LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE

It is true that you are what you eat. Quite literally, your body transforms your food into your skin, or your bones, or something as subtle as your mood.

 

On a macroscopic level you see a gorgeous, rich, dark chunk of chocolate, you smell its intoxicating sweetness and your body automatically responds by preparing the digestive organs for a moment of pleasure. Your mouth salivates and your stomach starts to produce acid. Perhaps your liver and pancreas are already prepped and producing enzymes for the lavish dose of sugar and fats that your blood stream is about to receive.

 

On a microscopic level your body sees the sugar, fats and proteins as glucose, lipids and amino acids. These are the building blocks for your body tissue, your biological communication networks and your cellular metabolism. In other words, your food creates your organs such as skin and bone; your neurotransmitters such as melatonin and dopamine; your energy production and your ability to eliminate waste.

And all without your conscious awareness.

 

Imagine how awe-struck you would be by what you would discover if you could explore your body on a microscopic scale… Your body is doing a million things simultaneously in one moment, all day and all night, every day and every night. It is truly a miracle. Imagine what would happen with this unconscious process if you consciously put thought and energy into the fuel and building blocks you gave your body.

 

 

Do you get frustrated with parts of your body that don’t function the way you would like because you think it is out of your control? What if it was within your control? Imagine if you could help to heal these parts of your body… Not only with the types of food that you choose to consume but also by the mindful attention you give to your body, when it is communicating warning signs that something is not right.

 

Your body is a precious vehicle that is taking you through your life journey and it is within your control to use food as medicine so that your journey is not a long continual bumpy road of health issues. Food as medicine is preventative medicine, that does not mean that all health issues are preventable but it does give you back your power to make choices that will have immediate and life long benefits.

 

In short, the food you choose to eat can make it easier for your body to produce energy, balance mood, or heal broken skin. It can be a complex new world the more you delve into it but our philosophy is to keep it simple, to approach something new one thing at a time. Here are some of our favourites to get you inspired to try something new, and stick to it!

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

An old remedy for all sorts of ailments, apple cider vinegar is a fermented food that contains beneficial enzymes and bacteria that make it a strengthening digestive tonic. The sour taste also stimulates our endogenous production of digestive enzymes that aid digestion, assimilation and absorption of nutrients from our food. The acid content of apple cider vinegar actually creates an alkaline environment in the lower digestive tract, aiding in the growth of beneficial flora, and also alkalising the rest of the body via the blood. Hence, apple cider vinegar is commonly used to help clear inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema.

 

Maca

A staple source of nutrients by the Inca for centuries, maca root is used to support the body’s resilience to stressors and enhance general vitality, virility and fertility. Maca increases blood oxygen and overall energy without being overstimulating. Maca needs to be gelatinised to remove a particular starch that is hard to digest, after this process it becomes a more concentrated nutrient rich powder that can be eaten raw or cooked. See our Turmeric Maca Chai recipe below. We will be hosting a Maca evening this month with a couple of excellent human beings who are actively harvesting their maca in Peru, creating a sustainable and fair trade of maca root so that we can enjoy it in NZ.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is part of the ginger family and has been used for centuries within traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Indian medicine, otherwise known as Ayurveda. It is known to lower inflammation and ease arthritic or muscular pain, as well as support digestion, liver detoxification and circulation. One of the known active constituents of turmeric is curcumin, this has been isolated and used in high therapeutic doses as a supplement, however more recent studies are showing that it is actually more affective when in combination with the other naturally occurring constituents. This simply means that the food form is always the best.

 

Spirulina

Spirulina is a fresh-water blue-green spiral algae, the blue colour is from an antioxidant called phycocyanin and the green colour is from a high content of chlorophyll. Both phycocyanin and chlorophyll are blood cleansing and blood building nutrients. This means that spirulina both supports detoxification and elimination of metabolic waste, and also supports cellular repair and energy production. Spirulina is a rich source of many nutrients including protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making it an all round medicinal daily boost.

