Simple Ways to Stimulate Oxytocin Naturally

Simple ways to stimulate oxytocin

This blog takes me back on the memory line.

It was on beautiful European autumn when I was waiting anxiously to see what little gift my partner will bring me from a visit in France. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the gift came in the form of a lovely hydrating face cream. I was totally into it. Mais bien sûr. It is well known that French women look after their skin. So was I. The cream, for which I will not disclose any brand or name, was fantastic. The fine lines that occurred due to the excessive sun exposure disappeared after just a week of using the cream. Disappointment came when I finished the tub….. and this brings me to the topic of today’s blog. Can ageing be prevented? Can it be ameliorated? Are the signs of ageing embedded into our genes? Some think that the answer to is “yes”. Others leave the question up to be debated. What do you think?

Yes, I know this topic is like opening the Pandora’s box. Yet the knowledge that it is accumulated on the subject is spectacular. It was to no surprise to me to observe that recent research into ageing made a connection between ageing and aromatherapy.

Let me explain. In technical terms ageing is commonly linked to a hormone, oxytocin, termed by scientists as the “great facilitator of life” (Lee et al, 2009). It is also known under the names of the “love hormone”, the “social hormone”, the “cuddle hormone”, and the “happy hormone”. Oxytocin hormone was first characterised by Sir Henry H Dale in 1906 as an extract made from the human pituitary gland. Initially, it was thought that its role is purely uterotonic. Since then its effects and roles continue to be unfolded. Here is an abbreviated list of known functions where oxytocin plays an important role (Lee et al, 2009):

  • Learning,
  • Anxiety,
  • Eating,
  • Pain reception,
  • Social memory,
  • Aggression,
  • Sexual and maternal behaviour.

Furthermore, recent research has shown that oxytocin deficiency has deleterious effects on important bodily functions:

  • It is intricately involved in a broad array of mood and anxiety disorders (Cochran et al 2014);
  • It can lead to obesity, despite normal food intake, due to altering the glucose metabolism (Ding et al, 2019);
  • It is negatively associated with anorexia nervosa in women, eating disorders, anxiety and depressive symptoms (Afinogenova et al, 2016);
  • Additional studies into the oxytocin role and the ageing phenomena established that it plays an essential role for muscle regeneration (Elabd et al 2014).

Oxytocin is being used as a prescription medicine for the treatment of a number of health conditions. As a holistic practitioner I am rather not interested in the ingestion of a synthetically obtained substance. It turns out that oxytocin levels production can be stimulated within our own bodies. Below are three easy way to stimulate it naturally.

1. Sniff-sniff that lovely oil aroma diffuser for a minimum of 20 minutes a day: Researchers from Nagasaki University, Japan (Tarumi and Shinohara, 2020) measured the effects of certain essential oils on postmenaupausal women. The conclusion of the investigation has established that oxytocin olfactory stimulation is possible after 20 minutes of inhaling the aroma of these oils. The essential oils included rose otto, sweet orange, lavender, neroli, frankincense, jasmine absolute, ylang ylang, roman chamomile, clary sage, and Indian sandalwood.

2. Have only 15 minutes massage every week: Researchers at University of California, USA have demonstrated that only a 15 minutes of moderate-pressure massage leads to an increase in the oxytocin levels in both male and female participants.

3. Find excuses to give and receive hugs: Researchers at North Carolina University, USA, reported that frequent hugs between spouses/partners led to increased oxytocin levels.

The Bottom Line: Given that oxytocin half-life is short, only 1 to 6 minutes one would require multiple bouts of it. So keep hugging, sniffing and receiving a light massage regularly. It is the only way to keep ageing process at bay. My take on ageing and the appearance of the skin: it is not what one applies on the face that makes the skin glow. Rather, the skin glowing is an after effect of a more complex process. It involves what one eats (Nutrition), what one drinks (Herbalism) as well as what ones applies on the skin or sniffs (Aromatherapy).

Thank you for reading. Until next time stay safe, stay young and healthy.

Disclaimer: I am a qualified holistic wellness, Herbalist Aromatherapist and Nutrition Diva rather than a medical doctor or nurse. Always check with a doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises.

References

Afinogenova, Y., Schmelkin, C., Plessow, F., Thomas, J. J., Pulumo, R., Micali, N., Miller, K. K., Eddy, K. T., & Lawson, E. A. (2016). Low Fasting Oxytocin Levels Are Associated With Psychopathology in Anorexia Nervosa in Partial Recovery. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 77(11), e1483–e1490. https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.15m10217

Cochran, D. M., Fallon, D., Hill, M., & Frazier, J. A. (2013). The role of oxytocin in psychiatric disorders: a review of biological and therapeutic research findings. Harvard review of psychiatry, 21(5), 219–247. https://doi.org/10.1097/HRP.0b013e3182a75b7d

Ding, C., Leow, M. K., & Magkos, F. (2019). Oxytocin in metabolic homeostasis: implications for obesity and diabetes management. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 20(1), 22–40. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12757

