An integrative approach to healing ourselves and our world: honoring people, plants, planet

Archive for June, 2010

Powerfoods high in glutathione aid in detoxing

Asparagus and avocado are the 2 highest foods in glutathione.

We may not deliberately poison ourselves, but we are exposed to poisonous toxins in our air, water, food and drinks, and clothing. Our body works hard to keep toxins from entering into our tissues and cells. The #1 most important antioxidant for free radical protection is also mega important for detoxification: glutathione. We make glutathione in the body (it’s called glutathione conjugation), and we can also find it in our food.

Glutathione prevents accelerated aging and many diseases associated with toxins and the degeneration of the body: cancer, liver disease, dementia, mood disorders, cataracts, etc. Many lifestyle factors and diseases use large amounts of glutathione, thus causing a deficiency, which leads to liver dysfunction and disease. Heavy alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, exposure to organophosphates (food pesticides) and other environmental chemicals all use existing body levels of glutathione. We need to actively replenish our glutathione levels.

Asparagus is the highest tested food of glutathione. The second highest is avocado, and the third is purslane (Continue reading about wonder-food purslane in the previous post). An important note about avocado: not only does it contain glutathione, but it also contains GOOD fats. An avocado-enriched diet will lower bad LDL cholesterol more than a diet high in complex carbohydrates, according to clinical trials.

In addition to the three powerfoods listed above, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked fish, and grass-fed meat will also contribute to your glutathione reserve. Glutathione is easily absorbed from digested food, so work these into your menu plan as often as you can.

Other ways of increasing glutathione are by eating foods and herbs that enable the synthesis or conjugation of glutathione to occur. Silymarin, a constituent from milk thistle (Silybum marianum), increases the rate of glutathione conjugation. It also prevents damage to the liver through protection from free radicals and increasing the rate of liver tissue regeneration. 70-200mg three times a day is a reasonable dose.

Foods in the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts) and limonene-containing foods (dill weed oil, caraway oil, and citrus peel) all help with glutathione conjugation, as well.

Be kind to your liver. It is the source of longevity and vision (both literal eyesight and metaphorical insight, dreams, and creative life plans).  Your liver is under considerable stress everyday. If you give it a hand, you will reap the benefits of a long and healthy life.

Get your vitamins and omega-3s with purslane

Purslane growing in Hull St. "vegetable garden". Loaded in omega-3s, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is the eigth most widespread plant in the world.

You may never have been formally introduced to this little plant, but by the time you finish reading, you’ll be glad to know this wild superfood, which is actually the eighth most widespread plant in the world.

Purslane /Portulaca oleracea/ is a succulent annual that crawls along compacted soil. Its thick and fleshy leaves grow from a reddish stem, and its teeny, yellow flowers bloom only in daylight. Purslane is highly heat and drought-tolerant, perfect for cultivating in an Athens edible landscape. Between Trapeze Pub and Casa Mia on Hull Street, a unique vegetable garden grows. Where other vegetables are wilting from the heat and lack of watering, purslane is thriving.

Notice the reddish stem of the succulent purslane.

Ancient cultures worldwide have relied on purslane as a green leafy powerhouse vegetable par excellence. Though the weed may not be native, non-agricultural people of the Pacific Northwest foraged for purslane prior to European contact, proving that puslane has been in North America for quite some time. Among the Greeks, Cretans and Turks in the Mediterranean, purslane is a favorite wild vegetable to collect.

If stranded in a remote area, you would be fine if purslane were growing nearby. In fact, you’d probably be a lot healthier. Studies show that purslane’s nutritive value of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants is superior to cultivated foods. According to the USDA and Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, DC, “Purslane is the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids.” Within this little weed is the omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds, alpha-tocopherol (a vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A) and glutathione (a compound which metabolizes toxins in the small intestines and prevents their transport to other tissues in the body).

