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  • 02 Oct 2020 6:22 PM | Simply Hijama (Administrator)

    Breathe in. Breathe out. We do this all day, every day without a thought. Now with the introduction of face masks into our daily life this seemly simple function has now become the focus of concerned health advocates and many natural therapists. Do you wonder how the obstruction of normal breathing, especially deep breathing, may be affecting your health (aside from protecting you from infectious diseases)? 

    Keep reading to find out, plus what you can do to regain healthy breathing and take advantage of its numerous health benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving your respiratory and cardiovascular system, balancing high blood pressure, helping you digest food better and even slowing down the effects of ageing. 

    So why should you do this? Simply put, extra oxygen does wonders for the body and mind. It cleanses, opens, replenishes and soothes different parts of your body and mental state to bring about optimal health.

    There are a vast number of methods and practices that focus on the breath. They all concentrate on various aspects of health and mental wellbeing. Many are easily available and easy to learn. Some you can do on your own and others are best practiced with a trained professional. It all depends on how deep you want to go.

    Coronavirus Masks: Types, Protection, How & When to Use

    Deep Breathing Benefits

    The lungs have a big job, sending oxygen into the bloodstream to be delivered to every cell in the body. As you inhale, the diaphragm contracts to take in oxygen. However, if you're not breathing deeply, the lungs eventually may lose some of their elasticity, causing air build-up in the lungs.

    This air build-up reduces the space in which the diaphragm can contract. The end result can be shallow breathing patterns that hinder the lungs' ability both to take in oxygen and deliver it to the blood. You also may start resorting to using the neck, back and chest muscles to assist with breathing, leading to muscle fatigue and soreness.

    In contrast, deep breaths increase the lungs' capacity to push out excess air and function optimally. With regular deep breathing, you can expand your diaphragm muscle and the air pockets within your lungs. The lungs are then able to clear out toxins and deliver oxygen to the blood at a greater rate. With this oxygen boost, your body gets the oxygen it needs for exercise, proper cell function and a range of other bodily processes.

    Deep breathing has a number of benefits that affect your entire body. It’s the basis for almost all meditation or relaxation techniques, which can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and regulate other important bodily processes such as irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety, and sleeplessness. 

    Here are a few benefits to deep breathing:

    Improves Mental State - Decreases stress, increases calm.

    The quality of our breath helps to relax the mind and enhance the ability to learn, focus, concentrate and memorize. The brain requires a great deal of oxygen to function and increased intake of oxygen helps us to achieve clarity and feel grounded and productive. It also relieves stress, anxiety, depression and negative thought patterns. The benefits of breathing properly can help us overcome addictive patterns of behaviour and eating disorders, as well as igniting creativity and passion. 

    Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing us into a relaxed state. It functions in the opposite way to the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the fight-or-flight response. Deep breathing also ups your endorphins, the “feel good” chemical.

    Slows Down the Effects of Ageing.

    It’s a universal truth that a happy face is more beautiful than a stressed or angry one. Even better news: breathing deeply slows the aging process by increasing secretion of anti-aging hormones! By reducing stress, it improves our mood, elevating the levels of serotonin and endorphins. ‘The Telomere Effect’ by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel discuss a 2013 study by Harvard Medical School’s psychiatry department, which discovered that people who meditate daily for four years have longer telomeres – the protective caps found on the end of chromosomes – than those who do not. Short telomeres have been linked to premature cellular aging.

    Stimulates the Lymphatic System.

    The lymphatic system depends on the downward pressure, muscle movement, and the benefits of breath to keep flowing so that the body can be cleansed. Deep breathing can play an important role in protecting the body from bacteria, viruses and other threats to our health. Around 70% of our toxins are released from our body through our breath (the other 30% is through bladder and bowels.). Carbon dioxide is a natural waste product of our body’s metabolism. The benefits of breathing deeply help the systems in the body to process this more efficiently. If you do not breathe fully, your body must work overtime to release these toxins.

    Increases Energy.

    Oxygen is the most essential natural resource required by our cells. We can go without food for up to 40 days and without water for 3 days, yet we can die after just a few minutes of not breathing. From a purely physical point of view, breath equals life. The more oxygen that is in the blood, the better our body functions which, in turn, improves our stamina. 

    Lowers Blood Pressure.

    As your muscles relax, this allows your blood vessels to dilate. This dilation improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. Deep breathing also slows and regulates the heart rate, which also helps with lowering your BP.

    Improves Digestion.

    The benefits of deeper breathing include increased blood flow in the digestive tract, which encourages intestinal action and improves overall digestion, alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. In addition, deeper breathing results in a calmer nervous system which in turn enhances optimum digestion.

    Improves Respiratory System.

    One of the benefits of breathing deeply is that it helps to release tension in the diaphragm and primary breathing muscles, relieving many long-term respiratory issues such as asthma and breathlessness. It opens up the chest, releasing tension from the intercostal muscles and around the scapula, erector spinae and trapezius muscles, allowing for a more relaxed posture.

    Improves the Cardiovascular System.

    Deep diaphragmatic breathing tones, massages and increases circulation to the heart, liver, brain and reproductive organs. In one study of heart attack patients, 100% of the patients were chest breathers whose breathing involved very little diaphragm or belly expansion. Another study found that patients who survived a heart attack and who adopted an exercise regime and breath training afterward experienced a 50% reduction in their risk factor of another heart attack over the following 5 years.

    While exploring all the options of breathwork to find which one meets your specific needs, here are a few techniques and practices to get you started…

     

    4 Breathing Techniques

    1) Diaphragmatic Breathing

    Also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing. It is a type of breathing exercise that helps strengthen your diaphragm, an important muscle that helps you breathe. 

    The diaphragm is a dome-shaped respiratory muscle found near the bottom of your ribcage, right below your chest. When you inhale and exhale air, the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles around your lungs contract. The diaphragm does most of the work during the inhalation part. During inhalation, your diaphragm contracts so that your lungs can expand into the extra space and let in as much air as is necessary. Muscles in between your ribs, known as intercostal muscles, raise your rib cage in order to help your diaphragm let enough air into your lungs. Muscles near your collarbone and neck also help these muscles when something makes it harder for you to breathe properly; they all contribute to how quickly and how much your ribs can move and make space for your lungs.

    Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilise blood pressure.

    Technique:

    The most basic type of diaphragmatic breathing is done by inhaling through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. Here’s the basic procedure for diaphragmatic breathing:

    1.      Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.

    2.      Relax your shoulders.

    3.      Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.

    4.      Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.

    5.      Purse your lips (as if you’re about to drink through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.

    6.      Repeat these steps several times for best results.

    2) Nostril Breathing

    Nostril breathing can help to reduce agitation and anxiety. It protects us from various harmful external particles like dust, bacteria, and microbes via tiny little hairs called cilia. These hairs clean, warm, and humidify the incoming air and guard us against as many as 20 billion outside particles daily. Nostril exhaling creates more air pressure and slows the exhalation down because it is a smaller orifice than the mouth. This helps the lungs optimize oxygen intake. It helps us engage our diaphragm more efficiently. Nostril inhalation increases nitric oxide intake, which helps ensure smooth transportation of more oxygen throughout the whole body.

    Technique:

    1.      As you breathe you close off one nostril and take air in slowly through the other. 

    2.      Then switch, closing off the second nostril while breathing through the first. 

    3.      Repeat the process until you begin to feel calmer.

    3) 4-7-8 Method

    The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Dr. Andrew Weil, the developer of this technique, believes this breathing pattern can reduce anxiety, help people get to sleep, manage cravings and control or reduce anger responses.

    Technique:

    1.      Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.

    2.      Empty the lungs of air.

    3.      Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds expanding your abdomen area.

    4.      Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds.

    5.      Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds. Use your hand to push all of the air out of the stomach. 

    6.      Repeat the cycle up to 4 times.

    Dr. Weil recommends using the technique at least twice a day to start seeing the benefits sooner. He also suggests that people avoid doing more than four breath cycles in a row until they have more practice with the technique.

    A person may feel lightheaded after doing this for the first few times. Therefore, it is advisable to try this technique when sitting or lying down to prevent dizziness or falls.

    The total number of seconds that the pattern lasts for is less important than keeping the ratio. A person who cannot hold their breath for long enough may try a shorter pattern instead.

    Please Note: There is limited clinical research to support these claims about 4-7-8 breathing or other breathing techniques. The evidence is limited to anecdotal reports from satisfied users.

    4) Mindful Breathing

    This involves becoming aware of your breath and focusing on it. It does not involve trying to change the way you breathe. However, the act of focusing on the breath usually slows down breathing patterns, making you feel more relaxed. As you focus on how air moves in and out through your lungs, mouth and nose, it becomes a form of calming meditation.

    Tips to Get Started and Keep Going

    It's important to practice deep breathing techniques in an active state so your body can readily experience the benefits. You cannot properly and consciously practice deep breathing while asleep, for example, or while slumped over on the sofa watching television. Be sure to sit up tall or lie down flat so your diaphragm is not constricted and unable to inhale and exhale fully.

    Even just a few minutes of deep breathing daily can help you to reduce stress, improve lung function and experience other health benefits. Start with about five minutes a day and work your way up to 20 or 30 minutes for optimal results. With practice, your body may more readily turn to deep breathing rather than rush to the stress response.

    Creating a routine can be a good way to get in the habit of deep breathing exercises. Try the following to get into a good groove:

    ·        Do your exercises in the same place every day. Somewhere that’s peaceful and quiet.

    ·        Don’t worry if you’re not doing it right or enough. This may just cause additional stress.

    ·        Clear your mind of the things that are stressing you out. Focus instead on the sounds and rhythm of your breathing or the environment around you.

    ·        Try to do them at the same time each day to reinforce the habit.

    Precautions:

    Controlled, deliberate deep breathing should not be confused with ‘big breathing,’ which is taking in bigger-than-necessary volume breaths.  This leads to over-breathing and can seriously mess with the delicate balance of the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange taking place inside your body and inside every cell. 

    Over-breathing or hyperventilation can cause you to expel too much carbon dioxide, which impairs blood flow to the brain.  This can make you feel lightheaded or experience tingling sensations.  Hyperventilation can lead to a state called hypoxia, low oxygen levels in your cells and tissues. Less oxygen means our cells don’t produce as much energy, and the end result is that we feel tired, fatigued, and lethargic. Lack of oxygen can make it difficult to concentrate and remember things. 

    Drawbacks of mouth breathing: Chronic mouth breathing can lead to chronic over-breathing and chest breathing. Mouth breathing signals to your brain that carbon dioxide levels are quickly decreasing, so the body produces more mucus as an attempt to get you to breathe more slowly. 

    Chronic mouth breathing can alter your facial structure and change your facial features. For example, it can make your face and jaw more narrow and droopy, which can lead to obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. 

    Chronic mouth breathing dries the mucous lining of the airways, and it doesn’t warm or moisturise air as nostril breathing does, so it also doesn’t protect from pathogens and allergens either. Mouth breathing can lead to trauma to soft tissues in the airways as well as enlarged tonsils and adenoids. 

    Temporary mouth breathing due to a cold, for example, is not the same as chronic mouth breathing, which involves a learned state. This will require some reprogramming of habits and behaviours to correct.

    Summary: 

    With our lives taking an unexpected turn towards protecting us from outside diseases we have no control over. We fail to realise how this protection could be affecting other parts of our health.

    Deep breathing is one of our easiest, most convenient and natural tools to combat issues like stress and anxiety, reduce high blood pressure, aid digestion, improve respiratory and cardiovascular systems and even slow down the effects of ageing. The secret to optimal breathing lies in the top part of your belly.   There, at the bottom of your rib cage, you’ll find your diaphragm – the most important muscle in the entire breathing process.  Most of us think we know how to breathe optimally and deeply.  But the truth is that most of us are doing it wrong.  

    By breathing deeply, you allow the diaphragm to drop downward, the rib cage to expand and create more space for the lungs to inflate. By mastering the art of deep breathing, increased oxygen floods into the body, eventually helping the heart pace to slow down to create feelings of calmness and relaxation.

    Deep breathing should be slow and gentle. Remember to fill the abdomen, not just the chest. A simple way to make sure you are doing this is to place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe deeply and make sure your hand on your stomach is rising. Try to be aware of your breath, heartbeat and to release tension from your body. Sometimes it’s easier to lie down or sit comfortably in a chair.

    Can’t find time for these techniques? Consider ways to sneak them into your schedule, like right when you wake up and go to sleep, travelling home from work, in the shower, or even put a reminder on your phone or a post-it note on your bathroom mirror or computer monitor at work.

    So what are you waiting for? Take a deep breath in and out!

    Sources

    https://urbanbalance.com/benefits-deep-breathing/

    https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing

    https://homecareassistance.com/e-books/ultimate-guide-self-care/mindful-breathing-can-achieve-tremendous-health-benefits

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324417#how-to-do-it

    https://www.calmwithyoga.com/dangers-deep-breathing-done-incorrectly/

    https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/benefits-of-breathing-deeply/

    https://www.livestrong.com/article/92264-benefits-deep-breathing/

  • 27 Apr 2020 2:56 PM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    When was the last time you walked barefoot in the sand, grass or in a forest? For most people, this doesn’t happen very often. But we’re now learning there might be more of a reason for you to start making these types of activities a priority. Known as “earthing” or “grounding,” when skin comes into contact with the ground, this creates a neutralising reaction which has positive effects on the body.

    It might sound strange but sinking your bare toes into wet grass, dirt, sand, or water can greatly benefit your health by lowering pain, stress, improve your mood and much more. 


    Grounding is the act of putting the body in direct contact with the earth. The contact is direct, which means that the skin (most often, of the foot) touches the earth’s soil or water. The idea of earthing or grounding is that the planet we live on (Earth) is a source of beneficial negative energy that we can “plug” into to counter the positive charge we build up from our typical modern lifestyle that often lacks regular contact with nature, especially direct contact.

    Grounding has been practiced since the beginning of time when our ancestors walked around in bare feet or natural leather moccasins or sandals. Perhaps this is one explanation for their longevity and good health. After the invention of rubber-soled shoes, a non-conductive barrier from the earth’s healing energy. People also generally don’t sleep on the ground anymore, as many cultures have done throughout history. They live and work above the ground, even far above the ground in high-rises. As our direct contact with the earth fades through the routine use of synthetic flooring and shoes, electromagnetic instability threatens our health.

