Category Archives: Health

Blackberry Leaf Tea

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The blackberry bush in the backyard is trying to take over!  Shoots are popping up left and right, and it continues to wrap its spiny clutches around the lemon tree despite being cut back several times.  Since I will not be one of those ill-prepared preppers that lament the loss of coffee and tea after TSHTF (See Into AutumnInto Autumn) if you’ve got it, use it right?

Blackberry tea leaf is easy to prepare.  Just pour boiling water over dried leaves and let steep. It’s a darker color than some of the other teas I’ve prepared.  It has a rich, deep taste, just right with a drop of honey as a sweetener.

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Fermenting the leaves increases the tea’s flavor.  To ferment, crush wilted blackberry leaves with a wooden rolling pin.  Wrap them in a damp cloth and hang in a dark, warm area.  In 2 or 3 days, the leaves will smell like roses which I thought odd until I realized that blackberries (Rubus allegheniensis) are part of the rose family after all.  Remove the leaves from the cloth and allow them to dry completely before storing.

Not only is blackberry leaf tea delicious but it’s good for you as well.  Used medicinally since the ice age, leaves were chewed to strengthen gums and made into plasters to treat shingles and hemorrhoids. During the Medieval and Renaissance periods, blackberry leaf infusions were used as a gargle for a sore mouth, throat cankers and wound washing. Now in more enlightened times, blackberry leaves have been shown to fight cancerous cells and are a good source of antioxidants.  Blackberry leaf has also been effective in diabetes treatment, as a wrinkle preventative, and as a protection against cardiovascular disease.

There’s been some evidence that the tannins found in blackberry leaves, bark and roots may cause nausea in some people.  However, adding milk to the tea neutralizes the tannins quite nicely.  Thus the German regulatory agency for herbs has approved blackberry leaf tea for relieving non-specific acute diarrhea.  In addition, just like our medieval ancestors, the Germans have determined that blackberry leaf tea, mouthwash or gargle is appropriate for mouth sores and gum inflammation.  

(after use, please put it backin its proper place)

With all these reasons to drink blackberry leaf tea, perhaps this spring you should harvest your own.  Pluck the tender light green new leaves before the plant flowers, being mindful of those tiny pickers.  Ferment as described above or hang to dry and you’ll be all set.

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The Herbal Starter Kit by the Herbal Academy
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Bone Broth

Recently among the Prepper and Homesteading groups I follow, there’s been a lot of excitement about bone broth.  Apparently, it’s the best thing to come along since sliced bread.  Only, it isn’t something new.  We’ve been making bone broth for years.

For those of you not familiar with bone broth, it’s the liquid that results from boiling the bones of an animal, poultry, fish, sheep, goat, cow, pig.  That’s it. (Bone Broth Basics, Nourishing Broths, Bone Broth Benefits: From Digestion to Joint Pain, Traditional Bone Broth in Modern Health and Disease, Making Real Homemade Chicken Stock or Bone Broth, Gut-Healing Bone Broth Recipe)

It’s SOOOOO healthy.  Look at this list of health benefits!

Alphabetical Listing of Conditions that Broth Benefits

aging skin, allergies, anemia, anxiety, asthma, atherosclerosis, attention deficit, bean maldigestion, brittle nails, carbohydrate maldigestion, Celiac Disease, colic, confusion, constipation, dairy maldigestion, delusions, dental degeneration, depression, detoxification, Diabetes, diarrhea, fatigue, food sensitivities, fractures, Gastritis, grain maldigestion, heart attack, high cholesterol, hyperactivity, hyperchlorhydria (reflux, ulcer), hyperparathyroidism (primary), hypertension, hypochlorhydria, hypoglycemia, immunodepression, increased urination, infectious disease, inflammation, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis), insomnia, intestinal bacterial infections, irritability, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Jaundice, joint injury, Kidney stones, leaky gut, loss of appetite, meat maldigestion, memory, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, muscle wasting, muscle weakness, Muscular Dystrophy, nausea, nervousness, Osteoarthritis, Osteomalacia, Osteoporosis, pain, palpitations, Periodontal Disease, pregnancy, rapid growth, restlessness, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rickets, seizure, shallow breathing, stupor, virility, vomiting, weakness, weight loss due to illness and wound healing

My first real exposure to bone broth was at Mama Sofia’s dinner table.  Mama Sofia is now nearly 100 years old.  Think on that!  She served us up some chicken broth and there was a chicken foot in it.  The broth was absolutely delicious, but I didn’t know how to eat the chicken foot.  My son, only 4 at the time, was also taken aback.  He couldn’t stop staring at it.  My husband’s aunt Caro finally picked up the chicken foot and said that this was her favorite part because she could use the toenails to scratch the top of her mouth.  She was teasing of course.  Once the bone was out of the way, we all tucked in. 

We tend to have either chicken or beef soup at least once a week.  Twice a week when it’s colder.  There isn’t a set recipe.  We use whatever happens to be in season.  The guy who runs a vegetable stand in front of his house always has a small bag of freshly cut vegetables for 12 pesos and then we add whatever else we have at the house.

