Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cat's Claw: Nature's Powerhouse Plant

After a friend brought me back a salve made from Cat's Claw that she had purchased in Bolivia, I became fascinated by the plant. Putting it on my aching neck, I felt an almost instant relief from pain, which was quite different from the slower results I'd gotten from other ointments. Used mostly in tea and tincture form, I have been fascinated by the research I've done on what is called the "sacred herb of the rain forest."

Cat's Claw, otherwise known as Uncaria Tomentosa or the commonly used Spanish name, Una de Gato, was used by the ancient Incas and continues to be an important remedy throughout South America. The Askanika Indians of Peru use the plant as a sacred beverage, as well as a cleansing tonic for problems having to do with the immune system and intestinal tract. Known as a warming plant, it is excellent for healing inflammations such as gastritis, arthritis, bursitis, rheumatism, asthma, gout, and urinary tract complications. It is additionally used to help heal gastric ulcers, colitis, diverticulitis, herpes, menstrual irregularities, viral infections, allergies, Chron's disease, and leaky bowel syndrome. Some South American tribes also use Cat's Claw for treating dysentery and gonorrhea.

Cat's Claw is a tropical vine that grows in the jungle and rain forests that range throughout South America and Asia. It has a yellow or pink flower and sports thorns around the stem, allowing the plant to cling to trees where it can grow up to 100 feet tall. It is protected in Peru and Bolivia where it has been used for centuries due to its potent alkaloid and phytochemical content.

For Viral Conditions
Cat's Claw is an adaptogenic and anti-microbial plant that contains tannins and other phytochemicals that give it its essential antioxidant properties. The strong presence of alkaloids as a part of the plant's chemical makeup helps with the increased production of leukocytes or white blood cells, especially T4 leukocytes so important to blocking and stopping many viral diseases in their early stages, such as HIV. These components also help to decrease tumors and cysts, as well as increase energy and stamina in those suffering from exhaustion due to overactive physical or mental activity.

For the Immune System
Because it protects cells from free radical damage, Cat's Claw shows promise in strengthening the immune system and promoting longevity as well as fighting diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, and prostate conditions. Because it contains rhynchophylline, one of the major alkaloids that works against hypertension, it also has considerable effect on lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and controlling cholesterol levels, making it a strong choice for reducing the possibility of stroke and heart attacks. Due to its ability to protect the body from pain, Cat's Claw is also used in conjunction with chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and AZT protocols. 

For the Intestinal Tract
The leading herbalist and Chiropractic physician, Dr. Brent Davis calls Cat's Claw the "opener of the way" due to its ability to detoxify the intestinal tract. He tested the plant on a number of patients suffering from hemorrhoids, gastritis, ulcers, parasites, fistulas, and leaky bowel syndrome and found that it was powerfully effective in ridding the body of infections that lead to these problems. His studies conclude that Cat's Claw is effective in helping to heal problems associated with the liver, spleen, kidneys, thymus, and thyroid due to its inherent healing properties.

Further Studies on Cat's Claw
Ever since the 1970's, Cat's Claw has been clinically studied in Peru, England, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Hungary for its powerful properties. Claims that the plant is even more potent than Golden Seal, Echinacea, Siberian Ginseng, Astralagus, and Reishi mushrooms have been made by many researchers, and a recent article in Newsweek Magazine praises Cat's Claw as one of "nature's biggest sellers." 

In a book entitled "The Saga of the Cat's Claw," by neurologist and neurosurgeon Dr. Fernando Cabieses, he analyzes and explains his extensive experiments with the plant, revealing its powerful medicinal properties. 

An excerpt from the book, "Powerful and Unusual Herbs from the Amazon and China," published by the World Preservation Society states: "Una de Gato from the Peruvian rain forest is a favorite for stimulating the immune system. World wide research done on this powerful herb has led scientists to patent many of the single chemicals found in it for use in healing cancer, arthritis, AIDS, and other diseases. However, traditional wisdom shows that using the whole plant can be far more powerful than any one isolated ingredient."