Elabd, C., Cousin, W., Upadhyayula, P., Chen, R. Y., Chooljian, M. S., Li, J., Kung, S., Jiang, K. P., & Conboy, I. M. (2014). Oxytocin is an age-specific circulating hormone that is necessary for muscle maintenance and regeneration. Nature communications, 5, 4082. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms5082

Lee, H. J., Macbeth, A. H., Pagani, J. H., & Young, W. S., 3rd (2009). Oxytocin: the great facilitator of life. Progress in neurobiology, 88(2), 127–151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2009.04.001

Light, K. C., Grewen, K. M., & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological psychology, 69(1), 5–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.11.002

Tarumi, W., & Shinohara, K. (2020). The Effects of Essential Oil on Salivary Oxytocin Concentration in Postmenopausal Women. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 26(3), 226–230. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2019.0361

The King of Spices: Saffron

Hidden Beauty and Health Benefits of the Red Gold

I love cooking with herbs and a few decades back I came across saffron, one that was so expensive that I only dared to use it sparingly. These days its use is so much different. I love to use it as an infusion, to change the colour of rice, or to give additional flavour and gorgeous colour to the pickled daikon radish. But as it turns out, this king of spices, saffron has many more important therapeutic properties that are not so well known in our western society including antinociceptive activities.

I will outline the ones that have been vindicated with clinical trials in various parts of the world. The list is rather impressive.

Saffron is the dried, dark red stigmata of Crocus sativus L. flowers. It has been used as a spice, food colorant, and a healing drug in folk medicine for centuries. Currently, saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world. Depending on the quality (colour, length) of the stigmata it may cost between 500 to 5,000 US dollars for 450 grams of saffron. That is why it is also called the Red Gold in the countries that mostly produce it (Iran, India, Greece).

Properties: Aside from its culinary use, this spice with ancient origins is highly prized for its extensive repertoire of traditional medicinal uses. That is due to its more than 150 beneficial biologically active components known to date (Ortega et al, 2007). The most known and researched components are crocin, crocetin and safranal.

Here are some of the well documented human clinical trials known to use saffron with effective outcomes:

  • Only 30 mg saffron per day is capable to ameliorate the effects of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer and clinical dementia (Akhondzadeh et al, 2010); the duration of the treatment, rather long but worthwhile, is 22 weeks.
  • Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (pain, irritability, cravings) can be reduced over two menstrual cycles with merely 30 mg of saffron consumed daily (Agha-Hosseini et al 2008).
  • It is sufficient to take 30 mg of saffron a day to reduce the effects of moderate depression with an equal efficacy comparable with current anti-depression medication (Akhondzadeh et al 2005).
  • Skin Beauty: cosmetically driven research published to date is sparse; nonetheless there is sufficient evidence to suggest that saffron-based oil-aqueous emulsion has emollient properties and some claim to even have antiaging effects (Akhtar et al, 2014). And who wouldn’t want that?
  • Sun Protection Formulation using saffron is a natural way to protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet rays. (Golmohammadzadeh et al 2010). The saffron-based solution in the cited research performed better than the control lotion.
  • tumoricidal properties, aka properties that prevent cancer tumour development (Abdullaev, 2002).
  • Other potential health benefits have been research in vitro and animal studies and there are no significant clinical trials to assert their efficacy in humans.

Safety

Saffron has an impressive safe profile and little to no significant effects have been clinically observed even when administered at relative high therapeutic doses of 400 mg a day (Modaghegh et al, 2008). However, the study assessed the short term effects of administering saffron stigma tablets for seven consecutive days to healthy adult subjects (male and female).

Pregnancy Alert: Pregnant women should never take this spice for medicinal purposes, as saffron stimulates uterine contractions.

Conclusion and takehome message. The ancient spice saffron has been used for millennia in folk medicine for treatment or prevention of a multitude of conditions. Current s scientific studies support the use of saffron and its chemical constituents as a promising way in reducing the effects of modern society disorders including but not limited to diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. My take on this golden herb is that it is now part of my gut healing herbs that are definitely helping heal the gut microbiome

Thank you for visiting and reading this page. Until next time: keep well, stay safe and be in touch.

Disclaimer: The information on this blog is provided only as an indication of the research and information about using culinary and medicinal herbs as natural remedies as research by me using scholarly research available on various data bases on the internet. I am a qualified holistic wellness, Nutritionist, Herbalist and Aromatherapy Diva rather than a medical doctor or nurse. It is not my intention to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disorder, illness or presume to replace one’s need to consult one’s own physician. I expressly disclaim all liability to any person for any loss, injury or inconvenience for any use, misuse of any information provided on this website.

Do your own homework if you have any medical problem, always seek professional medical advice when a medical need arises.

