Hayfever Remedies

Hayfever Remedies

If you happen to be one of the many unfortunate people who suffer from hay-fever, you are probably not so well pleased with the arrival of spring. Pollen laden air can be the source of misery and much discomfort that may last for weeks or months. Violent sneezing fits, asthma attacks, sinus headaches, itchy eyes, a runny nose, wheezing, and coughing are all common symptoms of this seasonal bane.

Hay-fever is not a novel source of trouble, yet there is very little solid knowledge regarding its underlying causes and treatment options. The easiest explanation is, of course, that pollen grains are little protein packages, which can cause the human body to simply overreact when it encounters them via the nasal passages. But why this should be so, nobody really knows. The fact is that autoimmune diseases like allergies and hay-fever, as well as food sensitivities, have become far more common in recent years than they used to be. The notion that environmental factors, such as commonly used agrochemicals are to blame, is a speculative theory, but it is as plausible as any.

Whatever the causes may be, what interests most sufferers is how to deal with the symptoms or better still, how to prevent them. Allopathic medicine recommends anti-histamines, which are chemicals that block the histamine receptors in the body, thus suppressing allergic reactions. Despite the fact that it can produce many unpleasant side-effects including drowsiness, dry throat, nausea, and even an irregular heartbeat, it is frequently the first line of defense.

It is not easy to tackle hay-fever preventatively. However, supporting the immune system gives the body a better chance to deal with it. Vitamin C and zinc may be helpful. A cup of Dandelion tea in the morning and Lime flower (Tilia sp.) tea with a few drops of lemon juice in the evening is an old home remedy. Reducing mucus-forming foods and increasing the number of fresh fruits and salads in the diet increases the fortifying vitamin supply and also helps to reduce the potential catarrhal congestion. Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) extract, tea or tincture is also said to be helpful. For best results, it is recommended to start taking a regular dose about a month before symptoms are expected to set in.

Once the attack sets in, it is best to treat symptoms specifically and topically. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomila) and Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) are effective anti-inflammatories. Taken with lemon juice, honey and a pinch of Ginger or Cayenne, adds decongestant properties.

Steam inhalations

Also very helpful are steam inhalations. A Chamomile steam bath clears the upper respiratory system and soothes the mucous membranes. A little Eucalyptus oil added to the steaming pan helps to clear the head and lungs. A facial steam bath is easy to prepare. Just take a handful of Chamomile flowers and place them in a bowl. Add boiling hot water and cover yourself and the bowl with a big towel or blanket and inhale the steam until the steam-bath cools down. This performance can be repeated several times a day as necessary.

Eyewash

To soothe itchy, red and sore eyes make an infusion with herbs such as Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Chamomile (Matricaria chamomila), Elder (Sambucus nigra) and Eyebright (Euphrasia Officinalis). Allow it to cool down and use an eyewash cup to rinse each eye. This can be repeated as necessary. The tea will keep at least 24 hours if kept in the fridge.

Lung decongestants

If the problem is concentrated in the lungs herbs such as Elecampane (Inula helenium), Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and Lungwort (Pulmonaria Officinalis.

Essential Oils

Essential oils can be used as ‘atmospheric remedies’. If you have an oil-burner, fill the well with water and add a drop or two of essential oil. The heat (electric or candle) diffuses the essential oil throughout the room. Essential oils of Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), Lavender (Lavendula sp.), Cedarwood Atlas (Cedrus atlantica) and Pine (Pinus sylvestris) are especially useful.

Honey

Raw, unprocessed LOCAL honey or LOCAL bee pollen are sometimes recommended as a preventative measure. Starting early in the spring with a dose of 1 large tablespoon per day is said to reduce sensitivity to the pollen allergens

Homeopathy

Based on the theory of ‘Similia Similibus Curentur’, or ‘let likes cure likes’ homeopathy believes in treating symptoms with a substance that in a healthy person would produce such the same such symptoms.

It therefore works best if the symptom complex corresponds very closely with the remedy. Consult with a qualified homeopath to determine which remedy might be the most appropriate for a specific case.

That being said, these are the most commonly used homeopathic remedies for hay-fever symptoms include:

Allium cepa

When mucous is watery and accompanied by sneezing and a tickling cough.

Arsenicum album

When a wheezy cough and swelling beneath the eyes are accompanied by a sense of stuffiness and watery mucous.