Because Cat's Claw exhibits so much potential for healing the body, it is the subject of many trials and studies regarding its relationship to positively affecting AIDs, HIV, and Alzheimer's, among many other life-threatening diseases.  As an overall tonic, the plant proves to be excellent in fortifying the internal system with no or very few side effects. This being said, it is important that you discuss taking Cat's Claw with your healthcare provider, as there may be counter-indications if you are pregnant, take specific medications or suffer from particular ailments that may not respond well to the plant.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Olive Oil and Mayo: Hair Food Deluxe

We all crave beautiful, shiny, manageable tresses and our consumption of thousands of hair products stands as a testimonial to this common desire. As slaves to hype, we spend countless dollars on hair conditioners, often throwing away formulas after a first disappointing try. Instead of continually searching for the perfect manufactured product, we can turn to what the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used in their tried-and-true beauty regimens: a simple dose of extra virgin olive oil to create shiny, healthy tresses.

What Hair Needs
Hair needs protein, moisture, and essential nutrients. As a dead protein, the more our follicles are nourished with these elements, the greater the chances our hair will be strong, elastic, and healthy. When hair is excessively dry, due to an overuse of products, chemicals, and dryers for example, extra conditioning with a reliable, natural product can help repair the damage. When weather conspires to sap the moisture from our follicles, extra conditioning with an additive-free product that hydrates and smoothes dry or splitting ends is the answer.

Why Olive Oil
Olive oil contains a generous amount of vitamins A and E, which are known to repair and renew cells. Additionally, it is chock full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are powerful anti-oxidants that work to strengthen and heal any cells that have undergone damage. Because olive oil is hypo-allergenic, it is an ideal treatment for any type of hair, be it course or fragile.

Why Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is a combination of egg yolk and olive oil. Because of the nutritious elements in olive oil combined with the protein found in egg yolks, mayo helps to strengthen damaged, overworked hair while providing extra shine and elasticity. Because of their nutritious elements, both mayonnaise and olive oil help to control dandruff by lubricating the cells of the scalp. Mayo is also used topically to rid the scalp of head lice by suffocating the creatures with its inherent oil and fat.

Using Olive Oil and Mayonnaise Directly on Hair
Both of these excellent foods are natural moisturizers, while also providing UV protection. Adding a few drops of olive oil on damp or dry hair helps keep down the frizz in humid weather while adding shine in dry winter conditions. Giving your hair a hot oil treatment by warming up a few tablespoons of olive oil or mayonnaise in the microwave and then massaging it into the scalp helps to lubricate the skin while saturating hair follicles with nutrients and protein. Place a shower cap over your hair, wait twenty minutes to let the oils do their work, and then wash your hair thoroughly. Or cover your hair in plastic wrap and keep the natural conditioner on while you sleep. Using olive oil or mayo on the hair in addition to including it in the diet also helps prevent hair loss due to both ingredients' power to fortify and nourish the entire system.

Adding Olive Oil and Mayonnaise to the Diet
Including olive oil and natural mayonnaise in the diet helps maintain a healthier head of hair by nourishing the body, cells, and hair follicles with needed nutrients, such as vitamins A and E, along with Omega 3 fatty acids. Be sure to get the finest quality ingredients you can, meaning in the case of olive oil, a cold, first-pressed virgin and preferably organic brand. In the case of mayonnaise, you can make your own using extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil, or you can select a brand that provides you with the natural ingredients and no additives.

Note: Because heating olive oil destroys many of its properties, its best to use it over salad or steamed vegetables rather than cooking with it. For cooking, use coconut oil or ghee for the most flavor and vitamin content. (More about this in future articles.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Hard Look at Soft Drinks

Did you know that ¼ of all beverages consumed in the US are carbonated? Targeting young people, the soda industry's triumph in selling its products means that, according to the National Soft Drink Association, over 600 twelve-ounce servings per person are consumed per year. And, since the 1960's, the size of soda bottles has gone from 6 ½ ounces to 20 ounces, with places such as movie theaters and 7/11s serving a popular 64 ounce size.