References

Abdullaev, F, (2002). Cancer chemopreventive and tumoricidal properties of saffron (Crocus sativus L.). Experimental Biology and Medicine, 227(1) 20-25. https://doi.org/10.1177/153537020222700104

Agha-Hosseini, M., Kashani, L., Aleyaseen, A., Ghoreishi, A., Rahmanpour, H., Zarrinara, A. R., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2008). Crocus sativus L. (saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology, 115(4), 515–519. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2007.01652.x

Akhondzadeh, S., Tahmacebi-Pour, N., Noorbala, A. A., Amini, H., Fallah-Pour, H., Jamshidi, A. H., & Khani, M. (2005). Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 19(2), 148–151. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.1647

Akhondzadeh, S., Shafiee Sabet, M., Harirchian, M. H., Togha, M., Cheraghmakani, H., Razeghi, S., Hejazi, S. S., Yousefi, M. H., Alimardani, R., Jamshidi, A., Rezazadeh, S. A., Yousefi, A., Zare, F., Moradi, A., & Vossoughi, A. (2010). A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacology, 207(4), 637–643. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-009-1706-1

Akhtar, N., Khan, H. M., Ashraf, S., Mohammad, I. S., Saqib, N. U., & Bashir, K. (2014). Moisturizing effect of stable cream containing Crocus sativus extracts. Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 27(6), 1881–1884. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25362612/

Christodoulou, Ei., Kadoglou N.P.E., Stasinopoulou, Konstandi M. O.A., Kenoutis, C. Kakazanis, Z.I. Rizakou, A. Kostomitsopoulos, Valsami,N. G., (2018). Crocus sativus L. aqueous extract reduces atherogenesis, increases atherosclerotic plaque stability and improves glucose control in diabetic atherosclerotic animals, Atherosclerosis, 268, 207-214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2017.10.032

Ortega, C.H., Miranda, P.R., Abdullaev, F., (2007). HPLC quantification of major active components from 11 different saffron (Crocus sativus L.) sources. Food Chemistry.100 (3), 1126–1131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.11.020.

Modaghegh M.H., Shahabian M., Esmaeili H.A., Rajbai O.,(2008). Safety evaluation of saffron (Crocus sativus) tablets in healthy volunteers, Phytomedicine , 15(12), 1032–1037. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2008.06.003.

The Chief Antiseptic Herb

Harvest Myriad Benefits of Brilliantly Blooming Calendula

This blog is about a super hero plant: Calendula officinalis or Pot marigold, known as medicine flower since time immemorial. The whole flower head of Calendula are used in different preparations: extracts, ointments, tinctures, salve or teas.

Properties: The Herbal actions, predominantly anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, are due to its antioxidant compounds as well as due to its high carotenoids presence often associated with cardiovascular risk reduction. Topically calendula addresses so many skin complaints that led to its unofficial name as the chief antiseptic herb. It can be used safely on the most sensitive body areas on open wounds, burns, blisters, swellings, eczema, diaper rash (Yunes et al 2012) and cracked nipples. My preferred use of calendula is in the form of lymphatic tonic along with cleavers, discussed in another blog.

The medicinal properties are numerous and this blog will provide details on two less talked about.

#1 Digestive Ally

Let the food be at the heart of your own wellbeing. If you are a self-care convert, don’t wait until you get sick and become a pill-ridden and over-the-counter consumer. Instead, reach out and have an educational consultation to evaluate your wellness history, your circumstances, environmental factors etc. You will then explore and establish what you need and what you don’t need in teas, lotions and potions with your Herbalist consultant. You will be surprised that in the long run you will save money and time. After all you only have a body to live your life in it. Live it wisely.

We all know that digestion starts in the mouth. Therefore, the oral hygiene must be impeccable in order to have a great digestion down the tube. Calendula is one of the best allies one can have when it comes to restoring and healing the gastric and intestinal permeability.

How to use: It is often a good idea to combine calendula with other herbs for increased benefits. For example a blend of marshmallow root ( Althaea officinalis), calendula flower heads (Calendula officinalis) and liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) all in equal amounts is a helpful tonic for the digestive system that is also very pleasant tea. Combine 2 teaspoons of the herbal blend with a cup of water and simmer for 20 minutes. Some prefer it sweetened with honey. I like it as is.

A word of caution: Topical use of Calendula during pregnancy or breastfeeding is considered safe. However, internal use of calendula and liquorice are not indicated in pregnancy.

#2 Vaginal Hygiene

A 2017 study on the treatment of vaginal Candidiasis concluded that Calendula vaginal cream is as effective and with greater long-term effect compared to traditional treatment based on clotrimazole (Safari et al 2017). According to Dorothy Hall, (1988), a Calendula douche, as below is a “great insurance against infection and irritation” in multiple situations including when there may be bleeding and tearing of the vaginal walls, in the case of existent fibroids at menopause as well as after child birth.

How to use: make a douche from one cup of warm water, 1-2 teaspoons of calendula extract and juice from a small lemon. Use as a preventive cleanser and antiseptic wash. Alternatively if the extract is unavailable, a simple tea made from dried Calendula petals may be as effective.

