East meets West: Warming Muscle Rub

Recently I came across a recipe from the Herbal Academy that intrigued me, Warming Ginger Cayenne Salve. I wondered if I could improve upon this analgesic recipe by combining it with additional herbs that have been used traditionally used in dit da jow’s.  Dit da jow is an analgesic liniment traditionally used by martial artists to stimulate circulation, reduce pain and swelling, and improve healing of injuries and wounds. Also known as  “hit medicine”, the main function of dit da jow, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is to unblock blood stagnation and blood stasis. The thought being that when one suffers a trauma type injury, qi is blocked in the meridians causing pain and swelling.

Starting with the Warming Ginger Cayenne Salve recipe as my starting point, I used a combination of arnica and St. John’s wort infused oils as my base.  In the initial recipe it suggested adding turmeric powder which I opted to not include due to its potential for staining.  In brainstorming other herbs to use,  I thought I would kick up the heat by adding dried ginger root, cinnamon bark, black pepper, mustard powder, Thai chilies and wasabi. To this combination I included TCM herbs* which I had pre-soaked in alcohol to help open up the cell walls to increase extraction in the oil. *specific for pain relief see below.

Angelica Pubescens (Chinese: Du Huo) is categorized as an Herb that Dispels Wind-Dampness. These herbs alleviate pain in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones. Angelica pubescens expels cold and promotes Qi and Blood flow. It disperses cold and unblocks painful obstruction (bruises, swelling, etc). It can be used for chronic and acute problems.

Angelica Sinensis (Chinese: Dang Gui) is a commonly used herb in Chinese medicine. It’s main purpose is to tonify the blood. But it also invigorates and harmonizes the blood and disperses cold. It is an important herb for stopping pain due to blood stasis.

Psuedoginseng (Chinese: San qi or Tian Qi) belongs to the category of Herbs that Stop Bleeding. This herb stops bleeding without causing blood stagnation, transforms blood stagnation, reduces swelling and stops pain. Because it reduces swelling and alleviates pain this is the herb of choice for traumatic injuries and is used for swelling and pain due to falls, fractures, contusions, and sprains.

Persicae, Peach Kernals (Chinese: Tao Ren) belongs to the category of Herbs that Invigorate the Blood. It invigorates the Blood and is an important herb for dispelling stasis due to traumatic injury. It is used with Angelica sinensis for pain due to trauma.

RECIPE:

Warming Muscle Rub

  • 1 cup of arnica infused oil
  • 1 cup of St. John’s wort infused oil
  • 2 T. of cayenne pepper powder
  • 2 T. ginger root powder
  • 2 T. ground black pepper
  • 1 T. dried mustard powder
  • 1/4 c. of dried ginger root
  • 1/4 c. of cinnamon bark
  • 1 tsp. of Thai chilies
  • 1 T. wasabi paste
  • 1/4 cup of Angelica sinensis
  • 1/4 cup of Psuedoginseng
  • 1/4 cup of Persicae
  • 1/4 cup of Angelica pubescens
  • 1/2 cup of beeswax
  • 180 drops black pepper essential oil
  • 180 drops cinnamon essential oil
  • 180 drops wintergreen essential oil
  • 180 drops ginger essential oil

Day 1:  Combine Angelica sinensis, Psuedoginseng, Persicae, and Angelica pubescens with 1/2 cup of grain alcohol.  Toss to cover and let sit overnight.

Day 2:  Stain any remaining alcohol from herbs and combine the oil with all of the other herbs into a double boiler.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours. Leave in the double boiler and allow to sit overnight.

Day 3: Bring the double boiler (check the water) up to a simmer and let herbs/oil cook for another hour.  Uncover and cook for another hour to evaporate any remaining water or alcohol. Remove from the heat and strain.  (Note: I would not used powdered herbs in the future, in that they are difficult to strain).  After straining, add the infused oil back to the double boiler adding beeswax.  Bring the heat back up and stir until beeswax is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and cool slightly.  Add essential oils, stir again and pour into glass containers.

The results is an easily applied warming salve to be used for aches and pains.  I used it on my shoulders and knees after a long hike and the next day I woke up pain free. Avoid use on sensitive skin.

Lemon Balm, a Powerhouse of a Medicinal Herb

 “Lemon Balm is sovereign for the brain. It strengthens

the memory and powerfully chases away melancholy”.

John Evelyn, an English herbal physician

Did you know that lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, has been used medicinally for centuries? Lemon balm is native to Southern Europe. Still, with its strong lemony smell and deliciously pleasant flavor, it was so popular that by the middle ages, it was cultivated throughout all of Europe, even making its way to the Middle East. Avicenna, an 11th-century Arab herbalist, said of the herb: “It causeth the mind and heart to become merry.” Melissa means “bee” in Greek, and as the name suggests, bees adore Melissa’s tiny but sweetly scented flowers. Legend has it that medieval beekeepers rubbed the crushed lemon balm in hives to encourage nesting. The Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus (1493-1541) believed that lemon balm was an “elixir of life” and claiming that it would increase strength and lengthen life. North America, too, was soon enamored with lemon balm brought over by the colonists who used it for tea and potpourri, as well as for increasing production of honey by honeybees.

