DIY Coochie Steams!

Any kind of healing tenderness to the Cooch is of great benefit to humanity and the earth at large.  Treating  vaginal issues can be challenging! Yeast, Bacterial vaginosis, atrophy, are all difficult-to- resolve issues.As a health care practitioner, this has been a great asset to my practice as a DIY for patients when herbal formulas and acupuncture have fallen short. Coochie Steams are all the rage lately, offered up as Vaginal Steam or “V Steam” at salons and spas in many major cities. Origins are multiple, from Mayan culture to Korean. Its seems the cooch is getting lots of new and tender attention and care these days, and its about time. I have been prescribing at home coochie steams to my patients with the following complaints:

Sexual trauma, disconnect with sexuality, bacterial vaginosis, foul smell, yeast infection, pre/peri menopausal vaginal dryness and/or atrophy, amennorhea, irregular menses, and painful menses.

Use what you got! Or got to your herbalist for special recs.
Use what you got! Or got to your herbalist for special recs.

Though I have found no references to vaginal moxa or steams in Chinese medical literature, there is a practice of applying moxabustion to acupuncture point Conception vessel 1 (CV1), hui yin, yin meeting point also called “doorway to the earth” (Bensky).  It is also a Sun Si Miao Ghost point.  Ghost points treat the spirit, chasing entities or bodily inhabitants out…which can include in this case, energy from past partners, parasites, fungus and bacteria, anything that may be taking up residence.  This point is located on the perineum, on the mid-line, midway between anus and labia or anus and scrotum. Some call it the “taint,” for “t’ain’t the vagina and t’ain’t the anus.” Moxa applied to CV1 can have the following benefits:

 

  • cleansing and toning benefits for vaginal tissue in menopausal vaginal atrophy
  • decreased menstrual pain
  • improved sleep
  • enhances fertility from cold in the womb
  • resolves hernia
  • clears bladder and vaginal damp heat/candida infection
  • heals hemorrhoids
  • Strengthens the lumbus and boosts the kidney

I am going to make the leap that vaginal steams will treat the same and similar conditions.

WHAT MY PATIENTS ARE SAYING

“I just experienced my first ever, “Yoni Second Chakra Steam.” My cycles have been progressively becoming longer and longer in the last 18 years, to 32-35 days. I have 1-3 days of brown blood before my red flow starts and when my red flow starts, I have clotting and intense bleeding. This lead me to try the vaginal steam to help heal my uterus. The first thing that I noticed after my steam was that I needed to rest, and as I did so, I felt my pelvic bones have 8-9 powerful adjustment and this was followed by an intense emotional release. When I did have my cycle, after my first steam, black, thick blood came out, with no cramping, as if the old blood got liquified by the steam. It’s another tool in my belt for healing and I hope that it will bring profound healing for you as it did for myself. -Monica Tomasi

“I recently had a negative sexual experience that left me feeling … unclean, used and discarded, like a dirty rag. Soon after this encounter, I noticed a distinct and unpleasant odor coming from down there. The smell was persistent and repulsive. The next week my acupuncturist recommended doing an herbal steam to help shift the environment down there and hopefully alleviate the smell. She gave me a special yoni steam herb blend. As I sat the scent of the herbs wafted up to me, comforting me with the familiar scent of mugwort, an old ally of mine. My yoni felt warm and comforted, like I had built a sacred sauna, just for her. After I was finished, I was delighted by the beauty of the herbs floating in the bowl of warm water. My yoni scent has returned to normal, a gentle and pleasant smell that I am used to. The unpleasant odor has vanished!

Doing my steam feels like a ritual of self care specifically dedicated to remembering and honoring the feminine aspect of myself. Like the yellow flowers opening their petals in the water, I feel myself opening and relaxing into the warmth of the steam, the scent of the herbs, and the tenderness of a simple act of self nurturance. By giving this special love an attention to my vagina, I remember to honor all parts of myself with equal reverence, because they are all part of the greater whole of me.-SL

