Bay Leaves: from Flavouring to Medical Benefits

Green Bay Leaf Wreath on white background

The legends say that once upon a time, bay leaves were used to repel demons, witches, lightning and thunder. It is said that the great Tiberius Caesar Augustus, the second Roman Emperor (reined from AD 14 to 37) had a bay leaf hat to protect him from lightning. Most commonly bay leaves come from an ancient evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region called Laurus nobilis.

This herb has been around since ancient times and has been used as food flavouring as well as medicinal remedy. The herb is associated with prosperity, honour and fame and has many other ritualistic uses, including protection from misfortune, purification, meditation, accessing higher creative powers, etc. Most importantly this herb lists impressive health benefits in the folk medicine that are yet to be validated by modern medicine.

Harnessing the beneficial effects of bay leaf is easier than one might think in Australia. That is because Bay tree is so easy to grow in pots or garden, but be warned it requires constant pruning.

The leaves are rich in vitamins (specifically vitamin A and C) and minerals including copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium and manganese. Furthermore, the leaves contain tannins, flavones, flavonoids, alkaloids, eugenol, linalool, methyl chavicol, and anthocyanins (Batool et al, 2020). Here’s what modern research tells us about bay leaves benefits:

  1. May Improve Lipid Metabolism in Type 2 Diabetes: Just one or 2 grams a day for a minimum of 10 days is able to help decrease risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases for people with type 2 diabetes. (Khan et al, 2009);
  2. May Help Fight Stomach and Duodenal Ulcers: an aqueous extract of bay leaf is as effective as ginger, and nigella in fighting against bacteria (commonly Helicobacter Pyloriis) known to lead to stomach ulcer (Biglar et al, 2014);
  3. Could be useful in wound healing preventing fungal infections: the essential oil from bay leaves has been efficient in combating fungal infections (Candida albicans biofilms) (Freires et al, 2016).

Throughout the history bay leaf has also known for other biological activities including:

  • As a poultice to help with wound healing,
  • As a topical application of the oil to ease the arthritic pain,
  • Bug repellent,
  • Vapour treatment in chest and viral infections,
  • Commonly used in cosmetic creams, perfumes, hair conditioner and soaps.

Bay Leaf Tea

Bay leaf tea is delicious; I love the aromatic fragrance that the leaves release when I make the tea. A coup of bay leaf tea can soothe and relax the body. After work or a stressful day and before bedtime the tea will help you getting into the “zzzzzzzzz” mode in no time. Bay leaf is not a morning tea: save it for the afternoon or evening. The tea should be consumed with caution, as it is known to have some slight narcotic qualities slowing down the central nervous system (Batool et al, 2020).

  • One litre water;
  • 5 bay leaves;
  • Juice of one large lemon;
  • Place ingredients, together, in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil until the liquid reduces to half.
  • Strain and add the lemon juice.
  • Drink the tea after it cools down.

Hair Conditioner. The bay leaf tea can also be used as your best hair conditioner: it will add extra shine to the hair. Use the tea after shampooing your hair.

Safety: If you have a bay leaf tree always make the tea from dried leaves. Fresh Bay leaves have a pungent and bitter taste and should only be used for food flavouring or tea 48 to 72 hours after being harvested. Although, there is insufficient data about the safety of taking bay leaf in pregnancy and breastfeeding it is most probably better to avoid its use during this period.

Ground bay leaf is considered safe when taken in medicinal quantities, less than ¾ of a teaspoon or approximately 3 grams a day, and for a short period (up to maximum 40 days). But, if you cook with whole bay leaf, you must remove it before eating the food. Bay leaf cannot be digested and remains intact in the digestive tract and it may cause piercing of the lining of the intestines.

Final thoughts

Most of the studies I found in my research refer to either in-vitro or testing of bay leaf extracts. As scientific research progresses, we may be able to find out how the savoury leaf makes the jump from being used just as flavouring agent to human medical benefits.

As with all natural products one must manifest caution when embarking on the use of bay leaf for its medicinal properties. When in doubt it is always better to consult and experienced and qualified professional if you feel that your ill-health symptoms require in depth attention.

I would love to hear from you about how you use Bay leaf in your daily life, or if you have any questions please write in the comments below.

References

Batool, S., Khera, R. A., Hanif, M. A., & Ayub, M. A. (2020). Bay Leaf. Medicinal Plants of South Asia, 63–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-102659-5.00005-7

Biglar, M., Sufi, H., Bagherzadeh, K., Amanlou, M., & Mojab, F. (2014). Screening of 20 commonly used Iranian traditional medicinal plants against urease. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research : IJPR, 13(Suppl), 195–198. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3977070/#__ffn_sectitle

Peixoto, L. R., Rosalen, P. L., Ferreira, G. L., Freires, I. A., de Carvalho, F. G., Castellano, L. R., & de Castro, R. D. (2017). Antifungal activity, mode of action and anti-biofilm effects of Laurus nobilis Linnaeus essential oil against Candida spp. Archives of oral biology, 73, 179–185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archoralbio.2016.10.013

Khan, A., Zaman, G., & Anderson, R. A. (2009). Bay leaves improve glucose and lipid profile of people with type 2 diabetes. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 44(1), 52–56. https://doi.org/10.3164/jcbn.08-188

No-Frills Gut Healing Herbs

BIBITherapy_Gut_Healing_Herbs

It is well known now that we have more than one mechanism for making decisions: one is also known as our “gut feeling” (Soosalu and Oka, 2012). It is caused by the trillions of bacteria, living in the gut and constituting the microbiome. Feed the right bacteria and you are happy; else delve in a cycling circle of depression, anxiety and anger.

