be too experimental with unless one is extra conscious, like Ephedra and some possible thermogenic synergists like Bitter Orange. I do feel that having a meditation practice is integral to herbal medicine and makes all the herbs work better and visa versa. I would suggest that one put aside experimenting with anything more than a pinch of Ephedra unless you really feel you know what you are doing and/or check in with a health professional who can monitor you.

I am planning on mentioning a number of formulas and have shared some already. The above represents the general flavor of my research. Blessings.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Some Diet Notes or Raw Pea Soup

This morning I decided to make one of my favorite recipes. It is a raw pea soup. It is made by putting one small bag of frozen peas in a blender with enough water to cover it and about an inch more. Blend until creamy. This may necessitate pausing the blender and stirring occasionally (make sure the blender is really off before you stir!) and even adding a little pure filtered water. Then add a 1/3 cup of tahani and blend. Then add one zucchini and blend. Then add a small bowl of salad greens (baby romaine is what I used) and blend. Then sprinkle a small amount of Celtic or Himalayan Salt (these have some ionic and colloidal minerals). Then add about two tablespoons of lime or lemon juice. Blend. More tahini can be added to make it creamier. Pour the soup base into a container (half full). Then add Hecho Talent Salsa for thick chunks and/or finely grated peeled sweet potato (there is a device I have that makes it have the texture of spaghetti and which can be further softened by a quick blanche, just dipping them momentarily in boiling water). Then add some flax oil for some Omega 3's.

The soup is thick enough to make a creamy salad dressing, especially when dill is added.

Plan on eating all this soup within about 3 days. It is a raw food and it is high in enzymes which will keep breaking down the compounds (in a good digestive way).

The main advantage of eating raw is that the food in high in enzymes. I find that raw food diet to be very cleansing and would recommend that people try strict raw food for about 3 to 6 months.

There are some challenges to the raw food diet that are worth mentioning and are the reasons why I am not 100 percent raw:

(1) Cooking does sterilize the food well. When you are eating raw, you need to make sure the food is well cleaned. Blanching quickly is a good idea or soaking in a solution that removes pesticide or herbicide residues. Even if something is organic, there is some chance of contamination, since raw food can be trucked along side conventional food, sometimes over hot stretches of road, with truck exhaust filling the air. I usually go more raw in the spring and summer. It is not because raw food is too cold for the winter. It is possible to "warm without wounding". The food is still raw and uncooked if the temperature of the heat merely warms the food to the hot coco level. But I find that I prefer being on raw foods when I can get fresh local farm produce that is harvested in the morning of the day it is sold and handled with care. This food feels superior to most truck and grocery raw food. In the winter time, the harvests of this fresh food are less (with the exception of kale). It is also important to consider what kind of composting technique is used by organic growers, especially when fecal matter of certain animals and/or humans is used. There is a way of super heating the compost so it is fully broken down and nutrient rich. There is also a sloppy way of doing this where live parasites may be transfered to the food, and if not sterilized by cooking, and can have a severe impact on health.

(2) Raw food, especially if you do not use dried and frozen food (both methods can keep the food essentially raw, but do reduce the enzyme content by about 50 percent, both have methods of cheating, of using too much heat to dry them faster and thus making it less raw or blanching with too much heat before freezing), spoils fairly fast, which means that you have to plan better and prepare food more often. While this is possible, modern life is very busy and routines are easily upset by periodic emergencies. I found that food would often spoil. I eventually compromised by having a stock of frozen food and cultured food (like olives, sauerkraut, kombucha, coconut milk kefir, and organic soy yogurt). These food, while not strictly raw, have raw food properties, since live cultures are active or were active in many of them. These things help the intestinal flora too.

(3) There are some bigger challenges when you are traveling and being raw. You can usually find places with salad bars. The food is fresh, though the salad greens are usually soaked in sodium bisulfide, a preservative. It is a relatively safe chemical compound, but sometimes these compounds induce an allergic reaction. A few place have smoothies and fresh juices that can keep one going. You can bring fresh carrots and apples, some raw food health bars, and Vita-Mineral Green powder (mixed in water gives a lot of nutrients). A cooler filled with good stuff helps, especially on short trips. You eventually run out. I found that I would stop at grocery stores and get some apples and carrots, and occasionally get lucky by finding some other things.

(4) Some food seems to process well cooked, like tomatoes and like the legume family in general. It seems that cooking does make legumes more digestible. After trying a lot of sprouting and soaking methods to get them to taste good, I decided that cooking them was okay, at least some of the time. Legumes are the main protein source when you are vegan and are leaning towards more raw food.

