Agar Agar

IMG_0468Agar Agar (also known as agar, or kanten) is the mucilage content drawn from several seaweeds. As a herbalist, I’ve always been fascinated with mucilaginous herbs and foods. The action associated with mucilage content in an ingested herb or food is referred to as ‘demulcent’. If used topically on the skin, the action of mucilaginous herbs is referred to as ’emollient’. Emollients and demulcents are soothing, cooling, moistening and calming for body tissues they come in contact with.

This is a mechanical more so than a chemical action; mucilages are sticky, gooey, and almost mucous-like… hence the name! This consistency is what provides soothing to irritated tissues. The bit that always intrigued me during my naturopathic training was the idea that these mucilage-soothed tissues could send a kind of ‘calm and happy’ message to other mucous membranes in the body. Realistically, ingested demulcent herbs only come into contact with the digestive lining, and yet, their soothing effect can be felt in the lungs and the urinary system. No one knows for sure exactly how or why this is so, but it is possible that calmed nerve endings in in the gut-lining send a nerve-reflex ‘message’ to mucous membranes elsewhere. Continue reading

Vit B12 – Cyanocobalamin or Methylcobalamin?

There seems to be an awful lot of carry on about methylcobalamin vs cynanocobalamin, but lots of mixed opinions. If someone is trying to sell you methylcobalamin, you can be certain they will demonise cyanocobalamin and scare you by using the word “Cyanide!!”, but is it really that simple? Continue reading

Herbs for skin, bones, nails, ears, sinus and mucous membranes.

For a beautiful person! As a vegan whole-foods naturopath, I love the biocomplexity and synergism of minerals embedded within whole-foods and herbs. Here are some of my favourite herbs and foods for mucous congestion (tied in with ear and sinus problems), nail and skin health, and bone/muscle health.  Continue reading

Split, peeling and cracked nails

Someone special was asking me recently about split and peeling nails, so this post is especially for her:

One of the possible causes for nails like this is hypochlorhydria, a deficiency of stomach acid. Our stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) helps us digest our food, especially protein and minerals, and a deficiency in either can affect nail health. Healthy stomach acid is also an important part of our body’s immune system, effectively destroying ingested bacteria and yeasts that might otherwise disturb bowel flora and affect the production of another important nutrient for nail health, biotin.  Continue reading

The 4 N’s

I’ve just added the following to my page “Childhood Psychology”, because I feel it provides an insight into the psychological attitudes our society has towards meat-eating, and these beliefs are being blindly conditioned into our children who accept them as facts. I would love to see more discussion and questioning occurring in our society about these beliefs. Are they helpful or healthy to have? How do they affect children and their growing minds? How might they damage our social capacity for empathy, compassion and reasoning?

Using the “4 N’s” to Justify Meat Eating

According to a report published in the behaviour nutrition journal, Appetite, around 90% of meat-eaters use the “four Ns” to justify their diets:

It’s NATURAL i.e. “People have always eaten meat. Why stop now?”
It’s NECESSARY i.e. “Without meat, it’s impossible to get enough protein and other nutrients.”
It’s NORMAL i.e. “Everyone eats meat. I don’t want to be different. I want to fit in and be accepted.”
It’s NICE i.e. “It tastes good!”

‘Necessary’ and ‘Nice’ were the reasons given most often. The researchers conducted six separate studies to find out more about how meat-eaters use the 4 N’s to rationalise their diet, and how their beliefs shape their behaviours. Those who endorsed the four Ns the most strongly showed the following characteristics:

*They tended to objectify (dementalise) animals.

*They included fewer species of animals in their circle of concern or care.

*They were less likely to consider the moral implications of their food choices.

*They showed less concern for moral issues not related to diet, like social inequality.

*They experienced less guilt than people in the study who were felt ambivalent about meat-eating.

*They were less willing to contemplate cutting back on meat consumption in the future.

Iron for Vegan Athletes

Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency for athletes, and is something you need to be particularly careful with if you are a female endurance athlete, or a runner. Distance runners are thought to have an 70% greater need for iron. High-impact exercise (especially the foot striking the ground in running), ruptures red blood cells. Iron is also lost during intense endurance activity through sweating. Female athletes have greater iron loss due to menstruation. Continue reading

Roast Dinner

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had left over salad and dressing/dip from lunch today, so I put some brown rice in the rice cooker and cut up some veges for roasting. I lightly coated pumpkin and sweet potato with olive oil, soaked some eggplant more heavily with oil (wonderful occasional indulgence!) and then put them on a roasting tray on top of springs of fresh rosemary, and sprinkled them with Herbamare salt.

When the rice was almost cooked, I added some portabello mushrooms to the veges in the oven.

Now let me tell you about the dressing/dip I made! I used a handful of baby kale, 1 cup of raw walnuts, two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a generous sprinkle of salt, a cup of water, and 2 tablespoons of some pre-soaked chia seeds I had left over from breakfast. I blended it all up in the food processor, but it didn’t taste right, so I added half of a truly massive avocado I had in the fridge, re-whizzed it, and oh my goodness! It was perfect! Lovely earthy taste with layers.