Lemon balm is a powerhouse of a medicinal herb; in fact, it treats so many conditions it could be considered a cure-all. It has been used for treating dyspepsia, IBS, acid reflux, stress and anxiety, herpes simplex, brain health, hyperthyroid, Alzheimer’s, and insomnia, to name a few. Lemon balm long known for its ability to improve digestion contains volatile oils, known as terpenes, which help to relax muscles and relieve symptoms of gas, food stagnant, ease abdominal cramping, and promote the overall digestive health.

Some herbalists consider lemon balm as a nervous system trophorestorative(Hoffmann, 2003), a word which indicates that over time, it tonifies and repairs the nervous system. Part of the reason for this is that lemon balm contains rosmarinic acid, which increases the availability of GABA in the brain, where low levels are believed to be associated with anxiety and other mood disorders. In addition, rosmarinic acid has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, with studies indicate that using topically on herpes simplex sores has shortened healing time and recurrence (Gaby, 2006). If that wan not enough, recent research has shown that lemon balm is also radioprotective and shields DNA from radiation-induced damage (Zeraatpishe et al., 2011). An extract of lemon balm is one of the treatments, based on research, suggests that it stops the processes that over-activate the thyroid from binding with the thyroid receptor, specifically in patients with Grave’s disease (Auf’mkolk, 1985). Clinical research shows that taking a standardized extract of lemon balm daily for four months reduces agitation and improves symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (Akhondzadeh, 2003). For the first time, chronic Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract treatment has been demonstrated to improve mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders, its associated symptoms and insomnia in humans (Cases, 2011)

Once you realize all the ways you can benefit from the many uses of lemon balm, I’m sure you’ll be itching to grow some in your garden. Lemon balm can be grown from seed, but in Central Oregon with the wind, heat, and its short growing season, I recommend starting lemon balm from established plants, rooted stem cuttings, root divisions, or seedlings from a nursery. It prefers fertile, loamy soil, with mid to full-day sun, but always appreciates a bit of afternoon shade and soils that retain moisture.

As a perennial herb (which means it will come up year after year), it can reach heights of 12-24 inches with equal width of spread. Lemon balm is hardy to zones 3 and 5, making it perfect for Central Oregon’s growing climate. If starting lemon balm from seed, you have several options, including starting seed in the spring, in the fall, or indoors. When starting seed in spring wait until the soils have warmed up and the danger of frost has passed or if planting in fall, plant seed in early fall to late winter. The challenge of fall planting is that with soil movement from ice and snow, the seeds can become too deep to germinate in the spring. To start lemon balm indoors, sow seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost. I sprinkle seeds in small pots filled with a seed starting mixture and barely cover. Seeds generally take seven to fourteen days to germinate at 70°F, but longer if indoor temperatures are cooler. Once seedlings have their second set of true leaves, either thin them or repot individual seedlings into larger containers, after all, the danger of frost has passed, seedlings should be set in the garden twelve to eighteen inches apart. Whichever method you choose, recognize that lemon balm seeds are slow to germinate. Once your lemon balm plant is established, and if left to go to seed, you will have many lemon balm babies the following year.

Lemon balm can always benefit from mulching year-round, but winter mulch is of the utmost importance to insulate the plant from being heaved out of the ground in times of repeated freeze and thaw cycles. To prevent scraggly or spindly growth, divide mature plants every three to five years. Lemon balm also is an excellent companion plant for squash as well as it repels mosquitoes and squash bugs.

Harvesting lemon balm is super easy, you can harvest a handful of fresh leaves to use immediately, or you can collect and dry the leaves for later use. Harvest the leaves just before its flowers open when volatile oils are at their most potent concentration. It is often possible to get two harvests a year, once in mid-summer and another in the fall, just remembering not to remove more than two-thirds of the growth at a time. For lemon balm, I remove the leaves from the stalks by holding the tip (top) of the stem firmly between your left thumb, index, and ring fingers. With the same three fingers of your right hand, pull firmly downwards along the stem. For drying, I either use a dehydrator set on low or spread the leaves on a cookie sheet and set somewhere that does not get direct sun and has good air circulation. Luckily living in Central Oregon herbs dry fast and are typically done in two to three days.

Lemon Balm Cold Sore Salve

  • 1 cup of coconut oil
  • 15 g St John’s wort dried herb
  • 15 g Lemon Balm dried herb

Step #1-Melt coconut oil in a double boiler/in a glass bowl over water that has reached a simmer, add herbs and mix well, infuse for two-four hours. Strain through cheesecloth/nut milk bag. Return oil to the bowl and heat slightly.

Step #2-Melt two tablespoons chopped/grated beeswax and two tablespoons grated cacao butter into the slightly heated lemon balm oil. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and add ten drops of lemon balm essential oil.

Step #3-Pour the oil into lip containers or small pots, let cool and harden.