“I have had amennorhea for 8 years, and only recently has it worried me, when my womb began to feel empty, lifeless and dry. I did not want my sex life to dissipate and I wanted to feel whole as a woman!  When I saw Anna for acupuncture and herbs she prescribed me a tea, and a yoni steam with my favorite herbs, mugwort and shizandra. My second round of steaming created a day of my uterus and cervix vibrating! I waited a few weeks and then again, did the coochie steam with the same herbs. Again! I experienced vibrations or flutters from uy uterus all the way down to my cervix! There is no doubt in my mind the healing steam of these intelligent plants at the gateway of my womb is bringing Her back to life!! Woo hoo!!” -Brooke Sullivan

“I have had chronic yeast infections/candida on and off since my 20s. It had begun to cause fissures and pain from sex, so severe that I had to abstain from sex.  I received a special herbal steam blend from Anna. I have done 3 steams and my last sexual interlude was pain and fissure free.” -NW

HOW DO I DO IT AT HOME?

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Best to do during premenstrual phase, or when bleeding is complete. Best to do it right before bedtime.  Put 2/3 cup of herbs into a pot with 8 cups of water. Bring to boil and turn off to steep and cool for 15 minutes. If at that time it is not cool enough, just add a bit of cool water to make it manageable. You can also get a  metal bowl large enough to fit into our toilet without falling in! Wrap yourself well with a blanket so as to keep in the warmth. Sit for 15-30 mins. It is important to wrap yourself up and go to bed so you can keep your womb warm, and not let cold into your relaxed and open womb. Let the effects of the steam resound throughout your lower burner as you rest. There are also vagi stools available that have an opening, under which you can place your hot pot of herbs. Another idea from Monica Tomasi is to put your pot under a milk crate and sit on top with a blanket wrapped around you. I have tried this and it works well! Do be mindful that the steam is not too hot, so as not to burn your butt or cooch!

vsteamchair

Chinese Scutellaria Baical, Cnidium, Angelica sinensis, Lily Bulb, Schizandra and Mugwort is a great blend for the peri/post menopausal cooch who feels frequent irritation from love making with fissures and a growth of yeast.

Calendula, plantain, mugwort is a simple blend for moving menstrual blood to clear cramps, and toning the vaginal tissue.

Here are some of my suggestions for my patients: Calendula, Plantain, Mugwort, Scutellaria Baical, Oregon Grape root, Schizandra, Marshmallow, Cnidium, Lily bulb, rosemary. The variety of herbs suggested can treat many things.

 

Mandarine Orange Gummies, A Nutrient Dense Winter Treat

gummies“The three months of winter, they denote securing and storing…Go to bed early and rise late. You must wait for the sun to rise. Let the mind enter a state as if hidden, {as if shut in}, as if you had secret intentions, as if you had already made gains.” (Unschuld, Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen, Ch. 3 p.49.)

This passage is from an ancient Chinese medical classic called “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Chinese Medicine”. The Yellow Emperor, Huang Di ruled in the middle of the third millenium. This ancient wisdom guides us to follow the energy of the seasons.  It gives us permission to hibernate, rest, consolidate, contract and slow down in winter, which is so contrary to our western cultural rhythms. It gives us permission to rest in what we have done and slow down our minds from trying to always create something new. It seems we all must be doing something, or we feel unproductive or useless.  Winter is a time for less social engagements.

It is also a time for deeply nourishing foods, that are slow and well cooked, warm and easy to digest. Foods that go deep such as roots, broths from bones, marrow and gelatin nourish us at our core.  Just as the plants have retracted their energy to their roots, so do we. “In winter the true qi of the depots descends into the kidneys the kidneys store the qi of the bones and of the marrow.” (Unshculd, Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen, Ch 18, p.307.) It is a good time to store up, so we have the force and vitality to expand into the spring and summer rays of the sun. Using seasonal ingredients is another way to align our bodies with nature’s rhythms.

Gummies are a deeply nourishing treat that are especially appropriate during the winter as our energy contracts deep into our body. The most important ingredient in gummies is gelatin, made from long simmered bones, marrow, and cartilage. Gelatin and bone broth are one of the most healing and easiest foods to digest, commonly thought of as convalescent food (hence jello given in hospitals).

I have been making these for my kids for some years, and it was always hit or miss, for I am just not a recipe follower. With the help of Nourished Kitchen (see her Glowing Ghost Gummies here http://nourishedkitchen.com/glowing-ghost-gummies/), I did follow the bones of this one and made my own creative additions and flavor adjustments. Gummies are the most satisfying treat I can give my children where I know I am supporting their healthy growth. They are loaded with grass fed gelatin (Great Lakes is my fave) and seasonal fruit and sometimes herb flavors. Gelatin contains high amounts of protein, amino acids, and collagen for strong bones, teeth, hair and nails.