    The modern concept of grounding made its debut in 2010 with the release of Clint Ober’s book, ‘Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?’ Nearly 12 years earlier Ober, a retired pioneer of the American cable TV industry, discovered that the same system of grounding used to stabilise telecommunications and wires could also stabilise the atoms in the human body, improving the function of all body systems.

    The Journal of Environmental and Public Health states that the Earth’s surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. The Earth’s negative charges can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems which may be important for setting the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms and balancing cortisol levels. Your body is naturally able to absorb electrical charges from the earth since your skin acts like a “conductor.” Your feet, specifically certain points in the balls of your feet, are believed to be especially good at receiving the earth’s electricity.

    According to Clint Ober, the human body is electrical first and chemical second. The brain, heartbeat and neurotransmitter activity, for example, all rely on electrical signals, which determine certain aspects of our health.

    Grounding Benefits

    Scientific research over more than a decade indicates that your body can be protected and healed when you electrically reconnect to the Earth or are grounded. Here are examples of potential benefits of grounding:

    Neutralises Free Radicals

    Free radicals are generated through inflammation, infection, cell damage, trauma, stress, and our toxic environments. They force our immune system to respond to these threats. An active immune system produces more free radicals and soon our body is attempting to put out fires, but it has insufficient resources to do so. Additionally, industrialization and our increasingly technological world have thrown us into a labyrinth of electromagnetic fields, which disrupt the electrical balance of our cells. An abundance of free radicals, instable charges, inflammation and immune activation are responsible for some of our most threatening chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain syndromes, and autoimmunity.

    Grounding is a simple, inexpensive means by which most of us can combat these destructive forces. The negative electrons absorbed from the earth quenches the free radicals, supports the immune system, and puts out the fires. Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman described an umbrella affect created when we “earth.” He claimed that grounding equalised the electronic potential between the body and the earth, so the body becomes an extension of the earth’s magnetic field. This potential “cancels, reduces, and pushes away electrical fields from the body.”

    Reduces Stress and Improves Sleep

    The nervous system is an electrical system of the body and influences all these activities. An influx of negative electrons from the earth has been shown to calm the nervous system by shifting the autonomic nervous system from the sympathetic, “fight-or-flight” branch toward the parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” branch.

    Sleep and stress reduction are vital for managing pain, and decreasing the risks of many chronic health conditions. In a double blind study of 60 subject suffering from sleep disturbances and chronic muscle and joint pain for at least six months, grounding each night for one month produced a 74 to 100 percent improvement in quality of sleep, feeling rested upon waking, muscle stiffness and pain, chronic back and joint pain, and general well-being. Grounding helps to establish a normal cortisol level at night, which improves sleep, pain, and stress.

    When grounded, the diurnal rhythm of the stress hormone, cortisol, begins to normalise. Cortisol is connected to your body’s stress response and helps control blood sugar levels, regulates metabolism, helps reduce inflammation, and assists with memory formulation. A study that examined the effects of being grounded while sleeping over the course of eight weeks showed a normalisation of the cortisol rhythm, participants in this study also slept better and woke up feeling more refreshed.

    Better Pain Management

    Another slightly larger study examined the role of grounding on post-exercise muscle damage. Researchers used both grounding patches and mats and measured creatine kinase, white blood cell count, and pain levels before and after grounding. Blood work indicated that grounding reduced muscle damage and pain in participants. This suggests that grounding may influence healing abilities.

    This research is supported by a recent study on grounding for pain reduction and mood improvement. Sixteen massage therapists alternated between periods of grounding and no grounding. Before grounding therapy, physical and emotional stress and pain were common side effects of their physically demanding jobs. After the earthing therapy, pain, stress, depression, and fatigue were all reduced among participants.

    Improves Inflammation and Immunity

    When your body senses that you’re “under attack” or sick, it delivers reactive oxygen species (ROS) to the site of injury, which is another way of saying that it triggers an inflammatory response in an attempt to heal and defend you. When this takes place, some free radicals can leak into surrounding tissue and damage otherwise healthy parts of your body by increasing swelling, pain, heat and redness.

    Eating plenty of high-antioxidant foods could be equated to the practice of grounding. Antioxidant electrons in your body help ensure damage from free radicals doesn’t get out of control and lead to high levels of inflammation and faster aging, just like anti-inflammatory foods do. So the free electrons from the earth can be absorbed from the bottom of your feet when they’re touching the ground, and then these can move anywhere in your body where free radicals are forming. The antioxidant electrons can help cancel out free radicals and protect against oxidative damage.

    New studies are showing that grounding positively affects the inflammatory response and the immune system, which could have far-reaching health benefits. We already know that grounding improves cortisol levels. Since a high cortisol, associated with chronic stress, leads to systemic inflammation in the body, grounding can certainly improve inflammation as it normalises cortisol.

    The influx of free negative electrons from the earth also combats positively charged free radicals generated by inflammatory factors as they respond to injury, infection, trauma or stress. As grounding neutralises free radicals, the immune response calms. Healing proceeds at a faster rate in the absence of destructive free radicals. When the body is deficient in negative electrons, cells and tissue are vulnerable to destruction, leading to free radicals, systemic inflammation, and chronic immune activation. This environment increases risks for cancer, autoimmunity, infections, chronic pain conditions, and a general decline in health.

    Improve Circulation and May Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular disease

    Results of one treatment study found that long-term self-administered grounding therapy helped to reduce blood pressure levels in participants with hypertension. When you are grounded, your circulation improves, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues in your body, including better blood flow to your face.

    In a small study on grounding and heart health, 10 healthy participants were grounded using patches on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. Blood measurements were taken before and after grounding to determine any changes in red blood cell fluidity, which plays a role in heart health. The results indicated significantly less red blood cell clumping after grounding, which suggests benefits for cardiovascular health.

    Experts on earthing and grounding believe that this practice can help improve circulation, which means you’re better able to distribute nutrients throughout your body and also carry waste and toxins out. In fact, enhanced circulation can have a tremendous effect on the body in many ways.

    Most of the studies on grounding are small and rely somewhat on subjective measures, such as self-reported feelings, mood, or even self-administered treatment. Some studies also rely on blood markers, such as those that detect inflammation, but the size and shortage of these studies suggests that more research is needed.

    Techniques for Health

    Types of Grounding

    There are many types of grounding. All of them focus on reconnecting yourself to the earth. This can be done through either direct or indirect contact with the earth. Grounding can be performed both outdoors and indoors.

    Outdoors

    When you’re outside, you can easily ground yourself by allowing the bottoms of your feet, palms of your hands, or entire body to touch the earth. Moisture is a superior conductor and therefore, wet grass, dirt, a beach or lake provides the best grounding experience. It is also helpful to know that leather, metal, cotton, and non-stained concrete are conductive. However, pavement, wood, plastic, rubber, synthetic or insulated materials will block the healthful negative charges from the earth.

    Walking barefoot

    Whether this is on grass, sand, or even mud, allowing your skin to touch the natural ground can provide you with grounding energy.

    Lying on the ground

    You can increase your skin-to-earth contact by lying on the ground. You can do it in the grass by the park or on the sand at the beach. If you’re going to ground yourself in this way, be sure to take the proper precautions and never lie somewhere you could be injured.

    In touch with nature

    You could do your gardening activities with your bare hands. Perhaps hug a living tree or lean up against a living tree.


    Submersing in water

    Simply wading in a clear lake or swimming in the ocean as a way to ground yourself. As always, be sure to stay safe when swimming, especially in murky or deep waters.

    Indoors

    When you’re inside, grounding yourself requires a bit more effort and in most cases, equipment. 

    Grounding rod

    One method of grounding involves connecting a metal rod to the ground outside and then connecting the rod to your body through a wire. This requires doing a bit of research to ensure you do not electrocute yourself.

    Grounding mats

    They look like yoga mats, but they have a controller and are connected to electrical fields being given off from the earth’s surface. They can be an easy way to practice grounding while working at a desk, standing around the bathroom or kitchen, watching TV or talking on the phone.

    Earthing shoes

    Most shoes today have rubber soles, but grounding shoes have natural leather soles. The idea is that the permeability of the leather allows a connection to the earth, which is blocked by standard soled shoes.

    Grounding bands

    These are elastic, adjustable bands that can be placed on the wrists and arms. Some people like to wear these while cooking, working or doing anything else around the house when they can’t be outdoors.

    Grounding bed

    A type of electrically-charged bed has been created that features silver wires that are connected to the electrical charge of the earth once plugged into an “earthing” port. These beds basically have conductive systems that transfer the earth’s electrons from the ground into the body. 

    Grounding sheets

    Grounding sheets have a grounding wire designed to plug into the ground port of your wall outlet or grounded rod, which is meant to connect you to the earth while you sleep.

    Most experts agree there is nothing like practicing grounding outdoors in its traditional fashion. Grounding yourself outdoors rather than indoors also adds the major health benefits of nature you just can’t get while being inside.

    How long does it take to notice benefits?

    Everybody is different, and just like no two people will get the same results when undertaking a fitness or diet program, your results will depend on your circumstances.  However, research has shown that within 30 minutes to 90 minutes of grounding you may start to notice a difference with pain levels, stress, calmness, easier to get off to sleep or just feeling better than before. 

    If you have a long standing health issue it has been shown that consistent grounding/earthing is more beneficial and any results may take several weeks to be apparent.  If you are generally healthy you may not notice much change at all, however, your body is receiving less free radical damage and can therefore heal and repair every night as it is meant to, keeping your body in continual good health and well-being. 

    The bottom line is that some people experience grounding benefits quickly and for others it may take time.

    Precautions

    Many of the grounding techniques performed in nature, such as walking through the grass or swimming at the beach, are relatively safe. You have to be careful of where you’re walking barefoot and watch out for any hazardous materials (such as glass or sharp rocks) that may be present where you’re grounding. 

    There may be a risk of electrocution when using grounding rods, mats, or similar equipment. When using these types of grounding equipment, be mindful and follow all directions to avoid an electric shock.

    In addition, conditions like chronic fatigue, pain, and anxiety may have underlying medical causes that need to be addressed. Always visit your doctor for these types of conditions first before relying on grounding therapy as the first line of treatment. 

    Always consult with your healthcare provider before using indoor grounding products if you are pregnant, nursing, have a medication condition or are currently taking medication.

    To Sum Up…

    Grounding, also called earthing, is a therapeutic technique that involves doing activities that “ground” or electrically reconnect you to the earth. When your bare feet or skin comes in contact with the earth, free electrons are taken up into the body.  These electrons could be nature’s biggest antioxidants and help neutralise damaging too much free radicals in the body that can lead to inflammation and disease. 

    The Earth’s energy allows the body to repair and rebalance itself promoting wellbeing and vitality.  It also harmonises and stabilises the body’s basic biological rhythms, such as your nervous system and circadian rhythm improving sleep, reducing stress, lowering chronic inflammation and eliminating associated pain, making it the most natural and powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-aging remedy around!  

    More research is certainly needed to find out the full potential of this amazing technique that has been unknowingly practiced by our ancestors.

    Grounding can be performed inside or outside, with or without grounding equipment. No matter how you choose to perform grounding, make sure that you’re always aware of your surroundings outside and use earthing equipment safely to reduce risks.

    No matter what your age, gender, race or health status you will benefit from a daily dose of grounding. Try to incorporate a grounding practice into your life, try to get outside while totally barefoot for at least 30 minutes a day. If you can’t dedicate that much time, then do it for as long as you can on a regular basis. 

    The best part about grounding is that it’s super simple and when used outdoors it’s completely free. It requires nothing but your bare body and willingness to try something new!

    Sources

    https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/

    https://www.fibrofix.com/blogs/news/health-benefits-of-grounding-earthing

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/

    https://chopra.com/articles/grounding-the-human-body-the-healing-benefits-of-earthing

    https://draxe.com/health/earthing/

  • 24 Mar 2020 11:43 AM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    Raw sauerkraut is simply a type of fermented cabbage that has two ingredients: cabbage and salt. How can this two-ingredient food be so powerful? It’s all in the fermentation process!  When the natural microbes like bacteria on the cabbage begin to break down the cabbage, many beneficial compounds are formed.


    Fermentation is the process where enzymes and microorganisms break down a food into more digestible nutrients and compounds. The main microorganisms on cabbage are called lactobacilli bacteria, which are on the surface of all living things. These bacteria break the food down turning the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid which then serve as a preservative and provide the body with infinite benefits.

    The word sauerkraut is German for "sour cabbage" but it wasn't really invented by the Germans, although it is wildly popular there. It is believed labourers building the Great Wall of China began fermenting shredded cabbage in rice wine over 2,000 years ago. Some claim that the Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan himself was the one who brought it to Europe 1000 years later.

    Before frozen foods, refrigeration, and cheap transport from warmer areas became readily available in northern, central and eastern Europe, fermentation was one of the methods used to keep foods from spoiling quickly.  It was the Germans in the 16th century, that began dry curing cabbage with salt to extract the water from the vegetable and allowed the mixture to ferment.

    Sauerkraut and other preserved food provided a source of nutrients during the winter. Captain James Cook and other seamen always took a store of sauerkraut on their sea voyages, since it was known to prevent scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). 

    Many forms of sauerkraut are on the market today. Raw sauerkraut is simply sauerkraut that is unpasteurised. Kimchi is another name for sauerkraut and it’s usually a spicy version. The raw form of sauerkraut allows you to get the benefits of live probiotics.

    Sauerkraut Benefits

    Nutritional Information

    A half cup (about 75g) sauerkraut has:

    Calories 14

    Carbohydrates 3g

    Fat 0g

    Protein 1g

    Fibre 2g

    Sodium 469 mg 

    Vitamin C 11mg  

    Vitamin K1 5mcg 

    Vitamin K2 5mcg

    Vitamin B6 0.1mg 

    Folate 17mcg  

    Iron 1mg 

    Manganese 0.1mg

    Improves Your Digestion

    Your gut is said to contain over 100 trillion microorganisms or “gut flora,” which is more than 10 times the total number of cells in your body. Raw unpasteurised sauerkraut contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that act as the first line of defence against toxins and harmful bacteria. They help make foods more digestible, which increases your gut’s ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals they contain.