Spending billions of dollars on advertising, the soda industry is dedicated to keeping its followers addicted. Containing sugar, aspartame, fructose, caffeine, citric acid, phosphoric acid, artificial flavors, and other additives, carbonated soda has no nutritional value and is a leading candidate for causing a myriad of health problems. In 1998, a paper entitled "Liquid Candy" was published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI accusing the food industry of "mounting predatory marketing campaigns [especially] aimed at children and adolescents."

Lets first talk about the sugar.  High doses of sugar increase insulin levels, which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, and other problems, including stimulation of pancreatic cancer cells. Sugar is the leading culprit in cases of tooth decay, weight gain, and premature aging. Most sodas contain over 100% of the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA.

In 1942 the American Medical Association Council on Food and Nutrition stated: "From the health point of view it is desirable especially to have restriction of such use of sugar as is represented by consumption of sweetened carbonated beverages and forms of candy which are of low nutritional value. The Council believes it would be in the interest of the public health for all practical means to be taken to limit consumption of sugar in any form in which it fails to be combined with significant proportions of other foods of high nutritive quality."

Aspartame is a chemical used as a sugar substitute.  When aspartame is kept in a warm place for too long, it changes to methanol, an alcohol that then converts to formaldehyde and formic acid, two known carcinogens.  There are 92 side effects associated with aspartame, some of which are birth defects, brain tumors, diabetes, kidney decline, seizures, and emotional disorders.

In a study to determine the risk of artificial sweeteners on women, it was found that women are at risk for early kidney disease through excess consumption. Women who drank two or more sodas within a 24 hour period were shown to have an excess amount of albumin in their urine, which is an early marker for kidney disease.

Fructose is a natural sweetener that contains the same biochemical components as sugar. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism claims that fructose can be responsible for inducing a hormonal response in the body that creates weight gain.  It is also cautioned that fructose can tamper with collagen development and also may cause copper deficiencies. Further studies have shown that because fructose is metabolized by the liver, test animals on a high fructose diet have developed liver problems similar to alcoholics.

Caffeine, along with sugar, is a highly addictive substance that creates a physical dependence made obvious by the withdrawal symptoms that occur when it is taken out of the diet. Caffeine is responsible for stimulating the adrenal glands, causing adrenal exhaustion when too much is consumed. Some of the symptoms caused by caffeine are jitters, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, jitters, elevated blood cholesterol levels, vitamin and mineral depletion, and gastro-intestinal distress and stomach lining erosion due to increased acids in the stomach. Caffeine has also been linked to birth defects and some forms of cancer. 

In a 2008 study, caffeine was shown to create an increased risk of miscarriage. Women who drank 200 milligrams or more caffeine per day, whether it was coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, or hot chocolate, were shown to have twice the risk level as those women who drank none.  Additionally, a fetus has a difficult time metabolizing caffeine, which decreases blood flow to the placenta and tampers with cell development.  According to a report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a controlled study by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research shows that women consuming less than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily face a 40% risk of miscarriage.

Because of the effects caffeine has on the brain, it depletes the appetite, which can lead to starvation of nutrients essential for the body's needs.  As it relates to soda, a 12 oz can of Diet Coke contains 42 milligrams of caffeine, which is 7 more mg than Coke Classic. Pepsi One has 56 milligrams of caffeine, which is18 more mg than regular Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. Stimulant soft drinks like Jolt and Red Bull use very high levels of caffeine. A December 2000 article published in The Lancet claims that the Irish government ordered "urgent research" into the effects of these high-energy soft drinks after an 18 year old died from consuming three cans of Red Bull.  Aggressive behavior and violence has also been noted when people consume high stimulant soft drinks after drinking alcohol in order to stay awake.

Because carbonated drink labels do not give us enough information on caffeine content, we are often kept in the dark about how many milligrams we are actually drinking with each can or bottle.

Citric Acid often contains MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which is neurotoxin.