(5) I have found a lot of value in herbal teas and feel they are very compatible with a raw food diet. I would not water to deprive myself of their benefits just to be completely consistent with a dietary rule. The only rule I am very consistent with is to not eat animals or animal products (eggs and dairy). This is more for ethical reasons.

I find that if I am going to describe my diet using modern labels, it comes out like this:

mostly organic
gluten free
low glycemic
semi-raw food

with herbal teas
with pranayama breathing
with microclustered water
with himalayan salt

The raw food pea soup covers nearly the whole spectrum.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gynostemma pentaphyllum

Gynostemma pentaphyllum, also called jiaogulan (is an herbaceous vine of the family Cucurbitaceae (cucumber or gourd family) indigenous to the southern reaches of China, southern Korea and Japan. Jiaogulan is best known as an herbal medicine reputed to have powerful antioxidant and adaptogenic effects that increase longevity.

Jiaogulan is consumed primarily as a tea, and is also used as a natural sweetener in Japan[citation needed]. It is known as an adaptogen and antioxidant and has been found to increase superoxide dismutase (SOD) which is a powerful endogenous cellular antioxidant. Studies have found it increases the activities of macrophages, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells and that it acts as a tumor inhibitor. Due to its adaptogenic effects it is frequently referred to as "Southern Ginseng," although it is not closely related to true Panax ginseng. Its adaptogenic constituents include the triterpenoid saponins gypenosides which are closely structurally related to the ginsenosides from the well-known medicinal plant ginseng. It has been shown to lower cholesterol levels in human studies.

The plant is best known for its use as an herbal medicine in traditional Chinese medicine, although its inclusion in Wu Qi-Jun's 1848 botany book Zhi Wu Ming Shi Tu Kao Chang Bian discusses a few medicinal uses and seems to be the earliest known documentation of the herb. Prior to that, Jiaogulan was cited as a survival food in Zu Xio's 1406 book Materia Medica for Famine. Until recently it was a locally known herb used primarily in regions of southern China. It is described by the local inhabitants as the immortality herb, because people within the Guizhou Province, where jiaogulan tea is drunk regularly, have a history of living to a very old age.[3][4] Most research has been done since the 1960s when the Chinese realized that it might be an inexpensive source for adaptogenic compounds, taking pressure off of ginseng stock.

Adaptogenic herbs are nontoxic in normal doses, produce a nonspecific defensive response to stress, and have a normalizing influence on the body. They normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). As defined, adaptogens constitute a new class of natural, homeostatic metabolic regulators.[3] However they are also functional at the level of allostasis which is a more dynamic reaction to long term stress, lacking the fixed reference points of homeostasis. Jiaogulan is a calming adaptogen which is also useful in formula with codonopsis for jet lag and altitude sickness.

More About Jiaogulan

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum), is a plant that grows wild in China, as well as many other countries throughout Asia. In China, it has been used for many years as a medicinal and energizing tea in the local regions where it grows. Jiaogulan is sometimes called "Southern Ginseng", since it grows in south central China and because of its similarity to ginseng in chemical composition and function. It is also praised as Xiancao, "Immortality" Herb, because it grows wild and has many health-giving qualities and anti-aging effects.

In the late 1970s, Japanese scientists began discovering jiaogulan's illness-prevention and therapeutic qualities. What they uncovered was an herb very similar in quality to ginseng, yet in some ways superior. They found jiaogulan to function as both an adaptogenic herb and as an antioxidant herb, containing many health-giving saponins (chemical compounds having a soapy characteristic), as well as trace minerals, amino acids, proteins, and vitamins.

Jiaogulan contains a large quantity of these saponins, known also as gypenosides. The structure of the gypenosides is very similar to the panaxosides (also known as ginsenosides) found in ginseng. There are four times as many saponins in jiaogulan as there is in ginseng. Some of those saponins are identical to the panaxosides in ginseng and some of them turn into panaxosides when taken into the body. This results in a greater number of saponins than ginseng, which may translate into a more powerful regulatory effect on a number of bodily systems; like blood pressure, the reproductive system, the digestive system, the immune system, mental functions and more. 1, 2

Wild Jiaogulan Herb
Gynostemma pentaphyllum

Scientific research studies in China have shown that jiaogulan decreases cholesterol by improving the liver's ability to send sugar and carbohydrates to the muscles for conversion to energy instead of turning the sugar into triglycerides which the body stores as fat. 3 It lowers LDL's (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL's (good cholesterol). It improves fat metabolism, reduces blood fat levels and depresses lipid peroxide and fat sediment in the blood vessels. 4

