In these challenging times, how can we uplift and support each other to maintain our mental/emotional/spiritual well-being? As we know, ongoing stress, worry and pressure can have insidious effects on our health and can undermine our immune resilience. One way to enhance our mental and emotional health is to cultivate joy in our lives. We can do this both by prioritising doing those things that bring us joy and also by bringing an attitude of joy to all the things we do. I wonder that focusing on joy may be easier than cultivating an attitude of gratitude since joy has no connotation of obligation to appreciate what we have been given but is instead simply an invitation to experience the pleasure of the moment.
Feeling the joy of fresh springtime wind on our face, the pleasure of the connection with our plant friends, the joy of sharing a meal and laughter with friends, a big warm hug! Many of these things have been shown to release oxytocin, known as the love hormone. No wonder lock downs have been so challenging for mental well-being since they have by necessity restricted many of these oxytocin producing activities.
This pleasure-filled project involved bringing together three of my loves - roasted Dandelion and Burdock roots (two of my favourite springtime cleansing herbs), warm herbal lattes and funky kitchen gadgets! My enjoyment of the resulting roasted root latte was enhanced by the satisfaction of problem solving and the manual work of hand grinding these roasted beauties since my usual blender was busy with my Sunday pancake mixture. Usually I would decoct the roasted roots by simmering them in water for 10 minutes or so, however the roasting and grinding helps to break down the plant matter, allowing the constituents and flavour to extract well with the quicker extraction time through the espresso machine. And of course, there is the charm and pleasure of the kitchen gadgets that I mentioned earlier - the rituals around coffee and tea making are a big part of their enjoyment. The creaminess of the frothed milk really sets off the roasted bitter flavours too, perfect for those that require nourishment as well as cleansing. The result is a delicious, therapeutic drink that bought a lot of joy to my morning.
How to prepare a roasted root latte:
About Dandelion and Burdock root
Dandelion and Burdock roots are both great detoxifying herbs. They also have a bitter/sweet taste that makes for delicious coffee when roasted. Dandelion has a special affinity for supporting liver detoxification, improving the clearance of wastes throughout the body. This in turn aids our immune system functioning, and Dandelion has been shown to have anti viral and anti bacterial actions and well as reducing inflammation - a great combination for many acute infections. By supporting liver function and being a bitter tonic, Dandelion root is a great aid for digestion and can help fat digestion particularly as well as constipation. The general cleansing effects can aid skin conditions such as acne and eczema, joint problems as well as emotions such as irritability and moodiness (a classic symptom of a congested liver.
Burdock root is another great cleansing herb, and adds a more sweet flavour to your roasted lattes. Burdock has a specific affinity for skin conditions such as acne, eczema, boils and cysts. It is known as a blood cleanser, and as well as aiding the skin this action is useful for toxicity affecting the joints, manifesting in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. It has a cleansing effect on the lymphatic system, which processes cellular wastes and is also part of our immune system. This makes it very useful for all issues of congestion in this system, such as cysts, swellings and lowered immunity. It has been researched for it's effect on tumors and cancer. Burdock cleanses via the kidney pathway and can also be helpful for urinary tract infections. A caution for Burdock root is that it often works best when combined with other herbs that aid the elimination of wastes from the body - such as Dandelion root - to prevent any side effects from it's powerful detoxifying actions.
The rapid decline in fertility we are currently witnessing is predicted to result in most couples needing to resort to assisted reproduction by 2045. The steep drop in sperm levels alone is predicted to result in a median sperm count of zero by 2045 unless there is a change in this downward trajectory. This is only twenty four years in the future. What is the cause of this exponential decline in fertility? According to Professor Shanna Swann and other researchers in this field, exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals in our food and environment is the number one driver of this alarming health trend, predominantly due to exposure to the chemicals found in plastics, flame retardants, cosmetics, fragrances and pesticides.