Growing Calendula: if you have a green thumb or not, Calendula is very easy to grow. All you need to do is choose a bright spot and let the Sun do the work. And have I mentioned that the bright petals also make an excellent addition to your yummy salads?

Thank you for visiting and reading this page.

Disclaimer: I am a qualified holistic wellness, Herbalist Aromatherapist and Nutrition Diva. This article is for educational purpose only. Always check with your doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises.

References

Dorothy Hall, Herbal Medicine, 1988, p116-119, Lothian Publishing CompanyPty Ltd, Melbourne Australia

Elnaz Saffari , Sakineh Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi, Mohammad Adibpour, Mojgan Mirghafourvand & Yousef Javadzadeh Comparing the effects of Calendula officinalis and clotrimazole on vaginal Candidiasis: A randomized controlled trial, Women & Health, 2017; 57:10, 1145-1160, DOI: 10.1080/03630242.2016.1263272

Kerry Bone, Simon Mills, Eds., 2013, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (Second Edition),: Cp8 – Herbal approaches to pathological states, P:140-182, Churchill Livingstone,

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780443069925000086

Panahi, Yunes, Mohamad Reza Sharif, Alireza Sharif, Fatemeh Beiraghdar, Zahra Zahiri, Golnoush Amirchoopani, Eisa Tahmasbpour Marzony, and Amirhossein Sahebkar. “A Randomized Comparative Trial on the Therapeutic Efficacy of Topical Aloe Vera and Calendula Officinalis on Diaper Dermatitis in Children.” TheScientificWorldJournal 2012 (2012): doi:10.1100/2012/810234.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22606064/

The Medicine Citrus

Hidden Benefits of Wild Lime

Makrut (Citrus hystrix) also known as wild lime or kaffir lime is prized for its flavoursome leaves and floral scent when used in cooking. Please note that from this point on, I will refer to these leaves as wild lime leaves, as the term kaffir is offensive in some cultures1.

Cuisines of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia Bali, Java, Malaysia and Burma use these leaves to enchant the olfactory system and provide a complex refreshing taste for some dishes (soups, sauces, curries).

Properties: Aside from its culinary use, the wild lime leaves and fruit peels are highly prized for many medicinal uses. That is why it is also called the citrus medicine in some South Eastern Asian Countries. This is certainly backed up by its various phytocomponents (Arumugam et al, 2014) (including glycerolglycolipids, tannins, tocopherols, furanocoumarins as well as flavonoids and alkaloids). Furthermore, the oil extracted from wild lime leaves or fruit peels boast an impressive number of chemical components (more than 35 in varying concentrations). It must be noted that the chemical composition of fruit peels differs from the leaves: for instance the peels’ major component, sabinene, does not exist in the leaves. The major components in the leaves are citronellal, linalool and hedycaryol (Waikedre et al, 2010).

Benefits: In the following you will discover two of the least known benefits of this delightful wild lime citrus also known as the citrus medicine plant.

#1 Wild Lime as Depression Relief Agent

A 2007 study conducted on the use of Kaffir lime oil (obtained from fruit peels) for topical applications in aromatherapy, showed that massaging the oil on the skin affects the autonomic nervous system as well as the behaviour in healthy adults (Hongratanaworakit and Buchbauer, 2007). Specifically the topical application of diluted wild lime oil (20% in almond oil) leads to increased sympathetic activity. What is most interesting is that during the application the volunteers did not inhaled the perfumed oil, as they were provided with pure air via breathing mask. That is to say that the olfactory stimulation through the nose and mouth was eliminated. Subsequently, only the transdermal absorption was the cause of the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous. Furthermore, the volunteers also noted positive changes in some behavioural parameters, including increased alertness, attentiveness, enhanced mood and cheerfulness.

How to use: a few drops of diluted essential wild lime oil rubbed on the abdomen in the morning and relax in well-lit indoor place. When applied on the skin, the fragrant molecules easily penetrate the blood-brain barrier and are absorbed after application. The effects on the sympathetic system (heart rate, skin temperature, pupil dilation) as well as increased vigour and alertness develop after 20 minutes. Avoid its use in the evening as it enhances the alertness, according to the same study.

The Flip Side: Some of the citrus oils including bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, orange as well as the wild lime induce skin photosensitivity. That is to say that after application of wild lime oil on the skin, one should not expose the skin to sunlight or UV lamps for minimum 12 hours.

#2 Wild Lime Leaves as Mouth Ward

Periodontal disease is the most common an inflammation of the tooth-supporting tissue and bone caused by more than 300 pathogens affecting more than 50% of world population. Although a non-communicable disease, periodontal disease is known to increase the incidence of diabetes, coronary heart disease as well as cerebrovascular accidents. To date the mouth washes fighting this plague are based on ingredients that affect negatively the quality of life (taste aberrations, tooth staining as well as calculus formation).

How to use: According to folk medicine, the wild lime leaves can be rubbed onto the gums to promote good oral health. Indeed, a 2014 study demonstrated that the oil extracted from the leaves was effective against bacteria causing periodontal disease (Wongsariya et al 2014).

