Feb 26, 2015

Lacto-fermented Herbal Sweetener

lacto-fermented herbal sweetener
This lacto-fermented herbal sweetener is one of the latest "kitchen projects" I've undertaken. I am now using it as a sweetener for my herbal teas which, as you know, could range from simple ginger tea to ginger tea with a lemony twist or green tea or hibiscus tea. This is so simple to make and so chock-full of antioxidants simply because it is not heat-processed in any way and so the goodness of the herbs are all intact. It is also lacto-fermented which means it has good bacteria to boost your immune system. Best of all, it is a simple, inexpensive and extremely flavorful and fragrant sugar alternative that you will surely enjoy adding to your teas.

I first saw this recipe from dfordelicious.com and I've also seen a similar one at nourishedkitchen.com Let us get to it right away, shall we?

lacto-fermented herbal sweetener ingredients
You need just a few ingredients really -- muscovado sugar, lemons, lemongrass and ginger. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, as you will soon see. The only thing to remember is that the more herbs you use, the stronger the herbal tones of your resultant syrup would be.

lemongrass for lacto-fermented herbal sweetener
I want to zero in on the lemongrass as you need the bulbs only and not the blades or leaves. (You can use the leaves later for fish stew and other Filipino-style soups.) Cut the bulbs off and then cut them into thin circles.

lacto-fermented herbal sweetener ingredients
Slice the other herbs as well -- the lemons into thin circles (along with the peels and seeds) and the ginger into small, thin pieces. D for Delicous used turmeric as well.

lacto-fermented herbal sweetener
Have I told you just how simple and kinda' fun this is? You simply have to layer the ingredients in a mason jar or any glass jar -- in the order you want. In this case I made the following layer sequence:
  • muscovado sugar (about a tablespoon)
  • lemongrass
  • muscovado sugar
  • lemons
  • muscovado sugar
  • ginger

Basically, it's just herbs separated by a layer of muscovado sugar. Simply repeat the sequence until your ingredients are all used up. Finally, top with a layer of muscovado sugar to cover everything. 

Cover the jar with a lid and let it ferment for up to 3 days at room temperature in a cool, dark place. Now, don't be afraid as this will not go bad. If you're not familiar with lacto-fermentation yet, please read this post on the health benefits of lacto-fermented foods.
lacto-fermented herbal sweetener
This is the layer of lemons just before I covered it with the last layer of muscovado sugar. Note the fresh, crisp look of the lemons.

lacto-fermented herbal sweetener
After a full day of being kept at room temperature, the lemons assume a softened look and the sugar crystals turn liquid and syrupy and smelling faintly of herbs. Day 1 this is.

lacto-fermented herbal sweetener
After the third day, here it is. The syrup is so fragrant by this time as the sugar is now thoroughly infused with the flavors and aroma of the herbs. My references say you should not lacto-ferment sugary foods beyond 3 days as you run the risk of getting the sugars to ferment into alcohol.

lacto-fermented herbal sweetener

After 3 days, transfer your jar of syrup into the ref for cold storage. This will stop the fermentation process but will not kill the good bacteria. This will keep in the ref for up to two weeks. Use this very flavorful and aromatic syrup to sweeten your herbal tea. You will be delighted at the complex, herbal undertones your tea will have after you've sweetened it with this nutrient-rich, and probiotic fermented herbal syrup.

To give you an idea of the health benefits of this syrup, take a look at the profiles of its ingredients:

Please make one this week and the share with us your photos. I'd love to hear from you.

Feb 23, 2015

Lagundi (Vitex negundo) -- scientifically and clinically proven cough remedy

Lagundi leaves
I have personally proven lagundi as an effective cough remedy in my family. I’ve seen its powers too many times to doubt it. Whenever I notice any of the members in my family coughing or sneezing, I just pick a cupful of lagundi leaves from my garden and make lagundi juice, the recipe of which you can see here. But is lagundi backed up by science? Or is it just a folkloric treatment whose powers can be nothing more than a case of placebo effect?

I'm here to tell you that yes, Lagundi or Vitex negundo is legit. No less than the Philippine Department of Health has formally recognized and promoted lagundi as one of the 10 herbal medicines that have proven therapeutic value. Two decades of extensive and intensive medical research went into the study of lagundi. The clinical trials that have been undertaken have shown lagundi as more effective and six times safer than carbocisteine in treating cough. This was the finding based on studies done by the Irish Medical Board on Carbocisteine. (See references below the article.)

A March 26, 2012 issue of science.ph (the information arm of the Department of Science and Technology) reported that Ascof Lagundi -- the first lagundi syrup that has been bottled and marketed in the Philippines -- as the most successful phytomedicine or plant-based therapeutic medicine at that time (2012).

The manufacturer of the first commercial lagundi syrup is Pascual Laboratories, a homegrown pharmaceutical company which has over 65 years of experience in the industry. The company developed the organic and natural product after an intensive collaboration with 4 agencies -- the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Health, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development and the National Integrated Research Program of Medicinal Plants. Today, lagundi medicine now comes in the form of syrups, tablets and capsules and are prescribed for cough and asthma.

Lagundi treats cough and asthma by way of three mechanisms:
1. Bronchodilation -- dilation or widening of the airway tubes to facilitate breathing
2. Mucolysis and expectoration -- dissolution of mucus and expulsion of phlegm to clear the airways
3. Antihistaminic -- calming down allergy that is often the underlying reason behind most respiratory ailments
Lagundi has Chrysoplenol D which has antihistaminic as well as muscle relaxant properties. Lagundi has been shown to effectively prevent the release of leukotrienes during asthma attacks.

