Botanical Nutrition

by Rob Seeman official blogger of the health food movement


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Discover blue magic (for your tea and your body) : Butterfly Pea flower tea

Butterfly-Pea-Flower-tea---TFMAhh the magic of nature.  It is truly everywhere we look, if we are looking with the right vision. Is it not?

There are many kinds of amazing and colorful flowers that are made into herbal teas; but one stands alone as a truly unique specimen – until recently rarely seen in the US – and that is Butterfly Pea Flower tea.

The Butterfly Pea flower (Clitoria ternatea) is native to many South Asian countries, including Thailand, Malaysia and Burma.  It has a number of very interesting properties – including its wide range use as a traditional medicinal herb in the Ayurvedic tradition. Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham tells us that in Ayurveda it is considered to be something that “ameliorates the wrath of the god of karma,” as well as a pleasant and commonly enjoyed herbal tea.

One of the most instantly apparent novel things about the tea has earned it the nickname the “color changing tea” – because of just that! Depending on the pH of a solution, whether it is very acid or alkaline, a tea made from the flowers of Butterfly pea can change very much in color.  When extracted in purified water it is a rich blue, then by simply adding lemon juice (with a very acidic pH) we can see the tea make a dramatic shift to bright purple!

The novelty of its vibrant blue (and various other hues) color aside, Butterfly Pea Flower tea has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine.  It is also increasingly being validated by modern scientific exploration.  The plant pigments that make it colorful also make it highly antioxidant, with a higher ORAC value than many plants.  However, the magic doesn’t just stop there.

A 2008 article in the Journal of Pharmacology found that it has been “used for centuries as a memory enhancer, nootropic, antistress, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, tranquilizing and sedative agent.”  Researchers also concluded that its extracts “possess a wide range of pharmacological activities including antimicrobial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, diuretic, local anesthetic, antidiabetic, insecticidal, blood platelet aggregation-inhibiting and for use as a vascular smooth muscle relaxing properties.”

Dr Al Sears has written about the herb, called Bunga telang in Bali, and its use in traditional Bali herbal medicine for memory, for eye problems, and even for serious diseases like cancer. It is one of the only plants that contains a chemical called cyclotides. Researchers in the journal Oncology Letters have even researched cyclotides from Butterfly Pea flower tea against certain kinds of drug-resistant lung cancer.

Much more than just a color-changing novelty used in cocktails or food (although that is pretty nifty huh?) behind that magic BLUE color we find that Butterfly Pea Flower tea may have some impressive benefits for the body – and the mind.

In India, scientists have demonstrated that treatment with just 100 mg. of Butterfly Pea flower extract can increase acetyl-choline. The researchers stated “increase in ACh content in their hippocampus may be the neurochemical basis for their improved learning and memory.” Acetyl choline is an essential neurotransmitter and a major factor in central nervous system functioning.


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New Study Investigates Probiotic Strains in Iranian Pickled Vegetables

A new study published in the journal GMS Hygiene and Infection Control (there’s one to throw out on your coffee table…) identified probiotic strains found in fermented vegetable pickles in Iran.

Iranian Pickled Vegetables

Dallal Soltan et al wrote “The results of this study showed that the dominant LAB in traditional Persian pickled vegetables are L. plantarum, L. brevis, L. pentosus, L. casei, L. paracasei, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Moreover, L. plantarum was recognized as a probiotic species in pickled vegetables. The raw data obtained from this study can be used in the pickling industry to improve the nutritional value of products.”

Many of these strains have been researched for their efficacy in improving human health outcomes.  The pickle you save may be your own!


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Start Your Day with Humic Fulvic Minerals

Bulletproof coffee – stand back. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been known to put a little coconut oil in my coffee. It’s actually a great idea. But lately I’ve been starting my day with a dose of electrolyte minerals and I’ve been really impressed with the results!

w-n 8oz-1

Humic acid, and its related metabolite fulvic acid, have been increasingly researched for their beneficial health effects. It is no secret that the abundance of trace minerals found in connection with humic fulvates are beneficial and energizing. They even kind of look like coffee! Talk about the doctrine of signature; I don’t know how I missed this combination that has been right in front of my face.

cup-of-coffee

I’ve been adding a tablespoon per cup of coffee. It is fine to heat the minerals, but I have found it works best to add it in to the java once it has been brewed.  The same way humic and fulvic acid can boost absorption of nutrients, minerals and botanicals – they can do for you and your morning caffeine beverage. You could even go crazy and add the minerals AND the coconut oil to your morning elixir. Have fun with it!