Purslane’s yield of omega-3 ALAs far surpasses any other non-aquatic source, that it just might convert you to foraging. ALAs are a proven cardio-protective nutrient, and its antioxidant-rich content means that purslane is a powerful superfood that can protect against cancer. In Trinidad and Tobago, purslane is a common herb used for diabetes mellitus. A study in mice with diabetes mellitus found a decrease in blood glucose, increase in good HDL cholesterol and a decrease in triglycerides when the mice consumed purslane. The U.S. has overlooked this weed to the detriment of our health.

Eaten raw, this culinary weed adds a delightful, juicy, sour crispness to salad, or it’s also delicious cooked like spinach. One study found that the ALA content was higher in purslane exposed to low temperatures, so you might want to put purslane you’ve just collected in the fridge for an hour before eating.

But wait, there’s more. Remember all the concern a few years ago about bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics? Purslane, the wonder-plant, can remove BPA from water in 24 hours, according to a Japanese study. Soon, purslane will be put to work in phytoremediation of contaminated industrial wastewater. Purslane keeps delivering the goods.

This article appeared in the Athens Banner Herald, June 27, 2010. http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/062710/liv_661937863.shtml

Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot) for weight loss

Queen Anne's lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, Crawford, GA

“Queen Anne’s lace is one of the great undiscovered herbs of the 20th century,” says Alabama herbalist Darryl Patton. “It is a weight reducer, probably the best to be found.” I think that statement applies to the 21st century, too. Also called wild carrot because its edible root is the predecessor to our cultivated garden-variety carrot, Queen Anne’s lace reduces weight through a diuretic action, and perhaps speeds up the metabolism. Many genus and species in the carrot family (Apiaceae, or Umbelliferae) have a similar diuretic action, but less powerful than Queen Anne’s lace. Due to its diuretic properties, Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) can relieve the edema in one’s ankles. The old-timey herbalist, Tommie Bass, suggests boiling 2 handfuls of leaf and flower in a quart of water for 20 minutes. Just a heads-up: This makes a bitter brew.

Queen Anne's lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, Crawford, Ga

Other uses of the leaves and flowers of Queen Anne’s lace are for kidney stones and gout. It has mild liver-cleansing properties, which helps prevent uric acid from staying in the joints, causing the awfully painful gout. The leaf tea can also help to bring on a woman’s delayed menses, which is called an emmenogogue. However, first she needs to be sure that she isn’t pregnant. For first-aid in healing sores, the leaves are applied to the skin sore with honey.

The seeds are forming on the closed infloresence of Queen Anne's lace.

Queen Anne’s lace seed is taken to relieve bloating, or “wind” as it is sometimes called, evoking the natural elements. The release of wind can also give the appearance of weight loss.

Wild carrot, or Queen Anne’s lace, was a popular diuretic, anodyne (pain reliever), and antiseptic during the Civil War according to Confederate surgeon, Dr. Francis Peyre Porcher.

Nicholas Culpeper, the 17th century English physician-herbalist-botanist, writes about the difference between garden carrots and their wild kin, saying, “They are of less physical use than the wild kind (as indeed almost in all herbs the wild are most effectual in physic, as being more powerful in operation than the garden kinds).” That’s a little plug for learning wild plants, and even incorporating them into your landscape.

Queen Anne's Lace gracefully used in a garden. Takes full sun to partial shade.

Forget the grocery store…

Stencil: Forget the grocery store. Learn about edible wild plants.

Some wild-plant vigilante in Athens, GA has defaced downtown property with something I loved to see. It expresses my thoughts exactly: “Forget the grocery store. Learn about edible wild plants.”

World Cup & $3.00 Mimosa

World Cup & $3.00 Mimosa at Little Kings, Athens, GA

I saw this yesterday morning in front of an Athens bar before the USA game. I assume they’re talking about the Champagne-O.J. cocktail, and not a brew of the bark or flowers of the mimosa tree.

Ahhh, coffee…

Finally, the research is out on coffee’s benefits. This statement in the article “Coffee’s Mysterious Benefits Mount” should be emphasized: “Coffee contains more than a thousand chemicals, some of which have antioxidant and antimutagenic activities,” Mia Hashibe, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Utah and the study’s lead researcher, told Life’s Little Mysteries.