As with the Holiday season we surely indulged in a few experiences that may have disturbed the normal flora and require re-balancing of the gut microbiome.

The helpers are at hand in the form of herbs that we can use as flavour-boosters with magnificent support for the digestive health.

That is to say we can use these helpers to calm symptoms relating to the functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, or stomach upset. The effect is double as fixing problems in the gut affects what’s happening in the brain, too. So let’ see how we can keep the digestive system in top condition this holiday season.

The following seven herbs have extraordinary gut healing properties. They are also super easy to grow in pots or in a small garden.

1. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is an important culinary herb and the most well-known digestive soother. It is highly prised in the Mediterranean cuisine for its natural detox qualities but also known in the folk medicine for the anti-inflammatory properties. Parsley has multiple benefits for the whole body; I will mention here those for which a scientific provision exists without doubts (Mahmood et al 2014) as it:

  • Reverses signs of oxidative stress due to its anti-oxidant compounds (Dorman et al, 2011)
  • Decreases bloating and helps in the support of bowel movements due to its high fibre content (Kreydiyyeh et al 2001);
  • It reduces bad breath;
  • Alleviates colic.

2. Basil is one of the oldest to mankind herb used in cooking along with rosemary, oregano and mint. There are over 35 different types of basil plants. It is praised not only for its pleasant aroma but also for its impressive list of nutrients. Among them is less known vitamin K, a fat soluble vitamin very important for bone health as well as for healthy cardiovascular function. Suffice to say that scientific studies have shown the following benefits:

  • Hepatoprotector;
  • Pain-reducer;
  • Immune booster;
  • Antibacterial against strains of E.coli.

3. Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) are also known as Chinese chives. They are used as seasoning and give a mild garlic flavour to dishes. If garlic is too strong to use in the salads or stir fries, garlic chives are the best option. Personally I found them very effective for bowel movement.

4. Sage (Salvia officinalis) plant is also known as the salvation plant as its medicinal and non –medicinal uses have been used for several thousands of years in almost all Mediterranean cultures as well as in the traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Some of multiple benefits sage presents are:

  • It helps improve mental capacities and acuity (Perry et al, 2003);
  • It treats menopausal symptoms reducing the intensity of hot flushes (Bommer, et al, 2011);
  • It balances cholesterol levels (Sa et al, 2009).

How to take sage

  1. Hot infusion tea made from fresh or dry herb;
  2. Cold infusion tea: soak overnight a handful of fresh sage leaves in a cup of lemon juice; enjoy it diluted during the next day;
  3. Salt enhancer;
  4. Bath bombs.

Since it is taken in the form of food sage does not have any restrictions, as it presents no toxicity. However, for pregnant or breastfeeding women this herb is not adequate due to a chemical that it deems to be unsafe in such conditions.

5. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), symbol of love, fidelity and loyalty has been connected with memory since ancient times. This plant is packed with anti-oxidants two of which are well-known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic properties (Degner et al 2009). Other equally impressive health benefits include:

  • Soothing heartburn;
  • Easing intestinal gas and bloating as well as
  • Improving the cognitive function.

How to use it:

  1. Use liberally when cooking meat but also vegetables
  2. Make a rosemary tonic salt
  3. Flavour a favourite beverage or cocktail; it goes well with citruses or cucumber.

6. Onion Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a nutrient dense food. They are used as seasoning and add onion flavour to dishes. They are packed with important nutrients and health-promoting compounds. However in order to benefit from their medicinal benefits a person needs to consume a large quantity, say a cup of chives.

7. Dill (Anethum graveolens) has a long and ancient history of being used in many countries. The many uses and benefits are mostly evidenced in the folk medicine. There are no significant clinical trials to cite for the benefits of this wonderful plant. Some of the most well-known are:

  • Reduces flatulence;
  • May help balance cholesterol; but current research is controversial.

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 arise

Sources

Bommer, S., Klein, P., & Suter, A. (2011). First time proof of sage’s tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes. Advances in therapy, 28(6), 490–500. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-011-0027-z

Degner, S. C., Papoutsis, A. J., Romagnolo, D. F., (2009), , Chapter 26:Health Benefits of Traditional Culinary and Medicinal Mediterranean Plants, pp: 541-562 in Complementary and Alternative Therapies and the Aging Population, Ed. Watson, R., Academic Press. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123742285000263

Dorman, H. J., Lantto, T. A., Raasmaja, A., & Hiltunen, R. (2011). Antioxidant, pro-oxidant and cytotoxic properties of parsley. Food & function, 2(6), 328–337. https://doi.org/10.1039/c1fo10027k

Kreydiyyeh, S. I., Usta, J., Kaouk, I., & Al-Sadi, R. (2001). The mechanism underlying the laxative properties of parsley extract. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology, 8(5), 382–388. https://doi.org/10.1078/0944-7113-00058

Mahmood, S., Hussain, S., & Malik, F. (2014). Critique of medicinal conspicuousness of Parsley(Petroselinum crispum): a culinary herb of Mediterranean region. Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 27(1), 193–202.