Optional ingredients:

  • Two drops of clove oil pain relief
  • Four drops peppermint essential oil anti-viral, cooling, pleasant scent
  • Two drops tea tree essential oil anti-viral

So now that your garden is full of lemon balm, how do you use it? Lemon balm is quite versatile as either a culinary or medicinal herb. As a medicinal herb, the most obvious preparation is to infuse the leaves in hot water for tea. Typically, a therapeutic dose of an herb is one ounce of herb to 2-3 cups of water. Put the lemon balm leaves in a mason jar, pour in hot water, cover with a lid and let sit for 10-15 minutes, strain and drink throughout the day. One example of a tea formula that includes lemon balm for addressing digestive issues is to combine, one heaping teaspoon of chamomile flowers, lemon balm leaves, and catnip leaves, along with a half teaspoon of fennel or dill seeds. Pour boiling water over herbs and steep for ten minutes.

Fresh lemon balm can be used in drinks or added to steamed vegetables and fruit salads. A great way to use fresh lemon balm leaves is to make a lemon balm pesto. Just mix one-part new lemon balm to one-part fresh basil leaf along with olive oil and garlic (if desired), and you have yourself a delicious pesto, that is ready to add to pasta, chicken or fish. If that was not enough, lemon balm could be used as a base for making a liqueur. Add four tablespoons of chopped lemon balm, a scraped peel of a fourth of a lemon, one-quarter teaspoon of coriander seed, and one-third of a cinnamon stick, four leaves of peppermint, and one cup of vodka. Place all the ingredients in a bottle, shake vigorously, and steep for three weeks. Shake the jar daily during the steeping period. Strain and filter into a dark bottle, adding sweetener to taste, let sit for two months, and then enjoy it.

Lemon Balm Martini

A favorite of mine is a lemon balm martini. Combine one ounce of lemon juice, four ounces of vodka, two to three teaspoons of simple sugar, along with a handful of lemon balm leaves. Pulse ingredients in blender and strain into a shaker filled with ice. Stir, then strain into martini glasses with a spring of lemon balm as a garnish.

When taking any herb, it is essential to determine if it might interfere with any medications or health issues you have. This website has detailed information on dosing and interactions https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-437/lemon-balm.

Holly Hutton, Herbal Goddess Medicinals

References:

Akhondzadeh, S., et al. (2003). Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Neurosurgery Psychiatry, Jul; 74(7): 863–866. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.74.7.863

Auf’mkolk, M., et. al. (1985). Extracts and auto-oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor-binding and the biological activity of Graves’ immunoglobulins. Endocrinology, May; 116(5):1687-93

Cases, J., et. al. (2003). Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Medical Journal Nutrition Metabolism, Dec; 4(3): 211–218. Published online 2010 Dec 17. doi: 10.1007/s12349-010-0045-4

Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. (2003).

Gaby, A. R. (2006). Natural remedies for Herpes simplex. Alternative Medical Review, Jun;11(2):93-101.

A Planetary Approach to Making Herbal Pain Relieving Patches

Picture1A few years ago I had the opportunity to go to China and study at Longhua Hospital Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  During our training we toured different departments at the hospital.  In the Traumatology department they had several crock pots full of herbal plasters or gaos which they painted on muslin.  They were unwilling to discuss the contents of the crock pots but this challenged me to devise my own methods for making medicated plasters.

In Chinese medicine, gaos are a suspensiIMG_1523on of ground herbs in a paste like medium that allows it to be spread on the skin. Sometimes this is a cream, salve or patch.  Patches are convenient I have had great success using them afor the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints.

This post is a documentation of the process that I used for making the patches including lessons learned.  To begin with, I had to figure out what type of medium to suspended the herbs in.  After a lot of rumination, I decided to use a oil and beeswax base, which I thought would be thick enough to be painted onto the muslin or in my case pre-made bandages.  When mixed properly, the beeswax also acts as a preservative, allowing the gao to keep for an extended period of time without spoiling.

For this experiment I started with myrrh and dragon’s blood resins.  After using a hammer to break up the large pieces into small grains, I covered the ground resins with organic, pharmaceutical grade 190-proof neutral corn, alcohol.  The use of alcohol for extraction is based on its ability to extract chemical constituents which are not water soluble.  I let this sit for one month, shaking daily.  When I started this process I was not sure what base I would eventually use but as stated above I settled on using a oil/beeswax medium.

At this point I had a alcohol tincture that needed to be to converted into oil. I used an Ayurvedic oil making process to do this conversion.  I strained the resins from the alcohol and combined the mixture with 16 parts water in a stainless steel saucepan.  I cooked this uncovered on low until the water  evaporated.  Comment:  I particularly like the process for making medicinal oils with this technique, which I believe provides a clarity that is not achieved through other methods.

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Before (alcohol/herb) and After (oil)

The next step in the process I added additional herbs to the oil mixture.  I chose to add Chi Shao and Tian San Qi, both herbs that are used internally and externally for addressing pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  This is where I made a mistake. I used IMG_5905herbs that had I had on hand that had already been processed and included a binder.  The binder congealed together turning into a glob ball.  Had I just used ground herbs then everything would have worked fine.