Today, for example, we made beef soup with 2 kilos of soup bones, 3 garlic cloves, first of the season squash, some carrots, an ear of yellow corn, a bit of cilantro, 2 chayotes, a medium sized onion, a tomato, 6 small potatoes, a hunk of cabbage, a piece of cauliflower, a joconol (yet another type of cactus fruit), a piece of broccoli and a handful of chickpeas, a handful of green beans and salt to taste.  Sometimes we have nothing but potatoes and onions available, so that’s what we use.

Let me tell you, a mugful of broth from this hodgepodge soup is just the thing right before bed.

These middle-class ladies that have “discovered” bone broth might be on to something. That something being real food is better.

This broth will raise the dead–South American saying

Sometimes I wonder why it is I feel more alive here in Mexico.  I still have health problems, life sure ain’t easy, money is ALWAYS an issue.  It could be as simple as there’s no fluoride in the water.  Or perhaps it’s the constant challenge of managing in a culture not my own.  Or just maybe it’s the bone broth.

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Puzzled

Today I’d like to share a secret with you.  It’s nothing too dramatic, like where I buried the bodies or anything.  Yet it’s a surreptitious activity just the same.

My secret is I like doing jigsaw puzzles….something that I imagined only old ladies did. I like the piecing together of random bits.  I like the knowledge that every piece has its place, I just need to find it.  I like to watch the picture all come together.  It’s soul-satisfying.

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There have been some studies on the whole jigsaw puzzle phenomenon.  According to researchers at the University of Bath, there are two main types of puzzlers, the hoarders, and the opportunists.  Fortunately for me, I’m more of an opportunist, searching for a variety of ways to complete the puzzle.  It also helps to not be a hoarder when my husband and son sit down for an hour or so and try to “help” me.  Their plan of attack is often not the same as mine.  All those blue sky pieces I had piled to one side are scattered over the table before you can say Jack Robinson. When that happens, I consider it yet another opportunity to work on my zen.  Eventually, the men in the house become bored and move along.  Then I am free to pile the sky pieces in the corner once again.

Apparently doing jigsaw puzzles are good for you.  Most specifically, puzzles have been shown to be good for the development of problem-solving strategies, project management skills, self-management skills, visual skills, cognitive skills, character development skills, tactile skills, social skills and collaborative skills. (See 42 Thinking Skills You Can Learn From Doing Jigsaw Puzzles)  Additionally, because jigsaw puzzle completion requires the use of both sides of your brain, there is some evidence that this little hobby can lead to a longer and better quality of life, and reduce the chance of developing memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s in later years. (See Health Benefits Of Jigsaw Puzzles)

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Puzzling is a sort of meditation for me.  It reminds me that it takes time to see the big picture and that sometimes pieces I believe should fit, don’t.  It fosters patience and perseverance.  It also teaches me that I have limitations.  While I can do a 500 piece puzzle in short order, a 1500 piece puzzle takes some doing.  I recently saw a puzzle of the Sistine Chapel–5000 pieces.  I know enough to leave that one to the masters!

I suppose I should be proud of my hobby.  I mean, it has a long and noble past.  Invented in the 1760s as an educational device, puzzling for adults came into its own around 1900 gaining peak popularity during the Great Depression as an inexpensive alternative entertainment. (See History of Puzzles)  It remains an incredible off-grid pastime in our household at least.

I recently watched a lovely Argentinean movie called Rompecabezas (Puzzle). A 40-year-old housewife discovers her passion in assembling jigsaw puzzles.  After receiving negative feedback from her family, she decides to keep her hobby and subsequent puzzle championship a secret.  

Unlike the woman in the movie, my husband and son know when I am working on a puzzle.  I literally take over the back table.  My husband has been supportive in that he frames the completed puzzle for me. His thought was something that took so much time should be displayed, not dismantled again. My son also enjoys our new wall art.

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So how do I feed my vice?  Zulily and Amazon Mexico of course!  Zulily ships to Mexico for $120 pesos per order and Amazon Mexico, provided it comes from the Amazon warehouse, often has free shipping.  Now with my own shipping address (See A room of her own) obtaining puzzles is not so challenging as it once was. Life is good.

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Natural Healing–Tamarindo

The benefits of that free Herbal Medica course haven’t ended yet!  

Have you ever wondered what those pod things were at the Asian or Mexican market?  Wonder no more.  Today, let me share what I learned about tamarindo.

The Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) tree is not a plant native to Mexico, but was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 16th century and has since become an integral part of Mexican cuisine and traditional medicine.  It’s a slow-growing, long-lived tree that can be 80-100 feet tall with a trunk circumference up to 25 feet.  The evergreen feathery foliage is made up of pinnate leaves that fold up at night.  It has small 5-petalled yellow flowers with orange or red streaks.  The flower buds are pink.  It takes 80 to 90 years for a tamarind tree to begin producing fruit. The fruits are green pods or beans that ripen to a cinnamon brown color.  The outer covering becomes brittle and the pulp within dries to a sticky paste. The fruit begins to dehydrate in 203 days and reaches full ripeness in 245 days.  The fruit can be left on the tree for as long as 6 months after full ripening. (Morton, J. 1987. Tamarind. p. 115–121. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.)