Lagundi is now officially recommended by the above government agencies to be prescribed for the following:

  • relief of cough due to common colds and flu
  • treatment of bronchospasm in bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • prophylactic or preventive maintenance medications for the relief of reversible, mild to moderate bronchospasm in those with airway disease

That’s not all there is to lagundi however, as its other plant parts are purported to have other applications.

  • The roots are said to be good treatment for rheumatism, boils and even leprosy.
  • The flowers are said to be a cardiac tonic (strengthens the heart) and cures liver disease.
  • Decoction of lagundi leaves can be used as baths to treat various skin diseases. Lagundi leaf tea is also said to be a galactagogue (can increase milk supply).
  • Boiled seeds when eaten are reported to prevent the spread of venom in case of snake or other animal bites.

Is your doctor prescribing lagundi for your cough? Looking back, I can say mine has not -- at least as far back as my pre-lagundi juice making years -- and I don’t know why. Perhaps the DOH has not done enough to promote this indigenous, safe and effective cough treatment among our physicians?

As for me, I would go for lagundi for as long as I still have lagundi in my garden. Lagundi formulations in the market would be a close second option.

Here's how to prepare lagundi juice for your kids whenever they come down with cough or respiratory ailments.

Disclaimer: I am not paid or compensated by Pascual Laboratories to mention their company or product. Also, as I am not a medical doctor, do not take my word as professional advice but only as personal experience and research. I use Lagundi to treat the first signs of cough -- not cough that has been going on for more than a week or weeks. Consult your doctor if symptoms persist.


Feb 19, 2015

Tea tree oil -- precautions, medical and practical uses

Human Nature tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is the first essential oil that I dared to buy. Newbies in essential oils should start with a versatile and relatively inexpensive oil like tea tree oil before moving on to other oils. I have used tea tree oil as an ingredient in my homemade toothpaste and homemade deodorant and I personally love its clean, grassy and cool scent. I have also tried adding in a few drops to the last rinse cycle of my laundry and I found that it does lend a nice, fresh-smelling scent. I also know that it is a good, all-around antiseptic.

Tea tree oil is also known as melaleuca oil, the oil extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant which is native to Australia, particularly Queensland and New South Wales. The Australian aborigines have used tea tree oil for centuries in treating skin problems. They even believe that the oil can boost the immune system and facilitate lymphatic drainage.

I read up on the precautionary measures before going all-out in my tea tree oil usage and here are what I found:
1. Tea tree oil is toxic when taken by mouth and when swallowed in high doses can cause:
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • weakness
  • unsteadiness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • blood cell abnormalities
  • hallucinations
  • coma
  • severe rashes

2. Tea tree oil can cause contact dermatitis in people allergic to it. Lesson: test the product on the inner side of your elbow before applying it on your face or other visible part.

3. It is not to be used in children and pregnant women and in pets.

4. Tea tree oil should not be exposed to light and air as the oils easily oxidize. For this reason, tea tree oil should be stored in a dark glass bottle away from light and air.

5. Undiluted tea tree oil has been found to cause hearing loss in animals.
6. Tea tree is possibly estrogenic -- that is, it mimics the effects of estrogen. Lesson: use in diluted doses and do not take internally.

Medical Uses
1. Tea tree oil is widely used in many cosmetic and toiletry products as it has been found to offer many dermatologic benefits, namely:
  • anti-acne
  • anti-dandruff
  • anti-lice
  • anti-herpes
  • antimicrobial
  • antifungal
  • anti-inflammatory

2. Tea tree oil has been found in one study to be comparable to 5% benzoyl peroxide in treating acne.

3. It has been found to be effective in treating athlete’s foot and toenail fungus.

4. Laboratory studies have documented the ability of tea tree oil to kill MRSA or methycillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria that is resistant to many kinds of antibiotics.

5. It is said to be possibly effective for athlete’s foot and other fungal infections.

6. More evidence is needed to back up the therapeutic claims of tea tree oil for the following:
  • bad breath
  • cold sores
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • congestion
  • gingivitis
  • dental plaque
  • eyelid infection
  • lice
  • warts
  • oral thrush or yeast infections in the mouth
  • vaginal yeast and bacterial infections

How I am using and/or how I want to use tea tree oil:
Pending definitive studies on tea tree oil toxicity and dosing, I am limiting my use of tea tree to low-dose, diluted and solely topical applications. Occasionally though, I still use my homemade toothpaste -- maybe once or twice a week -- and only because I spit it out (but of course). Here are the many ways you can use tea tree oil:
  1. Antiseptic toothpaste ingredient -- Here’s the recipe for homemade toothpaste. Just add about 3 drops of tea tree oil.
  2. Homemade deodorant -- Here’s the recipe.
  3. Antiseptic surface cleaner -- Fill a spray bottle with water and add in a teaspoon of tea tree oil. Shake well and use as all-purpose cleaner. This is a safer option than hypochlorite-based bleaches which are downright toxic.
  4. Bathroom cleaner and freshener -- Fill a spray bottle with water and add in 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and spray on toilet bowl, walls and floor after cleaning.
  5. Anti-lice -- Add a few drops (3 to 5) of tea tree oil to a bottle of shampoo to naturally get rid of lice.
  6. Cure for toenail fungus and athlete’s foot -- Use undiluted tea tree oil to treat affected areas.
  7. Laundry freshener -- As I’ve mentioned, adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the last rinse cycle of your laundry would go a long way in making your clothes smell cleaner and fresher.

What are your favorite ways of using tea tree oil? Do you even use tea tree oil or essential oils? What are your favorite brands of tea tree oil?

Disclaimer: I am not paid or compensated by Human Nature to feature their tea tree oil. I just trust this company and their products.



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