After starting over again, I ground the safflower and tian san qi, into powder and added it to the oil,  (covered) cooking over low heat overnight in the crook pot.  The next step in the process was to determine how much beeswax to add.  I used 1/3 cup of beeswax to 1/2 cup of oil, based on wanting it to be thick enough to be able to paint, but not thin enough to rub off on the skin.  This seemed like the perfect amount of beeswax.  After the beeswax melted I removed the herb/oil mixture from the heat, adding 1/2 tsp of menthol crystals, stirring until dissolved (do this in a well ventilated room).  To this I added 15 drops of ginger and black pepper essential oils.

IMG_5904Using a paint brush I applied the mixture to ready made bandages, applying several coats.  Hint:  I kept the mixture liqIMG_5907uid by keeping it on low heat until I was done.

The results are perfect.  I used one of the bandages on a sore wrist and it worked like a charm.  Painting the mixture on muslin would work as well, using gaze to hold the muslin in place.

There are any number of herbs that can be used topically, the following is a list of mainly Chinese herbs.

Er Cha

Black Catechu (Chinese: Er cha, Acacia catechu) belongs to the category of Substances for topical application. It moderates pain, stops bleeding due to external trauma

Da HuangChinese Rhubarb (Chinese: Da Huang, Rheum palmatum L ) belongs to the category of Downward Draining Herbs. These herbs are commonly used to stimulate or lubricate the gastrointestinal tract and facilitate the expulsion of stool. According to our East Earth Trade Winds herbalist Da Huang whose main purpose is to drain heat and purge accumulations also has the effect of invigorating the blood and dispelling blood stasis and it is used for blood stasis due to traumatic injury. It is used with Angelicae sinensis (dang gui), Semen Persicae (tao ren) and Carthami (hong hua) for blood stasis.

Pu Gong YingDandelion (Chinese: Pu gong Ying, Taraxaci Mongolici) belong to the herbal category Herbs that Clear Heat and Resolve Toxicity. This herb can disperse Qi stagnation and reduce swelling.

dragons_blood-product_1x-1403631315Dragon’s Blood (Chinese: Xue Jie; Botanical name: Sanguis Draconis) is a resinous secretion of the fruit of Daemonorops draco. Our East Earth Trade Winds herbalist says that it gets its name because of its resemblance to dried blood. It belongs to the category of Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It dispels blood stasis and alleviates pain and is used for symptoms related to injury from falls, fractures, bruises, and sprains. It is used with Olibanum and Myrrh for bruising, swelling, and pain from trauma. It can stop bleeding when applied topically to an external injury. It invigorates the blood, disperse stasis, and stops pain. Sanguis Draconis is often combined with Olibanum and Myrrh. All three of these herbs have similar functions but Sanguis Draconis is most able to promote the regeneration of tissue, help sores heal, and stop bleeding.

Gu Sui buDrynaria (Chinese: Gu sui bu, Drynaria roosii) is a Yang Tonifying Herb. It tonifies the Kidneys and strengthens bones. It promotes the mending of the sinews and bones and is used for traumatic injuries such as falls,fractures, contusions, and sprains. It is especially useful for ligament injuries and simple fractures.

long guFossilized bone (Botanical name: Os Draconis; Chinese: Long gu) belongs to the category of Substances that Calm the Spirit. It is used topically for chronic, non-healing sores and ulcers.

Zhi Zi

Gardenia (Chinese: Zhi zi, Gardeniae jasminoidis) belongs to the Category Herbs that Clear Heat and Drain Fire. It can reduce swelling and move blood stagnation due to trauma.

Jin yin huaHoneysuckle (Botanical name: Lonicera; Chinese: Jin yin hua) belongs to the category of Herbs that Clear Heat and Resolve Toxicity. It disperses heat, resolves toxicity, cools the blood, and stops bleeding. It can be used for hot painful sores and swellings.

saflowerSafflower (Botanical: Carthami; Chinese: Hong Hua) belongs to the category of Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It invigorates the blood, dispels stasis, and stops pain. Because it is light in weight it is said to have a rapid effect on the movement of blood and the transformation of stasis and stopping pain.

xu duanTeasel (Botanical name: Radix Dipsaci; Chinese: Xu duan) is a Yang Tonifying Herb. It tonifies the Liver and Kidneys, strengthens the sinews and bones and is used for sore and painful lower back and knees, and stiffness in the joints. Our East Earth Trade Winds herbalist says that it also promotes the movement of blood, alleviates pain, and reconnects the sinews and bones. It is often used for trauma especially for pain and swelling in the lower back and limbs from trauma.

Ru XiangFrankincense (Chinese: Ru Xiang, Resina Olibani) is a sap that comes from the Boswellia tree. This herb belongs to the category of  Herbs that Circulate Blood.  It is said to invigorate the blood, promote the movement of Qi, stop pain, and promote the healing and regeneration of damaged tissue. It is often used for traumatic pain due to blood stasis (e.g., bruising). Gummi Olibanum can also relax the tendons and reduce swelling.