Euphrasia

When symptoms concentrate in the eyes, with swelling, itching, and discharge.

Ferrum phosphoricum

This might be the most useful ‘preventative’ homeopathic remedy for hay-fever, as it can stop symptoms from developing when taken early on. Symptoms include runny nose and eyes, facial flushing and a tickling cough.

Gelsemium

If symptoms are more akin to a summer flu, with tiredness, drowsiness, aching back and neck along with chills, runny nose and swollen mucous membranes this remedy might be indicated.

Nux vomica

This remedy might bring relief when symptoms alternate between a stuffed up nose and running mucous, accompanied by an irritable cough, sore, tickling throat and headache.

Sabadilla

When there are relentless, long lasting sneezing fits with itching nose and eyes, runny mucous and a lump in the throat this remedy may be indicated.

Homeopathic remedies don’t work well in combination with certain other substances, like coffee, cigarettes, and menthol, e.g. peppermint or eucalyptus, which are often present in toothpaste and chewing gums. They also would not work well in combination with the essential oils mentioned above.

Disclaimer: the information given in these pages is for educational purposes only. It should not be used for diagnostic purposes and nor should it replace a visit to a doctor or health practitioner.

Vinegar of the four thieves

Vinegar of the four thieves

In the past, the most feared infectious disease was the Black Death. Many times it ravaged the countryside and emptied towns and villages of its people. In total, 75-200 million people fell victim to it. It was truly devastating.

Yet, there were some that mysteriously managed to avoid getting infected. Among them, four brothers or friends, who were said to be raiding the countryside, robbing any and all valuables they could find, preying on the recently departed, and those on their deathbeds.

At first, people did not pay much attention. After all, who would be mad enough to enter the den of death? No doubt, sooner or later the Grim Reaper would get the better of them and they would have to pay for their sins. However, time went by but these bandits still went about their dirty business, apparently unaffected.

One day, they were caught in the act and although they were found guilty and should have faced the death sentence, their secret was so valuable that they were spared. Instead of being hung they were promised their freedom if they revealed their secret.

According to their tale, they had inherited an ancient herbal formula that was so potent that it could even fend off the Black Death. The recipe has become famous, although the original version is unknown. Many variations have made the rounds throughout Europe and to this day they still are all known as the ‘Vinegar of the 4 Thieves’.

Essentially the concoction was a potent blend of herbs macerated in white vinegar. It included herbs like:

  • Rue
  • Wormwood
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Calamus Root
  • Garlic
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Peppermint
  • Angelica Root
  • Camphor
  • Zeadory (Wild Turmeric)

People improvised and made their own versions of the recipe depending on the availability of various herbs. Other common ingredients were Sage, Meadowsweet, Wild Marjoram, Campanula Root, and Horehound.

Modern versions usually forego some of the more potent and potentially more toxic ingredients, such as Rue or Wormwood.

The herbs are crushed and macerated in strong white vinegar for at least a couple of weeks. The macerate is then strained and bottled.

The concoction was to be used externally, as a disinfectant, not as a herbal remedy for internal use.

 

The formula below is found in ‘The Practice Of Aromatherapy’ by Jean Valnet, a physician who has devoted his life to the study of herbs and essential oils for therapeutic use and is credited for the modern term ‘aromatherapy’.

Vinegar of the Four Thieves

  • 3 pints strong white vinegar
  • a handful each of wormwood, meadowsweet, juniper berries, wild marjoram, and sage
  • 50 cloves
  • 2 ounces of elecampane root
  • 2 ounces of angelica
  • 2 ounces of rosemary
  • 2 ounces of horehound
  • 3 g camphor
The  Camphor Tree

The Camphor Tree

Camphor constituent: essential oils

Parts used: essential oil, waxy crystalline flammable substance

Medicinal actions:

Used in ‘cold creams’ as an anti-aging ingredient. Stimulates the production of collagen and elastin.

Anti-inflammatory – applied to sore, inflamed skin (not on broken skin)

Pain relief for arthritic, or rheumatic pain

Antifungal – can be applied to toenail fungus. (Needs persistence. It can take up to 48 weeks  before positive impact is noticed).

Decongestant and cough suppressant – evaporate in oil diffuser during the night

Antispasmodic – can be used to relieve muscle aches and pains, cramps, sprains

Anti-viral – used to treat infectious fevers such as typhoid, influenza, and pneumonia.