    Probiotics can help improve the bacterial balance in your gut after it has been disturbed by the use of antibiotics. This can help reduce or prevent antibiotic-provoked diarrhoea. Research also shows that probiotics help reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, reflux, symptoms linked to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and even candida.

    According to recent research published in PLOS One, over 114 types of probiotic are found in sauerkraut, which beats out any probiotic supplement on the market today.   These probiotic from raw sauerkraut can survive the low acid content of the stomach, which make it an ideal form of probiotic. Different probiotic strains may provide varying advantages. Research has reported that one serving may contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains.

    Raw sauerkraut is also a very concentrated probiotic.  Research from Functional Foods in Health and Disease determined that a very small dose, 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut, contain over 1 million colony forming units (CFUs) of healthy probiotic.

    Like most other fermented foods, sauerkraut contains a variety of enzymes, which help break down nutrients into smaller, more easily digestible molecules. Probiotics aren’t just beneficial bacteria, they are beneficial fungi too. The types of fungi in sauerkraut can include Actinomucor, Amylomyces, Aspergillus, Monascus, Mucor, Neurospora, and Rhizopus.  These little fungi produce enzymes to aid our bodies in digestion. These enzymes include: amylase, amyloglucosidase, maltase, invertase, pectinase, ß-galactosidase, cellulose, hemi-cellulase, acid and alkaline, proteases and lipases.

    Boosts Your Immune System

    Beneficial bacteria can educate, activate and support the immune system. The probiotics found in sauerkraut could   help improve the balance of bacteria in your gut, which helps keep your gut lining healthy. A stronger gut lining helps prevent unwanted substances from “leaking” into your body and causing an immune response. Maintaining a healthy gut flora also helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and may even boost the production of natural antibodies. 

    Research has shown that probiotics can be effective at fighting diarrhea, antibiotic resistance, Clostridium difficile colitis, various infections, inflammatory bowel diseases, constipation and even cancer. Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains have been proven beneficial on intestinal immunity and can increase the number of IgA and other immunoglobulins in the intestinal mucosa.

    Sauerkraut is rich in vitamin C and iron, both of which contribute to a healthy immune system. So when you have the common cold it may help you get rid of symptoms more quickly.

    Improves Your Mood & Brain Health

    Researchers are still learning about the fascinating and intimate relationship between your gut and brain, especially how this relationship is actually bidirectional, or a “two-way street.” It’s not just that your mood can affect your digestion, but, it turns out that the health of your digestive system can also affect your nervous system, brain function and moods!

    Probiotic foods are getting a lot of attention for their beneficial effects related to gut and brain connections. A review paper of 8 clinical studies in the journal ‘Nutrients’ concluded that probiotics help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. This is because probiotic bacteria signal to the brain to make serotonin and dopamine which are mood enhancers. 

    Probiotics can also help improve memory and reduce symptoms of anxiety, autism, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Sauerkraut may also maintain brain health by increasing your gut’s absorption of mood-regulating minerals, including magnesium and zinc. 

    That said, some researchers warn that compounds in sauerkraut may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a type of medication prescribed to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and Parkinson’s disease. Individuals taking these medications should consult their healthcare provider before adding sauerkraut to their diet.

    May Help You Lose Weight

    Sauerkraut shows promise for helping people reduce their waistlines as shown in some clinical studies. Sauerkraut benefits weight loss because it could: reduce inflammation, reduce abdominal fat, improve satisfaction from eating and may prevent fat accumulation.

    While nothing alone works to keep us slender, fermented foods likely do play an instrumental role in keeping us free from the diseases of obesity. By helping us stay lean, fermented foods also can help us prevent heart disease too.

    May Lower the Risk of Certain Cancers

    Cabbage, the main ingredient in sauerkraut, contains antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds, such as phytonutrients, that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Researchers believe these compounds may help reduce DNA damage, prevent cell mutations, and block the excessive cell growth that typically leads to tumour development. The cabbage fermentation process may also create particular plant compounds that suppress the growth of precancerous cells. 

    Certain genes are associated with an increased risk of cancer. The expression of these genes is sometimes modulated by chemical compounds in the food you eat. Two recent studies suggest that cabbage and sauerkraut juice may help reduce the risk of cancer by reducing the expression of cancer-associated genes.

    In another study, researchers observed that women who ate a lot of cabbage and sauerkraut from their teens into adulthood had a reduced risk of breast cancer. The women consuming more than 3 servings per week had a 72% lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate less than 1.5 servings per week. Another study in men shows cabbage had similar effects on the risk of prostate cancer.

    However, the number of studies is limited, and not all studies found the same results. Thus, more are needed before strong conclusions can be made.

    Recipe for Health

    To ensure you get the most out of store-bought sauerkraut:

    ·        Avoid pasteurised varieties. Off-the-shelf sauerkraut is typically pasteurised, a process that kills the beneficial probiotics. Refrigerated varieties are less likely to be pasteurised, but check the label to be sure.

    ·        Avoid preservatives. Many store-bought sauerkraut brands contain preservatives, which may lower the probiotic count.

    ·        Avoid added sugars. Sauerkraut should only contain two basic ingredients: cabbage and salt. Some varieties may also add extra vegetables, but avoid those that add sugar or anything else to the mix.

    Alternatively, to make sure you get all the health benefits of sauerkraut, you can make it yourself.

    Homemade Sauerkraut

    INGREDIENTS

    ·        1 medium green cabbage

    ·        1 teaspoon Himalayan or Celtic salt 

    ·        2–3 carrots, shredded (optional)

    ·        2–3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)

    ·        A pinch of wild herbs and spices such as rosemary, thyme, cumin, black seeds (optional)

    ·        2x 1 kg jars

    ·        Boiled cooled water

    Rough Guide:-  Salt : Cabbage ratio (1.5 teaspoons salt for each kilo of cabbage)

    DIRECTIONS

    1.      Discard the outer leaves of your cabbage, setting two nice leaves aside. Then, slice the cabbage into quarters, leaving the core in. This makes shredding easier.

    2.      Shred the cabbage quarters into a large bowl. Add the carrot, garlic, herbs and spices to it. 

    3.      Add salt and massage it into the cabbage mixture for a few minutes until brine starts accumulating at the bottom of your bowl.

    4.      Pack the cabbage mixture into clean jars, pressing down well to get rid of any air pockets. Use a rolling pin to really press the cabbage down and pack more in.

    5.      Pour the remaining brine into the jar leaving around an inch gap from the top of the jar.

    6.      Fold the cabbage leaf you set aside earlier to the size of your jar opening. Place it in the jar on top of the mixture to prevent veggies from floating to the surface.

    7.      Then, if necessary add the boiled cooled water on top of the cabbage leaf so as to completely submerge everything, keeping your cabbage mixture below the brine. Air in the jar enables harmful bacteria to grow, so make sure the mixture is completely submerged to encourage anaerobic growth.

    8.      Leave the lid slightly loose if possible, which will allow gases to escape during the fermentation process.

    9.      Keep it at room temperature (around 21-23 C, 70-73 F) and out of direct sunlight for 3–4 days. Cover with a towel to ensure no light gets in.

    10.   After this, move the jars to a cooler place (around 15 C/60 F). The longer you leave it, the more mature and better the sauerkraut gets. We normally leave for around 3 weeks. 

    11.   After this you may choose to place it in the fridge in a seal-tight container where it will last for a few months.

    Keep in mind that the larger the head of cabbage you start with, the sweeter and better your sauerkraut will taste.

    If you’re impatient to taste your creation, you can do so after 7 days. The longer you allow it to ferment, the stronger the taste will be.

    You can have a portion of sauerkraut daily on its own, or you can add it to meals to aid digestion.

    To Sum Up…

    Raw sauerkraut survived the test of time to become a popular side dish and condiment in many cultures. It’s especially appreciated in Germany, where its name comes from.

    Sauerkraut is particularly nutritious because it undergoes fermentation, a process during which microorganisms on the cabbage digest its natural sugars and convert them into carbon dioxide and organic acids. Fermentation starts when yeast and bacteria that are naturally present on the cabbage and your hands, as well as in the air, come into contact with the sugars in the cabbage. Sauerkraut fermentation creates conditions that promote the growth of beneficial probiotics, which are also found in products like yogurt and kefir. 

    Without a doubt, the connection between gut health and all health is strong. Sauerkraut is rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Its probiotics help your body absorb these nutrients more easily, which is what makes sauerkraut more nutritious than raw cabbage or coleslaw.  Eating sauerkraut may help you strengthen your immune system, improve your digestion, mood and brain health, reduce your risk of certain diseases, and even lose weight.

    To reap the greatest benefits, try eating a little bit of sauerkraut each day.

    Sources

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauerkraut

    https://kitchenproject.com/history/sauerkraut.htm

    https://www.thespruceeats.com/sauerkraut-the-quintessential-eastern-european-vegetable-1137498

    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-sauerkraut#1.-Sauerkraut-is-very-nutritious

    https://www.thehealthyrd.com/22-raw-sauerkraut-benefits-that-may-change-your-life/

    http://www.healthymuslim.com/articles/xnibj-sauerkraut-sour-cabbage-is-a--superfood---how-to-make-it.cfm

  • 25 Feb 2020 9:46 AM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    Willow bark's pain-relieving and fever-reducing properties have been known for centuries when ancient civilisations  would chew on the bark for rapid pain relief. The growing popularity of natural medicines has fuelled a renewed interest in willow bark. It is considered by some to be a good alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen.

    This is because aspirin is a synthetic derivative of the natural substance salicylic acid and salicylic acid is a active ingredient in the willow bark, in the form of salicin. Salicylic acid and related salicylates have long been common components of natural medicine, before aspirin arrived, functioning as a natural defence against common ailments today. 

    The first recorded use of salicylates dates back about 4,000 years to the Sumerians, who noted the pain remedies of the willow tree on early clay tablets. Ancient civilisations in Mesopotamia used the extract from willow trees to treat fever, pain, and inflammation. Both Chinese and Greek civilisations employed willow bark for medical use more than 2,000 years ago, and the Chinese also used poplar bark and willow shoots to treat rheumatic fever, colds, haemorrhages, and goitre. Hippocrates (460–370 BCE) recommended chewing on willow-tree bark to patients suffering from fever and pain, as well as the use of a tea brewed from willow bark given to women to lessen pain during childbirth. Around 100 CE the Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed willow bark as an anti-inflammatory agent.

    Despite this long history, it was not until 1763 that Edward Stone of the Royal Society of London conducted one of the first clinical studies on the effects of willow-bark powder by treating patients suffering from ague (a fever thought to be caused by malaria). And approximately 100 years later the Scottish physician Thomas MacLagan studied the effects of willow powder on patients suffering from acute rheumatism, demonstrating that it could relieve fever and joint inflammation. Eventually, continued research lead to the introduction of the most well-known pain killer of all time, aspirin.

    Willow bark comes from several varieties of the willow tree. The white willow and black willow are two of the most common willows that are used medicinally.

    Willow Bark Benefits

    The word salicin is derived from the Latin name for the willow, salix. Salicin, a white bitter-tasting powder can be obtained by aqueous extraction of mainly willow bark and leaves. Salicin is converted to salicylic acid in the body which then inhibits the activity of enzymes cyclo-oxygenase 1 (COX-1) and cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2). These are the same enzymes targeted by NSAIDs to alleviate pain and inflammation. The effects of willow bark take longer than aspirin to kick in, but they tend to last longer and cause fewer adverse reactions than aspirin’s side effects.

    Antioxidant compounds called polyphenolic glycosides and flavonoids are also found in willow bark. These have been shown to protect against oxidative stress and various symptoms tied to aging, such as poor physical performance, cognitive decline, etc.

    Together with salicin, fragilin, salicortin and other salicylates, researchers believe that these antioxidants play a prominent role in willow bark’s therapeutic actions.

    Regarding its use as a natural pain killer, most of the known benefits of willow bark are based on anecdotal observations, rather than clinical studies. Here is just some of what the current research says:

    Pain Relief

    Headaches

    It has been shown to relieve headaches and is less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects than synthesised pain relievers such as ibuprofen. 

    The consumption of willow bark may help reduce the tension from headache-related pain. It contains the chemical salicin similar to acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin. The University of Maryland Medical Centre states feeling the effects of willow bark may take longer to experience, but the effects can last longer compared to aspirin.

    Those who suffer from chronic and/or recurring headaches are strongly advised to seek help from their healthcare professional.

    Lower Back Pain

    The current body of evidence suggests that willow bark may be most effective in treating acute low back pain.

    A 2001 study published in the journal Rheumatology found in a group of nearly 200 people with low back pain, those who received willow bark showed a significant improvement in pain compared to those who received a placebo. Moreover, those who received higher doses of the herb, specifically 240 mg salicin, experienced more significant pain relief than those who received a low dose of 120 mg salicin.

    In a 2016 analysis published in the journal Spine, researchers evaluated 14 previously published studies on herbal treatments for low back pain. Among their findings, the researchers reported that the bark of the white willow tree (Salix alba) consistently provided greater pain relief than a placebo.

    Further research would be needed to determine how safe and effective willow bark may be in relieving low back pain.

    Arthritis

    Salicin in willow bark have been shown to inhibit cyclooxygenase – an enzyme responsible for inflammatory mediators like prostaglandins. Salicin will also ease the discomfort, further reducing the production of prostaglandins in the nerves and its anti-inflammatory properties help in reducing painful inflammation of the joints. It is thought that regular intake of willow bark will help to suppress the progression and onset of arthritis.

    In a clinical trial published in Phytotherapy Research, a willow bark extract containing 240 milligrams (mg) of salicin daily was compared to a placebo in 78 people with osteoarthritis. After two weeks of treatment, pain scores (using the WOMAC osteoarthritis index) were reduced by 14 percent in the willow bark group compared to 2 percent in the placebo group.

    However, further research is needed to determine benefits over a longer duration.

    Heart Health

    Low doses of aspirin are taken as a preventative as well as first aid for a heart attack as it helps to reduce the risk of internal clotting. Since the salicylates in aspirin are derived from willow bark it stands to reason this herb has the same effect on the heart as aspirin. This means it can be effective in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

    Alleviates Acne

    Willow bark extract can be found as an ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products due to its astringent, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties. Salicylic acid is a natural exfoliant used in several acne treatments because it can help skin shed dead cells while clearing pores. It also contains phenolic acids, salicin, salicortin and flavonoids, tannins, and minerals, which help with skin rejuvenation.

