Saturday, November 24, 2012

Long live the liver….

  I have recently tried my hand at capsule making. Or, rather, capsule filling, I should say, since I’m not actually making the cellulose capsules, but stuffing them with herbal powders. I must say, holding up a container of herbal capsules that you filled with herbs you grew, formulated and processed yourself makes you feel like a real herbal pharmacist.

This liver tonic is the third time I’ve made capsules. The first time was a fig leaf and dried green fig combination. I took some just for the heck of it for about a week, and found I no longer woke up in the middle of the night with acid indigestion. Turns out, one of the known benefits of fig is its support for the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. The second capsule was an anti-inflammatory formula, consisting of stinging nettle leaf, burdock leaf and feverfew flowering tops. I haven’t tried this yet, but theoretically, it should be good for troubles like migraines and joint pain, as well as some allergies.

My reasons for doing a liver tonic are several. For one, I’m a drinker. And while I do not drink much compared to the generally accepted definition of excessive drinking, each person’s body is different, and recently I’ve been getting the feeling that my body might be trying to tell me that excessive drinking is what I’ve been doing. Secondly, the liver fulfills one of the most important roles in the maintenance of our bodies: blood cleansing. A liver that does not filter properly can lead to “dirty blood." This can in turn create a host of scary conditions ranging from acne, rashes, arthritis and headaches, to lethargy, depression, obesity and diabetes. Not to mention the damage that can happen to the liver itself, i.e., cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, fatty liver, etc.

For this tonic, I have harvested from my yard milk thistle seeds, burdock seeds, yellow dock root and dandelion root (Yes, I actually have a patch of dandelion that I’ve planted and cultivated. …Intentionally!!). Here’s a breakdown:

  • Milk Thistle Seeds (Silybum marianum)
    • Contains constituent silymarin which is said to literally provide a protective coating around liver cells, sparing them the oxidizing effects of alcohol, viral toxins and other toxic substances.
    • Used to treat jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis, gallbladder disease
    • Used in liver cancer to promote liver cell rejuvenation
    • Component silybin is said to counter mushroom poisoning
  • Burdock Seeds (Arctium lappa)
    • Said to be a blood cleanser. Roots are most commonly used, however, I’ve found that, gram for gram, the seeds are much more potent.
    • For “toxin overload.” Effectively removes various toxins, including bacterial, fungal, heavy metals, etc.
    • Used to treat eczema, acne, herpes, ringworm, cancer (part of legendary essiac anti-cancer formula)
    • Lowers blood-sugar levels
  • Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus)
    • Has tonic effect on liver and gallbladder
    • Mild laxative
    • Long history of remedy for various chronic blood and skin problems
    • Used internally for diarrhea, hemorrhaging lungs, constipation
    • Used externally for sores, ulcers, wounds
    • Said to block internal spread of cancer
  • Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinalis)
    • Common “weed” that is effective diuretic, which, unlike most pharmaceutical diuretics, does not deplete the body of potassium since it is rich in potassium and so replenishes potassium lost through diuretic action. 
    • Long history of use for liver toning. Used internally for jaundice, cirrhosis, gallbladder & urinary diseases, eczema, gout, joint complaints, weak heart.
    • Antibacterial for staph, pneumonia, meningitis, dysentery
    • Latex from stems used externally to remove warts and internally for gallbladder inflammation and liver stones

My plan is to take the capsules, which are estimated to be an average of 800mg each, twice a day for one month. At the same time, I am cutting back significantly on the sauce!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Marshmallows don't grow on trees....

Tree Mallow

Were you one of those ill-informed people who had no idea that marshmallow is a plant from which the confection was traditionally made and after which it was named? Were you utterly clueless of the fact that the “candy” was actually more like sweet medicine often given to children to settle an upset stomach or soothe a sore throat? Are you embarrassingly ignorant of the fact that today’s “marshmallows” have no trace of the plant or the medicinal value that it once had? Please tell me that you aren’t well into adulthood and just finding out any of this for the first time!

…But if you are, then join the club. Yes, I too was in the dark regarding the truth about marshmallows, until relatively recent.

And so were a lot of other people I spoke to. Apparently, we’d all been under the impression that “marshmallow” was just a cute, catchy name that some inventor of the snack made up. It turns out that marshmallows may not grow on trees, but they do grow on a bushy shrub that reaches heights of 5 to 7 feet.

I discovered the truth about marshmallows, Latin name Althaea officinalis, only after beginning to study herbalism, which, I’m sorry to say, didn’t happen until I was in my 30’s. I’d read that sweets using the marshmallow plant went as far back as ancient Egypt, where the copious mucilage from the roots was probably boiled together with honey and spices and given to finicky kids who gagged when given bitter medicines.

So, now you know! Better late than never, as they say. I bet not a few folks have gone to a gooey grave never realizing that the guilty pleasure they so treasured had originally been used to promote good health and probably prolong life, rather than contribute to cutting it short.

Although generally speaking, the root of the marshmallow would be used, all parts of the plant, including the flowers, leaves and seedpods (also called “cheeses”) are medicinal and chock full of mucilage that make for good marshmallows. That’s good news for those of us who don’t want to uproot the entire, or even part, of the marshmallow plant.

Mallow flowers

Believe it or not, these flowers, a combination of marshmallow flowers and tree mallow flowers...

…became these fluffy sweets, which are more based on present-day recipes for marshmallows, except with real marshmallow and minus the high-fructose corn syrup and cornstarch, than anything that the Egyptians may have created.