Concord grapes from my vine

Sometimes I feel like people are seeking magic cures. I am just as bad here and there. I really want there to be some easy answer – some one pill magic bullet that will make me skinny and not have to work through the exercise or the detoxing or the diet modifications or what-have-you. The same goes for when I am sick. A one pill fix-all would be FANTASTIC! However, it doesn’t exist. Sorry to burst the bubble, but it just doesn’t.

See…that’s the thing with herbal and natural health: it requires you to actually revamp your life. Sorry, not sorry! You simply cannot eat cakes, cookies, pies and artificially colored and flavored craptastic food nonstop and expect a wee biddy pill taken three times to do anything for you. And really, it is pretty naïve and ignorant to believe it would, isn’t it?

The good news is you do not have to suffer through the lifestyle and diet changes. There are great foods out there which offer health benefits! Let’s talk about one chemical component: polyphenols.

Poly-whats?

Polyphenols are chemical components found in certain-plant based foods. They are jam-packed with antioxidants. When paired with other dietary puzzle pieces, like vitamins E and C and carotenoids, they are a collective power house fighting oxidative stress and assorted dis-eases which can be diagnosed by qualified medical personnel as cancers, coronary heart disease and assorted inflammatory conditions. They are called POLY phenols because, chemically, they are made up of lots and lots of those little phenolic rings. You know the ones. They have six sides and often are shown in chemical diagrams with letters like O and H hanging off of them. They are just some of the stuff I studied in organic chemistry in college. Research shows polyphenols help your blood vessels flexible, reduce chronic inflammation and can help reduce and/or control blood sugar levels.

Where do I find these things?

There are over 500 known unique polyphenols. They include flavonoids, phenolic acids, stilbenes, and lignans. Plant based foods are the only places to get them and the less processed, the better. Spices like turmeric, ginger, peppermint, and cocoa supply some kinds. Coffee, tea and red wine supply others. Berries of all colors and leafy greens supply even more. I am choosing to focus on those in grapes at the moment

Dark reds and purples

Grapes are high in polyphenolic compounds.

Grapes are high in anthocyanins, flavanols, flavonols and resveratrol, among other polyphenols. While the concertations of these compounds differs according to the type of grape and the location in the grape, itself, the fact stands they are there. One clue to find the grapes with the highest content is the color of the skin. The darker, more red and purple the skin, the higher the content of polyphenols. Dark, tannic red wines have been shown to be naturally higher in polyphenols, however the thinner skinned light grapes used in pinot noir is also very high in resveratrol. Here’s the kicker: you can get these resveratrol polyphenols from just grape juice and eating the grapes. There’s no need to exclusively gather those from the fermented drink. In fact, consuming wine on a regular basis can aggravate other concerns like hormone imbalances, gastrointestinal issues, liver issues and more. So eat those grapes.

Catechins are found in grapes (and dark red cherries), as well. Apple skins contain these polyphenols, too. Quercetin, found in a rather large quantity in apples, has been shown in some studies to have a beneficial effects on weight and blood sugar levels. As an herbalist, I suggest high quercetin containing herbs for people who experience discomfort due to seasonal allergies and the like.

How do they work?

These polyphenols function as antioxidants. You probably have heard of these and how they combat “free radicals”, but what does that mean? Let me try to break this down for you in a metaphor comparing oxygen molecules to something you encounter every single day: a car.

Your car has four wheels which make it steady and stable to travel about. An oxygen molecule has pairs of electrons that circle around its nucleus. These electrons travel in pairs to keep the molecule steady – just like the pairs of wheels (tires) keep your car steady. Well, we encounter junk every single day that threatens to knock those oxygen molecules off balance. Stress, pollution, excess alcohol, hormone imbalances, shitty diets….ALL of these create situations where rogue molecules bump off electrons from their stability points. This is kind of like someone ripping a wheel off your car. Suddenly it doesn’t drive very well and runs into stuff leaving dents and dinks all over the place. Those oxygen molecules do the same. They spin out running into your body’s cells, ripping off electrons where they can in attempts to get balance again. Some can form nasty stuff. Just like throwing a jack stand under where your missing wheels was, these morphed oxygens can bind and suddenly no longer function properly. Just think about arterial plaquing, etc.

What these polyphenols do is act like the roadside assistance crew. They swoop in and give a spare tire – in this case an electron – to the oxygens so they no longer are spinning out of control and do not careen into your body’s cells wrecking everything. The only way to get these roadside cell repair guys is to eat or drink them from plant based foods in your diet! PERIOD!

Eating plant foods of many colors is the only way to get polyphenols into your body!

The take-away

So there you have it: eat your rainbow, people! The darker red, green and purple a plant food is, the more anthocyanins and anthocyanidins it contains. Plants of all colors contain an assortment of polyphenols. Stop fighting it and make the lifestyle changes you need to get them in your diet. Herbs are foods. They do not work overnight and they only only work if you do the work.

Tulsi, aka Holy Basil, growing in the gardens at The Herbchick LLC

Many people are familiar with basil. It smells good – you add it many dishes as a flavorful seasoning in Italian dishes and those from the Southeast Asia area. However, what many people do not know is there are many kinds of basil. In fact, one – Holy Basil – isn’t even a “basil” at all! Take a look at the Sweet Basil in the photo gallery below ands the Tulsi. As you can in the pictures, there are definite similarities and differences in the these two plants.