Myrrh_Gum_Resin_OG_2019-04-16-product_1x-1555445293Myrrh (Chinese: Mo Yao) is a fragrant gum resin that also belongs to the belongs to the category of  Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It in said to break up blood stagnation to stop pain, reduce swelling, and generate flesh. It promotes healing. When used in conjunction with Olibanum both the Qi and Blood are addressed. Our East Earth Trade Winds Herbalist says that while Olibanum invigorates the blood, Myrrh disperses blood. Myrrh is said to be better for stagnation. Both of these herbs can stop pain, reduce swelling and promote regeneration of damaged tissue. For this reason the two herbs are often used together.

Du HuoAngelica Pubescens (Chinese: Du Huo) is categorized as an Herb that Dispels Wind-Dampness. These herbs alleviate pain in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones. Angelica pubescens expels cold and promotes Qi and Blood flow. It disperses cold and unblocks painful obstruction (bruises, swelling, etc). It can be used for chronic and acute problems.

Chuan XiongLigustici Wallichi (Chinese: Chuan Xiong) belongs to the category of Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It warms and unblocks the blood vessels invigorating the blood, promoting the movement of qi, expelling wind, and stopping pain. It can be used for any blood stagnation pattern. It is often combined with Angelica Sinensis for pain and numbness from stagnant Qi blocking the Blood channels.

Tao RenPersicae, Peach Kernals (Chinese: Tao Ren) belongs to the category of Herbs that Invigorate the Blood. It invigorates the Blood and is an important herb for dispelling stasis due to traumatic injury. It is used with Angelica sinensis for pain due to trauma. It is also used with Carthami for invigorating the blood as both herbs promote the flow of blood and dispel stagnation.

Dang GuiAngelica Sinensis (Chinese: Dang Gui) is a commonly used herb in Chinese medicine. It’s main purpose is to tonify the blood. But it also invigorates and harmonizes the blood and disperses cold. It is an important herb for stopping pain due to blood stasis. It is commonly used for traumatic injury. It is combined with Olibanum and Myrrh for strains and fractures.

Pu HuangCattail Pollen Typhae (Chinese: Pu Huang) belongs to the subcategory of Herbs that Stop Bleeding. Pollen Typhae is the yellow colored pollen from cattail or bulrush. It is known to stop bleeding and is used for external bleeding associated with traumatic injury. It also invigorates the blood and dispels blood stasis. Using this herb can relieve pain from blood stagnation.

tian san qiPsuedoginseng (Chinese: San qi or Tian Qi) belongs to the category of Herbs that Stop Bleeding. This herb stops bleeding without causing blood stagnation, transforms blood stagnation, reduces swelling and stops pain. Because it reduces swelling and alleviates pain this is the herb of choice for traumatic injuries and is used for swelling and pain due to falls, fractures, contusions, and sprains. According to our East Earth Trade Winds Herbalist in Chinese medicine Blood stagnation causes pain and when the stagnation is removed then the blood can resume its normal circulation which helps eliminate pain and swelling.Other herbs:  African basil (Ocimum gratissimum L) herb oil, Cinnamon oil, fang feng root, Formosan sweet gum (Liquidambar formosana Hance) Resin, Fragrant angelica root extract, Greater galangal root extract, Ginger root extract, Huo xue dan [Glechoma longituba (Nakai) Kuprian] aerial part, Natural latex rubber, Nux vomica (Strychnos nux-vomica L) seed, Rosin, Safflower flower, Schizonepeta (Schizonepeta tenuifolia Briq.) flowering aerial part on a cotton pad.

Happy Medicine Making

Nettle Gomasio

I don’t know about you, but I love Gomasio.  Gomasio is a dry condiment traditionally made from toasted unhulled sesame seeds and salt.  It is often used as a toping sprinkled over rice.  In my case, I sprinkle it over just about everything that comes out of my kitchen.

Gomasio is typically made with tan or black sesame seeds. The seeds are toasted before being mixed with the salt. Occasionally the salt is also toasted. The ratio of sesame seeds to salt varies according to taste and diet, generally ranging between 5:1 (5 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt) and 15:1.

Gomasio made it claim to fame in the US as part of the macrobiotic diet movement and is thought to be a healther alternative to ordinary salt. Generally, the gomasio used in macrobiotic cuisine contains less salt than traditional Japanese gomasio (a ratio of 18 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt.

Interesting factoid: Gomasio is also used in Japaneese to describe a head of hair containing both white and black hair strands that intermingle, similar to the English idiom for hair that is salt and pepper.

In this version of Gomasio, I started with left over Nettle Chips.  If you haven’t had nettle chips, it is just a variation on the more popular Kale chips populating the grocery isle.

Nettle Gomasio

Suribachi

4 cups of Nettle chips

1/2 cup of pine nuts

1/2 cup of sesame seeds

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

2 T. of kelp

1 T. of rosemary

2 T. of corriander seed

1/2-1 cup of Himalayan Pink salt

 

 

Step one: dry roast the sesame seeds by gently warming them in a pan over medium heat, tossing or stirring constantly, until brown, then move to a bowl.

Step two: combine the corriander seed and pine nuts in the same pan and dry roast until slightly brown, then combine in bowl with sesame seeds.