Perry, N. S., Bollen, C., Perry, E. K., & Ballard, C. (2003). Salvia for dementia therapy: review of pharmacological activity and pilot tolerability clinical trial. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 75(3), 651–659. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0091-3057(03)00108-4Sá, C. M., Ramos, A. A.,

Ignite Your Wellbeing

An Ancient Art Approach to Good Health

Aromatherapy an Overview

Where do you find stillness? How do you ease your racing thoughts in your life? The physical and mental body is adversely affected by stress, pollution, unhealthy diets, and hectic yet sedentary lifestyle.

One of my favourite ways to create calmness in my life is through Aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is a complementary holistic therapy that uses natural plant oils in the form of essential oils. The value of natural plant oils has been recognised for more than 6000 years, not only for the sheer pleasure of their fragrance but mostly for their healing, cleansing or mood-altering properties. Today’ science validates all of the above mentioned properties and so much more.

Aromatherapy aims to enhance and/or balance a person’s physical, spiritual, emotional and mental capacity. Although it can act as a preventive to disease state, Aromatherapy ignites your wellbeing by improving mental and physical health. It does that through the specific qualities of the essential oils being used either through massage or inhalation. Although these qualities aim to stimulate, refresh or sedate an individual, in rare cases they may also lead to adverse reactions.

Essential oils are highly potent and in some cases may cause allergic skin reaction. That is why at BIBI Therapy we always take your health history before your aromatic treatment as well as we skin patch test for possible allergic reaction to the essential oils to be used.

Historical Perspective

Historically, the origins of aromatherapy use can be traced trough the religious, medical and social practices. It is believed that the remarkable medicinal powers of plants have been discovered in ancient China around 4500 B.C. However, the Egyptian hieroglyphs and current research indicate that the ritual of mummification using plant-based oils aromatic preparations was very well established by 4500 B.C. (Jones et al, 2018).

Since then, great herbalists as well as scientists throughout the world have uncovered many stunning uses of plants in the form of essential oils. The application of aromatherapy from embalming to beauty and ultimately to health and well-being is constantly evolving as contemporary research makes use of novel technologies and increased understanding of human body.

Why Do We Feel so Good after Having an Aromatherapy Session?

Is there such a thing as good health (Fred, 2013)? An ancient quote on best health is attributed to Agamemnon:

There is a limit to the best of health: disease is always a near neighbor.”

For me the absence of pain is essential for wellbeing as pain is often debilitating both physically and mentally. The antinociceptive or pain reducing qualities of essential oils have only been recently validated by modern science.

The power of touch during a massage session has inestimable values. But it is our own brain that transforms the touch into feel good sensation. All those tight muscles, tension and stress melt away all because the brain, through its autonomic nervous system. This system engages in involuntary processes that calm down the mental activity, decreasing the blood pressure, slowing the pulse rate and ultimately leading to relaxation and tranquillity. Furthermore, there is a healing effect that is induced within the body during an aromatic massage therapy:

Here are some well researched and documented reasons as to why aromatherapy massage is effectively enjoyable:

  1. Massages stretches and pulls muscles accelerating the healing process (Crane et al, 2012);
  2. The combination of gentle massage and essential oils ameliorates the effects of arthritis (Bahr et al, 2018)
  3. Back and foot massage effectively improves blood pressure and sleep quality (Arslan et al, 2020);
  4. Manual therapies, including but not limited to massage therapy, for migraine sufferers may be equally effective as medication treatment (Chaibi, et al, 2011);
  5. Aromatherapy massage alleviates psychological and physiological responses for older women suffering from anxiety and depression (Bahrami et al, 2017)
  6. Abdominal aromatic essential oil massage is an effective way to relieve throbbing pain in primary dysmenorrhea (Ou et al, 2012; Sut et al, 2017).

Resources

Arslan, G., Ceyhan, Ö., & Mollaoğlu, M. (2020). The influence of foot and back massage on blood pressure and sleep quality in females with essential hypertension: a randomized controlled study. Journal of human hypertension, 10.1038/s41371-020-0371-z. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41371-020-0371-z

Bahrami, T., Rejeh, N., Heravi-Karimooi, M., Vaismoradi, M., Tadrisi, S. D., & Sieloff, C. (2017). Effect of aromatherapy massage on anxiety, depression, and physiologic parameters in older patients with the acute coronary syndrome: A randomized clinical trial. International journal of nursing practice, 23(6), 10.1111/ijn.12601. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijn.12601

Bahr, T., Allred, K., Martinez, D., Rodriguez, D., & Winterton, P. (2018). Effects of a massage-like essential oil application procedure using Copaiba and Deep Blue oils in individuals with hand arthritis. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 33, 170–176. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2018.10.004

Chaibi, A., Tuchin, P. J., & Russell, M. B. (2011). Manual therapies for migraine: a systematic review. The journal of headache and pain, 12(2), 127–133. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10194-011-0296-6

Crane, J. D., Ogborn, D. I., Cupido, C., Melov, S., Hubbard, A., Bourgeois, J. M., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2012). Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Science translational medicine, 4(119), 119ra13. https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3002882,

Fred H. L. (2013). In good health: an opinion at best. Texas Heart Institute journal, 40(1), 13–14.

Jones, J., Higham, T. F.G., Chivall, D., Bianucci, R., Kay, G. L., Pallen, M. J., Oldfield, R., Ugliano F., Buckley S. A. (2018). A prehistoric Egyptian mummy: Evidence for an ‘embalming recipe’ and the evolution of early formative funerary treatments, Journal of Archaeological Science, 100, 191-200. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2018.07.011.