Here is my mouth wash recipe: Take a handful of wild-lime leaves, wash them well crunch them and placed them in a mason jar. Fill the jar with dechlorinated water and add 1 table spoon of salt. The solution is ready to use after it brews at least 24 hours. Do not drink the solution as it is very concentrated and it may cause unwanted effects the gut microbiome (nausea, even vomiting).

Thank you for visiting and reading this page.

Disclaimer: I am a qualified holistic wellness, Herbalist Aromatherapist and Nutrition Diva rather than a medical doctor or nurse. Always check with a doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises.

References

1 https://www.dictionary.com/browse/kaffir

Arumugam A, Gunasekaran N, and Perumal S. The medicinal and nutritional role of underutilized citrus fruit Citrus hystrix (Kaffir lime): a review. Drug Invention Today.2014; 6: 1-5.

Hongratanaworakit T and Buchbauer G. Chemical composition and stimulating effects of Citrus hystrix oil on humans, Flavour & Fragrance J.2007; 22: 443-449. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ffj.1820

Waikedre J, Dugay A, Barrachina I, Herrenknecht C, Cabalion P, Fournet A. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oils from New Caledonian Citrus macroptera and Citrus hystrix. Chem Biodivers. 2010; 7(4):871-7. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.200900196. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20397222

Wongsariya K, Phanthong P, Bunyapraphatsara N, Srisukh V, Chomnawang MT, Synergistic Interaction and Mode of Action of Citrus Hystrix Essential Oil Against Bacteria Causing Periodontal Diseases. Pharm Biol. 2014; 52(3)273-280 doi: 10.3109/13880209.2013.833948. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24102651/

Blog COVID19 2020

Stay Home and Stay Safe during COVID19 Pandemic

A Bingo Style Holistic Approach

We are facing unprecedented effects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When an epidemic of this proportion hits our Planet it is normal to be scared. In our state, non-essential businesses are shut down to preserve health and combat the spread of the Corona virus.

While understanding that physical distancing is essential to stop spreading the virus, w e also have a sense of duty helping our community. We do so by letting you know that we understand the challenges you are facing, because we are experience them ourselves. While quarantined, though perfectly healthy otherwise, in my own sacred space, in this blog I am sharing my Aromatic and Herbal expertise. Thus I have collated eight easy ways that may be helpful and bring some life-rebalancing effects during this “stay-at-home and save life” time.

Obviously you can tweak some of the elements to suit your needs. Bottom line is that this blog is about how to go about loving yourself inside out and stay as healthy as possibly can during these challenging times.

Feel free to use this Bingo style collage as you find fit for your circumstances and enjoy its benefits.

Strengthening the Immune System

Keeping the immune system functioning at its optimal parameters depends a great deal on the gut microbiota. This not only affects the state of the physical health but also the state of the emotional health.

Garlic an essential prebiotic

During a viral attack, garlic is recommended as the easy to reach out anti-viral home remedy. While garlic has many other proven medicinal properties (anti-fungal, anti-protozoal, anti-microbial even anti-tumour), the research on its anti-viral properties is rather limited (Bayan et al, 2014). However, garlic is an exceptional prebiotic dietary fibre, helping the growth of beneficial Bacteria in the gut, thus strengthening the immune system (Carlson et al, 2018). Other prebiotic dietary fibres to consider are leeks, onions, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes. The lesson here is: increase the consumption of the prebiotic dietary fibres to support the defence mechanisms provided by your immune system.

Spices: important antioxidant sources

Harnessing the beneficial effects of spices in every day cooking is a practice as old as the cooking itself. Various spices can be used either for seasoning your salt or simply used them in teas and general cooking. The highlighted spices in the presented collage were chosen either because they taste awesome or they have specific properties. They are my go to remedies for flu-like situations as their anti-oxidant characteristics act as a natural shield against viral infections.

Star anise (Illicium verum) is the spice used in the Chinese medicine for thousands of years for its pharmacological potential in fighting flu-like symptoms. The spice is used in the Indian “Garam Masala” blend. It is known to provide a natural shield against some deadly ever-changing viruses. The aromatic amino acid, shikimic acid, is the important metabolite that was used in Tamiflu, for example.

Star anise is frequently used for combating influenza symptoms. Its potential to treat or fight the multitude of viral infections in humans requires significant more research to understand its full capacities.

Caution: children under 5 and pregnant women should avoid the use of this spice because of possible contamination with Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum), which may cause unwanted poisonous effects (Vermaak I et al, 2013).

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)is a very aromatic spice that has extraordinary anti-oxidant properties (Verma et al 2009). I mostly use it due to its phenomenal aroma in deserts.

Pink peppercorns (Schinus molle) are not really true peppercorns, yet they provide a lightly peppery flavour that has a rather sweet and floral accent. They are beneficial in that they provide a great source of dietary fiber while their phenolic compounds (especially the bioflavonoids and anthocyanins) offer protection against the damage of the free radicals as well as possess anti-viral benefits.

