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Schizandra for Balance

Monday, May 28, 2012

I love new, I'm all about it. I get so excited every time we go to my favorite local health food store and always head to the "herbs and teas" department to see what I should try out next. It's not about the new flavors, the potential health benefits, the new recipes I get to come up with. It's all of it and more; it's that it's new and different : )
This time I didn't get to actually make this tea right away but here are results. It's absolutely delicious. A hint of something from the past, something I can't name but know I've had the pleasure of tasting before, a sour, astringent experience. Nothing like the "ok, I made a cup of this because I heard it's good for me and now I'm going to hold my nose shut and down it and then reward myself with a slice of cake"…or anything similar. No. It's so delicious that I would happily trade water for it and live on this tea! So besides the flavor, what does it have to offer?

The plant Schisandra chinensis is native to northeastern China and the eastern United States. In herbal medicine, the berries are used to make an infusion or tea.
It is claimed to be an adaptogen to balance body functions, blood sugar and blood pressure, improve mental capabilities and physical performance, increase stamina, support adrenal glands, and help treat liver diseases. As if this list was not impressive enough, it's said to be beneficial for visual acuity, field of vision, and tactile sensitivity. There are certain conditions highlighted in this wonderful book* (available in the herbs and teas section of the store) for which these berries may be very helpful:
Cancer -  if you or someone you know is receiving chemotherapy with doxorubicin, this herb can be used for protecting the heart muscle.
Liver diseases - supposedly one of the most useful treatments for liver ailments, Schizandra may protect from the progression of cirrhosis to liver cancer, protect from chemical damage, in particular, ones that have to be activated by the liver to become poisonous. Through being such an effective supporter of the liver, it can help offset damage caused by hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, prevent this vital organ from inflammation, and speeds up recovery from liver surgery.
Depression - active compounds in schizandra help relieve or reverse depression in the central nervous system.

The good news is, you don't have to make tea every day to reap these benefits. Most of us will not have the time, right? You can find schizanda as capsules and tinctures as well if you wish to take it as a supplement.

Do not use this herb,
- during pregnancy because it may induce labor
- if you have gallstones or blockages of the bile ducts, because this herb increases the flow of bile
- if you suffer from ulcer, epilepsy or high blood pressure

How is it consumed?
You can simply eat the dried berries, make an infusion by soaking them in some juice and drink that after straining, or make tea, like I did.

Schizandra tea
If you make tea and you stick with a raw foodie's principles you'll want to be gentle and make sure you don't exceed ~160 F / 70 °C. Just simmer a pint or so water and 1-2 tablespoons of berries, or a gallon of water with a cup of berries, etc, depending on how much you want to make. Steep it for half an hour to an hour, strain, and drink. Refresh!

I'll be sharing the next fascinating find soon...

*Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies, by Phyllis A. Balch

Simply Goddess Salad

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Quick, simple, delicious, and super nourishing. Sold? So am I. I must be because I had this two days in a row and I get bored with things fast. Well, except for salads. I can't seem to get tired of them but you gotta vary the dressing, right? ...And the rest of the ingredients, which I try to remember once in a while. Well, here's the dressing of today's (and yesterday's) salad:

Goddess Avocado Dressing*
(Makes about 2 cups)
1 1/2 avocado
2 cloves garlic
juice of 1 small lemon
~1 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp fresh ground pepper 
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups water
Optional: pinches of cayenne pepper and/or oregano

Blend all of the ingredients until smooth. Add more water if not easily pourable. Taste test and add seasoning if necessary. Remember to start with less, you can always add more but can't take any salt/pepper, or even water, out. 

Chop up some lettuce or other greens and veggies of your desire. I kept it very simple. This time it was romaine lettuce, cucumber, red cherry bomb pepper, tomato, green onion, and radishes. That's it. Add slices of avocado, shredded cabbage/carrots/beets, red onions, green apples, nuts, seeds, etc. if you wish. Smother with a generous amount of dressing, mix and serve.

The main ingredient of this dressing, avocado, has a laundry-list of health benefits. Chances are you already know this, but it's always good to be reminded of such wonderful things...
These unique fruits are very rich in vitamins such as C, E, K, B6, and folate (B9) and minerals like potassium, copper, magnesium, and manganese. They're loaded with fiber and very rich in monounsaturated fat, that is the good kind of fat you want to eat, and they're among foods with the highest lutein content. All this translates to a delicious addition to salads and side-dishes that can help protect you from cardiovascular disease, different types of cancers, boost your body's nutrient absorption capabilities, and support your eyes by preventing macular degeneration and cataract formation. 

Happy Summer (if you live on the Northern Hemisphere), Happy Winter otherwise!