    A study published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics found mild or moderate acne can be treated with non-prescription agents such as salicylic acid. This agent can reduce the number of primary lesions and therefore, the severity of all acne-related lesions. Salicylic acid has been shown to be more superior to benzoyl peroxide in reducing acne. 

    Precautions

    When taken in moderation, willow bark does not appear to have negative side effects. The salicin in willow bark converts to salicylic acid. Some believe that this makes it gentler on your stomach than lab-created aspirin. Too much willow bark, however, can cause stomach cramping and bleeding.

    There are some people who should not use willow bark. If you have an allergy to aspirin, it’s possible to have a reaction to willow bark as well. Willow bark can also interact with certain medications, like blood thinners and beta-blockers.

    Children and adolescents up to the age of 16 are generally discouraged from taking willow bark for any reason. This is because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare condition that causes brain and liver damage. Pregnant and breast-feeding women are also discouraged from taking any medication that contains salicylates. People with gastric ulcers should be especially careful with willow bark, in the same way that they would be cautious with aspirin, because too much could cause stomach bleeding.

    As willow bark is similar to aspirin, it is possible to develop many of the same side effects, particularly if overused. These may include stomach upset, vomiting, dizziness, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver toxicity, and kidney impairment.

    An allergic response to willow bark is also possible, especially in those with a known allergy to aspirin. On rare occasion, the allergy may lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis.

    Willow bark is considered safe for short-term use. With that being said, there has been relatively little research into the long-term safety of the herbal supplement.

    Drug Interactions

    Willow bark may slow blood clotting and prolong bleeding time. As such, it should not be taken with anticoagulants like warfarin, antiplatelet drugs like clopidogrel, or any drugs associated with bleeding, including NSAIDs.

    For the same reason, you would need to stop taking willow bark two weeks before scheduled surgery to avoid excessive bleeding. Willow bark should also not be used in haemophiliacs or people with other bleeding disorders.

    Willow bark contains chemicals similar to the non-steroidal painkillers Trilisate (choline magnesium trisalicylate) and Disalcid (salsalate). Taking willow bark with either of these drugs can amplify their side effects, including stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or constipation.


    Dosages for Health

    Capsules

    Willow bark can be purchased from health food stores in a powdered, encapsulated form. The recommended dose for pain relief is 240 milligrams a day. 

    Bark

    The active ingredient in willow bark is salicin, but the accompanying flavonoids and plant particles might be part of what make willow bark effective. For this reason, some people prefer to actually chew on the unprocessed bark of the willow tree. It is difficult to determine how much salicin you are getting from each piece of bark, so this method of consumption should be approached with caution.

    Liquid

    Willow bark can also be found in a distilled tincture form. Taking a drop or two per day for pain relief (up to 2 mls) can work as an anti-inflammatory and pain relief substitute for aspirin.

    Tea

    Some health food stores sell willow bark tea, advertising it as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. Steep willow bark tea for two to three minutes in hot water. When consuming willow bark in this form, it’s hard to tell how much salicin you are getting in each serving of tea.

    Topical

    Willow bark can be used topically. Since it isn’t absorbed digestively, topical willow bark is a good alternative for those who commonly experience stomach ulcers. However, topical use can be harsh and cause skin irritation.

    How to Make Willow Bark Tea

    Bark from the white willow tree can be gathered and used to make tea or “bark concoctions.” About 50 - 150g can be consumed up to several times daily, depending on the strength.

    1.      Use about one tablespoon of willow bark per cup of water. 

    2.      Boil the required amount in water for about 10 minutes.

    3.      After allowing the tea to cool, it’s best to drink it with a meal, which will reduce the chance of experiencing an upset stomach.

    4.      Most people can consume 1–3 cups of willow bark tea per day. Drink one cup and wait several hours before taking another dose to make sure you don’t react poorly.

    To Sum Up…

    The willow tree is a symbolic medicinal plant that has been associated with the discovery of aspirin. Even though it is used widely, very few clinical trials have been done to verify the effectiveness of willow bark. Preliminary studies do show that there are some health benefits, and that certain species of willow contain higher concentrations of salicin and flavonoids than others. In the studies that have been done, the risks and side effects seem fairly minimal. And there are centuries of study and use of aspirin, which gets its active ingredient from willow bark.

    Willow bark benefits include lowering inflammatory responses that contribute to chronic diseases, fighting pain and reducing fevers. Whether in extract or tea form, willow bark can provide relief to those suffering from back pain, recurring headaches, muscle pains, and arthritis symptoms. Some even say it can help with weight loss and menstrual cramps. However, more research is needed to fully understand how it differs from aspirin. While it may be an effective alternative to aspirin for some, talk to your doctor before choosing to take willow bark.

    Although it’s generally safe, willow bark extract taken in high doses can cause side effects including increased bleeding, skin rashes, itching and an upset stomach. Allergic responses are also possible among individuals who are sensitive to salicin.

    Sources

    https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/aspirin-turn-of-the-century-miracle-drug 

    https://www.healthline.com/health/willow-bark-natures-aspirin#side-effects 

    https://www.verywellhealth.com/white-willow-bark-89085 

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S13196103 10000578 

    https://www.medicaldaily.com/miracle-tree-6-health-benefits-willow-bark-get-you-chomping-bit-330070 

    https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/white-willow-bark 

    https://draxe.com/nutrition/white-willow-bark/ 

  • 21 Jan 2020 11:40 AM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    Liquorice or licorice reminds many of us of our childhood sweets… Of course, you either loved it or hated it, as its unique flavour was an acquired taste. But, did you know it actually started out as a throat healing pastille? This originated from historical uses by the Ancient Greece who used it in cough relieving syrups.


    Known as the “sweet root,” liquorice was used in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. It was amongst the many treasures found in the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb. Roman and Greek soldiers typically chewed the root to help quench thirst and enhance their stamina, and Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly chewed the root habitually.

    Liquorice comes from the plant roots of Glycyrrhiza Glabra, which is related to the legume family. Originating in southern Asia and then spreading through the Middle East and into southern Europe, liquorice is first reported in England as growing at a monastery in Pontefract, from which it spread to the States and beyond.

    Liquorice was introduced in England by Dominican monks who used the herb to create lozenges that soothed the throat and settled the stomach. In the Chinese tradition, it is one of the most often used of the 50 fundamental herbs, included in thousands of herbal formulas to sweeten teas, to harmonize herbs or to minimize harsh effects of other herbs. In 1914, liquorice candy was first sold by Chicago Liquorice Company.

    What makes liquorice root so special is the sweet-tasting compound, anethole, found within it. The herb's key therapeutic compound, glycyrrhizin (which is 50 times sweeter than sugar) exerts numerous beneficial effects on the body, making liquorice a valuable herb for treating a host of ailments. This aromatic, unsaturated ether compound is also found in anise and fennel. It is also known for enhancing the action of other herbs when taken in combination.

    Liquorice flavouring isn’t just used in sweets, it’s also used in soft drinks, and in some herbal teas where it provides a sweet aftertaste. It is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavours.

    Liquorice is particularly popular in Italy (especially in the South) and Spain in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as a mouth freshener. Liquorice root can have either a salty or sweet taste. The thin sticks are usually quite salty, whereas the thick sticks are usually quite sweet, with a salty undertone. Unsweetened liquorice is also consumed in the form of small black pieces made from 100% pure liquorice extract, giving a taste that is both bitter and intense.

    The medical community is starting to be more accepting of the overall holistic benefits of liquorice. However, it’s important to note medical research hasn’t proved some of these health benefits.

    Deglycyrrhizinated Liquorice (DGL) vs Regular Liquorice

    Liquorice is available in many forms, either containing glycyrrhizin or as deglycyrrhizinated liquorice (DGL).

    Glycyrrhizin is an active compound in liquorice with several health benefits, as well as significant side effects like hypertension. Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice (DGL) has glycyrrhizin removed, thus preventing its side effects. DGL is available in wafers, capsules, liquids, and lozenges.

    Without glycyrrhizin, DGL is not associated with any identified adverse effects but still retains some of its beneficial properties. DGL supplements lack the side effects of glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhizic acid. DGL is typically used to treat stomach ulcers and other digestive problems.

    Liquorice Root Benefits


    Soothes your Gut

    Liquorice root is used to soothe gastrointestinal problems. In cases of food poisoning, stomach ulcers, and heartburn, liquorice root extract can speed the repair of stomach lining and restore balance. It can lower stomach acid levels, relieve indigestion and acts as a mild laxative. It can also be used for irritation, inflammation and spasm

    in the digestive tract. There is also research that’s shown people who have peptic ulcer disease, or gastritis had improved symptoms when taking DGL. DGL is the safer form of liquorice and can be taken long-term if needed.

    Liquorice has been found to be effective natural remedy for nausea and stomach pain. As an anti-inflammatory and demulcent (soothing) herb, liquorice root can be a beneficial leaky gut supplement.

    One study found that glycyrrhizic acid can suppress the toxic bacteria H. pylori, and can prevent it from growing in the gut.

    Cleanses your Respiratory System

    Liquorice is recommended to treat respiratory problems. Liquorice root benefits a sore throat or cough immensely as an effective expectorant, helping to loosen and expel mucus that the cough is trying to eliminate. Its soothing demulcent, anti-inflammatory properties can bring fast relief for sore throat. Demulcents need to make contact with the part of the body that needs to be soothed, so extracts in cough drops and syrups, as well as tea, are most effective.

    Liquorice also helps to relax bronchial spasms. The herb also fights viruses that cause respiratory illnesses and an overproduction of mucus in asthma and chest infections, as well as coughs.

    It has an aspirin-like action and is helpful in relieving fevers and soothing pain such as headaches. Its anti-allergenic effect is very useful for hay fever, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma.

    Reduces Stress

    Over time, stress can leave the adrenal gland exhausted by constantly producing adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone. Liquorice is found to help the body regulate cortisol more efficiently thus giving your adrenals a break. It is one of the main adaptogen herbs to help improve stress response.

    By enhancing cortisol activity, glycyrrhizin helps to increase energy, ease stress and reduce the symptoms of ailments sensitive to cortisol levels, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromylagia.

    Liquorice should be used during times of both physical and emotional stress, after surgery or during convalescence, or when feeling tired and run down.

    Protects your Skin and Teeth

    Topical gels containing liquorice are recommended for treating eczema. Liquorice can be a successful dermatological treatment due to its antibacterial properties. For that reason, holistic health practitioners often suggest applying liquorice to tooth decay to kill bacteria.

    Boosts Immunity

    Liquorice also appears to enhance immunity by boosting levels of interferon, a key immune system chemical that fights off attacking viruses. The triterpenoid content in liquorice has shown antiviral effects, making it a potentially strong partner for the immune system. Glycyrrhizinic acid also seems to stop the growth of many bacteria and viruses such as influenza A.

    Combats Hepatitis

    Liquorice both protects the liver and promotes healing in this vital organ. The herb's anti-inflammatory properties help calm hepatitis-associated liver inflammation. Liquorice also fights the virus commonly responsible for hepatitis and supplies valuable antioxidant compounds that help maintain the overall health of the liver. Through its beneficial action on the liver, it also increases bile flow and lowers cholesterol levels.

    Treat PMS and Menstrual Problems

    The phytoestrogens in liquorice have a mild oestrogenic effect, making the herb potentially useful in easing certain symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), such as irritability, bloating and breast tenderness. Although the glycyrrhizin in liquorice actually inhibits the effect of the body's own oestrogens, the mild estrogenic effect produced by liquorice’s phytoestrogens manages to override this inhibiting action.

    For treatment of menopause, liquorice has shown in a study to be better than hormone replacement therapy at reducing the duration of hot flashes.

    Assists Cancer Treatment

    Some studies say liquorice root can potentially aid the treatment of breast and prostate cancers. And some Chinese practices also incorporate it into cancer treatment. Research in this field is ongoing and more studies are needed to prove its effectiveness.

    Precautions

    When taken as a tea, liquorice root is considered safe and well tolerated in adults. Some people may experience mild side effects, including upset stomach, bloating, and heartburn. These commonly occur if you exceed the recommended dose.

    Liquorice root supplements are only intended for short-term use. Many of these side effects are the result of the excessive accumulation of glycyrrhizinic acid, which triggers an abnormal increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

    Too much liquorice root extract could also lead to low levels of potassium in the body, which causes muscle weakness. This condition is called hypokalemia. It can also cause increased sodium and water retention. It could cause high blood pressure, swelling, and heartbeat irregularity.

    Some evidence suggests taking liquorice in supplement form may have oestrogen-like effects on female hormone sensitive conditions, such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and should not be taken by people with such diseases.

    Prolonged use at higher doses is not recommended for people with a history of hypertension or renal failure, and pregnant or nursing women.

    When taken long-term, as for problems in the digestive system, DGL may be recommended, which has a greatly reduced level of glycyrrhizin.

    Limiting liquorice sweets is also a good idea even though not all liquorice sweets are made with liquorice. Many modern brands are "liquorice-flavoured" and are made with anise-based flavourings that do not contain any glycyrrhizin.

    Some compounds in liquorice can interact with drugs, such as with corticosteroid medications by increasing their effect. If you are on corticosteroid medication then it would be best to work with someone experienced in using these two substances together.

    To help avoid interactions, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking to find out how liquorice might interact with something else you are taking.

    Dosages for Health

    Liquid extract

    Liquorice extract is the most commonly found form of liquorice. It’s used as a commercial sweetener in candies and beverages. Liquorice extract consumption by an individual should not exceed 30 mg/ml of glycyrrhizic acid. Ingesting more could cause unwanted side effects.

    Powder

    Combined with a gel base, it can become a topical ointment that clears the skin. In its powder form, liquorice is especially helpful in treating eczema and acne. You can also pour the powder into vegetable capsules and ingest them orally. The recommended dosage of liquorice root is less than 75 milligrams per day, according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

    Tea

    Liquorice plant leaves, dried and crushed into a tea, have become popular. Decoction of the roots or the powder mixed with hot water would suffice. Teas are used to promote digestive, respiratory, and adrenal gland health. When you see herbal teas for “bronchial wellness” and “cleanse and detox,” they usually contain forms of liquorice. The popular throat remedy known as Throat Coat tea is a combination of marshmallow root, liquorice root, and elm bark.