In Chinese medicine gelatin is an essence, jing, tonic. Gelatin is what makes a good bone broth that makes it gel. In our own bodies, Jing is our bone marrow, our brain matter, the deepest part of our beings. It is the source of all of our vitality, emanating into yin, yang, qi and blood and spirit. From deep within, if our jing is strong then our spirit, shen, emanates with vitality.

Here is the recipe:

1/4c gelatin

1/2c water

1/2 cup fresh squeezed mandarine orange juice (I add the juice of 1-2 lemons as well, for my kids like it tart)

1/2 c  raw honey

1/2 tsp turmeric (for color and a little medicine!)

pinch of sea salt

Put your gelatin in a mixing bowl and pour on the water to soften the gelatin. Heat your juice, turmeric, salt and honey on low heat until honey is dissolved. Pour over gelatin, and stir stir stir. You can put your mix back over a very low flame on the stove to aid in the dissolving. You may have to strain out some of the lumps. I eat these gelatin globs because I know what’s good for me!  Nourished Kitchen suggests using a mixer. For me this aerates the gummies and changes them to a less pleasing texture. Pour into silicon molds or a square food storage container. Put in the fridge to chill. Takes about an hour. Pop em out of the molds, or cut into squares if you put in a food storage container. It makes between 25-30 gummies. And let your children have at them!

You will feel good as they gobble up this healthy treat knowing you are nourishing them deeply. This is a healthy treat for the elderly, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and it is beneficial for fertility enhancement. It is not advised to give raw honey to children under one years old.

Other seasonally appropriate flavors could be elderberry, rose hip, persimmon, quince, yerba santa. Allow your inner alchemist to create and concoct and I would love to hear what you come up with!

 

 

 

 

Black Locust Vermouth

20140428_082658Black Locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia, also called the false Acacia) are abundant in our Sierra Foothills, probably brought by the Europeans in the mining days. On my recent trip to Southern Cali I discovered them in my old stomping grounds, Topanga CA!!

They are a fast growing hardwood, used for bow making, and their legume-y vanilla scented blossoms are EDIBLE!! They taste like sweet pea flowers, nutty with a sweet hint from the nectar inside. They have a short showy bloom phase about now, late spring for about two weeks. You can just snack on them like popcorn, or sprinkle them as garnish on top of a light bowl of cattail soup (see Living Wild book for recipe). See here for identification: http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/black_locust.htm

I love to make beverages of all sorts. (Come to my QUENCH class in June for more sipping zippy delights!) My latest concoction is a Black Locust Blossom Vermouth. It lends a sweet floral pea flavor to the mild lemony taste of dry vermouth as a warm spring or summer sipping low alcohol beverage.

And it is super easy to make.blacklocustvermouth

  • You will need:
  • bottles, 12-16 oz
  • Dry vermouth, (or even sake!)
  • Lots of Locust blossoms

Simply gather your blossoms and pluck them off of their stems. Stuff to nearly full a bottle of your choice, with the blossoms, clear is nice to see the blossoms soaking. I like to use old GT Kombucha bottles, labels removed. Then pour vermouth to the top.

blacklocustbottleLabel your bottle and let sit for 3-6 weeks. Strain, saving some of the blossoms to garnish. It is lovely over a bit of ice. Locust Blossom vermouth is a delightful way to preserve the tastes of spring to share with friends.

 

 

Day at the clinic with Anna {photo-blog}

 

 

 

Welcome to a visual tale of what happens behind the door of Anna’s office. You are encouraged to imagine the smells and feelings that come with it. Thank you to the lovely artist Kathy Frey for the photos!

Spring Sorrel Soup, “Potage Germiny”

sorrelsoup

My first job beyond babysitting was at 12 years old at a print shop in San Francisco, HJ Carl & Sons, on Capp St. We constructed and deconstructed hug metal print plates of recipes for local restaurants, flyers, and posters every Saturday. Lunch was delivered warm from Jack’s restaurant, and every week we had creamy rich yet light lemony sorrel soup. I have tried to recreate it many a time, and I finally came close to duplicating it.

