The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Cranberries more than just sauce for the Turkey


Did you really think you would get away without any health posts this week….sorry!!!

Of course we are not allowed to say that any food or plant can cure anything but we can say that they may have therapeutic properties.  Since this is Christmas week it is likely that many of you will be reaching for either fresh cranberries to make a sauce to go with the turkey or will be buying a jar.  If possible do go the natural route and make your own.

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Cranberries have a documented medicinal history and were used by the Native American Indians as a nutritious addition to their diet normally sweetened with honey as of course the berries are very tart. The Indians also used the berries in poultices for wounds as they recognised the antibacterial and antibiotic effect of the fruit even if they could not scientifically prove these properties. Colonists, who had been introduced to the berry, exported it home to England at the beginning of the 18th century.

Modern research into the therapeutic properties of the cranberry is not one sided and sometimes I think that there is a commercial element to some of the findings and disputed findings.  However, I have used cranberries for over 20 years and certainly have found that there is certainly some truth to its health properties.

Most of us, before the 80’s, restricted cranberries in our diet to Christmas and the odd time we had turkey at other times in the year. Then came the very welcome news that for those of us, who suffered from attacks of bacterial cystitis, drinking the juice of these tart little red berries could bring relief. In fact drinking cranberry (although disputed in some scientific areas) can help prevent attacks of this painful condition. Cranberries contain a unique component in which is technically termed High molecular weight non-dialysable material or NDM for short. NDM prevents bacteria from clumping and damaging soft tissue in various parts of the body including the urinary tract.  It is interesting that most over the counter cystitis treatments contain cranberry combined with alkaline elements to reduce the build-up of acid.

Emerging evidence shows that this fruit is a lot more versatile than we thought and there are now several very good reasons to include cranberries on a daily basis in your diet.
Cranberry the antioxidant

A free radical is a molecule. A normal molecule has an even number of electrons and is considered stable. Free radicals on the other hand have an uneven number of electrons and are unstable. They are desperate to be like the normal molecules so they have to steal from them to get another electron. This of course means that they have created another free radical. More and more cells become damaged and leave the body open to many diseases – from cardiovascular to cancer.

The free-radicals cause cells to oxidise and die. The major damage is done to our DNA, which results in mutations and death of the cells. Our body does produce anti-oxidants and enzymes that can repair this damage if we eat healthily. However, as we get older so do our cells and it becomes harder to repair them and they die. This is ageing! In our brains when cells are damaged beyond repair you are susceptible to loss of co-ordination and memory and in extreme cases dementia.

To prevent this we need a diet that is very high in anti-oxidants, which work through the body immobilising free radicals and preventing damage. Cranberries contain one of the highest levels of anti-oxidants of most fruit and vegetables and that is why drinking at least one glass per day can provide you with enough of these defensive players to protect your brain.

Artery health

In the same way, flavonoids in Cranberries function as very potent antioxidants and may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is when the arteries become clogged and narrowed restricting blood flow to the heart. The most common cause is a build-up of LDL (Low-Density lipoproteins or lousy cholesterol) oxidising and causing plaque to cling to the walls of the arteries narrowing and hardening them. This can lead to angina, blood clots and heart attacks.
Cranberries contain the flavonoids and also polyphenol compounds that have been shown to help prevent the LDL from oxidising and therefore forming the dangerous plaque that leads to arterial disease.

Dental health – another good reason to drink cranberry juice.

When I left secretarial college, intent on a career on the stage, I took a job as a dental receptionist, which evolved, into my training as a dental nurse.

Canned drinks were becoming all the rage in the 60’s and I saw first-hand the corrosive damage that these sugary concoctions could inflict on tooth enamel. There was not the kind of education, products or electric toothbrushes in those days, but if there had been more of one type of drink around in those days we would have seen a lot less decay.
One would think that drinking cranberry juice with its natural sugars would have a harmful effect on the teeth but in fact the reverse is true. Cranberries actually help prevent dental problems.