Phosphoric Acid inhibits our ability to use calcium properly, which can lead to tooth decay as well as osteoporosis where the mineral content of our bones is reduced, causing them to become more fragile. Peak bone-building years occur during childhood and adolescence, where soda has become the popular beverage choice.  In a 1996 study published by the FDA's Office of Special Nutrition in the Journal of Nutrition, it has been noted that high phosphoric acid consumption interferes with bone mass formation.  A 1994 Harvard study associated cola beverages with bone fractures in teen adults due to the severe reduction in calcium content. Phosphoric acid also interferes with digestion by neutralizing essential hydrochloric acid in our stomach. 

Additional synthetic additives such as acetic, fumaric, gluconic acids increase symptoms of gastro-intestinal distress due to their adverse affect on the stomach lining.

The very act of carbonation is often a cause for discomfort.  A cold carbonated beverage releases carbon dioxide gas that can become trapped in the stomach, distending the organ and causing uncomfortable pressure. Often the gas is released through burping, but until that time it can cause unnecessary bloating.

Mark Pereira, PhD, Associate Professor, and senior author of a study on soft drinks conducted at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota followed 60,534 soft drink-consuming males and females in Singapore.  The study continued for 14 yrs, with the conclusion that those consuming two or more soft drinks per week had an 87% increased risk of disease compared to those who drank less.  

A 2008 study of men ages 40 and up shows that high levels of soda consumption can lead to the painful joint disease, gout.  Gout is caused by excess uric acid in the blood. The study showed that growing cases of gout over the last ten years coincides with increases in soft drink consumption where high sugar and fructose content is raising uric acid levels. Researchers by U.S. and Canadian doctors have been examining the relationship between soft drinks and gout and have documented over 755 new cases of gout over a 12 year period as the increase in sugar-sweetened beverages has risen. 

So what is the healthiest way to quench our thirst?  Fresh fruit juices made in a juicer, herbal teas, lacto-fermented beverages, and that time-honored famous, clean, delicious beverage: fresh, purified water.  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Asparagus: Power Vegetable Supreme

Asparagus is a sweet, tender plant that is actually a part of the lily family. Cultivated for over 2,000 years, it gets its name from the ancient Greeks, who chose it to refer to the plant's tender shoots that are picked while they are young. The early Romans grew asparagus and distributed recipes for it, and Luis XIV was so in love with the vegetable that he had special greenhouses built so that he could enjoy it throughout the year. For this, asparagus has been pegged, the "food of kings."

Asparagus is considered one of the most well-balanced of vegetables, with a plethora of vitamins and minerals in addition to anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The National Cancer Institute claims that asparagus is one of the most powerful vegetables for fighting cancer.  High in amino acids, asparagus helps to detoxify the body, making it an excellent food for nurturing the kidneys by stimulating urination and helping to prevent kidney stones. Asparagus's high beta-carotene content helps to strengthen blood vessels, making the plant beneficial for those suffering from problems with their capillaries, including symptoms of varicose veins. As a diuretic, asparagus helps reduce water retention in addition to reducing inflammation due to arthritis and rheumatic conditions, while also working as an anti-viral and antifungal agent.

Asparagus contains fiber, which acts as a natural laxative, protein, and carbohydrates in addition to vitamins vitamin C, which helps with collagen production for maintaining healthy cells and tissues. It also consists of vitamin A, K, iron, calcium, potassium, and is especially high in folate or folic acid, which helps produce RNA and DNA while also fortifying women during pregnancy. Asparagus also contains a substance called glutathione, which slows down cataract growth in the eyes, is a cancer fighter, and is said to fortify sperm in men.

Other attributes of this wonderful vegetable include helping to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract, fight high blood pressure, reduce symptoms of depression, fight chronic fatigue syndrome, lower cholesterol, minimize menstrual cramp pain, and assist in maintaining fertility as well as milk production in nursing mothers. It is even said that asparagus can be successfully used as an aphrodisiac.