Step three: combine the remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir together until well mixed.

Step four:  place ingredients in food processor, suribachi or other type of grinder.  Process until done and store in glass jar.

Sprinkle on soups, pizza, rice, cooked vegetables and anything else you can think of that you would be using salt for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutritious and Tasty: Nettle Chips

Recently I discovered Nettle chips.  I love kale chips, but I thought using nettles was brilliant, since nettles are packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, flavonoids, histamine, and serotonin along with a host of medicinal goodness.  After an online search, I was a bit disappointed by recipes so into the kitchen I went.

indexActually, I started with visiting my secret patch to gather nettles.  When harvesting nettles, don’t forget your gloves and to wear a long sleeve shirt to prevent stings.  The best time for harvesting nettles is while the leaves are still young and haven’t gone to seed.  Once the plants start to go to seed the formic acid increases and can be irritating to the bladder.  Formic acid is one of the chemicals present in nettle stings along with along with histamine and acetylcholine.

After gathering a grocery bag full of nettles, I carefully rinsed them and let them dryIMG_4223 before I took the next step.  In my experience making tasty kale chips is all about the sauce, or in this case the paste.  After some experimentation and based on my kale chips recipe this is what I came up with.

I combined the following in a blender:

1 cup of tahini

1/2 cup of soaked sunflower seeds

1/4 cup soaked pepitas

3 cloves of garlic, skins removed

1/4 cup of sesame seeds

1 tsp of smoked paprika

1/2 tsp of dried ground gingerIMG_3691

2 T. of nutritional yeast

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp of Himalayan salt

1/2 tsp of black pepper

1/2 cup of beet kavas

After blending the ingredients into a paste, I continued to add more beet kavas until I got the consistency was somewhere between a paste and dressing.  Using gloves, I poured the blender contents finishedover the nettles and massaged until the leaves were well coated.  At this point, I filled food dryer trays with the coated nettle leaves and set the temperature to 115 degrees.  It took about 8-10 hours to completely dry, but again, this varies from one dryer to the next dryer.  They turned out great, the only caveat is that I could have added more salt.

IMG_3698

Moringa Miracle Herb or Case of Consumer Beware

Recently I came across a book on African Herbs which contained numerous herbal moringa treemonographs.  The monograph that caught my eye was  on Morniga oleifera.  I was intrigued by Morniga’s popularity among breastfeeding mothers.  Moringa has followed the superfood path of being the latest and greatest remedy for everything under the sun.  In reading through the monograph, I found some support for these health claims but not for others.  Below is an example of how health claims are perpetuated and the importance of looking beyond the headlines.
Los Angeles Times – “Scientifically speaking, Moringa sounds like magic. It can rebuild weak bones, enrich anemic blood and enable a malnourished mother to nurse her starving baby. Doctors use it to treat diabetes in West Africa and high blood pressure in India …. And it’s not only good for you, it’s delicious.”

Indigenous to sub-Himalayan regions of Northern India and Pakistan, Moringa now has world wide distribution. All parts of the plant have numerous medicinal actions including antibacterial, anthelmintic, anti inflammatory, antibiotic and anti-hypertensive, to name a few.  The Moringa tree is know by different names throughout the world including “drumstick tree” or it’s common name of “horseradish tree”. In Ayurvedic medicine it is known as Shigru and Jacinto in Spain.

 

Moringa is considered a food and medicinal herb. Moringa oleifera grows in many  health claimscountries where malnutrition is widespread and has been used to increase vitamin and protein levels, providing a valuable source of antioxidants and vitamins.  The leaves are the most common part of the plant used in commerce.  When one searches the web there are numerous links to the health benefits of Moringa. A blog post by Wellness Mama on the super food claims of Moringa covered a important point:

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the health claims that gram-for-gram, Moringa has more protein than yogurt, more potassium than bananas, more calcium than milk and more Vitamin C than oranges.  While this is technically true, it is important to note the distinction that this is “gram for gram,” and not by volume. Since Moringa leaves are relatively lightweight, 100 grams of Moringa leaves would be substantially more volume than 100 grams of an orange.

Consider this: a medium size orange is approximately 130 grams, or 4.5 ounces. Now consider a leafy substance like Moringa leaves. For simplicity, we’ll use a similar leaf, Spinach, for comparison. The FDA estimates that 1 cup of raw spinach is about 30 grams. This means that to get the same “gram for gram” comparison, a person would have to eat 4+ cups of fresh spinach leaves to consume the same number of grams as one orange.  This comparison becomes even more glaring with some of the other nutrients. For instance, it is claimed that “gram for gram” this plant contains two times the protein of yogurt, but 100 grams of yogurt is only about 1/2 cup, while a person would have to consume 3+ cups (or six times as much by volume) fresh leaves to get to 100 grams.  Additionally, while it is a good natural source of the nutrients listed above, 1 cup of fresh Moringa leaves provides only 10-20% of the RDA for these nutrients listed above, so a person would have to consume a lot to obtain “superfood” levels of these nutrients. Most Moringa supplements are dried, not fresh, which reduces the amount of certain nutrients and concentrates others.