Medicinal Action and Uses—Camphor has a strong, penetrating, fragrant odour, a bitter, pungent taste, and is slightly cold to the touch like menthol leaves; locally it is an irritant, numbs the peripheral sensory nerves, and is slightly antiseptic; it is not readily absorbed by the mucous membrane, but is easily absorbed by the subcutaneous tissue- it combines in the body with glucuronic acid, and in this condition is voided by the urine. Experiments on frogs show a depressant action to the spinal column, no motor disturbance, but a slow increasing paralysis; in mankind it causes convulsions, from the effect it has on the motor tract of the brain; it stimulates the intellectual centres and prevents narcotic drugs taking effect, but in cases of nervous excitement it has a soothing and quieting result. Authorities vary as to its effect on blood pressure; some think it raises it, others take an opposite view; but it has been proved valuable as an excitant in cases of heart failure, whether due to diseases or as a result of infectious fevers, such as typhoid and pneumonia, not only in the latter case as a stimulant to circulation, but as preventing the growth of pneumococci. Camphor is used in medicine internally for its calming influence in hysteria, nervousness and neuralgia, and for serious diarrhoea, and externally as a counter-irritant in rheumatisms, sprains bronchitis, and in inflammatory conditions, and sometimes in conjunction with menthol and phenol for heart failure; “

Mrs. Grieves, A Modern Herbal

Camphor Tree – The Dragon’s Brain

The characteristic scent of Camphor is familiar to anyone who has had a close encounter with VapoRub, but few have ever seen the pure, white crystalline substance from which the scent derives. Still, fewer are aware that this mysterious substance is entirely natural and comes from a tree that is native to southern China, southern Japan, and Taiwan. The Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora) is closely related to the Cinnamon Tree, (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), with which it is sometimes confused. However, the unmistakable scent of the leaves immediately reveals its true identity.

In China, Camphor is known as ‘long nao xiang’, ‘the dragon’s brain’, but it is unclear whether the name makes reference to its powerful brain-fog blasting effect, or whether the use of Camphor may originally have been the privilege of the emperor, who is often referred to as the (imperial) ‘dragon’.

Camphor trees can become very old – up to several hundred years, in fact. Such tree veterans are a majestic sight to behold. They can reach up to 40m in height and develop a truly massive base. One tree, recorded in the prefecture of Nagasaki, was recorded to measure a staggering 16 m of girth. Hardly surprising then, that the evergreen tree is seen as an icon of vitality and longevity.

In China, Japan and India Camphor trees are sacred. They are planted for protection near dwellings, temples, and monasteries, and Camphor is burnt as incense in purification rituals or in pujas. Its pure, bright and smokeless flame is seen as a representation of Shiva.

During the 13th century, while traveling through China, Marco Polo reported seeing ‘great forests where the trees are found that give camphor’. At that time, Camphor had already been introduced to Europe, along with other exotic spices such as Cinnamon, Pepper, Cardamom, and Wood-Aloes. But the Camphor tree itself was virtually unknown. The precious substances reached Europe via the Spice Route and first found its way to the spice markets north of the Alps during the 10th century.

However, it took several centuries more, until the latter half of the 17th century, for the first trees to be introduced to Europe. But then they took the eminent Botanical Gardens of Europe by storm: They were planted at the Botanical Gardens of Padua, Leiden, Dresden, and the Chelsea Physic Gardens. Many of them are still standing now. Their import to Europe has had no ill effect on the local environment, but in more favourable climatic conditions, Camphor trees have been known to spread prolifically. In some parts of Australia and the southern United States, they are now considered an invasive pest.

Camphor Tree

In the Orient, Camphor is highly valued and has a long tradition of medicinal and culinary use. It is mentioned in various Arab and Indian cookery books, and in India, it is an ingredient of the Betel quid, a popular chewing stimulant.

In the West Camphor is better known for its medicinal properties. It is valued for its antiseptic and cooling properties and its ability to relieve pain and swelling associated with inflammatory skin conditions, chilblains, burns, and anal fissures. It is also used as a counter-irritant and applied topically to painful arthritic or rheumatic joints.