A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that there is a unique component in cranberry juice, which is technically termed High molecular weight non-dialysable material or NDM for short. Hundreds of different types of bacteria in the mouth clump together and attach themselves to the teeth and gums and over time hardens causing cavities and gum disease. This film on the teeth becomes resistant to saliva, which would normally remove bacteria from the mouth and also our normal oral hygiene routines such as brushing. One of the most resistant bacteria in the mouth is Streptococcus and in tests indications showed that Cranberry mouthwash reduced the presence of this in the mouth significantly.

NDM in cranberries has the power to prevent this bacteria build-up in the first place having a long-term effect on your dental health.

Other fruits were tested including Blueberries which are part of the same family as cranberries but the NDM was in much weaker concentrations in these and all other fruits tested.

My advice however is to steer clear of commercially produced juices which are low on cranberries and high on sugars.. I actually use concentrated cranberry which is quite expensive but I only use a teaspoon in a glass of water – it does not taste great but you soon get used to the taste.

Cranberry juice and peptic ulcers

Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori) bacteria can have a painful and devastating impact on the health of your stomach and also its ability to process the food that you eat.

A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine. They are quite common and one of the main causes is bacterial infection and the chief culprit is H.Pylori. It is not certain how people contract H.Pylori but it is believed that 20% of people under 40 and half of the population over 60 are infected with it.

H.Pylori weakens the protective mucous coating of the stomach and duodenum, which allows acid to get through to the sensitive lining beneath. Both the acid and the bacteria irritate the lining causing a sore or ulcer. H.Pylori is able to survive in stomach acid because it secretes enzymes that neutralise the acid. Once in the safety of the mucous lining the bacteria’s spiral shape allows it to burrow into the lining.

H.Pylori has also been associated with stomach cancer, acid reflux and gastritis. Finding a natural way to prevent H.Pylori from completing its mission is therefore a very prime research topic.

As in dental health and in the urinary tract, the NDM prevents the H.Pylori from attaching itself to the lining of the stomach therefore preventing an ulcer developing.

Other benefits of cranberries

Emerging research is indicating that the benefits of cranberries are even more far reaching with research into its anti-viral properties in the treatment of infections such as herpes and the prevention of kidney infections and kidney stones. What is extremely interesting is the cranberries ability to inhibit the growth of common food related pathogens including Listeria and E.Coli 0157:H7. This antibiotic effect of cranberries was recognised centuries ago by the American Indians and it is a pity that we are only just catching up with these enlightened people.

How to eat cranberries
By far the best way to get your daily fix of cranberries is fresh, made into a salsa or mixed with other fruit and juiced.

The recommended ration of cranberry unsweetened juice is two 10 oz. glasses per day. One in the morning and one in the evening it takes two hours for the antibacterial properties to be effective and they then last approximately twelve hours.  You can make your own from unsweetened concentrate and 8 oz of water or per the instructions.

Here is a recipe for homemade cranberry sauce to make your turkey zing..

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/13459/cranberry-sauce-i/

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

Image Cranberries – all-free-download.com

Thanks for dropping by.. Sally

Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Peppermint for health and cooking.


indexYou may have noticed that almost all non-prescription preparations that claim to help indigestion are mint flavored. And this is not just because mint has a nice taste. Mint is one of the oldest known treatments for indigestion and its inclusion in medicines is due to the plant’s ability to settle the stomach.

Originally native to the Mediterranean region, peppermint, which is a cross between water mint and spearmint, is one of the oldest cultivated herbs and was used for culinary as well as healing purposes by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It would seem that poor eating habits have been a problem throughout all of human history!

The ancient Romans carried it with them wherever they colonized; (presumably the relief it offered was much needed at the end of an orgy!) To this day, the Arabs brew it into tea and chop it into salads, the Asian Indians include it in chutney recipes, the British make its juice into jellies to be served with heavy meat dishes, and the Germans concoct it into schnapps as an after-dinner drink. In all these cases, the motive for including mint in the diet is to improve digestion and avoid indigestion.