Sut, N., & Kahyaoglu-Sut, H. (2017). Effect of aromatherapy massage on pain in primary dysmenorrhea: A meta-analysis. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 27, 5–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.01.001

Ou, M. C., Hsu, T. F., Lai, A. C., Lin, Y. T., & Lin, C. C. (2012). Pain relief assessment by aromatic essential oil massage on outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. The journal of obstetrics and gynaecology research, 38(5), 817–822. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1447-0756.2011.01802.x

Don’t Let the Sunshine Steal your Natural Beauty

BIBITherapy_Human_Skin_Artwork

Two Easy Ways to Reverse Sunshine Harmful Effects

Have you ever seen a new born with freckles? So far I haven’t. But these days I do know how do freckles or brown spots develop. I wish I knew this when I was younger. I‘ll tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a young girl in a small mountain city. She loved the sun very much. In fact she loved it so much that she would bake herself hours in the summer sun until her skin would be as black as the soil. With her dark hair and even darker skin one could only see her emerald eyes; that’s how tanned she would become by the end of summer. Her mother used to joke: “you bake in the sun like a lizard come in the shade, surely it can’t be good to tan so much”. You see her mom did not have her easy to tan skin. Her mom would easily get sun-burn unlike her who would get a lovely tan, or so she thought.

My carefree youth spent soaking up the sunshine all summer days has come back to haunt me. A few years back I started noticing more and more of the brown spots on my face; on my arms and legs; everywhere the sun has kissed my skin sort of speaking. Fortunately, these days I know how to use simple remedies to make them disappear or at least lighten them up a notch.

When the unprotected skin is exposed to the sun, some specific rays, termed ultraviolet radiation, interact with a pigment from the skin, called melanin. The end result depends on how much of this pigment, melanin, exists in the outer layers of the skin. In fact this pigment is trying to protect the whole body and the skin against the harmful sun radiation. Some people get tan while others get a sun-burn. Nonetheless both processes are the result of inflammation: a skin damage at the cellular level. In some unfortunate cases it can lead to skin cancer. Unfortunately, in 2018 Australia had the highest rate of skin cancer in the world (Elflein, 2020) leading to 2094 deaths.

As a holistic practitioner I am also interested to know not only how to lighten the brown spots but how to maintain a healthy elasticity of the skin despite natural ageing processes. To do so I will provide in this blog two outstanding remedies I call for when in need for skin rejuvenation. Number one is Green tea, either applied topically or used as a beverage. And the other one is Aloe vera which also can be either applied topically or used in delish summer drinks.

Green Tea

When it comes to beautifying my # 1 go to is the Green tea. Green tea comes from a beautiful plant called Camellia sinensis. Green tea contains some specific substances, termed polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in the body. Specifically it plays a beneficial role in the treatment of skin tumours. According to the most recent studies (Koch et al 2019) consuming green tea regularly helps rejuvenate old skin cells as well as prevents the onset of further growth of skin tumour in the body. Although the protective effects of green tea remedy against ultraviolet light induced inflammation of the skin (read here sun tan, sunburn, brown spots) is not well understood, its protective effects either applied topically or consumed orally are undeniable. Here are just a few reasons why many cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies are supplementing skin care products with green tea extracts:

  1. Protects the skin against the harmful effects induced by ultraviolet light radiation;
  2. It improves the strength and elasticity of the skin;
  3. Inhibits the processes due to aging;
  4. Reduces skin cellulite;
  5. Improves skin, nails and hair morphology;
  6. Produces no skin irritation when applied topically;
  7. It has great moisturizing effects.

There is one catch that I must divulge: in order to benefit from the above mentioned qualities, one needs to consume large amounts of green tea, above 8 cups a day for as long as the summer goes on. Cup of tea anyone?

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera needs to introduction when it comes to its results in various skin ailments. It is often taken as a health drink or it is applied on the skin. Most commonly it is used in treating wrinkles, and brown spots, age spots or stretch marks. Aloe can be ingested in the form of aloe drinks, or applied topically on the skin as you would as a moisturizer. This is so easy to use of you have access to the plant. Simply rub a little fresh aloe gel on the skin and leave it to soak a little. Some prefer to rinse after it has dried off. As Aloe is very gentle I leave it on as long as it is not too sticky.

It is my hope that you enjoy reading this short blog. Thank you and until next time, stay safe.

This blog is for information only. Do your diligent homework, talk to your doctor if you need specialist advice.

Resources

Elflein, J., (2020). Countries with the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer Worldwide in 2018, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1032114/countries-with-the-greatest-rates-of-skin-cancer/

Koch, W., Zagórska, J., Marzec, Z., & Kukula-Koch, W. (2019). Applications of Tea (Camellia sinensis) and its Active Constituents in Cosmetics. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(23), 4277. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24234277

Emotional Fitness and the Brain

BIBITherapy_Human_Brain_Artwork

Taming the Reptilian Brain during COVID-19 Pandemic

Life as an immune-compromised person under coronavirus quarantine Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne is stressful. By now we have adapted to the new normal of staying at home, wearing masks, respecting the 1.5 meters distance rule, the curfew and the one hour daily exercise. We are proud of you Melbourne!

I watched the daily coronavirus numbers floating up and down and finally descending to a point that we now have eased a bit the restrictions. The major element that we are facing as a community is that the constant fear and stress has already taken the toll on our fragile world. The stress due to the second lockdown induced anxiety, sadness even irritability and anger not to mention that it drained us of the vital energy to go about our daily lives.

In a previous blog, I wrote about how to use Nutraceuticals to support a healthy lifestyle and in particular as mood boosters when feeling under the weather.

