Chicory – not just a coffee substitute

Why not try oven braised chicory. Image taken from google images
Why not try oven braised chicory. Image taken from Google Images

Chicory is a larger relative to the common dandelion.  It’s large tap root has been used for centuries as a coffee substitute especially when coffee was not available. Chicory’s leaves are used in salads and tonics just like dandelion leaves. The roots can be eaten like a vegetable and it has been cultivated for such uses in the past.

It is very high in Vitamin C, Beta-carotene (Vit A), magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, calcium, iron and folic acid plus more.

Beautiful chicory illustration sourced from google images
Beautiful chicory – illustration sourced from Google Images

It also has the highest amount of inulin amongst all the plants that contain inulin (herbs like elecampane, dandelion, burdock and foods like asparagus, leeks, garlic onions and bananas).  Up to 1/3 of it’s total plant constituents is made up of inulin.  Inulin is a soluble dietary fibre in a group of special carbohydrates called Fructans. Unlike most carbohydrates inulin is non-digestible.  This allows it to pass through the small intestines and into the large intestines where it ferments.  Through this fermentation process the inulin becomes healthly intestinal micro flora (bifidobacterium).  Inulin is known as a prebiotic. It is soluble in hot water making that chicory coffee sound even better!

Chicory is also packed with plant phenols where anti-arrhythmic and anti-thrombotic properties have been shown. Considered as anti-oxidants studies have shown that substituting to a chicory coffee could reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease.

Bottoms up to a nourishing cup of chicory coffee. Image taken from google images
Bottoms up to a nourishing cup of chicory coffee. Image taken from Google Images

Chicory can often be found in many coffee blends as it enhances the flavour yet also balances the stimulant effect.  It has a mild laxative effect like coffee, stimulates bile from the gall bladder and gives relief from arthritic pain.  It has also been used as a tonic to increase urine production and protect the liver.  A paste of the leaves can be applied directly to skin for swelling and inflammation.

I’ve only really touched the surface of the benefits of chicory.  Why not grow some in your garden and experiment for yourself.  The

flowers are edible also and look great in salads.

All in all this plant is a real asset to our weekly diets.

Golden Milk – an ancient drink using Turmeric

I’ve spoken about the antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties of Turmeric in my other winter wellness staple drink.

Many people make this recipe by adding all ingredients to hot milk/water combo and serving instantly.  I prefer to make a paste that can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (or if it develops a metallic taste) to have on hand for regular cups and easy making.

Golden milk paste. Image taken from google images.
Golden milk paste. Image taken from Google Images.

To make the paste:

  • 1/2 cup of mineral water
  • 1/4 cup organic Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Add all ingredients into a pan and heat on medium.  Stir well to create a paste, can take up to 8-10minutes.  If it becomes to dry add a dash more water.  Allow to cool and then place in a glass jar, label with date and keep refrigerated.

Image taken from google images
Image taken from Google Images

Golden Milk recipe

  • 1/4 of turmeric paste
  • 1 cup of milk or dairy free alternative, hemp, almond, coconut all work well
  • 1 teaspoon cold pressed coconut oil
  • Pinch of cinnamon powder
  • One slice of fresh ginger root
  • Some honey to taste

Add all ingredients (except honey and oil) to a pan and heat up gently.  Once cooled a little add honey and oil.  The oil provides you with healthy fats and further increases the turmeric absorption.  It helps joint lubrication and cellular function.

Image taken from google images
Image taken from Google Images

 

Matcha Latte

Match powder. Image from google images
Match powder. Image from Google Images

Matcha tea is a young delicate tea leaf most commonly grown and processed in Japan.  Rich in antioxidants, amino acids and also chlorophyll which lends it’s rich bright green colour.  The whole tea leaf is powered and added into not just tea blends but also baking, smoothies and soups.  Consuming the whole leaf increases the nutrient content dramatically in relation to other teas like green tea.

L-Theanine is the most prevalent amino acid in Matcha which is known to have a relaxing effect in mind and body. L-Theanine increases serotonin, dopamine, GABA and glycine levels in our brains.

matcha latte cup
Image from Google Images

NOTE: Matcha does contain caffeine but smaller amounts similar to green tea.

  • Add a small amount of the Match tea powder to some hot water in the mug to make a paste
  • Add half cup of hot milk or dairy free alternative, Almond or coconut work well.  Try to whisk when heating up so you get some frothy action
  • Fill to the top of mug with hot water
  • Sweeten with honey to taste

Enjoy a moment to yourself while indulging in this delight.

Herbal Vegan Broth

IMG_4480
This is a Ganoderma australe, or Artists/Southern bracket. Found at the base of Lime, Horse Chestnut, Oak, Beach, Birch and Sycamore. It is a perennial bracket fungus that grows for many years developing noticeable growing ridges on the upper surface.

A super nourishing drink for the winter months, during sickness or convalescence.

Recycle all of your veggie peelings, onion and garlic skins, carrot skins/ends, apple cores, pulp from juicer and all veggie scraps. Use organic vegetables only and save in a freezer bag and keep adding until full.

Add the following additional ingredients:

  • Medicinal mushrooms
  • Nettle leaves – dried or young when harvested
  • Nettle seeds
  • Burdock root
  • Yellow dock root
  • Marshmallow root
  • Calendula flowers
  • Rosemary & sage

Cover with water, simmer all day.  Freeze in ice cube trays for use in soups, rice dishes, beans, pasta, risottos etc or add hot water and drink with a spoon full of miso.

IMG_1880
Dandelion roots are best dug up in Autumn before the leaves have died back. As far as root digging goes they are the easiest of the lot. Voted amongst the top ten most hated weeds by gardeners, why not offer to turn them into medicine (check they are not sprayed)
IMG_4525
Here is some stock containing Birch Polypore and Burdock root on the stove. Birch polypore’s only live for one year so often more sustainable to harvest than Ganoderma species.