    DGL

    DGL is liquorice with glycyrrhizin removed, which is a safer form. DGL should contain no more than 2 percent glycyrrhizin. This form is recommended for gastrointestinal symptoms as long-term intake may be needed. DGL is available in chewable tablets, capsules, tea, and powder. Consume no more than 5 grams of DGL per day.

    It’s not recommended that people ingest more than 10 grams of liquorice root per day.

    To Sum Up…

    Liquorice came to fame when it turned into bite-size candy, but the herb itself has been used for thousands of years for a variety of health conditions.

    Liquorice helps support the respiratory system by expelling infected mucus and soothing a sore throat. It regulates cortisol levels which helps adrenal glands that may be exhausted by prolonged stress. It helps support the digestive system by repairing an inflamed gut, preventing ulcers and suppressing toxic bacteria from growing. Liquorice protects the skin and teeth due to its antibacterial and any inflammatory properties. It has shown to be effective in eczema when liquorice gel is applied directly to the skin. Women may be able to benefit further with this herb which mimics oestrogen in the body and so may help with PMS and even menopause symptoms.

    There is so much more to learn about this herb especially its potential to treat cancer. Nonetheless, it’s important to get clued up about its side effects especially if you intend to use it over a long period of time. Look for formulations that contain no more than 10% glycyrrhizin. As a general rule, you should never exceed the recommended dosage on the product label or take liquorice supplements for longer than three to six weeks. Always talk to your doctor about whether taking liquorice supplements would benefit your health.

    Sources

    https://reddremedies.com/liquorice-a-brief-history/ https://www.allthingsliquorice.co.uk/side/liquorice-a-little-history.html http://www.rcpe.ac.uk/sites/default/files/jrcpe_48_4_lee.pdf https://www.healthline.com/health/liquorice-the-sweet-root#soothes-stomach-pain https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-liquorice-root.html https://content.selfdecode.com/liquorice/ https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-licorice-root-89727 https://draxe.com/nutrition/licorice-root/


  • 17 Dec 2019 10:16 AM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    If you’re looking at natural ways to control your diabetes then consider this herbal compound. Berberine is fast becoming the go-to supplement to take for type-2 diabetes with very few side effects when compared with modern medicine. Here’s the scoop on this little-known, yet powerful supplement.

    Berberine is a bioactive compound that can be extracted from several different plants, including a group of shrubs called Berberis. It is also present in other plants, including goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric. It is found in the roots, rhizomes, stems, and bark of these plants. 

    The oldest evidence of using barberry fruit as a blood purifying agent was written on the clay tablets in the library of Assyrian emperor Asurbanipal during 650 BC. It is a popular component in many traditions, such in Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine with more than 3000 years of history. In Ayurveda, Berberis species have been traditionally used for the treatment of a wide range of infections of the ear, eye, and mouth, for quick healing of wounds, curing haemorrhoids, indigestion and dysentery. It has also been used to reduce obesity, and as an antidote for the treatment of scorpion sting or snakebite. Berberine extracts and decoctions are traditionally used for their activities against a variety of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Middle-Eastern folk medicines.

    Technically, Berberine belongs to a class of compounds called alkaloids. It has a yellow colour, and has often been used as a dye. Its strong yellow colour and yellow fluorescence made it a widely used dye in early days of the industry. It’s still used today in India as a wool dye, and its fluorescence makes it useful as a histology stain.


    Berberine Benefits

    Berberine is known as a very important natural alkaloid for the synthesis of several bioactive derivatives. After you ingest berberine, it gets taken in by the body and transported into the bloodstream where it travels into the body’s cells. Inside the cells, it binds to several different “molecular targets” and changes their function. This is similar to how pharmaceutical drugs work.

    Regulates Metabolic Pathways

    One of the main actions of berberine is to activate an enzyme inside cells called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This enzyme is sometimes referred to as a “metabolic master switch”. It is found in the cells of various organs, including the brain, muscle, kidney, heart and liver. This enzyme plays a major role in regulating metabolism:

    1.      The AMPK system senses and responds to changes in energy metabolism both on the cellular and the whole-body level. It acts as the central energy control switch regulating how energy is produced and used in the body. It induces a cascade of events within cells that are all involved in maintaining energy balance. 

    2.      AMPK regulates an array of biological activities that normalise lipid, glucose, and energy imbalances (metabolic syndrome occurs when these AMPK-regulated pathways are turned off, triggering a syndrome that includes hyperglycemia, diabetes, lipid abnormalities, and energy imbalances).

    3.      AMPK helps shift energy towards cellular repair, maintenance, or balance.

    Only a few chemicals are known to activate AMPK. Berberine is one of them. Reports that berberine activates AMPK were first published in 2006. Resveratrol, salicylate, and metformin also activate this chemical pathway.

    Lowers Blood Glucose Levels

    Many studies show that berberine can significantly reduce blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. In fact, its effectiveness is comparable to the popular diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage). Berberine triggers AMPK activation which works by:

    ·        Decreasing insulin resistance, making the blood sugar lowering hormone insulin more effective.

    ·        Increasing glycolysis, helping the body break down glucose inside cells.

    ·        Decreasing glucose production in the liver.

    ·        Slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut.

    In one study of 116 diabetic patients, 1 gram of berberine per day lowered fasting blood sugar by 20%, from 7.0 to 5.6 mmol/L (126 to 101 mg/dL), or from diabetic to normal levels. It also lowered haemoglobin A1c by 12% (a marker for long-term blood sugar levels).

    Berberine VS Metformin

    Metformin activates AMPK to a similar degree as berberine, and as a result, they affect metabolism similarly. So it should be no surprise that, like metformin, berberine appears useful for treating type-2 diabetes.

    The hypoglycemic effect of berberine was similar to that of metformin when patients newly diagnosed with type-2 diabetes who were randomly treated to take either berberine or metformin (500 mg 3 times a day) in a 3-month trial. 

    A meta-analysis combined data from 14 randomised trials involving 1,068 participants. Treatment with both berberine and metformin showed similar hypoglycemic and antidyslipidemic benefits.

    Berberine has been studied and shown to be effective in treating other conditions that respond to metformin, such as when used to treat women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or when used to reduce insulin resistance in ovarian theca cells and decrease their excessive testosterone production.

    Promotes Weight Loss

    While berberine is far from a “miracle” weight loss drug, research shows that it can help lead to weight reduction in those with obesity. In a 12-week study in obese individuals, 500 mg berberine taken three times per day caused about 2 kg of weight loss, on average. The participants also lost 3.6% of their body fat. 

    Berberine helps improve insulin sensitivity and normalises blood glucose levels, while also helping to regulate the hormones that control appetite and satiety. It also works to speed up metabolism from inside each individual cell.

    In one study berberine helped people drop from obese to overweight in just three months by reducing belly fat and improving overall health markers. This study relied on 300 mg berberine, three times daily, for three months. The researchers believe that the weight loss was caused by improved function of fat-regulating hormones, such as insulin, adiponectin and leptin.

    Berberine also appears to inhibit the growth of fat cells at a molecular level. However, more research is needed on the weight loss effects of berberine.

    Lowers Cholesterol

    Berberine can help to lower blood lipids like LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which, when elevated, can lead to heart disease, stroke, and many other inflammatory conditions. According to some studies, berberine works by inhibiting an enzyme called PCSK9. This leads to more LDL being removed from the bloodstream.

    While cholesterol in and of itself isn’t a bad thing – it is used to transport nutrients in the body. However, when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidised, it is associated with plaque build-up in the arteries and heart disease.

    Berberine has also been shown to lower apolipoprotein B which is a very important risk factor of cardiovascular disease.

    Improves Heart Health

    Berberine works to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, while also promoting normal blood pressure and defending against plaque build-up in the arteries, irregular heartbeat and even heart failure. (12, 13) When compared to medications aimed at lowering both systolic and diastolic levels, berberine wins.

    Improves Gut Bacteria

    Berberine is antimicrobial, making it great for the digestive system and microbiome. In particular, berberine can help to destroy the ulcer-forming bacteria H. pylori when taken twice daily for six weeks. It can also be used to fight other types of bacteria and fungi, such as staph and candida.

    Supplementing with berberine can also modulate “bad” gut bacteria, which can have destructive effects on the body like insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. It is also helpful in cases of SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and can work as an antibiotic treatment without the gut-disrupting side effects.

    Berberine has shown promise in numerous other health benefits:

    Depression: Studies show that it may help fight depression by increasing the neurotransmitters that produce a stable, regulated mood: serotonin and dopamine.

    Cancer: Test tube and animal studies have shown that it can reduce the growth and spread of various different types of cancer.

    Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory: It has been shown to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in some studies.

    Fatty liver: It can reduce fat build-up in the liver, which should help protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

    Many of these benefits need more research before firm recommendations can be made, but the current evidence is very promising.

    Berberine Absorption and Bioavailability in the Body:

    Berberine supplements were initially thought to be poorly absorbed across the gut wall. Pharmacokinetic researchers have found low plasma concentrations which could not exert the remarkable pharmaceutical effects mentioned. However, it now appears that the situation is more complex; berberine actually appears to be well absorbed. The confusion lies in the fact that it is quickly metabolised. Blood clearance is so fast and biotransformation in the liver so rapid that berberine disappears from the blood faster than it can be measured. 


    Precautions

    Berberine is not known to have serious side effects. The main side effects are related to digestion, and there are some reports of cramping, diarrhoea, flatulence, constipation and stomach pain. Having said this, berberine isn’t safe for long-term use. It’s also not safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, or for people who are taking blood thinners, antibiotics, antidepressants, or any medication aimed at lowering glucose or insulin levels. Always take berberine with a meal to avoid an upset stomach and to improve its effectiveness.

    The AMPK activation effects of berberine are incredible at improving blood glucose control and reducing blood lipids, but at the same time it could inhibit muscle growth. 

    If you have a medical condition or are on any medications, then it is highly recommended that you speak to your doctor before taking it.

    Dosages for Health

    Berberine can be found in a few different forms, but the highest quality is known as “berberine HCL”. It can be found in health food stores or online retailers that sell supplements. 

    To be effective, berberine needs to be taken two or three times daily, spread out, because it has a short half-life and will not remain in the bloodstream if you only take it once a day. 

    Many of the studies cited uses dosages in the range of 900 to 1500 mg per day. Therefore, taking 300 - 500 mg, 3 times per day, with meals.

    To Sum Up…

    Berberine is one of the very few supplements that are as effective as a pharmaceutical drug. It has powerful effects on various aspects of health, especially blood glucose control and works as well as the ever-popular glucose-lowering drug ‘Metformin’. It does this by triggering the activation of the enzyme AMPK into increasing the breakdown of glucose in cells which leads to decreased insulin resistance. In fact, what makes berberine so special is that it is one of the very few compounds that actually has an effect on such a powerful enzyme. AMPK is involved in an array of biological functions in the body and switching it on means it shifts energy towards normalising lipid, glucose and other imbalances which helps to repair cellular damage and maintain cellular function for long term survival. In other words, activating AMPK could, theoretically, produce the same benefits as exercise, dieting, and weight loss.

    Research is being undertaken to determine the effectiveness of using the AMPK-enzyme activator berberine to combat metabolic syndrome which causes all the major symptoms of diabetes (hyperglycaemia), high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol (hyperlipidaemia), and inflammation, in one supplement!

    Berberine can help improve heart health and gut bacteria and is showing promise in other conditions such as cancer, depression, and other neuropsychiatric diseases. However, it does interact with certain medications and is not suited for vulnerable individuals. If you are considering on supplementing with berberine please do your own research and consult your health professional first.

    Sources

    https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/molecule-of-the-week/archive/b/berberine.html

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6111450/

    https://selfhacked.com/blog/berberine-19-health-benefits-of-berberine-with-references/

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325798.php

    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/berberine-powerful-supplement

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10767672

    https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-12/clinical-applications-berberine

    https://www.precisionnutrition.com/surprising-supplements

    https://blog.paleohacks.com/berberine/#

  • 19 Nov 2019 12:08 PM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    Astragalus has a long history in Chinese medicine as a complementary approach to hepatitis, cancer, and other conditions. Today in the western world, it has been rediscovered as a “super herb”, but most of its uses still lack solid clinical evidence. 

    This plant is a native to the temperate regions in Northern China, Mongolia and Korea. Common names include milkvetch (most species), locoweed (some species in North America) and goat’s thorn. Astragalus is a large genus of around 2000 species belonging to the legume family Fabaceae. Only two of the 2000 species of astragalus, astragalus membranaceus and astragalus mongholicus, are used medicinally.

    The dried root is the part used for medicinal purposes, in the form of tea or as an extract. When grown for cultivation, the plants are traditionally harvested after four or five years, with the roots collected in spring or autumn. The roots are dried in the sun and then sliced for distribution. The slices are yellow in colour and have a sweet, moistening taste with a firm, fibrous texture. 

    Astragalus continues to be widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, often combined with other herbs such as liquorice, ginseng, and angelica, to boost immune function, improve endurance, prevent upper respiratory infections and colds, lower blood pressure, control night sweats, and to treat heart disease and diabetes. Today’s herbalists call it an “adaptogen”, meaning it helps protect the body from physical, mental, or emotional stress.

    Scientific evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited – few human studies have been conducted. However, some preliminary scientific evidence suggests that astragalus, either alone or in combination with other herbs, may benefit the immune system, heart, and liver, and be useful as treatment for cancer when added to conventional methods. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is sponsoring studies of the effects of astragalus on the body, particularly on the immune system.


    Astragalus Benefits

    Astragalus contains three components that allow the plant to have such a positive impact on human health: saponins, flavonoids and polysaccharides.

    Saponins are known for their ability to lower cholesterol, improve the immune system and prevent cancer. Flavonoids provide health benefits through cell signalling. They show antioxidative qualities, control and scavenge of free radicals, and can help prevent heart disease, cancer and immunodeficiency viruses. Polysaccharides are known to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities, among other health benefits. Other constituents include amino acids, folic acid, and minerals like selenium, zinc, and copper.