Caution: there are some reports that they may induce nut-allergy like effects. So if in doubt, better do not use them at all.

Juniper (Juniperus communis) berries are known for their phenomenal flavouring properties especially for their contribution to gin. I chose them because they are beneficial as powerful detoxifying agents, as they support a healthy urinary tract. They should be used sparingly as too much may not actually add the benefit one would want. Though small, these berries are very potent and should be used with caution for children and pregnancy.

Boost the metabolism

Cayenne pepper has metabolism-boosting properties. The process behind is termed diet-induced thermogenesis. The chemical compound behind this process is capsaicin. Occasionally I like to spice up my savoury foods with this lovely spice. Little is known about its viral replication inhibiting properties. Consuming cayenne pepper may be useful during viral infections because it does not affect the virus itself; rather it changes the environment within which the virus replicates itself (Marois et al 2014). Thus it may have potential for preventive treatment.

Stay hydrated

There are multiple ways to stay hydrated when staying at home and experiencing some form of cold or flu. In addition to staying hydrated, it is a good idea to add moisture to home. I like to use a rosemary-based home-made spritz as it also helps with mental fog.

Take an herbal bath

Let’s be honest: who doesn’t like a hot bath? Add some delightful herbs to it in the form of concentrated tea and voila you have a relaxing bath. My fav is lavender; it is so rewarding to grow (Waddington, 2019) and such a delight for the soul.

Reduce stress

Pumpkin kernels are packed with health promoting amino acids including tryptophan and gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). These are two of the most valuable compounds we need when facing emotional stress.

Write a gratitude list

Writing a gratitude list is scientifically proven to increase the level of happiness into one’s life.

Some people write daily some weekly, others just STOP. LOOK. GO (David Steindl_Rast, 2013). Now we are all forced to STOP a little. It means that we have the opportunity to observe and enjoy life as it is given to us.

My gratitude list is constantly growing. It starts something like this:

I am grateful for…today….. because…I am alive and well….

I am grateful for…every opportunity in my life.. because…what goes around comes around….

Increase the feel-good hormone

Lastly we cannot function properly if we do not feel good about things. In other words possessing the happy hormone or not. The science behind this is rather complicated and involves chemistry, physiology and so many other complex medical concepts beyond the scope of this blog. Yet if one knows that certain nutrients have the power to increase the feel-good hormone, dopamine, it would certainly help. One of those nutrients is almond. Not only almonds are nutrient dense, but they are also rich in tyrosine, the precursor for the dopamine: the happy hormone. So next time when feeling a bit blue, eat some almonds – not too many though if you care about your waistline.

Final thoughts

Well this was a rather long blog. Thank the eyes that reached up to this point. I challenge you to try at least three of the suggestion in this Bingo-style approach to stay sane and healthy during this difficult time for All of us.

Stay safe. Stay at home. Stay healthy.

References

Bayan L et al. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. 2014; Avicenna J Phytomed. 4(1):1-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103721/

Carlson JL et al. Health effects and Sources of prebiotic dietary fibers. 2018; Curr Dev Nutr. 2(3):nzy 005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041804/

David Steindl-Rast. Want to be happy? Be grateful. 2013. TedX Talk, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtBsl3j0YRQ

Marois I et al. Inhibition of Influenza Virus Replication by Targeting Broad Host Cell Pathways. 2014. PLOSONE, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0110631 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110631

Verma K, et al. Blood Pressure Lowering, Fibrinolysis Enhancing and Antioxidant Activities of Cardamom (Elettaria Cardamomum). 2009; Indian J Biochem Biophys. 46(6):503-506. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20361714/

Vermaak I et al. Hyperspectral imaging in the quality control of herbal medicines – The case of neurotoxic Japanese star anise. 2013; J Pharmacol Biomed Anal. 75(5):207-213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpba.2012.11.039 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0731708512006541

Waddington E, 2019. How to Grow Lavender: Care, Types, and Growing Tips. https://happydiyhome.com/lavender/

The Salvation Plant

Flowers of Salvia Oficinalis Plant

3 Science-Based Benefits Everyone Should Know About

The Plant: There are a several forms of sage that are cultivated for their use as a culinary or medicine herb. This blog is about the most common one is the common sage: Salvia officinalis. Sage’s botanical name, Salvia, mean the “Salvation Plant”, name given for a good reason, as you will discover in the next few paragraphs.

Sage blossoms bring a smile on my face every time I see them in my little front yard. And Oh dear do they smell heavenly wonderful. If I close my eyes I can even remember their scent. Do you find this odd?

But let’s get back to why do I write this blog? Yes! Yes, you guessed: it’s sage season Melbourne! So I am here to remind YOU to enjoy the benefits of this wonder-magic plant. I just made-up this word and hope the reader is not too offended.