Sorrel is a weed, as sheep sorrel, growing abundant right now and in perfect harmony with Chinese elemental correspondences, of Spring-Liver-sour flavor.  sheep-sorrel1You can find patches where it is big leaved…the Broad St Cemetery is a great place. You may have it growing in your yard! I harvested sorrel from my dear friend Liz’s garden.

Sorrel is high in vitamin C, antioxidants. Its sour flavor astringes fluids, the fluids, yin, water that we store up from the wet moist winters. We store our yin, so that we have enough to keep us from overheating through the spring and summer. Too much sour can dry out the ligaments and tendons, so check your sour cravings.

In western herbalism, bitter is the flavor associated with the Liver. Bitter in Chinese medicine corresponds to the heart. And it is important to keep the heart cool and drained for liver health, but some people cannot tolerate bitter, for it cools and drains too much, when they are in need of nourishing to their Liver.

There is a buzz of concern about oxalic acids being a health hazard, for they leach calcium from the bones. Oxalic acid is neutralized by lemon juice or a little apple cider vinegar, and it is important to always combine your sorrel, spinach, or chard (other greens containing oxalics) with a fat and protein. This soup is the perfect whole meal, yet light enough to give your digestive system a rest after the richer winter diet.

SORREL SOUP

1/2 yellow onion sauteed in 2 Tbsp butter

Add in 2-3 cups washed chopped sorrel

Sauteed in 3-5Tbsp butter. When they are wilted, add:

5 cups stock, best is chicken I made it with beef. Remove from heat and add a small amount of the soup to:

1/2 c cream and 3 beaten egg yolks. Then combine all ingredients and heat until the soup thickens slightly, but do not boil. I pureed my soup, for that was how I had it at Mr. Carl’s.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

My Lithuanian friend Aruna grew up growing rows and rows of sorrel, and eating sorrel soup all the time in the spring. Her family did not blend it, and they added meatballs sometimes.

I encourage you to explore the wonders of easy to grow and abundant wild foods to support your health and vitality. Our wild greens have a greater mineral value and life force for they thrive and adapt without our care.  Bon appetite!

 

 

Violet Gelatine!

Violet Gelatine!

VIOLET GELATINE

violetsMy favorite food to make for dear friends who are recovering from any major life transition is gello! I spell it with a “g” because it is different than our childhood treat. It is made with grass fed gelatin (available at HAALo) and because you can create your own amazing flavors as wild as your imagination can get. I am very into using seasonal medicinal plants in my food. In this blooming spring, the violets are out, in three colors, purple, fuschia(!) and white. They are everywhere around town on people’s lawns, roadside, wafting their sweet fragrance within a several feet distance from where they bloom. They impart their odor as flavor to all sorts of delicacies. I have two dear friends who are recovering, Megan from childbirth and Shea from major back surgery. They both need the same types of foods! Nutrient dense, easy to digest potent foods. So I have been feeding them gello.

Violets have been used traditionally to decrease inflammation and help one sleep. Perfect for these two dear lady friends! They are called “zi hua di ding”  translating to “purple flower ground spike.” They clear heat toxins, nourish blood, and regenerate flesh.

Here is my latest recipe: VIOLET GELATINE

violetgelatine

 

 

 

2 Tbsp gelatin grass fed, I like Great Lakes beef or porcine

1 1/2 c water

1 c heavy whipping cream (raw, or pasteurized, but NOT ultrapasteurized if you can help it). Alternately you can use coconut cream, it is just not as subtle.

A handful of freshly harvested violets, destemmed

2-3 Tbsp raw honey, or choice of sweetener, add to taste, really

pinch sea salt

DIRECTIONS

Pour gelatin into your mold container

Add 1/2 c cold water and let it dissolve.

Heat 1 cup water.

Meanwhile pour cream into a saucepan on low, immerse your violets in the cream. Do not let it boil. When warm almost hot, add honey and stir til it dissolves. Again honey is to taste.

Add hot water to dissolved gelatin in a mold, stir to make sure it all does dissolve. Then add your violet cream to your mold. Stir. Make sure your violets are nicely arranged on top. Chill.