    May Boost Your Immune System

    Some evidence shows that astragalus may increase your body’s production of white blood cells, which are the cells of your immune system responsible for preventing illness. In one study, 8 grams of Astragalus given orally to 14 healthy volunteers for 2 months significantly stimulated white blood cells.

    Preliminary clinical research, astragalus has shown immune-supporting effects by stimulating macrophage and natural killer cell activity and inhibiting T-helper cells.

    In animal research, astragalus root has also been shown to help kill bacteria and viruses in mice with infections. Though research is limited, it may also help fight viral infections in humans, including the common cold and infection of the liver.

    May Improve Heart Function

    The flavonoids present in astragalus are antioxidants that help prevent plaque build-up in arteries and narrowing of vessel walls by protecting the inner wall of the vessel. In addition, astragalus is thought to widen your blood vessels and increase the amount of blood pumped from your heart.

    Astragalus injections showed significant improvement in heart function in two studies of 134 patients with congestive heart failure. In another study it also showed reduced symptoms of chest distress and dyspnea (shortness of breath).

    Research has been showing how astragalus has the ability to reduce blood pressure and improve lipid profiles. When astragalus mongholicus was given to rats with high lipids, it resulted in a significant decline in the levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL, and an increase in HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. High levels of triglycerides put individuals at risk for many forms of heart disease, such as stroke, heart attack and hardening of artery walls.

    A clinical study was conducted on patients with heart failure. They were given 2.25 grams of astragalus twice daily for two weeks, along with conventional treatment. They experienced greater improvements in heart function compared to those receiving standard treatment alone.

    In other studies patients with ischemic heart disease or angina were treated with Astragalus. They experienced significant relief, heart rate improvement and an increase in heart function.

    Astragalus has the potential to improve heart function and help with different types of heart disease, but well-designed clinical trials should verify these effects.

    Complementary Cancer Treatment

    Astragalus may help alleviate the negative side effects of chemotherapy. For example, one clinical study in people undergoing chemotherapy found that astragalus given by IV reduced nausea by 36%, vomiting by 50% and diarrhoea by 59%. Similarly, other studies have demonstrated the same benefits in people having chemotherapy for colon cancer.

    Giving 500mg of astragalus by IV three times weekly may also improve the extreme tiredness associated with chemotherapy during the first week of treatment. Astragalus has also shown to significantly improved quality of life and reduced the chemotherapy side effects in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

    Some preliminary studies have shown that the addition of Astragalus to chemotherapy could also inhibit the development of tumours. Astragalus saponins suppressed the growth of colon cancer in mice with equal efficiency and fewer side effects, compared with chemotherapy. Astragalus polysaccharide could promote the production and maturation of cancer-fighting immune cells in patients with chronic myelogenous leukaemia.

    Well-designed clinical trials are needed to verify the potential of Astragalus to improve cancer treatment.

    May Help Control Blood Sugar Levels

    Studies show that astragalus has the ability to relieve insulin resistance and treat diabetes naturally. In fact, it is the most frequently prescribed herb to help with diabetes management in China.

    The herb’s collection of saponins, flavonoids and polysaccharides all are effective in treating and regulating type 1 and 2 diabetes. They’re able to increase insulin sensitivity, protect pancreatic beta cells (the cells in the pancreas that produce and release insulin) and also act as anti-inflammatories in areas related to diabetes symptoms. 

    Studies have shown that taking 40–60 grams of astragalus per day has the potential to improve blood sugar levels after fasting and after meals in people with type 2 diabetes when taken daily for up to four months.

    Animal and test-tube studies have shown that astragalus could improve sugar metabolism and may even lead to weight loss.

    May Improve Kidney Function

    Astragalus may support kidney health by improving blood flow and laboratory markers of kidney function, such as measures of protein in the urine. Proteinuria is a condition in which abnormal amounts of protein are found in urine, which is a sign that the kidneys may be damaged or not functioning normally. Astragalus has been shown to improve proteinuria in several studies involving people with kidney disease.

    It may also help prevent infections in people with reduced kidney function. For example, 7.5–15 grams of astragalus taken daily for three to six months reduced the risk of infection by 38% in people with a kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome.

    High-dose Astragalus injection could improve kidney function, when taken alone or in conjunction with other medication, in people with lupus nephritis and diabetic nephropathy.

    Scientists have also observed the potential of Astragalus to reduce kidney inflammation and protect them against toxic drugs in multiple animal studies.

    More studies are needed to demonstrate the effects of kidney function when astragalus is taken orally, as well as when taken in injection form.

    Anaemia and Other Blood Disorders

    Astragalus root has shown great promise in helping certain types of anaemia and blood disorders when taken alone or with medication. Astragalus injections improved treatment effectiveness and stimulated the production of blood components in patients with chronic aplastic anaemia. It improved haemoglobin and red blood cells in children with beta-thalassemia while causing no major side effects. Researchers have even observed the potential of this herb to protect and stimulate bone marrow cells in anaemic mice.

    Astragalus has shown potential in many other ailments such as asthma, would healing, dermatitis, to name a few; but clinical trials are needed to substantiate these benefits. 

    Precautions

    For most people, astragalus is well tolerated. However, minor side effects have been reported in studies, such as a rash, itching, runny nose, nausea and diarrhoea. When given by IV, astragalus may have more serious side effects, such as irregular heartbeat. It should only be administered by IV or injection under medical supervision.

    Therefore, the following people should avoid it:

    Pregnant and breastfeeding women: There’s currently not enough research to demonstrate that astragalus is safe while pregnant or breastfeeding.

    Individuals with autoimmune diseases: Astragalus may increase the activity of your immune system. Consider avoiding astragalus if you have an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

    Individuals taking immunosuppressant drugs: Since astragalus may increase the activity of your immune system, it may decrease the effects of immunosuppressant drugs.

    Astragalus is currently used as an addition to conventional treatments and should not be used as a replacement for medications unless suggested by a doctor. As it may have effects on blood sugar levels and blood pressure, use this herb with caution if you have diabetes or issues with your blood pressure. 

    Always consult your doctor before supplementing and let him know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.

    Recipes for Health

    Astragalus is available at most Chinese markets or health food stores in these forms:

    ·        Tincture (liquid alcohol extract)

    ·        Capsules and tablets

    ·        Topically for the skin

    ·        Dried root or powders used in tea

    DOSAGE RECOMMENDATIONS:

    Though there’s no official consensus on the most effective form or dosage of astragalus, most recommend taking 9–15 grams per day of the crude herb per day in decoction form. A decoction is made by boiling the root in water for a few minutes and then brewing the tea. For most health conditions, astragalus was injected under strict medical supervision and taking it by mouth may not have the same effects. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

    General oral doses:

    ·        Astragalus root: About 1-4 grams of freshly dried root.

    ·        Powdered root capsules: 250-500 milligrams, two capsules 3x a day.

    ·        Tincture: 3-6 ml (½ – 1 tsp), 3x a day.

    Synergies

    According to preliminary research, Astragalus may yield even better results with the following plants:

    ·        Goji berries

    ·        Elderberry fruit

    ·        Chinese ginseng

    ·        Red sage

    ·        Female ginseng (Angelica sinensis)

    ·        Fo-ti

    Well-designed clinical trials haven’t approved the safety and efficacy of these combinations.

    Immune Soup

    INGREDIENTS:

    ·        8 cups (237 ml) water 

    ·        1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil 

    ·        1 onion, diced 

    ·        1 bulb garlic (at least 10 cloves), minced 

    ·        One 1 1⁄2 inch (3 1⁄2 cm) piece of fresh gingerroot grated 

    ·        1 1⁄2 cups salted vegetable soup stock

    ·        5 pieces sliced dried astragalus root 

    ·        2 cups fresh, sliced shiitake mushrooms 

    ·        1 large reishi mushroom 

    ·        Cayenne powder, if desired.

    DIRECTIONS:

    1.      Bring water to boil in large pot. 

    2.      Heat olive oil, sauté garlic, onions, and ginger until soft and aromatic. 

    3.      Add contents of skillet to water. 

    4.      Add broth, shiitake, astragalus, and reishi. 

    5.      Simmer covered for two hours. 

    6.      Remove from heat, allow to sit for two more hours. 

    7.      Remove astragalus and reishi mushrooms. 

    8.      Reheat. 

    9.      Add salt and pepper to taste, and cayenne powder if desired.

    To Sum Up…

    Astragalus root is an adaptogen used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a remedy for a large number of conditions. It’s a herb belonging to the pea family and native to China, Mongolia and North Korea. The root contains many active plant compounds, which are responsible for its amazing benefits. 

    Astragalus has shown to boost the immune system, improve heart and kidney function, control blood sugar levels, and help produce more blood cells. It even has a part to play in cancer treatment, either to reduce chemotherapy side effects, or slow down the growth of tumours. It has the potential for many more uses so we haven’t heard the last of this fantastic herb.

    Nonetheless, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of astragalus for preventing and treating these conditions. Much of the research out there is still very limited, but it has shown uses in treating the common cold, seasonal allergies, chronic fatigue and more.

    Astragalus is generally safe, but it’s best to always consult with your physician and be aware of possible interactions and side effects when taken in conjunction with other medications.

    Sources

    https://www.herbrally.com/monographs/astragalus

    https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/astragalus-root/profile

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/astragalus

    https://www.ascopost.com/issues/august-15-2012/astragalus/

    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/astragalus

    https://selfhacked.com/blog/astragalus/

    https://draxe.com/nutrition/astragalus/

    https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/herbal-immune-system/

  • 17 Oct 2019 11:20 AM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    Continuing with the theme of natural sweeteners I decided the next blog should focus on the natural sugars that are available on the market. These sugars will resemble the sugar granules you are used to and will also affect your blood sugar levels. However, it’s important to know what these sugars are and how they differ from one another.

    But first, let’s go back to basics - Sugar, in all forms, is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effect on the body and your overall health depends on the type of sugar you’re eating. We already touched upon some natural plant sweeteners and the beneficial effects on your health with introducing Stevia and Monk Fruit. Natural sugars, on the other hand, are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. The key with both fructose and lactose is that when you consume them, you consume them with other important nutrients, namely fibre in the case of fructose, or protein in the case of lactose. These nutrients help to stabilise your blood sugar levels, which prevents you from feeling hungry soon after eating.

    We are a nation of sugar lovers. Britons consume well over the recommended amount of sugar each day. The official recommendation from the government is to limit sugar to no more than 5% - around 30g or seven cubes of sugar per day. However, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) produced by Public Health England, found that sugar makes up 13.5% of 4 to 10-year-olds, and 14.1% of teenagers’ (11 to 18-year-olds) daily calorie intake respectively - almost three times the recommended amount. 

    A diet high in refined sugar can lead to obesity, tooth decay and their related health complications, including type 2 diabetes. This is why it’s important to address this topic now as many find it very difficult to limit sugars to the recommended amount. Natural sugars, although they may have better nutrient profiles than their refined counterparts, can still contribute to obesity and other conditions. Therefore, they should also be limited. This blog will explain the differences between the natural sugar varieties so that you are better informed at making the right choices.

    Types of Natural Sugars

    Here are the common natural sugars that are readily available on most market shelves:

    Molasses

    Molasses is a sweet, brown liquid with a thick, syrup-like consistency. It's made from boiling down sugar cane or sugar beet juice. Blackstrap is the highest and most nutritious of all grades of molasses. It’s created as a by-product from the process of creating refined sugar and contains the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product. It contains vital vitamins and minerals (unlike refined sugar, which has zero nutritional value), such as vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, manganese, copper, iron and selenium. What sets it apart from refined sugar is its ability to break down slowly in the body, preventing spikes in blood sugar, making it a good option for diabetics.

    Uses: Molasses has a unique, rich flavour. It may not be appealing for some to use for topping toast, porridges or other concentrated applications. However, it’s a perfect sweetener for marinades and to use in baking. 

    Raw Honey

    Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by honey bees. Honey is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, folate, iron, manganese, and fluoride. It’s also known for its immune-boosting properties due to its numerous bioactive compounds that fight inflammation and also give honey its anti-cancer properties.

    Raw honey also contains strong antioxidants, such as quercetin and caffeic acid, explaining its effectiveness for instantly boosting energy and performance. The glucose in honey is quickly absorbed by the body to provide an instant boost in energy while the fructose is absorbed more slowly, preventing spikes in blood sugar and provides sustained energy.

    Uses: First, don’t cook with raw honey. Drizzle it on breakfast cereals, over your sprouted grain toast, on yogurt and for salad dressings. Honey can also be added to your tea and coffee but wait until the drink is tepid enough to sip comfortably, and then add honey to taste. This way you help the raw honey to maintain those valuable nutrients. 


    Check out my blog on Raw Honey also for more interesting facts!

    Maple Syrup

    True Maple syrup is a thick, sugary liquid that's made by cooking down the sap of maple trees. The health benefits come from the nutrients and minerals found in pure maple syrup (and not the processed variety) such as manganese, zinc, iron, calcium, and various antioxidants. All these minerals help our bodies in hundreds of ways — whether it’s boosting brain health to building and maintaining stronger bones to protecting us from the damaging effects of free radicals to preventing heart disease, stroke, or atherosclerosis. Select darker, Grade B maple syrups, as they contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.

    Uses: Maple syrup is heat stable, so you can use it in virtually any application. Add it to marinades, glazes or sauces and use for baking. Use it to sweeten homemade granola and your morning coffee or tea.

    Dates

    Dates are such an incredibly nutritious sweetener that the scope of health benefits will impress you! First, they’re a great source of natural sugars like glucose and fructose, making them the perfect afternoon snack for a quick energy boost. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fibre, which makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients, while promoting colon health and boosting heart health by binding with LDL (bad) cholesterol and getting rid of them.

    Dates are an excellent source of copper and iron by ensuring the production and maintenance of healthy oxygen-containing red blood cells, keeping you from feeling sluggish. They’re also rich in essential minerals, such as calcium (great for bone health), magnesium (anti-inflammatory, reduces blood pressure, supports heart health) and copper.

    Uses: Use in your favourite cookie or cake recipe to cut out refined sugar and boost the nutrients. You can also use date paste to sweeten your favourite muffins and pies. For fruit pies, mix 1–1½ cups of puree with four cups of fruit, and bake as normal. Depending on the water content of the fruit, you may need to add a thickener, like tapioca.