Added to a steam inhalation Camphor can clear congestion of the lungs, bronchi and nasal passages. In the past, it was used internally as an antiseptic digestive aid. Thanks to Samuel Hahnemann, the ‘father of Homeopathic medicine’ it became a lifesaver during the outbreaks of Asiatic cholera in 1831/32 and 1848/49. Having received first-hand reports from Russian colleagues, he treated victims at frequent intervals with a homeopathic tincture of Camphor – apparently with great success. Even allopathic doctors admitted that it was about the only thing capable of halting the progress of this lethal disease when administered during the early stages.

Camphor is an antidote to Opium and recipes found in ancient Arab manuscripts often combine both substances to alleviate some of Opium’s negative effects. During the Victorian era, camphor became popular among members of the upper classes, particularly in the UK, the US and in Slovakia. It was combined with milk, alcohol or consumed in pill form as a stimulating recreational drug. The effective dose is very small and said to produce a warm, tingling skin sensation, a sense of mental clarity, or ‘a rush of thoughts chasing each other’, sometimes accompanied by euphoria.

However, the bad news is, that larger doses can produce quite unpleasant effects: confusion, giddiness, accelerated heart rate, headaches, and even death. Thus, many countries have regulated Camphor. Today, most commercially available Camphor is synthetically produced and not fit for internal use at all. It is regrettable that a beneficial and medicinally useful substance such as Camphor should be disgraced and forgotten, despite the eons of safe use, just because some people have overindulged in it – to their own detriment.

Caution: Only Camphor that is clearly labeled as edible may be taken internally, and then only in tiny doses. Quantities of more than 2g can be fatal to adults. The lethal dose for children and youths is significantly lower.

During pregnancy and lactation, it is advised to avoid camphor products altogether. Due to its toxicity at a low dose, it should also be kept away from children. Some people have reported contact dermatitis from handling Camphor.

Spring Detox

Spring Detox

A Spring Detox resets body, mind, and spirit. Get out into nature, do some foraging, and enjoy the benefits of your pickings.

When the first rays of bright warm sunshine are trying to penetrate the layer of dust that has accumulated on the window panes through the winter, it always hits me: It’s time to get out that cleaning stuff, air out the house and wash the window to let the sunshine in. And honestly,  it feels so good to get everything ready and prepared for a fresh start!

In the olden days, this idea was not only applied to the house, but also to the body. During the winter many of us are confined to a fairly sedentary lifestyle, which is bad enough. But what makes it worse is that rich and heavy diet we tend to adopt at that time. Maybe we intended to give up chocolate after Christmas, but there was so much left that we just kept eating it. And once after January 1st has passed, it seems like one has missed the boat for good intentions. But in fact, that is what Lent is for. It’s the perfect time to tune into nature’s cycle and apply the theme of cleansing and renewal to the body.

Depending on your growing zone, you might have noticed that the monochrome colours are changing and fresh green begins to sprout beneath the old leaves. Nature offers a whole host of delicious and healthful herbs that are just perfect for the job of inner cleaning.  No need to buy dried herbs! Most of what is needed will probably grow right in your backyard, or in a nearby meadow.

What does a body cleansing diet actually do?

The idea of a body cleanse is to support the body’s eliminative functions in order to help it in the process of getting rid of accumulated metabolic waste products, which often linger on in a sluggish system. This is done by taking herbs that stimulate the liver and gallbladder and thereby also increase the metabolic rate. Some might act as diuretics and can assist the body in flushing out uric acid crystals, while others improve the function of the respiratory system. These herbs act as tonics, rather than remedies and improve overall function, not heal specific conditions. To a large part, the job of cleansing the body is the work of the kidneys and the liver. Apart from the herbs, certain foods, such as apples, celery, endive, horseradish, and sauerkraut are very useful here. How about trying them in a salad? Perhaps, with raw onions and garlic, even. Keep the marinade simple: olive oil and lemon juice are perfect. As for drinks, cutting out alcohol, coffee, tea, and sugary drinks is key. Fresh apple juice is very wholesome, or, if you can stomach it, a little apple cider vinegar diluted with water and sweetened with honey is a great cleansing and energy-boosting drink.

If you want to try some of the fresh green that is currently sprouting on your doorstep, you could lookout for the following herbs:

Nettles (Urtica dioica):

Most people seem to fear nettles because of their sting. And, perhaps that is just as well, for if they knew how wholesome and healthy nettles truly are, they would probably be an endangered species. Nettles offer a whole powerhouse of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and iron. Their action is diuretic and they support the body’s elimination via the kidneys. They are particularly useful for clearing out metabolic waste products such as uric acid deposits, form little crystals that can cause a lot of pain in the joints. The most potent way to benefit from them is to take the freshly expressed juice. Juicing them is not so easy, though. If you don’t want to buy it ready bottled, preparing a tea made from the leaves is a good alternative. Nettle extract lowers the blood sugar level and can thus be very useful for diabetics.