Grow Your Own
Growing asparagus in your backyard is easy with the right kind of preparation and a lot of patience, as it takes up to three seasons for the plants to reach their proper maturity for harvesting. A perennial yielding tender spears every year, once their roots have matured, your asparagus plants will continue to grow from 15 to 25 years.

To grow asparagus at home, it is best to go to your local nursery and find the small one-year-old plants called "crowns," which is much easier than growing the plant from seed. Find a well-drained site on your property where the plants can get partial sunlight. Your soil should be slightly acidic, with the best pH being around 6.5. Asparagus can tolerate more alkaline soil if it has to, going well up to 9.0 pH.

Prepare for planting in the springtime by tilling the soil to get rid of all weeds, as they will compete with the plants for water and nutrients.  Loosen the soil from 12 to 15 inches deep and mix in a layer of compost placing it throughout the area in a two or three inch layer. Then you will need to create trenches or a single trench, depending on how much asparagus you wish to plant. If you are creating several trenches, place them approximately four feet apart with a width of 12 inches and a depth of 6 to 12 inches, or create a single trench with the same width and depth. Once you've prepared the ground, soak the crowns for a short while in tepid water before planting them.

Take your hoe and form a mound in the center of your trenches running lengthwise. Then place the crowns 12 to 15 inches apart on each mound, draping the roots over the sides. Gently cover the crowns with a mixture of one part compost and three parts topsoil, bury them up to two inches deep and water them sufficiently. After about a month when the shoots start to emerge, add more soil to your trenches.

Make sure you keep your asparagus beds well weeded, without disturbing the roots. Pull the weeds out by hand, adding more topsoil around the shoots to keep the trenches filled. Give the plants enough water by irrigating the area so that the soil is wet up to four feet deep. As your asparagus grows, place a 4 to 8 inch layer of mulch around the plants, consisting of leaves or hay. 

During the first year of growth, you won't be harvesting your plants, as they will need to mature. Just keep the dead foliage away when fall comes and keep the area covered with compost. When the second year comes around, you should continue to keep your asparagus beds well mulched, adding compost in the spring and early autumn months. This should be the regimen for the years to come, with the real harvesting of your plants happening in the third year when the spears start thickening. Cut them off just above the ground when they get to be around 6 to 8 inches tall. Make sure you don't pull them out of the ground, as this will disturb their root system. Let the weaker plants enjoy an extra season before harvesting them so that they have a chance to reach their full potential.

There are several types of asparagus, all of which are sweet and tender once they are prepared for eating. Most plants are green, but you can also get the purple or white variety, or you can plant a combination to experiment with the subtle differences in flavor. It is well worth the work and wait to have a garden full of these delicious, and healthful plants once they are finally ready to be prepared and eaten.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Spinach Apple Cayenne Smoothie

Here's another amazing pick-me-up or super breakfast, if you don't want solid food in the morning.

One granny (green) apple
A large handful of spinach
One lemon
About a quarter of a teaspoon-full of cayenne pepper (less or more according to taste)
Optional: maca, flax seeds, pollen)
Spring water to cover - less if you want a thick smoothie, more if you want it really liquid

Blend until smooth. 

Delicious and full of iron and vitamin C, plus all the batteries you need to get you through the day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Flaxseeds: Another Great Superfood

The Latin name for flaxseeds is, Linum usitatissimum, meaning "most useful", which is an excellent way to describe the health benefits of this seemingly modest little seed. Originating in Mesopotamia, flaxseeds have been around since the Stone Age and were used in cooking and as a medicinal in ancient Greece and Rome. Much later on in France, Charlemagne insisted that they be cultivated and eaten as he recognized their versatility. When the colonists came to North America, they brought the seeds with them, thus making flaxseeds available to settlers who used them in their recipes as well as for natural healing purposes.