The cream will separate creating a two-toned gelatine. Slice and eat with your fingers, or serve in quaint little bowls. Eat as much as you want. It is lovely subtle, gentle, nourishing heart blooming healing food. Enjoy.

violetgelatinslices

 

 

RIPE NOW!! WILD CALIFORNIAN ROSE HIPS, A.K.A. JIN YING ZI

WILD CALIFORNIAN ROSE HIPS, A.K.A. JIN YING ZI:  A Native Local and Traditional Chinese Plant Food Medicine!

Written by Anna Wederitsch LAc

Ah, the rose. Though most cherished for its intoxicating heart nourishing and heart opening (and heart qi moving) essential oil, few realize the potent healing properties contained in its fruit, hips, or haws as some call them. Many of you are familiar with rose hips for tea, but have you had them as FOOD? Yes, food! There are accounts of it being eaten with salt and butter!

Native American people have used this fruit in stews, soups, teas, and raw as snacks, to support their health through local available foods. When I see rose hips while hiking and foraging, my kids and I enjoy snacking on the softer hips for they are sweeter.

“…Native American people have used this fruit in stews, soups, teas, and raw as snacks, to support their health through local available foods…”

The rosacea family has fed and healed us with over 3400 plants: apples, apricots, peaches, cherries, pears, plums, blackberry, raspberry, hawthorn, agrimony, cinquefoil, and mountain ash, to name a few. Many of these plants were brought in by settlers as they came to new lands, because the plants were so valued for food and medicine.

Just when all plants have withered and dropped their energy deep down into the earth into their roots, out pops the rose hip, containing 5x the vitamin C contained in oranges. Up here in the Sierras where citrus is rare, may Rose Hips be our C of choice! During World War II, the whole of England turned to rosehips for their vitamin C during a crippling citrus shortage. All rose hips are edible, but most abundant right now is the Wild California Rose Hip.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE ROSE HIP

Most recent research and use has been in effectively alleviating pain and stiffness in the knees, hips, and other joints, associated with osteoarthritis. Its anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to its ability to reduce the C-Reactin protein (CRP) and creatinine, inflammation markers. Lower CRP levels are also associated with heart health and decreased triglycerides. It is rich in vitamin C, tocotrienols, beta carotene, pectin and many other health enhancing ingredients that protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

JIN YING ZI, A CHINESE MEDICINE

Rosehips are considered one of the most important Chinese health tonics. They are highly valued by the Chinese, both as a food and as medicine. Rose hips are sour, astringent, and neutral; they go to the Bladder, Kidney, and Large Intestine. It stabilizes the Kidneys and retains Jing, which is our primordial essence, or battery juice if you will. If the Kidneys are weak, our lower gates will not be strong enough to contain our essence. We can lose Jing through excessive vaginal discharge, seminal emissions, and night time urination. Jin Ying Zi also functions on the Intestines, part of the lower gates. It binds the Intestines to stop chronic diarrhea from spleen deficiency. For most of these functions Jin Ying Zi will be combined with other herbs.

“…Rosehips are considered one of the most important Chinese health tonics…”

This herb is contraindicated in cases with excessive fire or fever, or excessive pathogenic factors (cold/flu/virus) and is better as an immune tonic. Long-term use may result in constipation.

RECIPE FOR ROSE HIP SYRUP

Pick after the first frost, as the hips are softer and come off easier. Before I begin picking, I check in with the plant, asking if I may use its fruit to make medicine for my family and community. Then I talk and sing to the plant, whatever song comes out, whatever else I wish to share in that moment with the plant. It is also a common courtesy to return to the plant just for a visit, to share with it how your concoction came out, who you shared it with, how its medicine worked.

Mince 1lb of rosehips in a blender, and empty straight into 3 cups of boiling water. It is important to put the hips in the boiling water immediately after mincing to minimize the loss of vitamin C. Stop heating and let stand for 15 minutes. Filter the mixture through a jelly bag. Put the mixture remaining in the bag back in the saucepan, add 3/4 pint of boiling water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes and then filter through the jelly bag again.

It is important to remove all the hairs that cover the seeds as these will be an irritant if swallowed. The recipe suggested re-filtering the first cupful of juice to make sure all the hairs are removed.