As a wild vegetable, Nettles can be prepared like spinach, although it is best to mix the leaves with some other green, as its action on the eliminative systems can be quite strong when eaten in quantity. Adding the leaves to a warming soup is also a good idea.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):

Dandelion is one of the most beneficial spring herbs available to us. It bears a double blessing: the leaves are especially good for the urinary system. Their powerful diuretic action helps to flush out the kidneys, but unlike other diuretics, it is also rich in potassium, which means it will not deplete the body of this important mineral. Dandelion leaves can be enjoyed as a tea or used as a pot-herb, added to soups and salads. The roots, on the other hand, are quite bitter and have a beneficial effect on the liver Their chemical composition varies depending on the seasons. In spring they are rich in certain proteins and mineral salts, while in autumn they are rich in inulin (up to 40%), which is very helpful for diabetics.

Daisies (Bellis perennis):

The dainty daisy doesn’t look like much, other than a pretty flower that children like to play with. But the leaves and flowers have long been used in spring-cleansing diets. The juice pressed from the aerial parts is a most potent elixir, but must be freshly prepared each day. One tablespoon per day, diluted with the same amount of water, is the recommended dose.

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria):

Gardeners curse this little herb, which often pops up uninvited and grows profusely in damp, shady places of the garden. The young shoots and leaves have a powerful cleansing effect on the stomach and intestines. They are also strongly diuretic and very effective in flushing out uric acid crystals and other metabolic waste products. They can be added to soups or salads and make a very potent addition to a spring cleansing diet.

As the name suggests, goutweed is specifically known as a remedy for treating rheumatism and gout – a painful condition affecting the feet (The origin of its Latin name, podagra – ‘gout of the feet’ alludes to this use). However, for this purpose, a strong decoction made from the roots is used as a foot-bath.

Burdock Root (Arctium lappa):

An amazingly resilient herb, Burdock can be found almost anywhere. But it is not always easily spotted. It is a biennial plant, meaning, its cycle takes two years to complete. The root of the second year plants is the most powerful. Burdock is known as a powerful liver tonic, helping it to eliminate toxins from the body. Burdock Root is also very beneficial for diabetics, as it can help to regulate gallbladder secretions. It is also rich in Inulin, a soluble dietary fibre that has several important health benefits. Inulin consists of a type of fructose that cannot be broken down and digested in the small intestines. Instead, it moves on to the lower gut where it acts as a pre-biotic and nourishes the beneficial gut bacteria that inhabit that part of the digestive system.

No-one encourages Burdock to take its place in the garden, as its elephant ear-like leaves are too big and rough, and it does not produce particularly pretty flowers either. Butterflies love them, though. And Burdock is in fact extremely valuable, especially for those who suffer from chronic health problems that call for blood cleansing: arthritis, rheumatism, gout, or skin problems such as psoriasis. Growing it in the garden has the advantage that one can prepare a bed for them with plenty of loose soil and straw, which makes harvesting the roots SO MUCH easier! Trying to pull them up from the compacted ground is, well, let’s just say, a lot of sweat!

Burdock root can be taken as a tea (20g to 1/2 litre of water) or, used as a ‘health food’ it can be added to soups or stir-fries. In the old days, Burdock and Dandelion roots were also often used for brewing a rustic country beer or cordial.

Plant profile: Turmeric – Curcuma longa

Plant profile: Turmeric – Curcuma longa

Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.)

Synonyms:

Curcuma (Sp. It. Fr.), acafrao da India (port.), geelwortel (Dutch), kurkum Arab. Manjano (East Africa (KiSwahili), haldi (Hindi) manjal (Tamil), kunyit (Indonesia) temu kunyit (Malaysian), iyu-chin (Chin.)

