"Cleansing Herbs"

    I want to tell you a short story about how I learned of the "cleansing herbs" or what are referred to as "blood purifiers".  

   We owned an herb shop and carried a line of medicinal herbs.  One of the more popular uses was for "blood cleansing" which prompted me to call the owner of the company,  who was a M.D. as well as a pharmacist.  
   Dr. Brown explained to me the history of "cleansing herbs".  My first question was the name implied there was something wrong with us that we needed to be "cleansed" so my inquiry was the assumption might not be correct.  Here's his answer which I've always remembered and my twist to why maybe we still do need "cleansing herbs". 
   During the medieval times, especially in most of Europe,  folks did not have a healthy diet in the winter months.  There were no fresh vegetables, no fresh fruits, and many meat/fish products were preserved by salting.  Unlike today you lived only on what you could grow and if it was cold winter that severely limited what one could eat.  People were deprived on nutrients due to what was available.
    When spring came many  "benefical weeds" would  sprout and immediately the locals would find a way to prepare those "green weeds" and incorporate them into the meals.  Basically the body had been deprived of so many good vitamins and minerals that more were needed so they found a way to make the weeds/herbs palatable.  This is one of the early beginnings of the term that herbs are "benefical weeds".
    The other problem was over the course of months of eating only salted meat/fish there had been an assumed accumulation of toxic type substances and it was felt the toxins needed to be removed.  The way to remove the toxins was to eat some "cleansing herbs". 
    Certain herbs, beneficial weeds, would be eaten and actually acted as mild diuretics and would encourage elimination.  It was this group of herbs that became known as the "cleansing herbs".  
     Do we need cleansing herbs now?  Certainly most of us have access to vegetables, fruits etc. from all over the world so "local content" is no longer as strong as it used to be so that does not appear to be the answer.  In this time of many healthy foods what do many people do? 
   Simple, we do not eat well.  It's a fast food culture dominated by ease of use, cheap cost, eating on the run and the fresh healthy fruits and vegetables are left out of our diet not due to lack of them but because of our hectic lifestyles. 
   One could question if the diet of old is not better than the diet of now.  
   Now you know something about the history of the "cleansing herbs" or the need for "blood purifiers". 


    Kudzu, Pueraria lobata, is known in the U.S. as a harmful exotic plant that wreaks havoc on highway landscaping and farms.  The plant is native to China and Japan and is a coarse growing perennial that can average growing a foot per day, or up to 60 feet per growing season. It was originally introduced to the U.S. in 1876.   It has been known to destroy some wildlife habitat and is regarded by many as a very harmful plant to the U.S. landscape. Kudzu is easily identified by it's aggressive growth form overtaking trees with it's dense mat of vines covering anything in it's path.  It is a perennial and goes dormant in the cold months but springs to life when the weather warms up.  


    But that is only partial truth for Kudzu.  Here's the "rest of the story".


    Kudzu has become an important source of hay and forage for livestock and can provide an outstanding control for soil erosion due to it's long root system.  It is high in protein and vitamins A and D which makes it competitive with other livestock food sources such as alfalfa and clover.  Kudzu is palatable to all types of livestock and contains 14 - 20% crude protein, 2 - 3.5% fat, 30+% crude fiber and 8% ash.  If you raise goats this is a wonderful forage plant since it grows so abundantly and the enormous root system is packed with nutrients which the goats will find.


    Environmentally it is one of the wonderful plants that can be organically grown simply because it resists our popular herbicides such as Roundup or other generic competitors.  The basic rule is leave it alone and it will flourish naturally. Of course it is not a "companion plant" to anyone but itself unless one has a very non desirable neighboring plant that should be destroyed. 


    Kudzu is herb like, being used medicinally for menopause, myalgia, measles, dysentery, fever and other ailments of mankind.  In different cultures it is highly prized as a medicinal herb for many illnesses.  Kudzu is a unique source of the isoflavone puerarin .  Kudzu root compounds can affect neurotransmitters (including serotonin , GABA , and glutamate ) and it has shown value in treating migraine and cluster headache .    Chinese herbal medicines including kudzu have long been used to reduce intoxication from alcohol consumption. 

    Patients with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers should discuss with their physicians before using kudzu as isoflavones can promote the growth of certain breast cancer cells.


    So the next time you see this species think twice before classifying it as foe, it could be a friend for your specific circumstances.