So my advice to you, whether you have a green thumb or not, go buy some seedlings of the common sage and plant it in your front yard or back yard. It is useful and it adds beauty to your garden as it can grow in beautiful shrub. And I can assure you: the possum friend will not eat it!

Benefits: In the following I will provide you with the most common and scientifically-backed benefits that I also have tested.

#1 Sage as Cholesterol Balancing Agent

This plant is packed with loads of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can help our health system restore without any nasty secondary effects. Most importantly, its bioactive components, antioxidants (Jakovljevic et al, 2019), in the form of polyphenols have been researched extensively by many reputable Laboratories. Turns out that drinking only a cup of sage tea twice daily for about 2-4 weeks is able to balance the cholesterol: increasing the levels of the “good” one (HDL) while lowering the levels of the “bad” guy (LDL) (Sa et al, 2009).

#2 Sage as Remedy for Hot Flushes in Menopausal Women

Hormonal balance is out of whack when experiencing hot flushes. The fridge is never cold enough and daily hot flushes are not something one wishes to experience. Good news is that drinking sage tea daily for a period of two months has positive effects, reducing the intensity and frequency of hot flushes (Bommer, et al, 2011). The tea can be made from either fresh flowers or dried plant.

#3 Sage as Mental Acuity Improver

Essential oil from Sage (Perry et al, 2003), can help alleviate symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease. It improves digestion and it also helps improve brain neuropathways. Most notably, after 6 weeks of being exposed to the oil of sage. In the referenced study the volunteers were given 2 drops of the oil. Since this involves the ingestion of an essential oil, it is best to consider using the sage plant fresh or dried in food or consumed as beverage.

The plant, Salvia officinalis and its oil has no known toxicity and has no contraindications. My preferred way to use it is to drink an infusion during the day. In order to get the wonderful benefits sage has on offer I also like grinding it and use it as a salt enhancer.

Guess what tea am I sipping while writing this blog?

Disclaimer: I am a qualified holistic wellness, herbalist aromatherapist and nutrition Diva, I am not a medical doctor or nurse and do not play one on the internet. Always check with a doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises.

References

Bommere et al, Adv. Ther., 2011,28(6):490-500, First time proof of sage’s tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21630133/

Jakovljevic M. et al, Plants (Basel Switzerland), 2019:,8(3) Bioactive Profile of Various Salvia officinalis L. Preparations, . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30845696

Sa et al, Int J Mol Sci. 2009:10(9):3937-50, Sage tea drinking improves lipid profile and antioxidant defences in humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19865527

Perry et al, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003:75(3):651-659, Salvia for dementia therapy, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12895683/

Time Tested Cold Relievers

Grandma’s Aromatic Cold Cure

Last night’s cold temperature reminded me of a bitter experience I had in my early youth. I was commuting to my job by bus in another town about 12 km distance away. The temperature reached minus 23 degrees Celsius. After several stops, the buss wouldn’t start. Ouch! We were caught between the two towns: with phenomenal view of majestic frozen mountains on both sides of the road. The driver suggested that we better start walking. So we did. We had walked about 4 km to get to the first house in the town where my job was. When the journey came to an end, my nostrils and left eye were almost frozen. Imagine the rest…..

Ok .. Ok I admit, I was way out of my thermal comfort back then.

Anyway, if you are living in Melbourne, you know that one cannot have this sort of experience. So why did I feel it was so cold?

Aha! You guessed: is all about personal thermal comfort. Meaning whatever I am comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes 14 degrees Celsius are just fine while other times not. That is because the thermal comfort is a subjective evaluation of what thousands of thermal skin sensors communicate to the nervous and endocrine system. Interestingly, the thermal skin sensors are distributed unequally on the body, with more sensors in the exposed regions of the body: feet, ankles, hands, wrists, neck, face and head. Therefore, having one or more of these regions exposed to the outdoor weather is linked to how cold/hot the body feels.

But would feeling cold make you getting the cold?

Feeling cold and catching a cold are not necessarily directly related. Even though colds and other respiratory illnesses are more prevalent in the colder months, it does not mean that they are caused by it. More likely, we get them because we might be tired, under emotional stress or lacking some essential minerals and vitamins. Colds are caused by a group of viruses referred to as rhinoviruses.

Best way to stay healthy this cold season is to keep the hands clean and avoid touching the nose, eyes or the face with unwashed hands. If the unavoidable happened and the cold signs (runny nose, scratchy throat, and nonstop sneezing) are developing, relax and read on. Grandma’s recipes are at hand.

Important to remember that the remedies provided here rarely cause adverse effects: some can inhibit viruses while other can alleviate cold symptoms. It is up to you to choose and educate yourself about what works best for you.

I share here three of my best ways to unbug yourself: the easy way: on your pocket as well as on your body.

#1 Decongestant Aromatic Herbal Bath

This is my absolute favourite and is an old fashioned remedy for colds. You can either brew a strong tea using the herbs below or use their essential oils (about 2 drops of each) to the bath.