I add equal parts raw honey to the syrup and a bit of alcohol, about a 1/4cup, as a preservative. Even with these ingredients, it may ferment slightly, but it will definitely have a longer life. The fermentation can contribute to the medicine! Refrigerate. It may gel up, due to the high pectin content. Use it as a jelly! In Europe, traditionally a tablespoon a day was given in the winter months to the whole family. You will be able to find a Sierra Berry Elixir with locally harvested rose hips at HAALo!

Anna Mama’s Postpartum Stew

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Right before I was about to give birth to my firstborn Cypress, my dear sister friend and fairy godmother to our boys, Deborah Mahgen shared with me a Persian stew that contained fresh fenugreek. We both got so excited about this for postpartum for me! I made it right before giving birth, a huge batch with plenty for later. And immediately following Cy’s birth, it was the first thing I ate with yogurt. And I ate it throughout the first few weeks, and anytime I craved it. I still crave it. This recipe is a bit thicker than the traditional Persian version.

I have made it for many mamas through the years, you may have seen it on www.holisticsquid.com, I made it for Emily when her son was born. She and her hubby gobbled it down. These days our small town of Nevada City is experiencing a baby boom right now, so I recently made a batch for dear mama Catie. She ate a 1/2 gallon jar in a week, and immediately called me for the recipe to make more. I just made more for several more mamas who just gave birth.

So for all you mamas in our town who are about to give birth or just had your baby (two weeks ago, six months ago or even later; my boys are five and seven, and I still need to eat this stew every now and again to fortify myself), here is to your nourished postpartum body and bodacious milk supply!

This stew is full of galactagogues, lactation supportive herbs and spices, and mineral rich herbs and greens to cool the liver from the firey experience of birth. Please note: the onions and the garlic don’t seem to affect babes because they are combined with digestives spices.

It is a blend of interior warmers, digestives, blood tonics, and blood coolers. This is all so important for postpartum support. Your body is tired from the initiation of birth, and also has to kick up blood and qi production to make breast milk. Digestion will be a bit sluggish, for you now have to make milk and blood from your food. The combination of meat, herbs, spices and fats make for an easy to digest meal, that leaves a mama and her baby feeling so very satisfied. Fennel, fennugreek, ginger, cumin, and a little cinnamon, all warm the interior, consolidate the surface and aid in stoking the digestive fire. After full dilation and open vulnerability to bring baby into the world, it is good to warm and strengthen the emotional and physical body, so there is qi enough to close up the portals and seal.

I just learned from Katie De Mota at The Nest that fenugreek may be an allergen to those allergic to peanuts. Please omit this ingredient if so. The nutrient dense greens and fresh herbs are blood cleansing nourishing and cooling, and the meat nourishes the blood and essence.

These amounts will yield 5 or 6 meals, so enough to freeze for when the craving hits. And it will.

2-3lbs meat; lamb, beef or buffalo, or goat, cubed.

2 heads of celery

2 fresh bunches of the following:

fenugreek, parsley, cilantro, dill, green onions

1 bunch tarragon (optional)

1 bunch dandelion

1 onion chopped

4-6 cloves of garlic, pressed

2-3 potatoes, or parsnips, or sweet potatoes, your choice. I like it with potatoes.

1-2Tbs turmeric

1/2-1Tbsp powdered ginger

1Tbs cumin seed

1Tbs fennel seed

1-2Tbs fenugreek seed (especially if you can’t find it fresh)

1 Tbs nigella seeds, aka kalajeera in Indian markets (optional)

A little bit of ground cinnamon

Lots of olive oil, probably 1 cup total

salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, puree celery, and all the fresh green herbs. I do the celery first, then the herbs in 2 batches.

Put 3 Tbs oil in a stew pot, add onion, garlic. When onions are translucent, add seeds and spices. When seeds start popping, add meat. Sautee until browned. Add your pureed greens and more olive oil. Add your root veggies of choice. Then simmer for about half to one hour until the roots are done.

Serve with a dollop of plain sour yogurt. Eat to your heart’s and your breasts and your baby’s content.

Monk Fruit…The Healing Low Glycemic Sweetener

luohang1

MONK BALLS FRESH ON THE VINE

When I was asked to create the Chinese herb pharmacy in our small town’s herb shop, HAALo, one of the first herbs I brought in was monk fruit. It has come to be known as Monk balls in our town because of its legendary use by the Guilin monks.  Monk fruit, a calorie free low glycemic index sweetener, has been gaining popularity as people strive to fulfill their sweet craving without spiking their blood sugar or gaining weight. Body Ecology’s Donna Gates recommends it as a sweetener that does not feed candida or other yeasts. It has been used in China safely for diabetics and obesity.