Tamarindo fruit is high in tartaric acid, sugar, B vitamins, calcium, thiamin, iron, magnesium, niacin, vitamin C, copper, and pyridoxine.  Other antioxidants found in the tamarindo include limonene, geranoil (shown to inhibit cancerous pancreatic growth), safrole, cinnamic acid, methyl salicylate, pyrazine, alkylthiazoles.  Its high content of malic acid, tartaric acid, and potassium bitartrate make it an excellent treatment for constipation, which you may want to remember should you be tempted to eat large quantities.  

Tamarindo has also been used traditionally as a treatment for stomach discomfort, diarrhea, parasitic infections, dysentery, helminth infections, malaria cell cytotoxicity, used as a gargle for sore throats, mixed with salt and made into a liniment for rheumatism and arthritic inflammation.  It’s been used for Datura poisoning, alcoholic intoxication,  liver toxicity, and sunstroke.  It has also been recommended as a daily drink for those suffering from thyroid disorders and as a way of fluoride detoxification.  The dried or boiled leaves and flowers can be made into poultices for swollen joints, sprains, boils, hemorrhoids, gonorrhea and conjunctivitis. The roots and bark are boiled in an infusion for chest complaints and as an ingredient in treating leprosy. In one study, the seeds have shown improve glucose homeostasis in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes mellitus, which may lead to further studies as a treatment for diabetes in humans.  In another study, the bark has been shown to possess blood glucose lowering effect along with antioxidant effect and protective effect on renal complications associated with hyperglycemia.  In yet another study of hens fed tamarindo as part of their daily diet, it has been linked to lower cholesterol in the hens’ serum and egg yolks leading to the speculation that similar results could be obtained in humans. (Top 15 Health Benefits of Tamarind and 30 Health Benefits Of Tamarind and 7 Amazing Benefits Of Tamarind)  I could go on and on as to the health benefits, but I think you get the picture.

Are there any safety concerns about tamarindo?  Yes, there are.  As I outlined above, the ingestion of tamarindo has definite effects on the body.  If you have certain conditions, tamarindo may make your condition worse.

As it lowers blood pressure, it may increase bleeding when taken with aspirin, ibuprofen, blood thinners, and anti-platelet drugs.  As its ingestion reduces serum glucose levels, diabetics who are already taking drugs for lowering their blood sugar level should be careful to not eat too much.  As with any food, you may have an allergic reaction.   Excessive quantities of tamarind may damage the enamel of your teeth.  Frequent ingestion of huge amounts of tamarind can promote the formation of gallbladder stones.  If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) or ‘acid reflux’, you should stay away from it since it will probably increase the acid in your stomach. If you are taking any sort of vasoconstrictor you need to know that tamarindo is known to add to the vasoconstricting effects by accelerating the process of narrowing of the blood vessels. If you are using any ophthalmic antibiotic on your eyes topically, avoid tamarind intake as it will interact with the cream. (Top 10 Side Effects Of Tamarind) So moderation is the key.

Just one of the many tamarindo products found in Mexico!

So how do you eat it? Maybe the correct question is how don’t you eat it?  The fruit can be eaten raw right off the tree. Wherever you go here in Mexico, you can find tamarindo candy dipped in chile, tamarindo balls, tamarindo candy that comes out of its containers like a  playdoh barber shop toy, tamarindo fruit roll-ups,  tamarindo juice, tamarindo soda, tamarindo Tang, tamarindo salsa, tamarindo on a plastic spoon,  tamarindo margaritas, tamarindo lollipops,  tamarindo marinade, tamarindo gummies,  tamarindo nectar tamarindo popsicles, tamarindo hard candy, tamarindo soup, and many more delightful and savory uses.  (Recetas de Tamarindo).  Would you believe that it’s also found in good ol’ Worcestershire sauce?  

Although I can get agua de tamarindo from the same tricycle market vendors that sell jamaica and horchata, I thought I’d try and make my own. Here’s how that went.

I picked up some dried pods at the market.  Then I cracked and peeled them.  Because of the stickiness factor, it was a bit more difficult than peeling a boiled egg.  I soaked them in water for about an hour.  When the pulp was soft, I removed the seeds and mashed the pulp with my fingers.  That part didn’t take very long.  After that, I added more water and strained the concoction to remove any large lumps and fibers. Add sugar to taste and ice and it’s ready, the perfect refreshing summertime drink!

I kept the seeds and have planted them.  I’d surely like my own tamarindo producing tree (in 80 or 90 years)!

Tamarindo has other uses as well.  Tamarind lumber is used to make furniture and carvings.  The fruit pulp is used to polish brass statues and lamps, and remove the tarnish from copper, brass, and bronze items.

The word itself also has some distinctly Mexican uses as well.  Tamarindo is sometimes used to insult los transitos (traffic police) probably first begun as a commentary about their brown uniforms.  My husband has also said that among hombres (men) tamarindo can be used to imply someone is stupid or an a**hole.  So perhaps it’s not a word you can throw around lightly in some parts however delicious the fruit!

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