This month Whole Earth Minerals humic fulvic trace mineral blend is on sale at the Food Movement for just $29.99.

 


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Antioxidants don’t work? Polyphenol hormesis at the gates of dawn

Americans love simple answers.  This fact breeds such rampant intellectual dishonesty, and audacious marketing follies, all because our greatest loyalty seems to be to our short attention span.

To my mind – there is nothing wrong with, in the words of Malcolm X “talking to everyone in a language they can easily understand.” However, the practice of oversimplification can lead lead us to dumb things down so much as to miss the point entirely.  Especially if the truth is, and it usually is, a nuanced and multi-dimensional intangible object subject to vastly different interpretations and perceptions.

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I spend a lot of time hanging out in health food stores, and one of the most interesting things in the world to me is to hear the interpretations of natural health science put forth in popular media and echoed back from consumers.  In some ways, it is like that old game ‘Telephone”. Almost regardless of whether or not what was said originally was accurate or meaningful, the end result often won’t be.

Earlier this year Scientific American ran an article with a headline on the cover about The Antioxidant Myth.  The article by Melinda Wenner Moyer dramatically purports to tell us that “the antioxidant theory of aging is dead.”  The article talks about the research Dr David Gems and others have done that turns some of science’s ideas about antioxidants on its ear, so to speak. That is to say, some of the research suggests (but certainly is not conclusive) that oxidative reactions (the cause of oxidative damage, and long thought to be a central cause of aging) may not actually be a central cause of aging.

The editors summarize ”

  • For decades researchers assumed that highly reactive molecules called free radicals caused aging by damaging cells and thus undermining the functioning of tissues and organs.
  • Recent experiments, however, show that increases in certain free radicals in mice and worms correlate with longer life span. Indeed, in some circumstances, free radicals seem to signal cellular repair networks.”

This to me is really interesting, but it is a BIG jump to make the extrapolation that third leap which they do “If these results are confirmed, they may suggest that taking antioxidants in the form of vitamins or other supplements can do more harm than good in otherwise healthy individuals.”

I wonder if they would go so far as to make the equation seem really ridiculous and imply that, because of the genetically-modified earthworms we shouldn’t eat healthy antioxidant foods? I mean, there is still a TON of other research out there showing the cell protective benefits of antioxidant vitamins, both as supplements and in their natural food form.  I personally tend to have a bias towards the food form, but this really isn’t the point. At stake here is the very operational assumption that would explain the benefits of antioxidants of any kind – or is it?

Perhaps the problem is we’re asking the wrong questions.  If we look at it from a common sense naturalist perspective which presumes that one of our greatest skills is the ability to adapt and evolve; we may come to a different conclusion entirely. Small amounts of oxidative stress may actually correlate with longevity, but this doesn’t negate the fact that oxidative damage within cells and tissues is a reality.

To me, the more cutting edge theory here is not that “antioxidants don’t work” but rather “we are really just beginning to understand how they work”.

Dr. V. Calabrese et al published a paper a few years ago which explained The Hormetic Role of Dietary Antixoidants in Free Radical-Related Diseases “Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables or spices is associated with a reduced incidence of cancer and reduction of markers for neurodegenerative damage. Furthermore, greater health benefit may be obtained from raw as opposed to cooked vegetables. Nutritional interventions, by increasing dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, can retard and even reverse age-related declines in brain function and cognitive performance. The mechanisms through which such dietary supplementation may diminish free radical-related diseases is related to their ability to reduce the formation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, along with the up-regulation of vitagenes, such as members of the heat shock protein (Hsp) family, heme oxygenase-1 and Hsp70.”

However the real clincher comes at the last “However, excessive nutritional supplementation (i.e., high doses) can have negative consequences through the generation of more reactive and harmful intermediates with pathological consequences.”

Sounds to me like a greater argument than ever for reopening the books on ‘whole herbs’ and ‘whole foods’ versus highly processed laboratory antioxidants. Do we want scientists to study whether highly purified isolates and extracts have beneficial effects, or how antioxidants behave in a complex food matrix? Not that these isolates may not have their place, but it may be something that in the future will be viewed as completely separate from nutrition. Perhaps we need to cultivate a ‘dietary theory on antioxidants’ which takes into account the inherent wisdom of nature and eating a true whole food diet.  Before we tell people to ‘put away their antioxidants’ we ought to take note of the immense benefit of food-like doses of these nutrients and the incredibly complex interactions to consider.  If you ask me, I’m not really opposed to aging anyways.  As long as I’m healthy while I’m aging, why not let nature take its course? Now how is that for turning a theory on its ear?