    Coconut Palm Sugar

    Coconut sugar is extracted from the sap/nectar of the flower buds of the coconut palm. Packed with polyphenols, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, phosphorous and other phytonutrients, coconut sugar is versatile and now readily available. It also has a lower glycaemic index than sugar, which may be partly due to its inulin content. Inulin is a type of fibre that has been shown to slow glucose absorption.  It's also very high in fructose, which is the main reason why it needs to be consumed in moderation. Date sugar (made from dried dates) and coconut sugar are often used interchangeably in recipes because they provide similar flavour.

    Uses: Use coconut sugar in your favourite recipes, for it measures just like traditional sugar. It’s a bit more coarse than refined sugar, so just add the amount of sugar called for in a recipe to your food processor and give it a whirl until you get the desired texture. Or you can dissolve the coconut sugar in the liquids called for in the recipe. However, dissolving the sugar is not recommended when making a recipe that calls for “creaming” ingredients together — like for cakes or cookies.

    Check out my blog on Coconut Oil also for more interesting facts!

    Brown Rice Syrup

    Brown rice syrup starts with brown rice that is fermented with enzymes to break down the starch. The liquid is then heated until the syrup consistency is achieved. This results in a thick, amber-coloured, sweet syrup perfect for recipes calling for corn syrup and other unhealthy sweeteners.

    The fermentation process helps to break down the sugars into ones that are easily digestible. Some brown rice syrups are fermented with barley enzymes, meaning it contains gluten. Purchase brown rice syrups that are labelled gluten-free.

    Uses: A great corn syrup substitute. Use a one-to-one ratio. To replace regularly processed white sugar, use one cup for each cup of sugar called for and decrease liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. Use brown rice syrup to make healthy granola bars and granola, nut clusters and to sweeten nut and fruit pies.

    Rapadura

    Rapadura sugar is an unrefined cane sugar that preserves the natural caramel taste of the sugar. However, unlike white sugar, it has a grainy texture rather than a crystallised one because it is not as heavily processed. Rapadura sugar is slightly richer in some nutrients than white sugar is because it is not spun during processing to remove the nutritious molasses and it doesn’t contain chemicals or anti-caking agents. Nonetheless, it should still be consumed in moderation.

    In Brazil, where it is produced, ‘Rapadura’ is the traditional name for this kind of sugar. Similar non-centrifugal sugar products exist all over Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, although they all have different names and small differences in the processing: Jaggery (Asia/Africa), Gur (India), Panela (Colombia), Piloncillo (Mexico), Tapa dulce (Costa Rica), Namtan tanode (Thailand), Gula Melaka (Malaysia), and Kokuto (Japan).

    Uses: Rapadura has a fine-grained texture and can be used in place of white sugar in all recipes. However, the taste will be different with a deeper caramel flavour. Rapadura dissolves quickly in liquids, especially warm liquids. Granules of rapadura sugar may also be used to sweeten baked goods. You can also buy rapadura which has been solidified and formed into cakes. These can then be grated and sprinkled onto puddings and tortes.

    ------

    There are many more natural sugars not covered in this blog, such as applesauce, fruits juice concentrates/jams, carob syrup, chickory root fibreyacón syrupsweet potato syrupand tapioca syrup. With all these varieties on the market there’s no need to reach for the bag of white sugar. 

    Recipes for Health

    Date Paste

    1.    Soak medjool dates in hot water until soft. If the water reaches room temperature and the dates aren’t soft enough, soak in hot water again.

    2.    Reserve the soaking liquid, as it’s integral to making a good paste! 

    3.    Add the soaked dates to your food processor, along with one tablespoon of the soaking liquid. 

    4.    Blend until smooth. 

    5.    Add more water as needed to create a thick, rich paste.

    Key Lime Pie

    INGREDIENTS:

    ·     1 Gluten-Free Pie Crust

    ·     2 cups evaporated or condensed coconut milk

    ·     ½ cup lime juice

    ·     1 teaspoon lime zest

    ·     1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    ·     ½ cup maple syrup

    ·     1 tablespoon coconut oil

    ·     2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

    ·     ½ teaspoon sea salt

    ·     2–3 limes, sliced for garnishing

    DIRECTIONS:

    1.    In a saucepan over medium heat, combine arrowroot powder and coconut oil. Whisk to create roux.

    2.    After about one minute, add coconut milk. Whisk continuously until mixture thickens into a custard-like consistency, about 10 minutes.

    3.    Add lime juice, lime zest, vanilla, maple syrup and salt. Whisk until mixture thickens even more, about five minutes.

    4.    Pour mixture into pie crust and allow to cool, then chill the rest of the way in the freezer, about one hour.

    5.    Top with sliced lime for garnish and serve.

    Precautions

    It’s important to remember that even if you’re using natural sweeteners, you still need to be mindful of not consuming too much added sugar in your diet. Eating too much added sugar can lead to poor nutrition, tooth decay, weight gain, increased triglycerides and other significant health concerns. Also remember you shouldn’t give children under the age of one year old any honey.

    Although natural sugars contain more beneficial nutrients that refined sugar, many of them are high in fructose and some can even be extracted chemically. They also still contain a considerable amount of calories which is why I recommend using natural sugars sparingly just like refined sugar:

    Calories in 1 tablespoon:

    ·     Coconut sugar 45 

    ·     Blackstrap molasses 47

    ·     White sugar 49

    ·     Maple syrup 52

    ·     Raw honey 64

    ·     Dates (1 medjool date) 66

    If you are being treated for any ongoing health concern, especially diabetes, check with your doctor before incorporating any new sweeteners into your diet.

    To Sum Up…

    There are so many different varieties of sugars out there from natural to refined. A search on wiki will give you a vast list of what’s available. They all come from different plants and processing procedures giving them their distinct taste and texture.

    Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. It is typically found as sucrose, which is the combination of glucose and fructose. Food manufacturers add chemically produced sugar to products to boost their flavour and satisfy the sweet tooth of the population. It’s generally added to nutrient-poor, processed foods, which can harm your health when eaten in large quantities.

    Natural sugars like honey, maple syrup and molasses also contain fructose but are typically found in whole foods. This gives it that added bonus of containing beneficial components the human body recognises in the form of key vitamins and minerals. However, not all natural sugars are equally good. Natural sugars can also be processed in a way that removes virtually all of their fibre and a good portion of their other nutrients. In their whole form, fruits offer chewing resistance and are loaded with water and fibre.

    Regardless of being natural or refined sugars they both contain a vast amount of calories and can contribute towards increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity, tooth delay and related conditions. All sugars need to be consumed in moderation but opting for natural sugars give you the opportunity to take advance of their beneficial constituents rather than just being fed empty calories.

    Sources

    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-sugar-substitutes#section5

    https://www.naturespath.com/en-us/blog/7-natural-sugar-substitutes-to-try-in-cooking-baking/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sugars

    https://www.drwf.org.uk/news-and-events/news/report-diet-finds-most-people-uk-are-consuming-almost-3-times-recommended-daily

    https://www.furtherfood.com/surprising-health-benefits-4-natural-sugars-eating/

    https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/alternatives-to-sugar/

    https://draxe.com/nutrition/sugar-substitutes/

    https://www.spiceography.com/rapadura-sugar/

  • 19 Sep 2019 11:13 AM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    Monk fruit is all the rage lately, thanks to the never-ending search for an alternative sweetener to sugar that’s not made from artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame and saccharin.  One such natural sweetener is stevia, which I discussed in my last blog. More recently, we've seen sweeteners derived from monk fruit. What fruit, you say?


    Indigenous to China and Thailand, monk fruit (a green, round melon-looking fruit) is grown on a vine known as Siraitia Grosvenorii, named for the president of the National Geographic Society in the 1930s who funded an expedition to find the fruit. In Chinese, it is called luo han guo. It has zero calories and is said to be up to 500 times sweeter than sugar.

    Monk Fruit is a member of the gourd family and a distant cousin of the cucumber and melon. It's colloquially referred to as monk fruit because it was said to have first been used by monks in China in the 13th century. The first report in England on the herb was found in an unpublished manuscript written in 1938 by G. Weidman Groff and Hoh Hin Cheung. The report stated the fruits were often used as the main ingredients of "cooling drinks" as remedies for hot weather, fever, or other dysfunctions traditionally associated with warmth or heat. 

    When eaten fresh, monk fruit does offer 25 percent to 38 percent various carbohydrates, as well as vitamin C. However, monk fruit doesn’t keep very well after harvest and is difficult to store and transport without fermenting. Most often, it is dried until dark brown in colour, and then steeped as a tea to treat symptoms of congestion, inflammation, coughing and sore throat. 

    Today, it is still used for its medicinal properties and is also believed to promote a long life, earning it the nickname, “The Longevity Fruit” thanks to its high antioxidant levels. 

    Unlike most fruits, whose sweetness comes from fructose sugar, Monk Fruit’s sweet taste comes from a different kind of substances called mogroside, which tastes extremely sweet but has negligible calories.

    While monk fruit itself has been treating illness in China for thousands of years, the processed commercial version is relatively new to the market. That's because, though sweet, monk fruit has some interfering flavours, nullifying the actual fruit's ability to be used as a sweetener. Commercial monk fruit extracts are continuously being improved to eliminate the interfering tastes and make a useful sweetener from the fruit. Overall, the response to monk fruit sweetener has been positive, though some say that it leaves you with a less than pleasing aftertaste (though less bitter than the aftertaste a lot of people complain about with stevia).

    Why is Monk Fruit so sweet?

    Monk fruit is not only sweet due to natural sugars like most fruits. It contains mogrosides, a group of triterpene glycosides (saponins), which are metabolised differently by the body than natural sugars. The fruit contains 25 to 38% of various carbohydrates, mainly fructose and glucose. The sweetness of the fruit is increased by the mogrosides. That’s why, despite their very sweet taste, these fruits contain no calories and have no effect on blood sugar.

    Mogrosides, consist of a backbone structure called a mogrol with glucose units or glycosides attached to it. The five different mogrosides are numbered from I to V; the main component is mogroside V, which is also known as esgoside.

    Most of what is known about mogroside metabolism comes from studies done on animals, which is thought to be the same or similar to mogroside metabolism in humans. Mogrosides are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract and do not contribute to any calories to our diet. When they reach the colon, gut microbes cleave off the glucose molecules and use them as an energy source. The mogrol and some metabolites are then primarily excreted from the gastrointestinal tract, while minor amounts are absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine.


    Monk Fruit Benefits

    Fights Free Radicals

    Monk fruit’s mogrosides, the compounds that give it its intense sweetness, are also powerful antioxidants. Oxidative stress plays a part in many diseases and disorders, and choosing high-antioxidant foods is the key to reducing free radical damage in the body. Studies have shown that mogrosides “significantly inhibited reactive oxygen species and DNA oxidative damage”. 

    Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory and Coolant

    Ancient Chinese usage of this fruit included drinking tea made from the boiled fruit to cool the body from external and internal sources and ailments from fever to heat stroke. It was also used to soothe a sore throat. This method worked because of monk fruit’s anti-inflammatory abilities. Many studies prove its anti-inflammatory powers are most likely the reason it’s able to positively affect so many other diseases and disorders.

    Combats Cancer 

    Many studies have proven the anti-carcinogenic effects of the natural sweeteners contained in monk fruit. Some studies have shown its abilities in inhibiting skin and breast tumour growth as well as providing proteins that have potent anticancer abilities. However, more studies into its cancer combating properties are needed to substantiate these findings and more.

    Treats Bacterial Infections

    Monk fruit has shown great results in inhibiting the growth of bacteria, specifically oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and periodontal disease. These studies have also shown the fruit’s ability to fight some forms of candida symptoms and overgrowth, like oral thrush, which when left untreated can affect many other body systems.

    Fatigue Fighter

    In a study on mice, monk fruit extracts were successful in decreasing fatigue in exercising mice. The study was able to reproduce the results and prove that mice given the extract had extended exercise times. This study may give evidence as to why monk fruit has long been referred to as the “longevity fruit.”

    Naturally Controls Diabetes

    This fruit was used as an anti-diabetic by the Chinese for centuries. Aside from being a proven anti-hyperglycaemic (which helps bring down the blood glucose levels in the body), studies have also shown targeted antioxidant abilities toward pancreatic cells, allowing better insulin secretion in the body. Thus, monk fruit works well as a natural diabetes treatment.

    The anti-diabetic abilities of the monk fruit are associated with its high levels of mogrosides. Better insulin secretion is a major part of improving diabetic patients’ health, and monk fruit has even shown results in reducing kidney damage and other diabetes-related issues. As a sweetener with a low glycaemic index, it’s also a way for those struggling with diabetes to be able to enjoy a sweet flavour without the concern of affecting or worsening their diabetic condition.

    Natural Antihistamine

    Monk fruit extract, when used repeatedly, has shown an ability to fight allergic reactions as well. In a study with mice, monk fruit was administered repeatedly to mice exhibiting nasal rubbing and scratching due to histamines. The study showed that “both the [lo han kuo] extract and glycoside inhibited the histamine release” in the test subjects.

    Recipes for Health

    There are a few ways you can get the benefits of monk fruit into your home. Due to its short shelf life, the only way to try it fresh would be to travel to Southeast Asia and buy one fresh off the vine! The next best way to get the rewards of this natural sweetener is by purchasing monk fruit extract or monk fruit sweetener. Monk fruit extract is manufactured in a number of different ways. Most commonly, the fresh fruit is harvested and the juice is combined with a hot water infusion, filtered and then dried to create a powdered extract. The sweetness is contained in the mogrosides, and depending on the manufacturer, the percentage of the compound varies. Beware of added ingredients like molasses and a sugar alcohol called erythritol, which will decrease the health benefits of the product.

    You can use monk fruit sweeteners to sweeten almost anything, including:

    ·     Coffee

    ·     Hot tea, iced tea, or lemonade

    ·     Salad dressings

    ·     Sauces

    ·     Smoothies

    ·     Frostings

    ·     Yogurt

    ·     Oatmeal or other hot cereals

    There are products and recipes for using this sweetener in baked goods which you can find online. I haven’t mentioned any as I haven’t found any product in the UK which is cost effective for, say, baking a cake. Most recipes use products with erythritol and ask for the same quantity as you would need for substituting the sugar ingredient. This amount is huge considering the price for monk fruit sweetener at the moment is around 30 times more expensive than your normal bag of sugar.