Too often, we have portrayed fruits, vegetables, herbs and animal products to contain a simple composition of ingredients. We hear something is high in C, E, D, A, omega-3s, good fats, antioxidants, polyphenols… The reality is that plants have hundreds to thousands of chemical compounds in them which researchers have yet to figure out what they do in a human body. The chemistry going on between food and drink and our bodies is far more complex than media and advertising conveys. Often, the antioxidants in a food have unheard-of-names and offer more health benefits than the vitamin C the food contains.

This coffee study also demonstrates that in research you can get what you’re looking for. If they’re looking for health risks, they’ll emphasize the risks. If it’s health benefits, then the research will emphasize the benefits. I think the yahoo article shows a good balance of benefits and risks of coffee.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/coffeesmysteriousbenefitsmount

Magnificent mullein: A friend to those with lung issues

Mullein at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. Looks like Verbascum olympicum, which has showier flowers than V. thapsus.

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus or V. olympicum, is that plant along the roadsides with a towering spike of yellow flowers which lingers all through winter as a dried-out, brownish-black spike. Being a biennial, mullein will grow as a circular, basal rosette in its first year where all its leaves come from the central stem. In the second year, the flowering spike will grow straight up from the middle, and the leaves will grow upwards on the stem until the flowers begin. It then ends its life-cycle when it goes to seed and becomes a stalk. New basal rosette mullein plants will grow in the surrounding area the following year.

You might notice the 6″ to 2′ bluish-gray-green leaves, which resemble the common landscape plant lamb’s ears because they are furry and soft. We typically consider this plant a benign weed, but I think it’s gorgeous and deserves to be appreciated in a garden. It’s easy to start from seed.

The whole plant is medicinal with dozens of uses. Legend has it that mullein was one of the plants so cherished by European women that when they migrated to the U.S., they sowed its seeds into the hems of their skirts, making sure they would not be without their medicine. It’s easy to understand how they felt if you’ve grown to appreciate how mullein can soothe irritated or congested lungs.

Many mullein, Verbascum thapsus. Big mullein leaves in right forefront.

American Indians quickly saw mullein’s virtues as the plant was introduced to North America. In Daniel Moerman’s tome, Native American Ethnobotany, over 25 tribes are listed to have used mullein. The uses range from applying the leaves to swollen glands or skin sores, to sore throats, to cough remedy, and asthma. Several tribes used it for magical or ceremonial purposes, attesting to the high regard the American Indians held for mullein.

Mullein is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory which is great when there is an infection in the throat, lungs, or on the skin. It’s also an expectorant, helping to move the damp congestion (catarrah) in the lungs. And as a soothing, anti-inflammatory herb, when someone has a non-productive cough that is hard, sore, and a little burning coming from the chest, not the throat, mullein is excellent. Mullein serves as a safe and effect tonic for chronic, dry respiratory inflammation in adults and kids.

For the lungs, the best method of taking mullein is through steeping the chopped leaf in boiling water for about 8-10 minutes. You will need 4-8 grams, three times a day, which is a lot because mullein is very light. Strain the tea through an unbleached coffee filter before drinking to make sure the little hairs don’t bother your throat. A common Indian method for administering herbs quickly was through smoking them. Powdered mullein leaves were smoked to help with asthma and catarrah (damp congestion in the lungs).

Mullein is a great first aid plant. If you’re out in the field and get cut, or develop a rash or athlete’s foot, find some mullein. Make a damp poultice with the leaf and then wrap another leaf around the poultice.

Mullein flowers make a famous ear oil to remove excess wax or relieve pain. A tincture of the flowers is also useful for someone prone to nervous throat clearing.

Speaking of wax, the dried stalks would be dipped in wax and burned as torches. I haven’t tried this, but I think they’d make awesome party torches for a harvest celebration.

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