 

Turmeric Maca Chai

For these colder days it can be comforting to have a warming drink that is both pleasurable and medicinal. Turmeric and other culinary spices have potent anti-inflammatory and carminative properties, as well as stimulating circulation, Turmeric Maca Chai can be made as an energizing daily tonic.

Ingredients

Turmeric

Maca

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Cayenne Pepper

Nut milk

On the stove top simmer two cups of your favourite nut milk (I have used a coconut and rice blend), with a generously heaped teaspoon of maca root powder, a less generous teaspoon each of turmeric & cinnamon, a sprinkle of nutmeg & cayenne pepper (or get creative with any of your favourite spices). Once it is steaming hot & all ingredients are blended into the milk add 8 drops of stevia, or if you prefer 2 teaspoons of honey. Pour into your favourite vessel & share with a friend!

 

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TEA RITUAL | A Guide to Blending Medicinal Herbs

THE WAY OF TEA

The Way of Tea is a traditional Japanese art, a ritual that symbolizes the practice of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility in every day life. It is an art that was developed by Zen Buddhist monks to become the humblest of meditative practices. This did not mean a lack of quality or pleasure in the experience of preparing and drinking fine green tea, it meant developing a deeper appreciation for simplicity, imperfection and diversity. The Way of Tea creates an environment and culture of egalitarianism, where all things are valued as they are and all who are gathered to share tea are equal.

TEA & TISANE

We commonly know of green tea, it is also known as matcha, white tea and black tea, oolong tea, and more, yet these are all from the one plant: Camellia sinensis. Camellia sinensis has a myriad of medicinal qualities, however we do not need not limit our palate to this wonderful plant alone. We have many medicinal herbs around us that each have very unique healing qualities and constituents to aid us in very specific ways.

Herbal Tea may otherwise be known as Tisane: a medicinal infusion. So as not to get lost in specific terminology I will simply use the term Herbal Tea. The following are three common herbs that we value highly and recommend you keep in stock in your own home apothecary. It is also likely that you will find these herbs growing wild in your backyard, or in your neighbours garden. All three are members of the Lamiaceae botanical family and have strongly scented leaves, therefore high amounts of volatile oils. Volatile oils are the most abundant active constituent in all three herbs, which often means that it has a strong therapeutic effect on the digestive system and the nervous system. There are of course many more medicinal herbs available, so feel free to talk to us and we can guide to towards the ones that are best for you.

LEMON BALM | Melissa officinalis is a pleasant lemony aromatic herb that makes a fresh and uplifting herbal tea. It is commonly used for indigestion to reduce abdominal discomfort that is associated with nervousness. It is particularly calming to the nervous system, easing restlessness and anxiety.
ROSEMARY | Rosmarinus officinalis is a strong camphorous aromatic herb that makes a pungent herbal tea. It is commonly used to support liver detoxification, enhance circulation and strengthen the nervous system. It particularly increases circulation to the brain and therefore enhances alertness and memory.
PEPPERMINT | Mentha piperita is a cooling aromatic herb that makes a refreshing herbal tea. It is commonly used to support digestion, easing reflux, nausea and bloating. The menthol volatile oil makes it particularly cooling and calming, easing inflammatory conditions both internally and externally. 

We tend to do things in a rush, without thought, without our awareness.
Action requires our awareness in order to enhance the therapeutic effect and satisfaction of the act. And each moment becomes sacred.

Mundane chores become a meditation and a source of contentment. We cease looking at the clock because each moment is full; we are not worrying about the future or regretting the past. We learn to honour ourselves, our energy and our time. We come to appreciate our privileges.

You can’t just read it in a book, it must be a practice for it to become a kind of knowing. The ritual of tea blending, brewing and drinking helps us to understand that every action we take can be an act of meditation.

Suddenly our usual daily tasks become interesting and purposeful, we become more focused and feel that we are functioning with some kind of flow. The work we do is done more artfully, more carefully, and we begin to feel more connected to our work, our surroundings and our situations.

The Way of Tea is simply symbolic for the way that we live our lives in each moment. Are we experiencing the richness and the beauty, or are we just getting through until the weekend or the next holiday? These conventionally sanctioned times where we are allowed to feel good are not life sustaining, and are actually meaningless if you cannot find peace and joy in the things of every day life.