Nutrients in Flaxseeds
Slightly larger and more oblong than sesame seeds, flaxseeds sport a hard, shiny husk. Eaten whole, ground, or in oil form, flaxseeds are chock full of manganese, magnesium, folate, copper, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber. They are also extremely high in Omega 3 fatty acids, most especially in alpha linolenic acid, or ALA, making them an excellent alternative for people who don't eat fish. Some of the benefits of Omega 3 fats include their ability to produce prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory substances made from fatty acids that helps reduce symptoms of migraine headaches, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.

More Benefits
Flaxseeds have the ability to keep cell membranes pliable, which helps nutrients penetrate them more effectively. Additionally, flaxseeds help protect cells from invasion from free radicals and other cancer-causing toxins. Because they specific properties that reduce the formation of blood clots and help to control blood pressure, flaxseeds can also protect and strengthen the heart.
The high fiber content in flaxseeds assists in lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and relieving constipation. Flaxseeds' magnesium content helps to keep respiratory channels open, which is especially helpful to asthmatics.

Flaxseeds also contain lignans, which are compounds that help fight against cancer by choking off the blood supply in tumors and changing how cancer cells adhere to other cells in the body. Lignan-rich foods also help to decrease insulin resistance, making flaxseeds a good choice for people with type 2 diabetes. Lignans also help to normalize ovulation, making flaxseeds helpful for regulating the menstrual cycle as well as peri-menopausal symptoms like headaches, mood swings, low sex drive, hot flashes, and sleeping abnormalities. In this regard flaxseeds help the body restore hormonal balance.

Eating Your Flax
The best way to consume flaxseeds is by grinding the seeds in a coffee or seed grinder just before you are going to eat them, or by using cold pressed flaxseed oil, which should be kept refrigerated as it is highly perishable. Be sure not to cook the oil as heat will ruin its medicinal value. Add flaxseeds to cereal and bread recipes. The ground seeds are excellent in shakes, cereals, or sprinkled over veggies or fruits. The oil can be added to smoothies or used over salads, enhancing them with its nutty flavor.

Parsley Pear Power Smoothie

One of my favorite breakfast or mid-day pick-me-ups is a parsley-pear smoothie made with softish pears and organically grown Italian parsley, ginger, and lemon. Here's what you need for a smooth yet slightly tangy health drink:

  • 1 ripe pear (any type will do)
  • a fistful and a half of fresh, organic Italian parsley
  • a sliver of chopped fresh garlic
  • half a lemon
  • enough pure spring water to liquify the mixture (less if you want it thick)
optional: a dash of cayenne pepper for extra tang, a tsp of maca powder for extra energy, a pinch of bee pollen for extra B vitamins, a tbs of flaxseeds for extra Omega 3 fatty acids

Place all in a blender and blend!

2 pears, a little more parsley, and a whole lemon make enough for two people.

Goji Berries: Anti-Oxidants Supreme

Looking around online a few years ago, I came across an article on Goji berries and how they are considered to be one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Also known as Wolfberry, with the scientific name, Lycium Barbarum, Goji berries are members of the deadly nightshade family along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and chili peppers.

Grown in temperate and sub-tropical areas, Gojis are found in abundance in China, Mongolia, and the Tibetan Himalayas where they have been used for over 6,000 years to fortify the body in numerous ways. With purple flowers, the berry itself is a reddish orange and is eaten dried, like a raison. The most well known region for growing Goji berries is in the Ningxia province in China. One wonders if the abundance of centegenerians, amounting to 16 times more than anywhere else in the rest of China, is connected with the daily consumption of these miraculous little bundles of nutrition!

It seems that ancient herbalists already knew that Goji berries were high in a multitude of nutrients associated with well-being and longevity. They proscribed Goji berries for ailments like poor eyesight, sexual debilitation, and stress. Modern studies now show that Gojis are indeed powerful anti-oxidants that strengthen the immune system, fortify the liver, enhance eyesight, promote sexual function and fertility, reduce blood glucose, lower cholesterol, and reduce the growth of cancerous cells.