While these chemicals have a major effect on fertility, they are also primary drivers for many other reproductive health conditions that I frequently see in my clinic, such as heavy, painful menstruation, endometriosis, fibroids, repeated miscarriages, lowered libido and stamina and hormonally driven cancers. Reproductive function is one key marker of our overall well being, so while a lowered fertility rate may be beneficial in terms of planetary overpopulation, it is still a huge concern in terms of reflecting an overall deterioration in health and the resulting health burden this places on our societies.
So how do we decrease our exposure to these toxic chemicals, and why are they in our food and environments anyway? This is after all not a new issue - awareness of the impact of such chemicals was first noted in the 1970's when fishermen noticed the sexual and behavioural changes in fish found in a lake contaminated with industrial waste from a nearby factory. The fish exhibited showed signs of profound hormonal imbalances including having both male and female genitalia, previously male fish changing physiologically to have functioning female reproductive systems and male fish exhibiting female behaviour traits. The health implications of these studies were described in 1997 in the excellent book Feminisation of Nature by Deborah Cadbury.
However, since that time little has been done to restrict the use of these harmful chemicals. There have been some changes in terms of specific chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates from soft plastics, however these have often been substituted for other chemicals that are still unproven in terms of safety. Disruptive chemicals in pesticides are still allowed to be used in New Zealand and in many countries that we source food from.
How to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals
There are important ways that we can reduce our exposure to these pervasive chemicals and shift these current trends. We can also support our body to detoxify and eliminate these chemicals and shift the way we metabolise them to make them less harmful to our body. This is a big aspect of holistic health care that I support my clients with, particularly when focusing on preconception and fertility, menstrual concerns and general toxicity issues. Exposure to these chemicals in utero through the mother can cause the most damage as the developing baby is particularly sensitive to these chemicals, so taking special care to reduce exposure before and after conception is hugely important for our children's health, as well as supporting detoxification of existing body stores of these chemicals in the mother and father prior to conception.
Reduce your exposure to these endocrine disrupting chemicals in the following ways:
A natural approach to lowering chemical burden
Alongside minimising exposure, supporting our ability to deal with exposure to these and other chemicals is an important aspect of natural healthcare, as these chemicals impact not only on fertility but can also drive a number of chronic health complaints.
Optimising daily detoxification and enhancing healthy gut function are some of the key considerations that can support our ability to deal with endocrine disrupting chemicals. There are many ways we can enhance these vital body functions naturally. Healthy gut bacteria have the capacity to detoxify and prevent tissue damage from many toxins that we are exposed to in our food and environment. Feeding our gut bacteria with good amounts of fibre rich plant food increases levels of beneficial bacteria. Eating plant foods with minimal washing straight from the garden is a great way to introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut, as is eating unpasteurised fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kombucha and yoghurt. Increasing our digestive fire is an important part of our first line of defense in the gut, killing off detrimental bacteria and cultivating our beneficial lactic acid loving bacteria.
We can also support the detoxification of synthetic hormone disruptors through the liver by emphasising particular foods in the diet such as the brassica family vegetables including broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, kale and rocket. These vegetables all contain specific constituents that aid the detoxification of these chemicals and can shift our metabolism of them down less hazardous pathways in the body. Including this family of vegetables regularly in the diet can offer significant support for reducing the impact of chemical hormonal disruptors.
There are many ways to reduce our exposure to and the impact of these damaging chemicals by adopting a natural approach. In this way, we can reverse the current decline in fertility and optimise our well being.
I'm not sure what took me so long to make this ruby red beetroot latte! I'm a big fan of beetroot in many forms, it's deep, rich hue makes me feel good just looking at it. Beetroot is the main star of my liver-loving beetroot, mint and carrot salad, and even sneaks in to moisten and increase the rich goodness of my chocolate cupcakes! :-) Having it in this warm spiced drink is particularly luscious.