THE RITUAL

Allow yourself some time.
One hour will do.
Sit with pen and paper in hand.
Without thinking too much about it finish this sentence:
To be my-best-self I need to work on improving my…[insert health concern]

Put a pot water on the stovetop or boil the kettle.
Go to your apothecary of dried herbs or to your herb garden.
Keep in your mind the health concern that you wish to improve.
Choose three herbs [use both your intellect and intuition].
Add equal parts to a bowl and blend with your hands.
If one herb appeals to your senses more then double it and blend again.

Add 1-3 teaspoons of your blend to a 1-3 cup teapot.
Pour over the boiled water and let it brew for 5-10 minutes.
In that time, once again, without thinking too much about it finish this sentence:
I feel most a peace when I am…[insert an action]

Pour your herbal tea brew into your favourite vessel and sit in your favourite chair. Hold your vessel in your hands, feel the warmth, soften your gaze and inhale the aroma. Bring your mind to your health concern and let it fade away as you come to focus on the action that makes you feel at peace.
Let this feeling linger in your body and mind.
Sip on your herbal tea blend.
Notice the new sensations in your body.
Embrace the unique tastes.
AND ENJOY THE MOMENT.

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FINDING BALANCE | Adaptogen & Nervine Herbal Tonics

If you close your eyes for a moment and envisage yourself in your most peaceful  environment, a place where you are your most calm, clear and strong. What do see? What are your thoughts? How do you feel?

Marinate on that feeling for a moment longer and make it a ritual to come back to this place every day. This practice will allow you to gradually make this feeling a reality. This is a way to finding balance.

What inhibits our ability find balance? Lack of sleep; artificial food; toxic air and water; information overload; intense time pressure. In a word, stress. Stress drains us of our vital energy and our bodily resources, disabling our innate ability to heal and thrive. We might ignore the early warning signs of imbalance: headaches, digestive upsets, frequent colds, general fatigue, tumultuous sleep patterns and stormy mood swings. We might put more energy into trying to control all of this with uppers, like coffee, and downers, like alcohol.

All of this combined is a sure way of running ourselves into the ground, resulting in adrenal exhaustion. The adrenal glands live in the mid to lower back, on top of the kidneys, they produce stimulating survival hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. This is only meant to be a short term survival mechanism and yet we are trying to live day after day, year after year, as if we were perpetually in danger. We are simply not designed to live this way. We need adrenalin to get out of bed, but if we live on adrenalin then we gradually inhibit our ability to get out of bed. Chronic stress; excess cortisol is neurotoxic and pro-inflammatory, it is therefore degenerative and leads to imbalances and exhaustion. Adrenal exhaustion refers to the inability of the adrenal glands to support a balanced way of life.

All body systems are connected, therefore adrenal exhaustion effects the nervous system, endocrine (hormonal) system and our basic human functions via the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis (HPA axis). The HPA axis governs and regulates hunger, fight and flight or rest and digest nervous system functions, sleep-wake cycles, temperature regulation, menstrual cycles and libido. Good questions to ask oneself are: Is my appetite regular, and is my digestive function strong? Does my heart beat rhythmically, and am I breathing deep into my belly? Can I feel my feet and hands, and is my body limber? Do I fall asleep with ease, and do I feel well rested when I wake? Do I overheat easily, or am I always cold? Are my menstrual cycles regular and manageable? Do I feel sexy and comfortable in my body? There are many good reasons to stop living in a state of stress and cultivate a calmer and clearer way of life.

How can we live more in the “rest and digest” state of mind and body? Nutritionally rich foods and herbal medicine offer bioactive compounds that enhance multiple healing mechanisms within the body.