Due to being carotenoid rich, Goji berries are able to protect the retina by absorbing light. Their anti-oxidant powers help prevent macular degeneration, or the loss of vision that occurs with age. They also work to maintain the integrity of DNA, which has everything to do with promoting longevity. Additionally, Goji berries increase HGH (human growth hormone), an essential ingredient for anti-aging. Add to this its strength as a sexual tonic due to increasing testosterone levels in both men and women, elevating stamina and mood; its power to deal with stress by balancing the adrenal glands; and its ability to balance cholesterol levels, balance blood pressure, and lower the risk of cardio-vascular disease.

In 1988 studies made at the Beijing Nutritional Research Institute revealed that Goji berries contain the following:

  • 21 trace dietary minerals
  • 18 amino acids
  • A minimum of 4 polysaccharides
  • 5 carotenoids, including beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and cryptoxanthin
  • 112 mg of calcium
  • 1132 mg potassium
  • 9 mg iron
  • 2 mg zinc
  • 50 micrograms

According to the USDA's ORAC scale rating (oxygen radical absorbency capacity), which measures the amount of anti-oxidants in foods and supplements, Goji berries are way ahead of all other foods at 25,300! Compare this with blueberries (2400), strawberries (1540), raisons (2830), bell pepper (710), spinach (1260), and kale (1770) and it is easy to understand why these little gems are called super foods.

Shopping for Goji Berries

Goji berries, with their tangy taste, make a delicious snack food. They can also be made into a tea or added to blender drinks. Goji berry juice is now commonly found in most health food stores. If you are buying the juice, make sure you buy it in glass jars rather than plastic. When buying the berries, make sure they are 100% organic and come from the Lycium Barbarum series, grown in the Ningxia province in China. These are the highest quality and will give you the maximum results by eating just a few per day.

Note: Goji berries can possibly interact with anti-coagulant drugs, so consult your health care practitioner if you are taking blood thinners. If you do have a reaction, your blood will quickly turn to normal once you stop eating the berries.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Red Marine Algae: Super Food 'Fit for a King'

I have been eating seaweeds for many years, especially when my various trips to Japan back in the 90's exposed me to this important staple in daily cuisine. A few months ago I bought a package of red marine algae and decided to do some research on its benefits beyond what was written on the label. What I discovered has made me a die-hard algae fan.

Fit for a King

Red marine algae has been used for centuries as both a powerful medicinal and flavorful food. It is even listed in the 600 BC Chinese material medica as a food 'fit for a king'. Used predominantly in the Pacific region, including China and Japan, there are many species of red marine algae, all of which are healthful.

Active Ingredients
As a sea vegetable, red marine algae contains up to 20 times more minerals than plants grown on land, in addition to being high in mineral content. It also boasts plenty of carbohydrates and is considered a complete protein that includes all the essential amino acids.

An Anti-Viral
One active ingredient found in red marine algae is carrageenan. Carrageenan is a compound that helps identify dangerous proteins like viruses, preventing them from binding to cell walls. As a member of the sulfated polysaccharide family, red marine algae contains natural chemicals that help the body to produce interferon, an antiviral agent that activates the function of our T cells. T cells are important because they help to destroy cells that are already affected by viruses. Red marine algae also contains the anti-oxidants Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, which help fight free radicals.

According to an article published in the online journal, "Freedom from Herpes", red marine algae can be considered a broad-spectrum antiviral agent that costs very little to manufacture. Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel have developed an ointment made of red marine algae for use against the viral infection herpes simplex. They have found that the product not only helps to cure the virus, but also reduces discomfort while preventing it from spreading. Other types of pathogens that can be treated with marine algae are cold sores, candida, fungal infections, cold sores, and influenza.

Boosting the Immune System
Red marine algae helps to strengthen the immune system by breaking down lectins, which are proteins resistant to digestive enzymes, making them hard to break down. Lectins adhere to intestinal lining, causing problems in the digestive system. Because they can weaken cell membranes, lectins can seriously deplete the immune system.

Including red marine algae in your diet is a great way to add essential nutrients to the body, while adding a new taste and expanding your culinary repertoire. You can also buy it in capsule form.