Medicinal Mushroom Chai

Birch polypore's growing up a birch tree in Ashdown Forest. The greener looking ones where from last year; mouldy and devoured by insects especially the woodlice.
Birch polypores growing up a Birch tree in Ashdown Forest. The greener looking ones are from last year – mouldy and devoured by woodlice and other insects.

A range of mushrooms can be bought, foraged or used in this recipe. Turkey tail, Birch polypore, Chaga and various species of Ganoderma all work well.

Always make triple sure you’ve identified the mushrooms correctly if you’ve foraged them yourself.

Take the following:

  • 2g of medicinal mushrooms
  • 1g of dried Astragalus root
  • 2g of ground coffee

Then add small selection of chai spices to taste:

  • Green cardamon pods
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Star anise
  • Fresh ginger root
  • Fennel seeds
  • Cloves
  • Coriander seeds
  • Nutmeg

Boil up the medicinal mushrooms & Astragalus root in a pan filled with 4 cups of water for 40mins, with the lid on.  Adding any additional spices for the last 10mins and then finally the coffee for the last 5mins.

Why not try substituting coffee for black or green tea, Lapsang Suschong, Earl Grey or coffee alternatives like Yannoh, dandelion or barley cup?

Rosemary’s Gladstar’s Vitamin C Tea Blend

IMG_7748
Dog rose/wild rose/Rosa Canina rose hips

Add thyme and/or ginger to this recipe for added zing!

Ingredients

  • Hisbiscus
  • Rosehips
  • Lemongrass
  • Elderberry
  • Cinnamon
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey

Sacred Seeds Winter Warmer Decoction

IMG_7906This is my favourite winter blend and helps keep me and my family healthy through the colder months.

Chop 3 large slices of fresh ginger root and fresh turmeric root. Add 1 star anise, 3 cardamon pods, 1 clove, and 3 black peppercorns. Boil in a medium sized pan full with water for at least 20 mins. Strain and drink. Re-use plant material for another 2 boils throughout day, especially if under the weather or save for re-brewing the following day.

Turmeric root is available from many Asian shops, via the Abel and Cole food delivery service and at some supermarkets.

You can read a little more about some of the healing herbs and spices included in this blend in a guest blog I wrote for my eleven year old inspiring friend Gracie Chick’s website.

Turmeric

The yellow pigment curcumin (one of three key chemical constituents called curcuminoids) of is a key active component. It has been extensively investigated and possesses a promiscuous pharmacology, demonstrating interaction with a wide range of biochemical pathways. Strong anti-inflammatory effects have been proven as curcumin is a dual inhibitor of Arachidonic acid metabolism (pro-inflammatory agent) among other such effects. It is strongly anti-oxidant, favourably influences cardiovascular function, antimicrobial (esp when used topically) and inhibits carcinogenesis and tumour promotion. There is also evidence to show the effects of tissue protection including neuroprotective (brain) and hepatoprotective (liver) activity.

As is often the way with scientific investigations, the majority of studies have examined the isolated active component curcumin rather than the whole plant. Many herbalists find this frustrating as the plants are so complex and often all the various components work synergistically together creating the perfect balance. It is more beneficial for the pharmaceutical companies to focus on one constituent as then they can patent this into a new drug, yet it is often more beneficial for the human/animal to actually take the whole plant extract, often reducing potential side effects due to the often un-known marvellous mysteries of plants healing properties.

There has however been several helpful studies to show that adding black peppercorns or long pepper to turmeric greatly increases the absorption rate by as much as 200%. The bioavailability of curcumin being so poor due to low absorption, rapid metabolism and rapid systemic elimination. I would like to research further the comparison between the bioavailability of curcumin alone and then with the turmeric taken whole.

Precautions

High doses greater than 15g/day should not be prescribed long-term or concomitantly with antiplatelet or anticoagulant medication; turmeric may potentiate the effects of these medications. Care should be exercised with woman wanting to conceive and patients complaining of hair loss. Give a 50% diluted (with water) version of this to Children not the full dose.

Turmeric is however perfectly safe to take in low doses such as this tea blend for 2nd trimester onwards and when lactating (it will promote lactation).

Ginger

Ginger has carminative, antiemetic, peripheral circulatory stimulant, spasmolytic, anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet, diaphoretic and digestive stimulant actions.

Two of ginger’s main components zingiberene and beta-sesquiphellandrene are highest in fresh ginger and decompose on drying and storage. For treatment of the common cold it is certainly preferable to use the fresh rhizome.

Ginger can be used to reduce arthritic pain, nausea and vomiting and to stimulate circulatory activity. You can use between 500 to 1000mg of fresh rhizome up to 3 times a day.

A few lesser known ginger facts; Some of the minor pungent components of ginger have been shown to have antifungal activity plus mild growth inhibitor of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria to include common cases of E.coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureas and Streptococuss viridans. The radioprotective activity of ginger extract has been demonstrated in vivo in several studies, however it was administered by intraperitoneal injection.

Precautions

There is a suggestion that ginger is one of a number of hot spices that increase bioavailability of other drugs, either by increasing their absorption rate from the gastrointestinal tract or by protecting the drug from being metabolised/oxidised in the liver. This means that concurrent administration of ginger and other hot spices, might increase the activity of other medication. There is a theoretical possibility that ginger may increase the chance of bleeding esp when combined with anticoagulants. The best practice is to keep ginger levels relatively low when there is a risk of bleeding, below 2g/day. In the case of anticoagulant medication, close monitoring for danger signs and changes in coagulation parameters.