Nutritionally, we know what we need by listening to what we crave. If you have been under pressure at work and have had too much coffee for a period of time you may find yourself craving salty potato crisps. You already know how to find balance, as the sodium content in the salty crisps is medicine to restore adrenal function. Or, if you are feeling irritable, low in energy and mood you may find yourself craving chocolate. You already know how to find balance, as the magnesium content in the chocolate is medicine to restore the nervous system. We can all relate to these examples, and perhaps find ourselves feeling guilty about the choices we make on a whim. However we can take it as a clear indication of where we are in need of more support, and this is when we turn to herbal medicine.

In the realm of herbal medicine there are two groups known as Adaptogen and Nervine tonics, this means that they enhance our ability to cope with physical or emotional stress. They also support us by enhancing cognitive function, sensory perception, physical performance, calmness of mind, and quality of sleep.

 

ADAPTOGEN TONICS

Adaptogen herbs support, restore and enhance the adrenal gland function; enhancing the body’s physical resilience to environmental, and emotional stressors. Adaptogens also enhance our ability to reconnect with ourselves, our families, our community, and be more in touch with the world around us. The following are key adaptogen herbs that we commonly use and value in our dispensary.

RHODIOLA Rhodiola rosea may be used to enhance cognition, and lift someone out of a long period of mental and physical lethargy.

HOLY BASIL Ocimum tenuiflorum may be used ease anxiety, improve memory and promote longevity. Holy basil has been used for thousands of years in India as a sacred medicinal herb that gently and consistently revitalises the body and mind.

SCHISANDRA Schisandra chinensis may be used to improve physical and mental performance, endurance and resistance to the effects of stress. Schisandra has a particular affinity with the liver and supports detoxification, and therefore a sense of lightness in body and mind.

LICORICE Glycrryhiza glabra may be used to ease inflammatory conditions that are exacerbated by stress, such as eczema, arthritis or asthma. Licorice is a strengthening and soothing herb that is best for those is a weakened state of fatigue.

ASHWAGHANDA Withania somnifera may be used as a restorative tonic to strengthen the body, enhance resilience to infections, and ease inflammation. Withania also enhances energy and improves sleep quality by balancing the body’s natural circadian rhythm, the sleep-wake cycle.

NERVINE TONICS

Another group of herbs that are essential for finding balance are known as ‘Nervine’ herbs, this means that they are restorative to the nervous system. They support us by either calming, uplifting, or balancing the nervous system functions, and in turn supporting our ability to listen to our needs and learn how to remedy our current situation. The following are key nervine herbs that we commonly use and value in our dispensary.

SKULLCAP Scutellaria lateriflora may be used to balance mental tiredness or excitability, enhance sleep and ease anxiety. Skullcap may be used for those who have excessive mind chatter and simply need to switch off.

PASSIONFLOWER Passiflora incarnata may be used to ease anxiety, irritability, restlessness and insomnia. Passionflower can also ease withdrawal symptoms from addictions and habitual behavioural patterns.

LIME BLOSSOM Tilia cordata may be used to relax the nervous system, calm anxiety and ease restlessness, particularly if one is experiencing heart palpitations.

LAVENDER Lavandula angustifolia may be used to elevate mood, ease restlessness, and improve digestive upset associated with anxiety. Lavender evokes a sense of ease, clarity and strength.

ASHWAGHANDA Withania somnifera may be used as a restorative tonic to strengthen the body and quiet the mind. Withania gets its botanical name, somnifera, due to its grounding ability to promote deep restful sleep and therefore relieve insomnia.

Herbal medicine can support us through stressful periods, so the body does not become weakened and degenerate into a pattern of disease. They can generally be taken for long periods of time. However, they should not be used as a crutch to enable us to continue unhealthy lifestyle habits. Taking adaptogen and nervine herbs allow us to slow down and quiet the mind enough to enable us to observe what habits are causing us stress and therefore need changing. We are able to observe and experience life to its fullest potential, instead of living in the past or future, adaptogen and nervine herbs strengthen the body and mind in order to make the changes that are necessary to enjoy health and wellness. Life will always present challenges, as we live within a fast-paced world, however what matters is that when faced with challenges we know how to find balance.

QUIET THE MIND | RESTORE THE BODY | EXPERIENCE HARMONY IN EACH MOMENT

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