As well as all this sensual appeal, beetroot has some pretty therapeutic properties to offer us as well. It is a rich source of betaine, helping us produce good quality stomach acid. Having this strong digestive fire is super important for effectively breaking down our food and liberating important minerals such as iron and calcium. good levels of stomach acid are also important as our first line of defense, burning up any pathogens that hit the digestive system. Our production of stomach acid often decreases as we age so adding in some beetroot to the diet is a great way to support this important part of our well-being. Betaine also supports liver, kidney and heart health - and even help the healthy expression of our DNA! Beetroot is hugely beneficial for our hard working liver, helping it with bile production, reducing gall stone formation, helping detoxification and metabolism of all our food types - fats, carbs and proteins.
The bright, rich colour of beetroot lets us know that this is an especially potent antioxidant rich plant that protects our body from disease - of ongoing interest to us all in these times. Beetroot also contains a special plant constituent that helps our cells produce more nitric oxide, a compound that helps our energy, stamina, physical and cognitive performance. Nitric oxide produced by beetroot has a significant effect on heart health - beautifully reflected in it’s juicy, rich, blood-like colour and often heart-like shape. It signals the arteries to relax, dilating the blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. This has been found to be protective against many cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes.
Beetroot is also rich in glycine, a naturally sweet amino acid important for bile production and liver detoxification. Glycine also has calming effects on our nervous system. No wonder I feel so good drinking this brew! :-)
These golden raw food bars are tangy and delicious, great to make in spring when fresh lemons are in abundance. You can also grow your own Turmeric if you have a warm spot to plant the root in! I made these bars from our first crop of Turmeric root which we grew in our green house simply by planting the fresh root from our organic store.
Turmeric root is a wonderful herb to support the liver and immunity, reducing inflammation and improving digestion. It has a slightly warming energy, making it suitable for those with a cold constitution but is also mild enough for more hot blood constitutions to enjoy it in moderation. It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine to strengthen digestion and purify the body, aiding arthritis, skin conditions, liver complaints and menstrual issues.
These raw food bars are zesty and delicious and store well in the fridge or freezer. The black pepper and healthy fat content enhances the absorption of one of the active ingredients of turmeric, known as curcumin.
Tumeric, Mango and Lemon Bars
Place dried mangoes and dates in a bowl and cover with the lemon juice to soften. Stir occasionally while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
Place coconut and cashews in a food processor with a tightly fitting blade, turn on high and blend until forms a thick paste - this is coconut and cashew butter! Remove from blender and set aside.
Place turmeric root and soaked mangoes and dates into the food processor and blend to a pulp.
Add all the other ingredients including coconut and cashew butter and blend together.
Press into a tin lined with baking paper, chill to firm up and then slice into bar sizes as desired. Store in the fridge.
It's a beautiful thing to make delicious food as medicine from plants grown in your own garden. This traditional healing drink was made from our first crop of fresh Turmeric root grown in our greenhouse. Turmeric is a powerful food for supporting healthy immune response, enhancing digestion and liver function and reducing inflammation. This recipe makes a delicious, milky drink which is one of the traditional Ayurvedic ways of preparing this herb. Turmeric root can also be used in making sweet foods such as bliss balls or savoury dishes such as stews and curries. You can buy fresh Turmeric at whole food stores, vegetable stores and Indian grocery stores.
Ayurvedic Golden Milk
Place all ingredients apart from honey in a pot and simmer gently (do not boil) for 5 - 10mins. Place in a heat proof blender or use a blending stick to whizz mixture till creamy. Serve as it is, top with extra sprinkle of cinnamon and add honey if desired. Take care of surfaces as Turmeric can easily stain objects!
Nb: It is important to heat Turmeric gently when preparing as some of the active constituents are lost on high heating. This also prevents the milk splitting, especially if using milk alternatives.
Black pepper is needed for absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in Turmeric. Fat is also required for absorption of curcumin, so if milk used is not high in fats, include some coconut oil or nut butter into preparation.
ThetaHealer, Naturopath, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Wholefood Cook and Mother.