Description:

Turmeric belongs to the family of Zingiberaceae, the ginger family. Anybody familiar with this family of plants will readily recognise this kinship even upon superficial examination. Turmeric is an upright, relatively short and stout plant that rarely reaches more than about 1 meter in height. Its leaves are elongated, dark green and pointed, often curling slightly along the margins. Each individual leaf rises directly from the fleshy rhizome at the base. The rhizome appears scaly, due to the remaining rings of previous leaves. Its outer skin is brownish, but its flesh is deep orange-yellow inside. Rhizomes grow to about 5-8 cm x 1.5 – 2.5 cm. When bruised they omit a spicy scent. The flower stalk will appear among the leaves, also emerging directly from the rootstock. The cylindrical spike, which may be partially protected by a leaf sheath, bears the whitish-pink flowers, which spiral around the spike. Each flower is protected by a little ‘pocket’ called bracteoles. Turmeric mostly propagates vegetatively via its rhizome segments.

Habitat:

Turmeric probably originated in India and is thought to have derived from the wild species C. aromatica. The greatest variety of species is found in India, Sri Lanka, and the Eastern Himalayas. It is now common throughout Southeast Asia, China, and southern Australia and it is widely cultivated throughout the wet tropics, where it has naturalised. The lion share of all the Turmeric that is produced worldwide is grown and consumed domestically in India.

Etymology:

The name of the genus, ‘curcuma’ is derived from the Arab word ‘kurkum’. Most likely it found its way to the Occident with the caravans of Arab traders. Its Sanskrit name is ‘haridra’, which means ‘yellow wood’.

raw turmeric rhizomes

History and Uses:

Turmeric has a long history of use, not just as a spice, but also as a healing agent and a magical herb. As a spice, it is best known as one of the principal components of curry powder, to which it dons the characteristic yellow colour. Curry powder is often mistakenly believed to refer to a specific spice blend or to be derived from a single plant. Nothing could be further from the truth! There are dozens of curry blends that all vary in their composition. The best are those that are prepared from scratch for each individual dish. These spice blends are indeed a far cry from the generic mixtures found on supermarket shelves.

Here is one of many possible Curry powder blends:

  • 3oz turmeric
  • 4oz coriander (seed)
  • 1 oz black pepper
  • 1 oz ginger
  • ¼ oz cayenne pepper
  • ¼ oz cinnamon

This basic mix is often varied with cloves, cumin or cardamom. In India, fish is sometimes wrapped and cooked in fresh turmeric leaves to impart the characteristic flavour. As a spice, turmeric adds a warm, aromatic, slightly astringent note.

It is a carminative and stomachic that stimulates the digestive processes, soothing indigestion and reducing flatulence.

When Europeans first encountered turmeric they often falsely identified it as saffron. Although it makes a perfect food dye, its properties and flavour do not compare to those of saffron. In India turmeric is indeed widely used as a dye, especially for ritual foods that are offered to the Gods at the temples and as a textile dye (Buddhist robes are traditionally dyed with turmeric). Carbonate of soda helps to fix the dye, although it is not very permanent. Sometimes Turmeric is used as a cosmetic agent, and as make-up for weddings and other festive occasions. The food industry employs it as a colorant for cheese, sausage, and confectionery.

In folk-magic, Turmeric is linked to fertility. There may be a biochemical basis for this association, as medicinally it is used to regulate menstruation and to reduce menstrual cramps. It is also thought to have protective powers and is sometimes worn as a magical charm.

After harvesting, the root is cured for long-term storage. This will prevent them from sprouting new leaves. The traditional method of curing is to boil or steam the fresh rhizome in lime or sodium carbonated water. This cleans the root, stops all germination, gelatinises the starch and removes the earthy scent. After boiling, the rhizomes are dried in the sun and ground into powder. Modern preparation techniques use 20 g sodium bisulfite and 20 g hydrochloric acid per 45 kg of rhizomes, which are boiled in a kind of steam boiler. The result is a cleaner, yellow-tinted rhizome that is deemed ‘more attractive’ in commerce. The roots are then artificially dried, rather than sun-dried, which improves their quality and reduces the risk of fungal growth or other contaminants.

Medicinal uses

Parts Used: Rhizome

Harvesting Time: 7 – 9 months after planting (when the lower leaves turn yellow)

Active constituents: Volatile oils, terpene, curcumen, starch, albumen, curcumin (colorant) potassium, vitamin C

The essential oil of turmeric and the colour component are very light-sensitive and deteriorate quickly when exposed to light. Thus, it is essential to store the powder in a dark jar. A pale colour indicates that the active constituents have lost their potency. When purchasing turmeric pay attention to the packaging date as it rarely lasts for more than 3 months. Turmeric is insoluble in water, but soluble in alcohol. Preparing a tincture is, therefore, a good way to preserve the healing properties. When used in cooking, stir the powder into the hot oil before adding the other ingredients. This will transfer the flavours and benefits to the oil, which will then coat the other ingredients as they are added to the pan.