This points to the faulty logic used as the basis of advertising.  So although Moringa is full of vitamins and protein, it is important to look at the detail, this isn’t a case of comparing apples to apples.

 

bookBack to the monograph.  The monograph reported on traditional uses of Moringa.  According to the monograph Moringa leaves and seeds were used as food:

  • Soup is made from the leaves and is used to treat hypertension
  • Fresh leaves are eaten like spinach, the leaves are used for making sauces
  • Moringa pods are eaten as a vegetables
  • The leaves are used as a protection against malnutrition
  • Moringa leaves are a rich source of Vit. E, A and fatty acids
  • The fruits or seed pods, known as drumsticks, are a culinary vegetable commonly used in soups and curries
  • The flowers are featured in some recipes as well, although they need to be cooked slightly to neutralize toxicity.

The bark, leaves, and root of Moringa have also been used in traditional healing:

  • Leaves used as poultice aiding in wound healing
  • Leaves are used against nervous ailments
  • Juice from crushed bark, flowers, roots and leaves, mixed with honey is used for nervous disorders
  • Bark or leaf used for its antispasmodic properties
  • Root chewed against mouth ulcers
  • Root chewed to aid in digestion
  • Root pulp is poulticed against pulmonary diseases
  • Root decoction if drunk against epilepsy, hysteria, fever.
  • Lightly boiled leaves, bark or root pulp or pulverized root is applied to painful joints
  • Extract of bark or root for scurvy
  • The root and pounded flower are used on wounds
  • Infusion of root is used as gargle
  • Root poultice is a stimulant, used for some forms of paralysis and fever.
  • Juice extracted from crushed roots ear drop for ear infections
  • The leaf infusion contains oxytocin
  • Leaf pulp used as dressing against inflammation
  • Whole plant decoction used against viral hepatitis
  • Used as gargle for throat related infections
  • Seed oil is rubbed on joints.
  • Used as a traditional supplement for infants. One rounded soup spoon contains about 8 g of powder with 2.2 G protein.
  • During the 19th c. Plantations in the West Indies were exporting the oil. It is pleasant tasting edible oil which does not become rancid.
  • In one study the seeds of Moringa were used to purify water. (Gilpin et al., 1994)

Moringa is promoted as a galactagogue or milk stimulating herb by many commercial moringa plantsources.  In a review of literature on Moringa some cultures used it primarily for increasing protein levels during breastfeeding. The Philippines have documented use of its ability to augment breast milk production.  There is a survey of studies that does show it has a demonstrated  significant increase in milk produced 4-7 days after treatment. The caution is that the internet is filled with much misinformation about whether Moringa leaf should or should not be taken during pregnancy, at this point I would air on the side of safety.  The other parts of the plant should not be taken and can cause miscarriage or bleeding.

Cautions:  The leaves of the Moringa oleifera tree are generally considered to be safe and edible, but there is some controversy regarding the roots and stems pointing to potentially harmful effects, especially in women. These parts of the plant may not only act as a contraceptive (both temporary or permanent) but may also lead to miscarriage and other problems.  There is research showing a potentially immunosuppressive and cytotoxic effect of the seeds of the plant, and extracts or supplements that contain the roots, seeds and stems should be avoided for this reason until more research is done. Additionally, the leaves of the plant have been shown to have a mildly laxative effect and may cause digestive disturbances in some people. Supplementation of the seeds or one extract of the leaves (methanolic) at doses around 3-4 fold higher than the recommended dosages appears to be associated with genotoxicity and should be avoided; water extracts of the leaves do not appear to confer this risk.  Moringa oleifera has anticoagulant properties of unknown potency and biological significance.

Important drug contraindications:  Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Moringa might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking moringa along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications.

  • Levothyroxine-Interaction Rating: Moderate.  Be cautious with this combination.  Levothyroxine is used for low thyroid function. Moringa might decrease how much levothyroxine your body absorbs. Taking moringa along with levothyroxine might decrease the effectiveness of levothyroxine.
  • Moringa might lower blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking moringa along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
  • Moringa might lower blood pressure. It has the potential to add to blood pressure lowering effects of antihypertensive drugs.
  • There is research showing a potentially immunosuppressive and cytotoxic effect of the seeds of the plant, and extracts or supplements that contain the roots, seeds and stems should be avoided for this reason until more research is done.

This points to my initial concern about the over marketing of an herb, where it becomes almost impossible to filter through the numerous web pages to find reality.  As the global use of herbal medicinal products continues to grow and many more new products are introduced into the market, public health issues, and concerns surrounding their safety are important.  I am not in the camp of over regulation at all, but I do feel that for the most part consumers are not doing the level of research needed, or looking to clinical herbalists, who for the most part are trained to dig deep for efficacy and contraindications.

Shi Hu, Dendrobium Nobile- “Immortality Herb”

This last May I was fortunate to travel to China with my school, East West School for Planetary Herbology, to do clinical training in a Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital.  On one of our field excursions, we toured a demonstration garden for the school.  In one greenhouse there were rows and rows of a low growing plant called Shi Hu. I found a piece of the plant on the ground put it into my pocket, hoping to root it when I got home.  At this point, I have a very small plant that made the long plane trip and is starting to put on growth.