A little bit on sweetness…

Chinese nutrition is about balance of the five flavors: bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and pungent. It is natural to crave sweet, and it our body’s way of telling us we need energy.  But sweet comes in the sweet of asparagus or yams. Too much sweet depletes energy and causes digestive weakness, which then leads to a cascade of issues like bloating, loose stools, fatigue. These symptoms may then lead to diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, all signs that our body is having trouble processing the foods we eat and is overloaded with the sweet byproducts it couldn’t digest.

For those times when you just want a taste of something sweet, your healthiest alternative is monk fruit, most commonly known now as lo han, or another healthy choice is stevia. Both are plants with naturally occuring sweetness, and, unlike aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that have been cited for dangerous toxicities, they are safe, natural alternatives that are ideal if you’re watching your weight, or if you’re maintaining your health by avoiding sugar.

I recommend using lo han in moderation, just like sugar. In excess it is still far less likely to cause metabolic problems than sugar or any of the artificial sweeteners.

If you have insulin issues, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, it may be best to avoid sweeteners altogether, including stevia, as they all may decrease your sensitivity to insulin.  With sweet cravings it is important to cultivate a taste for bitter to decrease the stimulated sweet taste buds, thereby decreasing the desire for sweet.

 

luohang2

Guilin Mountains

Monk Fruit History and Healing Properties

In the cucurbitacea family, the family of melons, it is said to have grown in the forested mountainsides of the Guaxi Province, home to the Guilin Monks in the 13th century. Most of them lived past the age of 100. It remained a longevity secret amongst the monks for many years. The fruit (guo, a term used mainly for gourd-like fruits) is named after the luohan, which are advanced Buddhist practitioners. With a limited natural growing area, mainly mountainsides in China, and some areas of Thailand, it has been difficult to cultivate successfully. It is only recently that it is being grown successfully on a non-GMO farm in New Zealand.

Monk fruit, Momordica grosvenii, has been used in China as a sweetener and a healing medicinal herb. It is used as an extract to sweeten bitter medicinal teas, to revive one from heat exhaustion, or high fever, for almost any pulmonary condition, and for longevity. As an expectorant it also relieves sore throats. The elemental energetics of lo han is cooling, moistening to the lungs, and generating fluids for severe thirst or dry throat. It clears heat from the Lungs, moistens and stops cough. It is neutral and sweet and goes to the lungs and spleen.

Lo han is collected as a round green fruit that turns brown upon drying. The sweetness comes from a naturally occuring, intensely sweet compound called mogrosides, a group of terpene glycosides, present at the level of about 1% of the fleshy part of the fruit. The mixed mogrosides are about 300 times as sweet as sugar by weight, so that the 80% extracts are nearly 250 times sweeter than sugar.

In the 90s, Proctor and Gamble pattented lo han as a sweetener, but the taste is more complex in flavor, emitting a slightly complex bitter and nutty taste in addition to sweet. They are currently trying to isolate compounds, to extract only the intense sweetness. Meanwhile, everyone and their mother are making sugar substitutes from it.

I strongly recommend using lo han as a liquid extract or as a powder of just pure lo han fruit.  There are many products coming out that include other ingredients, that I do not recommend using. Some even contain sugar!

Lo Han….what is the best way to use?

The best way to use it is in its oven roasted herb form, which is how it comes from China, and either made into an extract or powdered and added to foods.

HAALo has whole a liquid extract of Lo Han as well as the whole balls and crushed. They can powder them for you there for your favorite recipes, or you can simply grind them in your high power blender.  Our herbalists will be happy to make you a simple tea blend with monk balls,

Here is a rundown of some of the products:

Nectresse; contains lo han from BioVittoria’s Fruitsweetness, erithrytol ( a fermented corn sugar), sugar and molasses.  Not recommended.

Lou han sweet by Jarrow: contains lo han and xylitol. Better.

Fruitsweetness by BioVittoria in New Zealand (the ones currently growing it successfully): pure lo han fruit concentrate powder. Seems interesting and clean.  I will try this one. BUT! Processing anything in the extreme can change how our bodies recognize foods as useable fuel.