In a large 5 l pot bring to boil water with:

  • 2 cups eucalyptus leaves
  • ½ cup of thyme leaves
  • 1 cup of rosemary leaves
  • 1cup of peppermint leaves

Cover and let it rest for about 5 min. Strain out the herbs and pour the solution in the bath making sure that the water is not too hot (about 40degrees Celsius ).

#2 Boost the Immune System with the Humble Chicken Soup

Slow cook a chicken soup with my secret ingredient.

Recipe

  • 1 medium chicken
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ celeriac root
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 8 – 10 black peppercorns
  • 2cm fresh ginger
  • Secret ingredient: shiitake mushrooms (lentinus edodes).

Since ancient times, (as early as AD60 by Pedacius Dioscorides, Roman surgeon under Nero) the chicken soup was considered the ultimate cold and flu fighter and a tested way to boost your own immune system. Today’s deep science understandings enable us to also know why. The trick with it is to cook the chicken as slow as possible in a slow cooker. By cooking for longer time at relatively low temperature, the soup has multiple benefits as listed in Table 1.

Table 1. The chicken soup: more than just another hot liquid.

Effect Reason
Mild-
antiinflammatory
Increases mucus flow (Saketkhoo, et al 1978)
antioxidants Carrots, onions (Suileria et al 2015)
Prevents dehydration Parsnip- important source of potassium
Metabolism enhancer Black pepper
Blocks the attachment and internalisation of human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) Ginger is an effective element against virus (HRSV) infections (Chang et al., 2003) –
less dietary glycotoxins
Cooking the foods using intense heat, causes the sugars to bind with proteins (e.a. collagen and elastin fibers) to form glycotoxins. The visual evidence of this termo-chemical reaction is the browning observed in food cooked above 110 degrees Celsius. The cookies and cake in the oven, the chicken on the grill, and the potatoes in the frying pan are all browning as a result of dietary glycotoxins.
Antiviral properties garlic’s sulfur-potentially has a role here (Cochrane Library 2014)
Tonic to the immune system Shiitake mushrooms possess substances called polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system by increasing the body’s production of antiviral substance interferon.(Gunawardena, et al, 2014)


Feel free to add any other herbs. Experimenting is key in cooking!

#3 Aromatic Herbal Remedies and Inhalations

A plethora of teas are available in health shops and pharmacy. My current choice of herbal remedies is based on taste as well as scientific evidence. The following combination provides a nice, fresh and sweet taste that is pleasant either hot or cold.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

This herb’s essential oil is used as nasal decongestant and inhalants. It affects the bronchial smooth muscle cells (Meamarbashy et al, 2014) as well as it can be used in combating nausea even in pregnancy (Gordon & Love, 2018). In fact, the essential oil can be used in a diluted form on the temples to reduce headaches (making sure that the eyes are well protected).

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger blends well with many other herbs. It is also very versatile as it can be used in fresh and dried form equally. Ginger can be boiled for tea, in soups or stir-fries with equal effect. As it is a warming plant, avoid using when high fever is present.

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Licorice root is commonly used in alternative medicine to treat colds and sore throats. However, licorice does not only act upon the respiratory system(Gulati et al 2016). It can also be soothing to the gut and work as an effective liver cleanser and blood detoxifier when combined with other herbs. Licorice will sweeten the tea due glycyrrhizin, a compound that can be up to 50 times sweeter than sugar. This sweet compound inhibits tissue inflammation, reduces oxidative stress and has significant anti-inflammatory properties. No wonder it has been heralded as the “go to” herb when cold season hits in so many cultures around the Globe (Ancient Greeks, China, India). Use the tea for maximum a week only as to avoid overdosing on glycyrrhiza (50 times sweeter than sugar). More about licorice is summarised in the (American Botanical Council).

For more information on how to aromatically keep the cold at bay using diet, herbs and aromatic essential oils, contact us.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or nurse and do not play one on the internet. Always check with a doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises.]

References

Chang et al., 2003, J Ethnopharmacol., 9;145(1):146-51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23123794

Cochrane Library,2014, Garlic for the common (cold.https://www.cochrane.org/CD006206/ARI_garlic-common-cold)

Gordon and Love, 2018, Chapter 54:Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy Pages 542-549, in Integrative Medicine, 4th Edition. Ed. Rakel D Elsevier Inc. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/peppermint)

Gulati et al, 2016, Nutraceuticals in Respiratory Disorders, in Nutraceuticals: Efficacy, Safety and Toxicity, Ed Gupta, Elsevier Inc.

( https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/glycyrrhiza-glabra)

Gunawardena et al, 2014 Food Chem. 1;148:92-6. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24262531)

Licorice Root – American Botanical Council http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Licoriceroot.html?ts=1559265640&signature=1d1115ec53db851b893ed9193a017150

Meamarbashy, 2014, Avicenna J Phytomed., 4(1): 72–78. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103722/)

Suileria et al, 2015, Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.;55(1):50-66., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24915405

Saketkhoo et al, 1978; Chest. 74(4):408-10.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/359266