Shi hu is an orchid plant that often grows adjacent to trees such as pear or peach.  The plant consists of a long, thin stem, which is golden yellow in color, with a flower at the end. Dendrobium Nobile, also known as the Noble Dendrobium or Shi Hu in Pinyin, has been used for the medicinal purpose for at least 2,000 years. Different varieties of dendrobium have different colors, but the most common colors are yellow and pink. The plant has a long thin stem that is used for various herbal and medicinal treatments. Shi Hu grows wild and is harvested from November to February although at this point, wild Shi Hu is overharvested and it is now being cultivated in greenhouses like the one we saw.  True Shi Hu refers to dendrobium orchid, but much of what is available on the market is a substitute rather than true dendrobium.  It is common to see products that are sold as “wild” Shi Hu, but this is a case where much of it is cultivated and not wild. Most frequently Shi Hu is available in bulk or granules. According to Eric Brand of Blue Poppy, the best way to test the quality of Shi Hu is to chew it. The more fibrous the less quality, the more sticky it is the better quality it is.

Shi Hu has been used for more than 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine.  In the Taoist Canon, a collection of Taoist literature from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), it refers to Shi Hu as the first of nine “celestial herbs” with great health benefits.  In the Compendium of Materia Medica, written during the Ming Dynasty, Shi hu is described as affecting three channels of energy – the stomach, the lungs, and the kidneys.  The Chinese believe that the Dendrobium plant is ‘yin’ in nature and can be used to replenish fluids. It is commonly used as an Yin tonic to moisten the stomach, lungs and to replace kidney yin jing. It is very effective for treating conditions such as dry mouth, stomach pain, mouth sores, sunstroke, and other conditions caused by dry weather, pollution or smoke.

Let’s face it as we age we tend towards dryness and ingesting herbs that help to replenish fluids can be helpful.  Another reason that I love Shi Hu is that I often incorporate herbs into my soups and broths.  Shi hu has been used this way in Chinese cooking along with ginseng and chicken, duck, or lamb, for general health. Shi hu is now being adapted to new and creative uses including being made into juices and even dishes available at health spas. In a news article, I recently read, the flower of Shi Hu is made into a tea drink and even brewed into a clear liquor with 38 percent alcohol.

Among its many uses, the Chinese use dendrobium as a tonic for longevity. It is believed that when mixed with licorice roots and made into a tea it transmits healing energy to all parts of the body. There is a whole host of uses that are promoted in the commercial literature including the following:

  • Dendrobium helps moisten and nourish the skin and prevents dryness and flaky skin.
  • When air pollution and smoke dry out the lungs and air passages and increase thirst, dendrobium can be consumed for quick relief and to moisten the passageways.
  • Dendrobium is used as an effective tonic for the treatment of tuberculosis, flatulence, night sweats, anorexia, fever, and dyspepsia.
  • Dendrobium tonic improves the functioning of the lungs, kidneys, and stomach. It can reduce stomach pain and cramping and reduce vomiting.
  • It is believed that regular consumption of dendrobium can also treat sexual impotency.
  • Pain in the feet and hands, lumbago, and arthralgia can be treated with dendrobium extract.
  • Dendrobium can boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.
  • Dendrobium has long since been used to replenish lost fluids from the body and reduce severe thirst.
  • Natives of the Eastern Himalayas use dendrobium to heal problems with the eyes.
  • Dendrobium blossoms and stems are edible. Countries like Thailand and Singapore, deep fry these delicacies and eat them as snacks.
  • In Europe, dendrobium blossoms are used as edible cake decorations and as garnishes.
  • The Aborigines consider dendrobiums as emergency bush food.
  • Pickle is made from dendrobium flowers in Nepal.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Energy: sweet, slightly cold

Actions: Generates body fluids for the stomach; nourishes stomach Yin, mildly nourishes kidney Yin; clears heat; brightens the vision; strengthens the lower back.

Uses:

Nourishes Yin, clears Heat and generates fluids Parched mouth, severe thirst or intractable fever associated with Yin Deficiency, most commonly when the Fluids are injured during a warm pathogen disease
Enriches Kidney Yin and reduces Heat from Deficiency Yin Deficiency Heat and depleted Fluids with a recalcitrant low-grade fever, dry and painful throat and a red tongue with no coat
Tonifies the Kidneys, augments Jing, brightens the eyes, strengthens the tendons and bones and strengthens the low back Dull vision, dizziness and low back weakness and pain associated with Kidney and Liver Deficiency
Nourishes Stomach and Lung Yin Stomach and Lung Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire Rising

http://www.americandragon.com/Individualherbsupdate/ShiHu.html

Additional Note:  According to Eric Brand it can trap an EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) in the body and prolong the sickness. If there is a chance of EPI, Mai men dong or Yu zhu is a better choice.

  • Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1986.
  • Flaws B (translator). The Book of Jook. Chinese Medical Porridges: A Healthy Alternative to the Typical Western Breakfast. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press, 1995.

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