I used half of this as a dressing for the salad, massaging it into the the kale, and kept the rest to use as a yummy side dip. I love doing this- it makes the meal feel so much more scrumptious.

Pineapple, pistachio and passionfruit cake

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Bottom Layer

3/4 cup of whole oats

1/4 cup of caramelised buckwheat groats

1/2 cup of pistachio nuts

3 figs

10 dates

Blend the first three ingredients until the oats are like a rough powder or flour. Add the dates and figs. Make sure the date pips and the stem of the figs are moved. Blend until the mixture becomes sticky and then press this into the bottom of a cake tin (the kind with clips on the side where you can loosen the walls away from the base after the cake has frozen and ready to eat). 

Middle Layer

2 cups of cashews

2 cups of chopped and frozen pineapple

5 pitted dates

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of lemon rind

Blend all ingredients until the mixture becomes smooth. I add the dates gradually throughout the blending process so that there are still some chunky dates pieces left in the final mix. I prefer some chunkiness in my cakes! Spoon this mixture into your cake tin. 

Top Layer

3-4 passionfruit

Cut the passion fruits open and spoon the mixture on to the top of the cake, then spread it evenly with a knife. Freeze and serve when the cake has hardened. 

FOOD MEDICINE

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pineapple is considered hot and damp. It’s used to balance heat patterns in the body/aura, improve digestion, reduce thirst, calm irritability and stop diarrhoea.

Lavender Cake

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Base layer

1/4 cup of caramelised buckwheat groats

1/4 cup of walnuts 1/2 cup of almonds

4 pitted dates

Process everything together in the food processor. If your mix isn’t sticky enough, add more dates! Press this mix into the bottom of a baking dish. This is your base layer.

Middle layer

5 pitted dates

2 tablespoons of almonds spread/paste

1/2 tablespoon of tahini paste

1/2 cup of cashews a pinch of salt

Blend everything together in food processor. Taste test and more dates if it isn’t sweet enough for you. Pour/spoon into your baking dish, and spread it evenly over the bottom layer. Put the baking dish in the freezer so this layer can firm up while you make the top layer.

Top layer

2 bananas (you can use peeled frozen bananas if you like)

1 cup of blueberries

1/3 of a cup of organic dried lavender flowers(or less if you want a more subtle flavour)

4 dates

1/2 cup of cashews

Process all ingredients. Taste test for sweetness and add more dates or blueberries as needed. Spoon this mixture over the middle layer and spread it out evenly. Put this back in the freezer overnight. The next day, remove from freezer, let it thaw out for a short time (e.g. 5-10 minutes), and then cut into squares and serve. 

The Therapeutic uses of Lavender

As a herbalist/naturopath, I find lavender particularly effective for relieving stress, anxiety and insomnia when there is a lot of anger involved, such as feelings of irritation and frustration. It can provide either a stimulating or sedative effect, depending on what the body needs.

ACTIONS

*Anti-inflammatory

*Antipyretic

*Analgesic

*Antiseptic

*Nervous Sedative

*Immunostimulant

*Relaxant

USES

*Agitated depression or depression mixed with anxiety.

*Restlessness, anxiety, frustration, irritation, insomnia, over-active mind.

*Low back pain, abdominal cramps, flatulence, aches and pains, headaches.

*Dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, cold limbs, chilliness.

*Fever, sore throat, sinusitis, asthma, cough, infections and inflammation in general.

*Nausea, constipation or diarrhoea, appetite loss, sore liver area.

*Topical for burns, sunburn, itching, bites, eczema, acne etc

Berry Bliss Cake

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This is an uncooked cake. It will store in the freezer. The only layer that will feel cold in your mouth might be the top layer because it’s water content could be higher. You could adjust this by adding nuts to the final layer if you wished!

PREPARE BASE

*1 and a half cups of nuts. (I used brazil nuts and walnuts)

*6 large medjool dates (pit them!)

Blend in food-processor. I left mine a bit chunky so that it will have more texture and a bit of crumble. You could also use oats, toasted buckwheat groats, pepita seeds, linseeds etc. Press this mix very firmly into the base of your storage dish.


MIDDLE LAYER

*1 cup of blueberries (Mine are frozen because I live in the tropics)

*1 banana

*1 cup of nuts (I used cashews)

*Scraped out insides of 1 vanilla pod

Blend together in food processor. This time, leave it on for longer so that the mix becomes really smooth. It helps to have a powerful blender if you (like me) aren’t going to add any extracted oils to liquidity the mix. You may need to stop it a few times and push the mix back down from the sides with a spatula. If it won’t mix, add some coconut oil e.g. 1 tablespoon.

Spread this layer over the base layer and scatter some blueberries over the top of this, pressing them so you can just see their tops.


TOP LAYER

*2 bananas

*At least 1 cup of raspberries

Blend in food processor. Spread over middle layer. Slice half a banana into pieces and press into the top layer for decoration.


Put the container in the freezer to set overnight. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and let sit for 5-10 minutes, then cut into slices and serve.