As a holistic practitioner I am also interested to know why we act in an aggressive or offensive way when we face a major crisis such as this world-wide pandemic. Furthermore, I want to know how we can overcome the urge to act in such manner. Well this blog is about briefly answering these two questions.

The brain is extremely sensitive to stress (Cobley et al, 2018). COVID-19 brought in more stress, fear and angst in our lives that some of us are designed to handle. Oxidative stress products are neurotoxic and tend to be deposited under certain conditions in large amounts in a part of the brain called globus pallidus (Hayashi et al, 2001). Interestingly this part of the human brain is metaphorically, referred to as the “reptilian brain”. This concept was introduced in the 1960s Triune Brain Hypothesis developed by the neuroscientist Paul Maclean. Although this theory is not entirely accepted worldwide, as it oversimplifies the human brain, it has some interesting points that can help us understand how external triggers, such as fear or stress can lead to aggressive behaviour or irritable self-serving. It turns out that when we feel insecure, we begin to think negative thoughts mainly because this part of the brain, the “reptilian brain” is activated. When this happens, we tend to assess situations in a black/white, dangerous/harmless fight or fly style assessment.

We can easily see that if neurotoxic oxidative stress products would mainly be deposited in the globus pallidus, aka “reptilian brain” we would become irritable self-serving without even knowing what happens to us. Fear is a sneaky thief that works against our well-being and sanity.

Good news is that this entire situation can be controlled, and some call it emotional fitness. It involves two components:

  1. We must consider taking a conscious decision to focus on constructive and creative tasks in order to stay away from negative thoughts.
  2. We must eliminate foods that increase the oxidative stress: that is a diet high in sugar, fat and alcohol.

Theoretically the two elements described above are easy to consider. But how can one implement them? I am sharing my own recipe and admit there may be variations of any of the steps presented.

  1. Firstly enjoy the moment. By this I mean that we become aware of our own automatic responses when we experience a stressful situation. To do so we engage in a conscious use of breathing cycle. It only takes a few seconds to consciously inhale and exhale so that the brain receives maximum oxygenation levels and move away from negative thinging;
  2. Secondly we must spend more time in nature. I do so by performing what I call a mindful walking in the neighbourhood: When out for my daily walk, I take time to focus on my breathing as well as pay attention to particular aspects within the neighbourhood: colours, sounds, air movement, gardens or the sky. This enables the brain to search for meaningful activities while doing a routine walk. In my IG account I shared some outcomes of this mindful walking.
  3. Finally up-skill the body to eat consciously and mindfully
    1. Give the brain the freedom to experience new healthy foods;
    2. Re-train the taste buds to accept the incredible diversity of taste essences and flavours; start slowly with one new food per week;
    3. Practice mindful eating: enjoy new taste, textures and flavours. It involves developing a slowly eating habit. This enables a swift communication between the gut and the brain via digestive enzymes. Mastering the art of eating slowly is however the subject of another blog.

It is my hope that you enjoy reading this short blog. Thank you and until next time, stay safe.

This blog is for information only. Do your diligent homework, talk to your doctor if you need specialist advice and enjoy a life free of oxidative stress.

Resources

Cobley, J.N., Fiorello,M.L. Bailey, D.M. (2018). 13 Reasons why the Brain is Susceptible to Oxidative Stress, Redox Biology, 15 (490-503). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2018.01.008.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213231718300041

Hayashi, M., Itoh, M., Araki, S., Kumada, S., Shioda, K., Tamagawa, K., Mizutani, T., Morimatsu, Y., Minagawa, M., & Oda, M. (2001). Oxidative stress and disturbed glutamate transport in hereditary nucleotide repair disorders. Journal of neuropathology and experimental neurology, 60(4), 350–356. https://doi.org/10.1093/jnen/60.4.350

Living with Anxiety: The Amazing Benefits of Nutraceuticals

As we are all well aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is still rife in Victoria. As a result anxiety levels heightened. If you are anxious about it, you are not alone. I feel anxious about many things. We are facing an unprecedented crisis at planetary level. I am worried about how does the Coronavirus affects our health in all its aspects physically, emotionally and spiritually. The most important thing is that I am living with it and I am taking proactive steps towards dealing with it. I am taking steps towards a healthy life-style and I use multiple Nutraceuticals as mood boosters. So can YOU!

This blog is about how Nutraceuticals can help and why. Enjoy!

First what are Nutraceuticals? Nutraceuticals are biological active compounds found in food that are beneficial for our health due to their known pharmacological action (Rajasekaran 2017). Nutraceuticals are compounds derived from foods with anxiety lowering and mood enhancing actions. They can often be found in the form of supplements and are available commercially. My interest is in the foods that provide them rather than the pills available at the pharmacy. My big pharmacy is Nature’s Nutrition. After all, Hipocrates considered nutrition one of the main tools to improve health. Some attribute this saying to him: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine”.

  1. Kiwifruits

The brain is extremely sensitive to oxidative stress (Cobley et al, 2018). This is a process in which the body produces an unstable molecule, called free radical, when oxygen reacts with organic compounds (sugar, alcohol, food additives, anti-foaming, flavours) or is exposed to environmental stressors (UV, ionising radiation, pollutants). The unstable free radical wanting to become stable, steals an electron from other more stable molecules nearby. This causes a harmful chain reaction can be terminated by super-stable molecules called antioxidants.