Tulsi

Enter Tulsi. While it is in the same family as other basil, it is classified as its own plant (Ocimum tenuiflorum). Regular basil is classified as Ocimum basilicum. Both are aromatic and have been used medicinally. They share a similar taste but not exactly. Basil, in all its many forms, is readily used in cooking. It has many attributes, including being a carminative (relaxes smooth muscle, thereby soothing digestive organs). Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, has had more of a history of use as an herbal remedy.

It is regularly referred to as Holy Basil. Its originated in the area we now know as India. Holy Basil (or Tulsi) is believed to be a physical appearance of the wife of the god, Vishnu. Her name is, of course, Tulsi. Therefore you may find this plant growing in the court yards and terraces gardens of those of the Hindu faith. The goddess Lakshmi is also associated with this beneficial plant. This then would indicate Tulsi – sometimes spelled Tulasi – helps to bring good fortune and protection to the households where it grows. There is a darker, more purple p[lant most offten associated with Vishnu and the lighter, more often associated with Tulsi and/or Lakshmi. Regular basils are not held in this regard. .

But why use it?

Holy Basil has been used throughout the centuries in Ayurveda. Ayurveda, as I have stated in earlier posts, is the Asian subcontinent’s traditional healing system. It is a complex system contributed to by many, MANY thousands of years of practitioners and their experiences. For our purposes, I’ll keep it simple by just stating the general uses for this plant.

Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen. An Adaptogen is something which aids the body in coping and dealing with stresses: mental, emotional and physical. It is full of immuno-modulating phytochemicals. These may aid in increasing vitality and energy. When it is combines with other herbs used in the Ayurvedic healing system, Tulsi has a balancing effect and may add an overall nourishing quality. It contains a chemical constituent called Ocimumosides A and B. These compounds reduce stress and balance the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

The high antioxidant levels in this plant make it an excellent choice to aid with heart health. Antioxidants decrease free-radical oxygen molecules. These rogue oxygens can “take a bite” out of healthy tissue molecules by robbing the good tissues of an electron in order to stabilize themselves. This can result in things like atherosclerosis, poor venous supply, and other issues. Holy Basil may be a good addition to the antioxidant arsenals. Some sources even say it has the lipid lowering effect.

Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is another attribute of Holy Basil. IT has hypoglycemic qualities attributed to it. However, it should be stated it is not substitute for prescription medication. Also, if you have a blood sugar issue and use this plant, always act on the side of caution by monitoring your blood sugar.

Those suffering from elevated levels of uric acid in their bodies may want to try Holy Basil for its uric acid lowering effects.

Camphene, cineole and eugenol are three terpenes present in Holy Basil which may be of benefit in easing the breathing of those experiencing discomfort in that area. Eugenol specifically has pain relieving qualities.

How do I use it?

I have found the best ways to use this plant are those where you do not chew the leaf. Some sources say using large quantities of this plant in a way that would allow it contact with the teeth is not good for it. Instead, there are sources stating to make it into a decoction (tea) and use it as a rinse to be beneficial as a mouthwash or dental rinse.

I like to make kadha chai. I find that when I have discomfort breathing, this tea relieves some of it.

Kadha Chai

2 tsp black tea leaves

2 cups waterBay leaves

1/2 tbsp carom seeds

2 Black pepper

2 ClovesGreen cardamom

1 tbsp ginger, grated

1 inch turmeric root

1 tbsp lemon juice

Honey to taste

Some companies have some great, balanced Holy Basil supplements out there. On I like to use is Nature’s Cortisol Formula. Click on this link to read more from the manufacturer https://www.naturessunshine.com/recommended-products/653034/db01b05db01b05f/?sid=653034&offer=NSP

Any sales from links included on this post are affiliate links. I may earn commission from the sales on these products.

I also like to make a warm tea with black pepper and tulsi when I am trying to promote sweating (diaphoretic). A tea can be made with it and cardamom (another of my favorites) to help relax the gut muscles and expel gas.

As with any herb , there are some times to not use it.

contraindications:

Do not use if you have low blood sugar. It may cause uterine contractions and therefore should ne be used by pregnant women in any stage. Eugenol poison can occur if used to excess (and I mean A LOT). Symptoms of too much eugenol include bloody coughs, rapid breathing and blood in the urine. It may decrease fertility in men. Do not use with blood thinners, prescription and over the counter (baby aspirin).

Plantago major, photo credit: Me!

There are many different plantain plants. They are all, sort of, cousins to each other. The one I’m particularly referring to in this post is Plantago major. Also known as common Plantain weed, this is regularly seen growing on disturbed ground. Judt an FYI, “disturbed ground” refers those areas that have been dug up, beat down tight, or otherwise messed with by humans.

This plant is not native to North America. It traveled here with European immigrants back in the days of the pilgrims. One common name for it is “White Man’s Foot” – a reference to it growing wherever European immigrants traveled.

The quick video version

Plantain is completely edible. It’s tap root; it’s rosette of low-profile leaves; the flower stalk and subsequent seeds – all 100% edible. It is rather high in nutrients, too. It sports a nice content of vitamins A, C, and K as well as a bevy of minerals like calcium and iron.

This plant rocks in the healing department, too.

Healing Properties Include

•Anti-inflammatory

•Analgesic

•Wound healing

•Antipyretic

•Antitussive

•Anti-infective

•Anti-hemorraghic

•Laxative

•Astringent

•Hemostatic activity

•Diuretic

NOTE: when gathering, or foraging, always be sure to use plants which have not been sprayed with chemicals (think pesticides & herbicides) and not areas of high environmental contamination (like busy roadways).