As with any dark green leafy plant the peppermint offers a wide range of nutrients that make it an excellent food source. Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, manganese, folate, iron, magnesium and calcium. Unfortunately you do not normally consume a sufficient quantity to be able to classify this as a superfood. However, if you add the nutrients in the leaves to an already balanced diet, it will certainly add to the pot of essential and varied nutrients you need each day.

Peppermint improves digestion in general but is great for stomach and colon cramps as the menthol in the herb has a muscle relaxing action and IBS sufferers often find it reduces symptoms. A cup of peppermint tea after a meal is much better for your digestion than a cup of coffee.

The oil mixed with a lotion or light skin oil, rubbed on the forehead can relieve headaches and is cooling when massaged into sore muscles.

As a forerunner of our modern gum, the leaves were chewed to prevent bad breath which was essential before toothpaste and flossing. You can also put a drop on your toothbrush instead of toothpaste from time to time and it will leave your mouth feeling fresh and clean for ages.

Peppermint oil usually comes in small capsules or in a liquid tincture. The tea also comes with some variations, one of my favourites being Green Tea and Peppermint. One word of warning when using the oil. It is very strong and usually just one drop is sufficient.

Other health benefits

Studies have indicated that the oil produced from the leaves could provide protection from cancer and also inhibit the growth of certain tumours in the breasts, pancreas and liver.  I am not a keen fan of using data from animal studies since they are not as contaminated as we humans are with our modern lifestyles. But peppermint has been used for thousands of years by healers and it would not have maintained its reputation as an effective remedy if it had been a false claim.

Peppermint oil is highly antibacterial and it also inhibits the growth of other potentially dangerous bacteria such as H.Pylori (Helicobacter pylori), the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers; Salmonella, E.Coli 0157:H7 and MRSA.

If you have a cold or flu there is nothing better than a little peppermint oil sprinkled on a tissue, or rubbed on your chest, to help you breathe better.

Also rubbed into the palms of your hands before you grab the handle of the shopping trolley may help prevent you getting a cold passed on from the previous shoppers.

For asthmatics the rosmarinic acid in the oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and also encourages cells to produce substances called prostacyclins, which keep the airways open.

Using Mint in cooking.

Apart from its medicinal uses and nutritional properties, mint is a wonderful herb to use in cooking. Make a home-made sauce or jelly and enjoy two or three times a week along with a cup of peppermint tea after your dinner. It can be chopped up in salads and in soups to add a fresh flavour.

Peppermint is one of the easiest of herbs to grow either in a pot or in the garden and in fact can take over if not careful. Crush the leaves in a pestle and mortar to add flavour to savoury and sweet dishes but I like to eat mint sauce or jelly with most meats, particularly lamb.  If you are vegtarian then use mushrooms as an alternative, particularly the shitake variety which very tasty. Mix through some chopped mint leaves and it will put even more zing into the dish.

Quick Mince Sauce.

Grab a good handful of fresh mint leaves
One teaspoon of caster sugar (you can add more but I don’t like it too sweet)
Two tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
75mls of boiling water.

Finely chop the leaves of the mint. Place in a bowl and mix in the caster sugar. Pour over the boiling water to dissolve the sugar and then add the red wine vinegar. Leave to cool and marinate.

It keeps in a jar in the fridge.

You will find the first post in the series – Dandelion in the directory

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/medicine-womans-treasure-chest-herbs-and-spices/

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2009

I love to receive your feedback and please feel free to share. best wishes Sally

Health Bite of the Day – The Digestive System – Before you take another Antacid treat the cause not the symptom.


Health Bite of the Day – The Digestive System – Before you take another Antacid treat the cause not the symptom..

via Health Bite of the Day – The Digestive System – Before you take another Antacid treat the cause not the symptom..