Kiwifruit is such an amazing fruit boasting rich levels of nutrients: antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, anthocyanins, folate, and melatonin. Kiwifruit are remarkably high in Vitamin C with exceptional digestive benefits, due to its harmonious composition of various bioactive components (dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E and folate, antioxidants, phytonutrients and enzymes).

Vitamin C prevents the oxidative stress processes in our body and in particular helps as antioxidant defence and as a neuromodulator in the brain. Only two medium kiwi fruits would provide 140% of daily intake of vitamin C and lead to increased vitality, less fatigue and improved mood feelings and vigour a 2013 study found  (Car, et al). Furthermore, a 2017 Cochrane study on the use of Kiwi fruit established that it can work effectively in combating chronic insomnia symptoms without the unpleasant side effects of allopathic drugs.

Caution: Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that have a controversial history. Here is why: We tend to believe that the larger quantities we gulp in the better, stronger more positive effects we enjoy. It turns out overdosing (more than 3000mg a day), Vitamin C that switches roles from friend to foe.

  1. Oranges

Oranges are the source of optimism due to their colour, their smell and vitamin C. Only a ¾ of a cup and your Vitamin C content is up to good levels and there need no more explanation. But, this is not the reason I chose it. It turns out that just smelling their fragrance helps reduce stress levels and decrease anxiety (Lehrner et al, 2000). You don’t need to drink the juice just have an orange spritzing the room and enjoy the calmness that comes to it. And … remember next time you pay a visit to your dentist for an extraction take you orange with you. Just in case…

  1. Basil

Basil is one of those staple foods that we just sprinkle here and there for their fragrance. It helps promote cardiovascular health by relaxing the muscles cells and blood vessels. In particular Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) also known as “Tulsi” is considered the most sacred plant in India. Tulsi is a known adaptogen that helps decrease the stress hormones in the body. Adaptogens are a select group of plants that enhance the body’s natural protective response outside stressors, in the case of the holy basil emotional or physical stress. That is to say that adaptogens do not alter the mood itself, rather help the body coping better in a stressful situation.

I like using it in smoothies and to flavour certain foods.

  1. Nuts

Brazil Nuts. Despite their name, they are not nuts but rather seeds of a vulnerable but longest lived tree in the Amazon forest: Bertholletia excelsa. They are an excellent source of Selenium. Selenium is a power antioxidant able to reduce stress due to its capacity to neutralise excess free radicals (Brenneisen et al 2005) similarly as vitamin C. However one needs significantly less selenium to do so less than 100 micrograms a day. That means one would eat only one Brazil nuts a day.

Snack on walnuts and almonds. They are packed with beneficial fats that are known to support brain function. In particular, walnuts provide a specific fat known alpha linolenic acid (Holly et al 2018) known to improve learning. A small amount of only 15 g of walnuts a week may do wonder if actively learning new things according to a 2018 study (Holly et al, 2018). Almonds are the best source of natural vitamin E. A handful of almonds will provide 50% of the daily vitamin E requirement: around 7mg.

  1. Sweet Violets – Viola Odorata

Ever wondered why do you like the violets fragrance? The aroma compounds, termed ionones, in the violets mess-up with our sense of smell. One moment we think we got their sweet scent in, the next we can’t smell a thing. The ionones desensitise our olfactory system: the scent disappears for a short while as the ionones bind and shut off the scent receptors so we can’t smell the violets for a short time. After taking a breath the smell reappears. Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife, used this charming trick to make herself more fascinating.

But behind the trick, hides a medicine giant. As a nutraceutical, Persian Pharmacopeia shows its use in the form of sugar-coated flowers called Gulqand (Afsari Sardari et al 2018). It is used to combat fever and coughing in lung related disorders (pleurisy, pneumonia). Sweet violets have a slight mucilaginous quality (Ameri et al, 2015), that is extremely soothing and cooling to mucous membranes.

The reason I mention it here is due to its ability to combat chronic insomnia (Feyzabadi et al 2014). Although, in this research the plant was not used as a nutraceutical, rather the fragrant compounds from dried Violets was extracted in almond oil then used as intranasal drops. The participants were suffering from chronic insomnia in its various forms: difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep without suffering from any other major disorders (including major depression, generalized anxiety disorders, psychosis, drugs abuse, neurologic diseases). The treatment, involving the violet oil, consisted in taking intranasal drops nightly before going to sleep for a month. The sedative activities were assessed as very favourable despite the small batch of participants.

I admit that as a scientist, this is a reasonable beginning. I would rather consider the nutraceutical properties of this plant for its plant-derived melatonin bioactivity (Ansari et al 2010).

How to take it

  • Eat the flowers raw, pluck them from your garden if you happen t accidentally grow them; do not overindulge;
  • Sprinkle flowers on salads, smoothies, etc
  • Make a tea from fresh or dried flowers. The colour of the tea is blue. It turns purple if add a few drops of lemon juice. Something nice to try.

Summary of what to do to keep anxiety level under control with Nutraceuticals:

  • Two kiwifruit per day: benefit of vitamin C;
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice: benefit of vitamin C plus orange fragrance;
  • Have some leafy green salads: benefit of magnesium;
  • Eat a banana before or when facing a stressful situation: benefit beta-blocker effect;
  • Eat only one Brazil nut: benefit of selenium;
  • Eat a handful of Almonds: benefit vitamin E;
  • Eat a few sweet violets: benefit helps improve sleep;
  • Eat 15 g walnuts a week: benefits alpha linolenic acid.

What Should you Know before Using Nutraceuticals as Mood Enhancer?