While it is great for rectifying high cholesterol and obesity problems, it can also improve and strengthen the digestion, allowing an underweight person to increase absorption of nutrients and gain weight in the form of lean muscle mass. This regulatory effect on bodily functions is the hallmark of an adaptogen. 5

A study at Guiyang Medical College in China has shown that a jiaogulan recipe increased strength and endurance in the body. Considering the above statements overall, jiaogulan becomes the perfect herb for anyone who wants to improve their competitive edge in any field of athletic performance. 6

Adaptogenic functions of jiaogulan are demonstrated in its biphasic effects on brain functions, which energize or calm the system depending upon the body’s need. 7 Jiaogulan also aids the regulation of hormonal functions in both men and women. The healthy maintenance of these physiological actions plays a major role in the body's ability to cope with stress. 8 Jiaogulan has also shown its effectiveness, in clinical research studies, in helping the body resist depression of the immune system and other stress-related symptoms. It increases the production of Lymphocytes, Phagocytes and serum IgG, but not to an excess. 9

Jiaogulan has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory activities through its many saponins. 10 Jiaogulan also helps the body to resist depression of the immune system and other stress-related symptoms. 11, 12 Furthermore there are other clinical research studies, which indicate jiaogulan's ability to reduce tumor size. 13,14 It can even lower high blood pressure. 15

In China jiaogulan is praised as the “Herb of Immortality,” due to its many health giving qualities and anti-aging effects.


1. Song, W.M., et al. “Comparison of the adaptogenic effects of jiaogulan and ginseng.” Zhong Cao Yao. Chinese. 1992; 23(3):136.

2. Wei, Y., et al. “The effect of gypenosides to raise White Blood Count.” Zhong Cao Yao. Chinese. 1993; 24, 7, 382.

3. Kimura, Y., et al. “Effects of crude saponins of Gynostemma pentaphyllum on lipid metabolism.” Shoyakugaku Zasshi. Japanese. 1983 (Rec’d 1984); 37(3):272-275.

4. Yu, C. “Therapeutic effect of tablet gypenosides on 32 patients with hyperlipaemia.” Hu Bei Zhong Yi Za Zhi. Chinese. 1993; 15(3):21.

5. Zhou, S., et al. “Pharmacological study on the adaptogenic function of jiaogulan and jiaogulan compound.” Zhong Cao Yao. Chinese. 1990; 21(7):313.

6. Zhou, Ying-Na, et al. “Effects of a gypenosides-containing tonic on the pulmonary function in exercise workload.” Journal of Guiyang Medical College.1993; 8(4):261.

7. Zhang, Yi-Qun, et al. “Immediate effects of a gypenosides-containing tonic on the echocardiography of healthy persons of various ages.” Journal of Guiyang Medical College. 1993; 18(4):261.

8. Zhou, Ying-Na, et al. Influence of kiwifruit/jiaogulan recipe on the lung function and exercise endurance under exercise workload. Journal of Guiyang Medical College. 1993; 18(4):256.

9. Liu, Jialiu, et al. Overall health-strengthening effects of a gypenosides-containing tonic in middle aged and aged persons. Journal of Guiyang Medical College. 1993; (3):146.

10. Li, Lin, et al. Protective Effect of Gypenosides Against Oxidative Stress in Phagocytes, Vascular Endothelial Cells and Liver Microsomes. Loma Linda University, Calif. Cancer Biotherapy. 1993; 8(3):263-272.

11. Hou, J., et al. Effects of Gynostemma pentaphyllum Makino on the immunological function of cancer patients. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. (K9K). 1991; 11(1):47-52

12. Qian, Hao, et al. Protective effect of jiaogulan on cellular immunity of patients with primary lung cancer treated with radiotherapy plus chemotherapy. Acta Academiae Medicinae Shanghai. 1995; 22(5):363-366.

13. Han, M.Q., et al. Effects of 24 Chinese medicinal herbs on nucleic acid, protein and cell cycle of human lung adenocarcinoma cell. Chung Kuo Chung His I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih (BIF). Chinese. 1995 Mar; 15(3):147-9.

14. Wu, J.L., et al. Influence of gypenosides on thrombosis and synthesis of TXA2 and PGF1a. Zhong Yao Yao Li Yu Lin Chuang. Chinese. 1991; 7(2):39.

15. Lu, G.H., et al. Comparative study on anti-hypertensive effect of Gypenosides, Ginseng and Indapamide in patients with essential hypertension. Guizhou Medical Journal. Chinese. 1996; 20:1.

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