    Dried monk fruit can be found at many Chinese markets and is simply a dried version of the fruit. You can use the dried fruit in soups and teas. One half to 2 pieces (approximately 9 to 15 g) of the dried fruit is commonly used as a tea after simmering in boiling water.

    Precautions

    Monk fruit is a member of the Curcurbitaceae family (also known as the gourd family), which includes pumpkin, squash, cucumbers, and melons. Your risk of monk fruit allergy is higher if you’re allergic to other gourds. Signs of allergic reaction may include:

    ·     hives or rash

    ·     difficulty breathing

    ·     rapid or weak pulse

    ·     dizziness

    ·     swollen tongue

    ·     stomach pain or vomiting

    ·     wheezing

    Apart from this, there are no reported monk fruit side effects or negative reactions, which means it’s safe for adults, children and pregnant/nursing women. It was approved by the FDA in 2010 as generally safe for consumption, which is relatively recent. There are no long-term studies available to test monk fruit side effects over time, so it’s always best to exercise care when consuming.

    To Sum Up…

    This round and greenish fruit with a brittle shell originated in a very specific climate found in Northern Thailand and Southern China. Known for its healing benefits for centuries, it was not popularly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine because it was so rare, difficult to cultivate and usually grown in family-sized orchards. The raw fruit has a sweet, refreshing taste and a distinct “cooling” property that leads it to be used against inflammation. When dried, it is also used to steep in tea to treat inflammation and congestion. 

    While most fruits get their sweetness from fructose sugar, Monk Fruit’s sweet taste comes from a different kind of substances called mogroside. This powerful antioxidant metabolises differently to natural sugars, tastes extremely sweet but has negligible calories.

    With the need to find natural sweeteners, manufacturers have developed monk fruits sweeteners in powder form for people with diabetes who want the sweetness without it compromising their health. Small randomised trials have shown that monk fruit sweeteners do not negatively impact blood sugar or insulin levels. Other benefits demonstrated have been its ability to fight cancer, bacterial infections, fatigue, free radicals and allergic reactions. It could possibly help those wanting to lose weight by substituting dietary sugar with monk fruit sweetener in their teas, coffees, smoothies, yoghurts, cereals etc.

    Since monk fruit sweeteners are relatively new to the food supply, their impact on, and association with, chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes has not been well studied. However, they have been safely used for centuries in Asian cultures and have not demonstrated any side effects, even after very high amounts have been consumed. More research is definitely needed to explore their full potential so watch this space. Still, it seems to be a good choice for those with diabetes and anyone who wants to limit dietary sugar. 

    Sources

    https://www.lakanto.com/blogs/news/the-legend-behind-the-monk-fruit-name

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siraitia_grosvenorii

    https://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/what-is-monk-fruit

    https://foodinsight.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-monk-fruit-sweeteners/

    https://draxe.com/nutrition/fruit/monk-fruit/

    https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/monk-fruit-health-benefits#allergies

  • 22 Jul 2019 1:11 PM | Aliya Umm Omar (Administrator)

    Stevia is a South American plant, native to Paraguay that has long been used to sweeten beverages and make tea. As many as 1500 years ago, the Guarani people of Brazil and Paraguay, discovered a native plant with delicious green leaves that had an unbelievable sweetening power. When they chewed just a few leaves or added crushed leaves to hot “yerba mate” (a bitter tea-like drink), the leaves sweetened the drink, just like our modern-day sugar.


    Gradually, they found that this sweet plant they called “kaa he-he” (which means “sweet herb”) had other uses besides its sugary taste. Ancient history tells us that natives used this sweet plant for softening skin, aiding digestion, nourishing the pancreas, balancing blood sugar, smoothing wrinkles, and healing blemishes, sores and wounds.

    In 1887, Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni, director of the College of Agriculture, first learned of what he described as “this very strange plant” from Indian guides while exploring Paraguay’s eastern forests. Bertoni named the plant Stevia Rebaudiana in honour of a Paraguayan chemist named Rebaudi who would later identify the plant’s sweetness component. Stevia Rebaudiana is the most prized variety out of 200+ species. He found that a fragment of the leaf only a few square millimetres in size sufficed to keep the mouth sweet for an hour and a few small leaves was sufficient to sweeten a strong cup of coffee or tea. 

    In 1931, chemists M. Bridel and R. Lavielle isolated the two glycosides that make stevia leaves sweet: stevioside and rebaudioside (with five variations: A, C, D, E and F). Stevioside is sweet, but also has a bitter aftertaste that many complain about when using it, while isolated rebaudioside is sweet without the bitterness. Rebaudioside A, aka rebiana, contains the highest sweetest and is used commercially as an artificial sweetener in foods and beverages.

    In the 1960’s, the Japanese government highly regulated chemical additives in their food supply. Once they discovered and established its safety, Japan became one of the first to use stevia on a large scale commercially. Recognising that stevia was a safer choice than aspartame and saccharin, by 1988 stevia had been added to ice cream, bread, candies, pickles, seafood, vegetables and soft drinks. By 1994 stevia reportedly comprised 41% of the sweet substances consumed in Japan.

    Over the years the Japanese have conducted extensive studies to confirm stevia’s safety. Today stevia grows and is used in 10 other countries including China, Germany, Malaysia, Israel and South Korea.

    Three Types of Stevia

    When it comes to the options available today, it’s vital to know that not all stevia is created equal. In fact, there has been concern in recent years about counterfeit stevia, or products laced with unwanted ingredients. Here are the three main types of stevia which you may come across:

    1.     Green Leaf Stevia: the least processed of the types. The leaves are dried and ground into powder form. This is the type that’s been used in South America and Japan for centuries as a natural sweetener and health remedy. Green leaf stevia is only about 10-15 times sweeter than sugar. This unprocessed version more than likely contains a combination of steviosides and rebaudiosides.

    2.     Purified Stevia Extracts: If you’re eating this natural sweetener you are consuming rebaudioside A in either a pure extract or our third type (altered blends). These extracts contain over 95% or more pure rebaudioside A glycosides and may not contain other forms of rebaudiosides or steviosides in order to be legally marketed as food. While purified stevia extracts are more processed than green leaf stevia, their health benefits seem to be on par with its unprocessed counterpart.

    3.     Altered Stevia Blends:the least healthy option. By the time a product like this is placed on a shelf, very little of the stevia plant remains. Some companies use processes to create these blends that include chemical solvents, including acetonitrile, which is toxic to the central nervous system, and a GMO corn derivative called erythritol (in the US). The small amount remaining contains rebaudioside A only. Many purified stevia extracts and altered blends are reported to be 200-400 times sweeter than sugar.

    Stevia Benefits

    If you stick to green leaf stevia or the purified extract you will be able to reap some of its amazing benefits. They have 30 to 150 times the sweetness of sugar, are heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable. The sweet component of the plant is known as steviol glycosides which are found in the leaves. The body does not metabolise the glycosides in stevia, so it contains zero calories like some artificial sweeteners. The green stevia and its extract’s taste that has a slower onset but longer duration than that of sugar, and some of its extracts may have a bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.

    Stevia actually contains eight glycosides. These are the sweet components isolated and purified from the leaves of stevia. These glycosides include: stevioside, rebaudiosides A, C, D, E, and F, steviolbioside and dulcoside A. As mentioned before, stevioside and rebaudioside A (reb A) are the most plentiful of these components.

    Diabetes

    Research has shown that stevia sweeteners do not contribute calories or carbohydrates to the diet. They have also demonstrated no effect on blood glucose or insulin response. This allows people with diabetes to eat a wider variety of foods and comply with a healthful meal plan.

    Another review of five randomised controlled trials compared the effects of stevia on metabolic outcomes with the effects of placebos. The study concluded that stevia showed minimal to no effects on blood glucose, insulin levels, blood pressure, and body weight.

    In one of these studies, subjects with type 2 diabetes reported that stevia triggered significant reductions in blood glucose and glucagon response after a meal. Glucagon is a hormone that regulates glucose levels in the blood, and the mechanism that secretes glucagon is often faulty in people with diabetes.

    Weight Management

    Stevia contains no sugar and very few, if any, calories. It can be part of a well-balanced diet to help reduce calorie intake without sacrificing taste. By keeping your sugar and calorie intake in a healthy range, you can help fend off obesity as well as many health problems linked with obesity, like diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

    If you choose to replace table sugar with a high-quality stevia extract and use it in moderation, it can also help you decrease your overall daily sugar intake. This is why stevia is very popular for low-carb diets like Paleo or the keto diet. 

    Blood Pressure

    Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels and increase sodium excretion, two things that are very helpful to keeping blood pressure at a healthy level. Evaluation of two long-term studies (one and two years in length, respectively) gives hope that it may be effective in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients. However, data from shorter studies (one to three months) did not support these findings.

    A 2003 study showed that stevia could potentially help lower blood pressure. The study suggested that the stevia plant might have cardiotonic actions. Cardiotonic actions normalise blood pressure and regulate the heartbeat. However, further research is required to confirm this benefit of stevia.

    Improves Cholesterol Levels

    Results of a 2009 study showed that stevia extract had “positive and encouraging effects” on overall cholesterol profiles. It’s important to note that researchers also found that there were no adverse stevia side effects on the health status of the subjects involved in this study. Researchers concluded that the extract effectively decreased elevated serum cholesterol levels, including triglycerides and LDL (“bad cholesterol”), while increasing good HDL cholesterol.

    Anti-Cancer Abilities

    In 2012, Nutrition and Cancer highlighted a groundbreaking laboratory study that, for the first time ever, connected stevia consumption to breast cancer reduction. It was observed that stevioside enhances cancer apoptosis (cell death) and decreases certain stress pathways in the body that contribute to cancer growth.

    The journal Food Chemistry published a study out of Croatia showing that when it is added to natural colon cancer-fighting mixtures, such as blackberry leaf, antioxidant levels soar (when tested in a lab). Together, these studies suggest its potential as a natural cancer treatment.

    Stevia contains many sterols and antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol. Studies have found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.

    Recipes for Health

    Stevia is available online or at most health food stores, both in powdered and liquid form. Keep in mind that the best stevia should have no additives, including other sweeteners, and is certified organic and non-GMO certified. The liquid varieties are useful for sweetening coffee, teas or healthy smoothies. Powders work best for cooking and baking — and a little goes a long way.

    Try these basic conversions the next time you replace sugar with this natural sweetener: 

    1 teaspoon sugar = 1/8 teaspoon powdered stevia = 5 drops liquid

    1 tablespoon sugar = 1/3 teaspoon powdered stevia = 15 drops liquid stevia

    1 cup of sugar = 2 tablespoons powdered stevia = 2 teaspoons liquid stevia

    The only substitution that won’t work is caramelisation in desserts, as it doesn’t brown like conventional sugar.

    Cinnamon & Clove Hot Chocolate

    Ingredients:

    ·      2 cups almond milk (or preferred choice of non-dairy milk)

    ·      1 1/2 tbsp raw cacao or chocolate

    ·      1 tsp cinnamon

    ·      1/2 tsp ground cloves

    ·      pinch salt

    ·      1/4 tsp stevia

    1.     In a pot, stir the cacao or chocolate, cloves, stevia and salt into the almond milk on medium heat until everything is well combined and dissolved. I recommend using a whisk and constantly stirring while heating the mixture.

    2.     Serve hot, sprinkle some cinnamon on top and enjoy!

    Notes: You can substitute stevia with your natural sweetener of choice (e.g. honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup…) while adjusting measurements for your preferred sweetness!

    Keto Waffles

    Ingredients:

    ·      115 g cream cheese

    ·      4 eggs

    ·      1 tablespoon melted butter

    ·      1 tablespoon Stevia

    ·      1 teaspoon vanilla

    ·      4 tablespoons coconut flour

    ·      1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

    ·      Pinch salt

    1.     Blend all ingredients in your blender.

    2.     Pour into greased waffle iron.

    3.     Makes 2-3 waffles depending on your waffle maker.

    Precautions

    Most people do well with this natural sweetener, but listen to your body: It is an herb, and everyone’s body may react differently to it. The benefits and possible side effects really depend upon what type you choose to consume. Some people find that this natural sweetener can have a metallic aftertaste.

    Multiple global regulatory bodies have determined that high refined and purified stevia extract is safe for consumption by the general population within the recommended levels, including children. Governing bodies have established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 4 milligrams per kilogram (kg). These organisations include the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the FDA.

    Some stevia products also contain sugar alcohol. People with sensitivity to sugar alcohol may experience bloating, abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, though one type of sugar alcohol, erythritol, poses less risk of symptoms than others.

    In general, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice before using it if you have an ongoing medical condition or take other medications. There aren’t any contraindications (interactions) with medications at present, but your healthcare provider will help to give you advice to make sure you don’t use it in excess.

    To Sum Up…

    Stevia Rebaudiana is an intensely sweet-tasting plant that has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea since the 16th century. Research shows that the stevia plant was used by indigenous people to sweeten medicines and foods. In fact, due to its sweet taste and flavour-enhancing abilities, the stevia plant was traditionally used as far back as 1500 years ago.

    Stevia sweeteners contain zero calories, which means foods and beverages that use stevia sweeteners are usually lower in calories. Extensive research has shown that stevia does not contribute any sugar to the diet and does not affect blood glucose or insulin response, which means stevia is safe and appropriate for use by people with diabetes and those wishing to lose weight. On top of that, stevia has also shown to have amazing qualities for fighting cancer as well as having heart-protecting properties, such as controlling blood pressure and improving your cholesterol profile. Nonetheless, the potential health benefits of stevia require further study as well as discovering what other benefits it holds. 

    With all of these benefits it’s hard not to introduce such sweetness into our diets. Just remember that not all stevia products are the same. Choose your stevia products wisely and opt for the green leaf or the purified extract varieties to enjoy the natural sweet taste and health promoting benefits.

    Sources

    https://bodyecology.com/articles/brief_history_of_stevia-php/

    https://steviabenefits.org/history/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia

    http://www.stevia.net/history.htm

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287251.php

    https://draxe.com/stevia/

    https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/5218851-cinnamon-clove-hot-chocolate?via=search&search_term=stevia


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