Always speak with your doctor before deciding to try a Nutraceutical. These foods may interact with other medications and may cause side effects that could adversely influence your health.

This blog is for information only. Do your diligent homework, talk to your doctor and enjoy a natural mood enhancer — and potentially greater well-being.

Resources

Ameri, A., Heydarirad, G., Jamileh Mahdavi Jafari, J.M., Ghobadi, A., Hossein Rezaeizadeh, H. & Choopani, R. (2015). Medicinal Plants Contain Mucilage Used in Traditional Persian Medicine (TPM), Pharmaceutical Biology, 53(4), 615-623, https://doi.org/10.3109/13880209.2014.928330

Afsari Sardari, F., Azadi, A., Mohagheghzadeh, A., & Badr, P. (2018). Gulqand: A Nutraceutical from Sugared Petals. Traditional and Integrative Medicine, 3(4), 180-185. Retrieved from https://jtim.tums.ac.ir/index.php/jtim/article/view/164

Ansari, M., Rafiee, K. h., Yasa, N., Vardasbi, S., Naimi, S. M., & Nowrouzi, A. (2010). Measurement of melatonin in alcoholic and hot water extracts of Tanacetum parthenium, Tripleurospermum disciforme and Viola odorata. Daru : Journal of Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, 18(3), 173–178. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22615614/

Brenneisen, P., Steinbrenner, H., & Sies, H. (2005). Selenium, oxidative stress, and health aspects. Molecular aspects of medicine, 26(4-5), 256–267. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mam.2005.07.004

Carr, A. C., Bozonet, S. M., Pullar, J. M., & Vissers, M. C. (2013). Mood improvement in young adult males following supplementation with gold kiwifruit, a high-vitamin C food. Journal of nutritional science, 2, e24. https://doi.org/10.1017/jns.2013.12

Cobley, J.N., Fiorello,M.L. Bailey, D.M. (2018). 13 Reasons why the Brain is Susceptible to Oxidative Stress, Redox Biology, 15 (490-503). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2018.01.008.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213231718300041

Feyzabadi, Z., Jafari, F., Kamali, S. H., Ashayeri, H., Badiee Aval, S., Esfahani, M. M., & Sadeghpour, O. (2014). Efficacy of Viola odorata in Treatment of Chronic Insomnia. Iranian Red Crescent medical journal, 16(12), e17511. https://doi.org/10.5812/ircmj.17511

Holly C. Miller, Dieter Struyf, Pascale Baptist, Boushra Dalile, Lukas Van Oudenhove, Ilse Van Diest. (2018). A mind cleared by walnut oil: The effects of polyunsaturated and saturated fat on extinction learning, Appetite. 126:147-155. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.004.

J Lehrner, J., Christine Eckersberger, C., Walla, P., Pötsch, G. & Deecke, L. (2000). Ambient odor of orange in a dental office reduces anxiety and improves mood in female patients. Physiology & Behavior, 71: 1–2 ( 83-86). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9384(00)00308-5

Nodtvedt, O.O., Hansen, A.L., Bjorvatn, B., Pallesen, S. (2017). The Effects of Kiwi Fruit Consumption in Students with Chronic Insomnia Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 15(2), 159‐166. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/central/doi/10.1002/central/CN-01365601/

Poljšak, B., Ionescu, J.G. (2009). Pro-Oxidant vs. Antioxidant Effects of Vitamin C. in Kucharski, H and Zajac, J (Eds.), Handbook of Vitamin C Research: Daily Requirements, Dietary Sources and Adverse Effects (pp. 153-183). Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Rajasekaran, A. (2017). Nutraceuticals. S. Chackalamannil, D. Rotella, S. E. Ward (Eds.), Comprehensive Medicinal Chemistry III (pp. 107-134). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409547-2.12287-5. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124095472122875)

FEED Your Trillion Workers

Microbiome Boosting Strategies to Keep You Healthy

Some say that we’re more microbe than human. And guess what: this is not a myth anymore. We develop the gut microbiome by age 3, but this can be altered depending on the environmental factors determining the diet type one follows. Currently, we know that there are about 30 to 40 trillion microbes living within us and working for or against us (Holmes & Rosewarne). That is all depending who we feed and what we feed them with. As we move through life and different environments, our microbiota changes, evolves or de-evolves.

Want to know more? Follow the links in the references for an in-depth analysis of this topic. This blog is about how to boost a diverse microbiome on fresh produce in a relatively short time. The answer is in the title: FEED your trillion workers.

How to Boost Gut Microbiome?

It is relatively easy to boost the gut microbiome. To do so one must make sure that the good bacteria, the Trillion Workers, are well nourished. I made it easy for you to remember using the acronym FEED: Feast, Eat Eschew and Ditch as described below:

Feast on whole foods

  1. Increase your Dietary Fibre by eating regularly your pile of greens: 2½ cups per day would be a beneficial investment as long as you diversify your salads and leafy meals to include other green Champions, walloped with Vitamins A, C, K, antioxidants and minerals. Examples include:
    1. Arugula – or rocket known as the champion in health-promoting bacteria due to its high content of phytochemicals as well as for its cancer fighter properties (Wassermann et al, 2017);
    2. Bok choy – known for its water soluble food folates (Ware, 2018) that are beneficial to the colonic microbiota (Food and Nutrition Board, 1988);
    3. Swiss chards and kale.
  2. Consume Natural Prebiotic Fibre from whole foods. It is believed that one needs to consume in average about 5g of prebiotic fibre per day. The Prebiotics are a special kind of fibre containing high levels of inulin. Prebiotic fibres pass through the gastro-intestinal tract undigested and stimulate the growth and/or activity of certain ‘good’ bacteria in the colon; example include (Gibson, 1998):
    1. Leeks – promote healthy digestions by breaking down fat;
    2. Asparagus – the benefits of this wonder vegie are multiple: its soluble fibre content soars a…, it is a natural diuretic ( you will have a stinky pee though) and it is known to help flush your body of excess salt;
    3. Jerusalem artichoke – are delicious consumed raw or baked; see note for wind production;
    4. Apples – are high in pectin, a prebiotic fibre that helps decrease the harmful bacteria in the gut while playing a significant role in cholesterol reduction (Bernie et al, 2019);
    5. Chicory root – has a very high inulin content and it is often used as a substitute for coffee, without the benefits of the caffeine kick. Due to its high fibre content it is unsuitable for people suffering from IBS or Crohn’s disease.

A note of caution: when changing from a low fibre diet to a high fibre diet, people experience an increase in wind production. Main culprits are Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root. If this is the case, it is better to allow the body to adjust to the new diet over a period of five to 10 days.

Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years and they provide the best source of probiotics: live bacteria that are beneficial for gut lining.

Probiotic yogurt. Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with different bacteria. These days supermarkets are full of yogurt products boasting on the probiotics benefits. The main question here is the following “Do they actually make it through the acidic environment of the stomach to colonise the lower intestinal tract?” Trouble is that the real impact that they might have in the gut microbiome is rather unclear. Furthermore the probiotic bacteria often loose viability during shelf storage (Mani-López et al, 2014). If you consume probiotic yogurt, a good rule of thumb is to choose the ones closer to the production date if available.

Best probiotics foods

  1. Sauerkraut
  2. Pickles
  3. Kimchi
  4. Kombucha
  5. Natto
  6. Miso

A note of caution: Probiotics are live organisms, consumed in large quantities can lead to less beneficial effects including diarrhoea. To increase the benefits of probiotics ensure that you consume sufficient amounts of prebiotics.

Eschew artificial sweeteners

We all know that excess sugar is not good for health in general and is rather unbeneficial for gut health. So, we can access the lesser alternative: fewer calories, same taste. But it turns out that this is far from being the helper we wanted. The “sugar free” products are not always the healthier choices one can make (Ruiz-Ojeda et al, 2019). Some of them, sucralose, can disrupt the digestive health system simply because the body does not recognises it as food! Dr Axe expands on more reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners.

Ditch processed foods

Processed foods like include packaged breads and pastries, frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, sugar-sweetened sodas, potato chips. Most of them include artificial substances (food colorings, artificial flavours) or contain food components (hydrogenated fats) that are designed to trick the taste and be effective addictive “go to” comfort foods.

Processed foods break down into compounds that are detrimental to the good bacteria and feed the bad bacteria. More often than not they disrupt the digestive system causing irritation and inflammation.

Interesting fact. Recent research just published in May 2020, in Cell Reports, shows that the nose has its own microbiome that affects our health in a similar way as the gut microbiome (Boeck et al 2020). Furthermore it shows that a specific strain probiotic, Lactobacillus casei, is beneficial for the nasal cavity although snorting yogurt is not yet an option. This is the subject for another blog though.

My story with the gut microbiome is one of overcoming pain. As a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer, I went through the highs and lows of health recovery: one in which applied nutrition knowledge led to managing this state without a shadow of a doubt. Re-stablishing the gut microbiota was the key.

Resources

Berni, R., Cantini, C., Guarnieri, M., Nepi, M., Hausman, J. F., Guerriero, G., Romi, M., & Cai, G. (2019). Nutraceutical Characteristics of Ancient Malus x domestica Borkh. Fruits Recovered across Siena in Tuscany. Medicines (Basel, Switzerland), 6(1), 27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30781616/ https://doi.org/10.3390/medicines6010027

De Boeck et al, 2020, Lactobacilli Have a Niche in the Human Nose, Cell Reports, 31, 107674, https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(20)30627-6

Ertem, H., & Cakmakci, S., (2017). Shelf life and quality of probiotic yogurt produced with Lactobacillus acidophilus and Gobdin. International Journal of Food Science & Technology. 53. 10.1111/ijfs.13653.

Food and Nutrition Board 1988 – Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.

Holmes, A., Rosewarne, C., (2019)Gut Bacteria: The Inside Story, Australian Academy of Science https://www.science.org.au/curious/people-medicine/gut-bacteria

Gibson G. R. (1998). Dietary modulation of the human gut microflora using prebiotics. The British journal of nutrition, 80(4), S209–S212.

Megan Ware, The Health Benefits of Bok Choy, Medical News Today, August 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280948

E. Mani-López, E. Palou, A. López-Malo,. (2014), Probiotic viability and storage stability of yogurts and fermented milks prepared with several mixtures of lactic acid bacteria, J. of Dairy Science, 97(5): 2578-590, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2013-7551. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022030214002549

Ruiz-Ojeda, F. J., Plaza-Díaz, J., Sáez-Lara, M. J., & Gil, A. (2019). Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 10(suppl_1), S31–S48. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmy037

Wassermann, B., Rybakova, D., Müller, C., & Berg, G. (2017). Harnessing the microbiomes of Brassica vegetables for health issues. Scientific reports, 7(1), 17649. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17949-z https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5732279/