As its signature indicates, Turmeric is an excellent herb for the liver: It is used for treating jaundice and to stimulate the gallbladder. It is a great digestive aid and helps the body to break down and digest fatty foods. Clinical trials show that it reduces cholesterol levels. Turmeric also has germicidal properties. Its traditional indication for gastric ulcers may be due to its effectiveness in fighting the H. pylori bacteria, which has been identified as the major cause of gastric ulcers. (Munzenmaier 1997 )

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is considered a ‘pitta’ substance due to its action on the digestive system, aiding the metabolic process and the absorption of nutrients. It is said to ‘stimulate the digestive fire’.

Some traditional healers use it as a remedy for treating cough or cook it with milk and other spices to ward off a cold.

Applied externally, in combination with Neem leaves, it said to be effective for treating ringworm and scabies. Traditionally it has also been employed in the treatment of eczema, leprosy and purulent inflammation of the eyes.

In Chinese medicine, it is indicated for shoulder pain, menstrual cramping, colic, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Recent studies have also found turmeric to be an effective agent to inhibit certain types of cancers. It has been administered both internally and externally to aid the healing of cancer lesions and scars. It is also used for reducing the odour of cancer.

A strong immune system is your best defense

A strong immune system is your best defense

Powerful immune-boosting foods you probably already have in your kitchen.

No matter what bacteria or viruses are floating around, a strong immune system is your best defence. But it is not always easy to keep it topped up. Stress, pollution, or close encounters with bugs that are floating around at the workplace, or in public spaces all contribute to the body’s defence system falling to sub-optimum levels.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to boost your body’s immune response and thus prevent disaster before it strikes. There are three key elements to an effective immune defence strategy:

1) Reduce stress levels

While short-term stress can actually boost the immune response, the daily grind wares it down. Severely. If you suffer from high levels of stress address this problem first. Take more breaks, make sure you sleep enough, try to worry less. Just inch away from that edge. It is called ‘self-care’. Try and extend the forgiveness and compassion you show towards other people also towards yourself. You too deserve a break once in a while.

2) Exercise, preferably out in nature

Exercise is a proven strategy that can reduce stress. But do it for its own sake, not to beat someone else’s or your own record. It should be fun, not stress. Exercising in the fresh air also gets the bugs out, improves circulation and respiration. And it works wonders for mental health.

3) Nutrition

Forget supplements. A nutritious and varied diet with plenty of naturally derived vitamins and minerals is the best support you can give your body. Denaturalised foods (over-processed, fast foods and the like) do not provide the nutrients your body needs. Worse, they deplete and weaken it. Organic foods are your best bet. Try to include smoothies or fresh-pressed juices in your daily diet. It’s a great way to take in a lot of nutrients without having to eat all day.

In the old days, it was customary to fast or at least to restrict certain kinds of foods during Lent, the six week period prior to Easter. During the winter and especially during the holidays, we tend to eat too much, and usually far too much of the wrong kinds of things. Fasting or eating light helps the body eliminate waste matter. Spring cleansing diets were also common. These include plenty of fresh early spring herbs such as Dandelion and Nettles while cutting out meat and animal products for a period of time. Few people follow this kind of regime now, but there are still ways to give your body extra nutritional support during the winter months.

Superfoods

How many times have you heard some exotic thing is THE BEST FOOD EVER, and that for sure it will cure every imaginable human malady? It’s the best thing since sliced bread until the next ‘miracle cure’ comes around. They are usually expensive and come from far away places…Can you smell the rat? Well, truth is, the best foods usually grow right on our doorstep and are neither exotic nor expensive. In fact, you probably have several on your kitchen shelf. Vitamin, A, C, E and D, Iron, Selenium and Zinc are the most important immune system nutrients. But instead of taking them in synthetic form, mixed with a bunch of unidentified filler substance, you would be much better off seeking out natural sources for these vital nutrients. The body often can’t absorb supplements properly, which means that your money often literally goes down the drain.