  This article is reprinted from Frontier Co-op Herbal Newsletter, January 2009:

   We sell Stevia at the HerbFest and our plants are organically raised.  For many years we've had a steady stream of customers wanting to buy Stevia and asking for directions as to how to use as a sweetener ( we recommend drying leaves, crumbling, and using).
The jury is still out on the use of Stevia as a substitute sweetener for diabetics and as more information becomes available we will keep you informed.

FDA Approves Sweeteners Made from Stevia Plant

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two new zero-calorie sweeteners made from the stevia plant. They have done this by means of a no-objection letter. Now -- a pressing question in the minds of many in the industry: what is the impact of this?

According to Anthony Young, Esq., Partner, Kleinfeld Kaplan & Becker and General Counsel, AHPA, as with all matters regulatory, "the devil is in the details."

Young explains that an ingredient for use in food must be an approved food additive, generally recognized as safe (GRAS), or a food itself. Stevia is an ingredient that is added to food for its technical or functional effect (i.e., sweetening), and thus is not a food staple. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) did not create an exception from the food additive amendments for ingredients like colors, sweeteners or preservatives which exert only a technical or functional effect in the food. If an ingredient is not an approved food additive (olestra, the artificial fat discovered by Procter & Gamble, was the last major food additive approved by FDA), then it must be GRAS for use in food.

In early May 2008, Whole Earth Sweeteners and Cargill submitted separate GRAS notices to FDA. FDA then reviewed the dossier and published a letter indicating that the agency "has no questions" at this time regarding the proposed use. These notifications mean:

- The two ingredients from these companies may be used in accordance with the terms of their notifications in food or in dietary supplements as sweeteners.

- FDA is generally in agreement that stevia is GRAS for use in certain foods under certain conditions.

- Other manufacturers of stevia may go through the GRAS self-affirmation process with some level of confidence that FDA would not dispute their GRAS self-affirmation.

Only the products from companies that have done a GRAS status review and have the documentation on file can sell stevia as a sweetener. Eventually, more and more companies will do this, and stevia sweeteners will become commonplace. Accordingly, stevia labeled and sold as a dietary supplement is not approved as a sweetener, and should not be promoted as such in your store.

peppermint as an herb medicinal

                                                     Mints As Medicinals

    Herbs from the Lamiaceae family, also known as the mint family have been shown to drastically reduce the infectivity of HIV-1 virions, single infective viral particles. A research team from the University of Heidelberg has found that extracts of lemon balm, sage and peppermint work rapidly to produce their effects in amounts that display no toxicity. The extracts were seen to enhance the density of the virions prior to their surface engagement. They also displayed a strong activity against herpes simplex virus type 2.

   The researchers examined water extracts from the leaves of lemon balm, sage and peppermint for their potency to inhibit infection by HIV-1. They found that the extracts exhibited a high and concentration-dependent activity against the infection of HIV-1 in T-cell lines, primary macrophages, and in ex vivo tonsil histocultures. This effect was produced at extract concentrations as low as 0.004% without affect to cell viability.

neutralizing free radicals with dried herbs like oregano and basil

Neutralizing Free Radicals Is Better With Dried Herbs Like Oregano or Basil than with Blueberries

    The Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity (ORAC) score ranks foods on their ability to neutralize free radicals. It's interesting to note that even blueberries, which are highly touted as being rich in antioxidants, don't come close to common herbs like basil and oregano on the ORAC scale.

    Blueberries have an ORAC score of 6,552, while dried oregano scores 200,129 and dried basil comes in at 67,553. (Fresh herbs score considerably lower -- 13,970 and 4,805 for oregano and basil respectively.)  Note the difference though as we see that blueberries with their touted strengths are below that of FRESH oregano by approximately 50%.  Of course no one is going to sit down and munch a pint basket of dried oregano, or any other herb actually, but it's the consistency of healthy eating that helps our bodies prevent or retard disease processes.  There are cumulative effects of poor health and eating habits as well as the beneficial corollary of healthy eating habits.

    It would be interesting to see if the loss of moisture from the fresh herbs in some way accentuates the essential oils ability to neutralize free radicals. 

     Organic dried herbs offer maximum health benefits, and herbs should always be stored away from light and heat as much as possible. And don't store them too long -- herbs less than six months old are richer in antioxidants than older ones.  For more on herbs and spices go to this University of Georgia study. .

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