So again, I would say use it in its natural form as best you can.

Recipes:

Here are a few recipes some I found and some from friends who are getting quite creative with monk fruit!

Daikon Carrot and Luo Han Guo Pork soup from http://www.chinesesouppot.com/1-soup-recipes/135-daikon-luo-han-guo-pork-soup

Victoria is a GAPS certified functional nutritionist from Kentucky.  Here is her Blackberry Cobbler. Substitute powdered monk fruit for the manzanita sugar.

http://www.nourishsystem.com/uncategorized/summertime-blackberry-cobbler-with-homemade-manzanita-sugar/

Teas:  The best way to brew tea is to use one monk ball in about a gallon of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. You can use this sweet base to add other ingredients to depending on the time of year. This fall season I recommend elderberries to support a healthy immune system; add in the last five minutes. Yerba Santa is another local plant that will enhance lo han’s lung healing abilities, for sore throats, coughs. In the summer add in flowers like rose petals, chrysanthemum flowers to enhance the cooling calming abilities.

MONK FRUIT THAI ICED TEA

Rachel  of of Sierra Botanica is a teacher and herbalist.Here is her Monk Fruit Thai Iced Tea: Take 2 balls, crush them well, put them in a quart jar, pour boiling water over them. Let cool. Add heavy cream or half and half! Drink on a warm summer day. You could drink this warm, add cinnamon for the cooler seasons, and use coconut milk if you are dairy free.

Please write in with recipes you have to share!

Pearly Everlasting is Bloomin!

imagesIf there isnt an essential oil of this plant, there should be.

The smell is of thick warm summer coming on, with sticky orange minty maple syrup fenugreek. When you see this plant I highly recommend stroking it and rubbing its perfume on your neck. It will be with you all day long. This is how I met Anaphalis margaritacea

Ceclia Garcia Chumash Medicine woman, who recently left this planet, taught me the medicinal properties of everlasting,, though I had been wearing her perfume for 18 years on every spring summer hike.  You can smell her long before you see her.  We played with the flowers in herbal sweats, foot and hand baths, sometimes mixed with bay leaves, white sage or yerba santa.  Cecilia recommended it to change bad attitudes. She shared with us its anti-influenza, anti pneumonia  properties as a tea at the first sign, “so things don’t get exotic.”  I began using it for my boys for their summer colds and quickly signs and symptoms would clear.  My younger to this day calls it flower tea, and he always wants one flower in his tea, that he eats when done with the tea.  Both of my boys often get gooey eyes  when they get sick, sometimes it is conjuctivitis and sometimes not.  I decided to try it in their eyes.  Sometimes I get their gooey eye thing and it has worked great for me as well. It works better than breast milk for eye infections.  I have seen it work well  for painful, swollen, itchy, gritty eyes.  Even two year old flowers are potent!  In the eyes it can also change one’s outlook or persepective on life to a positive one.

In her book, Healing with Medicinial PLants of the West, Cecilia states that everlasting with white sage wrapped in a warm wet towel and wrapped around the heads of cancer patients during chemotherapy can prevent hair from falling out.

Another way the Chumash people used it was to smoke both leaves and flowers. The leaves have an appetite suppressing function, and were used by the younger women and men during times of famine, that there would be enough food for the elders.

Pearly Everlasting is found in dry places below 5,500′, most commonly in Southern California, Mexico and Penn Valley. It can be seen blooming from January to June, especially southwards.  Up here in the sierras it is blooming now, from June to July. Make sure there are many plants when you harvest, and harvest only a little as you only need a little for each use.

 

Recommended dosages:

For colds and flus and eye wash:

  • small handful of flowers, about 10 for a pint
  • pour boiling water over them
  • steep 15 minutes.
  • It is important to strain as there are tiny hairs in the flowers that can be an irritant.
  • Drink throughout the day for three days.
  • For eyes put drops in eyes as frequently as possible.

 

For weight loss:

  • 3 dried leaves in a pint jar
  • pour boiling water over them
  • let steep 15 mins,
  • Sip throughout the day.

 

I am grateful daily for Cecilia’s teachings and her wild presence in my life. May my work be an offering to all my teachers.  For more great info on some of our local plants check out her second edition, Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West, which was published after her passing.