When there are bugs going around, use common sense: if you know that there is an outbreak in your area, don’t solicit it. Wash your hands frequently and don’t share water bottles and cutlery etc.

Prevention is the best medicine!

Be well and stay well!

Garlic

Some love it, some hate it, but almost no cuisine can do without. And just as well. Garlic is one of the healthiest items we can find in the kitchen. It really is a true superfood, Garlic packs a punch. Like other members of the onion family, it is rich in sulfurous compounds, which aid both the immune system and the cardiovascular system. The trace minerals manganese and selenium are important compounds that help the body in its fight against ‘free radicals’ and against inflammation. It has also been shown to fight bacteria. Including it in your diet on a regular basis is one of the most effective things you can do to improve your diet and to keep your immune system well-nourished.

Chilies

Not everybody can take hot chilies, but those who can attest to its superior power when it comes to sending ’bugs’ packing. It is not just another urban legend, either. Chilies really do fight inflammation. They also provide a good amount of vitamin C and A, which the body needs to fight inflammation. Additionally, they also support the cardiovascular system. They reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and can also reduce blood insulin levels.

Ginger

A wonderfully warming spice with significant anti-oxidant properties, Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory. A hot lemon drink spiced with ginger and sweetened with honey is a wonderful, refreshing drink once a cold has set in. The spiciness induces sweating, which in turn can help to lower a fever. As regards the immune-system, Ginger owes its anti-inflammatory and free-radical scavenging effects to its essential oils.

Turmeric

This yellow spice is a well-known component of ready-mixed curry powders. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is much revered as a general tonic and immune-system boosting herb. In India, a drink called golden milk is a popular beverage used to ward off nasty bugs. Turmeric supports the eliminative systems of the body, in other words, it helps the liver to get rid of toxins. However, because it is quite potent in this respect, people with gall bladder obstruction (stones) should avoid it. Turmeric has a very complicated chemical composition and its effectiveness can’t be reduced to one particular component. Rather, it acts as an overall tonic, which also fights free radicals and reduces inflammation.

Broccoli & Co

The cabbage family produces not just one, but several of our healthiest vegetables. Good thing they are so readily available during the winter months when we need them most. Tied for the top position among their peers are Broccoli and Brussels sprouts, especially in the category of ‘highest vitamin C content’. Both of them are also rich in folate, but Kale wins when it comes to vitamin A. At the bottom of the line is, you can’t go wrong if you include these wholesome, nutritious vegetables in your dinner plan as often as possible.

Papaya

Granted. This tasty fruit from Central America is perhaps a bit more ‘exotic’ than the other ones on this list. But I am including it here anyway. If more people realised how incredibly healthy it is they would be fighting over it at the store. Rich in vitamin C and A, Papaya is rocket-fuel for the immune system. It is particularly tasty when sprinkled with fresh lime juice.

Rosehips

Rose hips are the fruit of the wild rose, and one of the richest sources of vitamin C and A. Rosehip tea is a wonderfully refreshing drink for the cold season, although I prefer home-made rose hip syrup. In certain specialty stores, you may also be able to find rosehip jam or preserve. No matter which way you consume them, they are a delicious way to boost your immune system and to help your body fight free radicals and inflammation.

Elderberries

In August you can spot them as small, blackberries that hang in big bunches from the Elder trees. Tiny though they are, they are packed with free-radical scavenging nutrients such as vitamin C and A as well as folate and iron, which help the body combat many different kinds of diseases. In winter, Elderberry syrup is a delicious, comforting beverage during the cold season, especially when spiced with ginger.

Lemons

It is no secret that lemons provide ample vitamin C. They also contain folate. These vitamins support the immune system and fight infection and free radicals. They also help to reduce inflammation. They are wonderfully refreshing and when spiced with ginger, honey, and cinnamon, make a wonderful beverage that can help to lower a fever and soothe inflamed mucous membranes. When taken right at the onset of a cold, at the first signs of a scratchy throat, high doses of vitamin C can really help to reduce the symptoms or even ward off that attack altogether.

Sesame and Pumpkin seeds

Included for their high zinc content, pumpkin and sesame seeds are not only a tasty addition to muesli, or salads, but they also support the immune system. Sesame seeds contain not only zinc but also selenium, copper, iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Selenium is used by the thyroid, the gland that is most involved in producing immune-cells. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in various trace minerals, such as iron, copper, and zinc.

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