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COULD CAMELLIA BE YOUR CUP OF TEA?

It took me many years to appreciate the connection between Camellias and tea.

Tea

When my children were small an ideal afternoon trip was to the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. It also impressed my mother-in-law even if she considered me an irresponsible mother as three,explorative dear little children ran up the tiny streams in their Wellington boots, played hide and seek under bushes, climbed precariously on cut down trees and expended enough energy to be awarded with an ice-cream that I think grandma was more grateful for than them. Visits can be all the year around in fact as soon as the snowdrops appear, a welcome assurance that the brighter days of spring are on their way. Camellias, magnolias, as well as daffodils and bluebells are soon to follow.
Bluebells

From late April, the mind blowing beautiful display azaleas and rhododendrons storm into flower reaching their peak in May.
Azaleas
– See more at: http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park/richmond-park-attractions/isabella-plantation#sthash.XSIa3H8A.dpuf

Strangely it was the dramatic colourful splendour of azaleas and rhododendrons that drew my attention to the Camellias as they heralded the onset of this display.
I was soon to learn that the first recorded camellia in this country was grown by Lord Petre at Thorndon Hall in Essex in the 1730s, and we know it was thriving and flowering by 1745.
The first named varieties to attract public interest were C. japonica ‘Alba Plena’ and ‘Variegata’, both of which were brought to England in 1792 on an East India Company ship.
Although many gardens planted Camellias it was probably not until the 1990’s that they were planted in Richmond Park.

Many years later I was fortunate enough to take a Medical trip to Kerala,South India not only to have lectures in Western Medicine but also Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) which is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It originated in India more than 3,000 years ago and remains one of the country’s traditional health care systems. Its concepts about health and disease promote the use of herbal compounds, special diets, and other unique health practices.
TeaDuring this trip I visited the TaTa tea plantation and the picture on the packet of PG tips came alive. These acres of plants were Camellia senensis Tearelated to those plants I had admired in The Isabella Plantation and the Asian lady on the packet represented a workforce of women who delicately plucked those tender leaves to be dried and fermented to make tea.
Tea
As doctors because they assumed we could be trusted not to touch the exposed machinery we were privileged to be shown around the factory. I certainly hope health and safety standards have now improved. During this visit I was made aware of the chemical contents of tea
which contains xanthine derivatives such as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, and the glutamide derivative theanine. These substances have well-known stimulant properties, and have also been reported to have beneficial effects on memory and on the immune system. Tea also contains many nutritional components, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, fluoride, and potassium.
This made me appreciate why tea breaks were introduced in factories in order to calm the workers with theanine at the same time stimulating them with caffeine. Tea is thought to differ from coffee in that coffee simply stimulates without the calming effect and it was found that workers drinking tea carried on for long rather than in a short, sharp spurt. It also made sense of something I have heard on countless occasions when breaking bad news or after a sad or significant event, “shall I make a cup of tea?”
Before soldiers departed on a mission they would often have “a mug of tea” no doubt to calm them before setting off.
Tea
In another context when I worked with miners who had chronic chest problems they often told me how they couldn’t get going in the morning before they had their first cup of tea ” I like it strong, doctor so that the spoon stands up in it!” What they were really saying was they wanted a good dose of theophylline ( a bronchodilator) to improve their breathing. Nowadays, there is appropriate medication in the form of inhalers but these were not available.

Caffeine has been the most popular medical subject for people to read about in 2014 especially with regards to anti-ageing.
Now, new research suggests that a dose of caffeine after a learning session may help to boost long-term memory. This is according to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
This is my introduction to the fascination subject of tea!

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Pumpkins and Chrysanthamums

This past week the villages and towns in France in the grocery shops, florists, the supermarket car parks, village squares pop up stalls are adorned with potted Chrysanthamums in a rainbow of colours.
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They are being purchased by passers-by and local people to be transported to graves of family and friends. Temporary plastic tents have been erected over the past week to preserve these important floral gifts. These special flowers represent the memory and respect for the loved ones who have died. ” La Toussaint is closely related to the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Chrysanthamums in Latin cultures symbolises death.
I recall the anxiety and distress on my Francophile husband’s face when a floral gift from well wishers in the form of a large floral display of crysanthamums arrived as he came around from major surgery in the days, when flowers were common place on a hospital ward and he whispered “please take those away, I am not dead yet”

Today these flowers along with jarred lighted candles find there way to the cemeteries transforming these cold,grey,silent cities into a blaze of colour and a hive of activity.

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Despite being a secular country there is celebration on All Saints’ Day, or La Toussaint,which is a Christian day of remembrance of all saints and martyrs, including those saints who don’t have a feast day named after them. It is also known as All Hallows Day and The Feast of All Saints and is celebrated every year on 1 November. All Saints’ Day actually begins at sundown on the evening before – Hallowe’en, or All Hallow’s Eve. It is followed by All Souls’ Day on 2 November.
All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in France with government offices, banks, shops and schools closed. Many people attend church services to celebrate This day.
All Saints’ Day is also an opportunity for many people to spend time with family members and close friends. This holiday falls during the autumn school holidays, it is a popular time for families to take a short vacation or to visit relatives living in other areas.

Following my interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) Chrysanthamum was a herb I studied the use of of its own or in a formula with other herbs.

Chrysanthemum flower as a medicinal herb was first mentioned in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, and has been cultivated by the Chinese for over 3,000 years. The medicinal plant from China is sometimes referred to as Chrysanthemum sinensis, but most modern Chinese material medica texts now classify it as Chrysanthemum moriflolium, the common garden mum or “florist’s chrysanthemum”. All Chrysanthemum flowers can be used medicinally, though in China, those grown in Anhui province are considered to be the best quality.
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The Chinese herb usually the white crysanthamum flower (Ju Hua (菊花))
main functions are to:-

  • Dispel wind, clear heat – for early stage wind-heat such as colds with fever, headache and red eyes
  • Cool the Liver, clear and brighten the eyes – for eyes that are red, dry, swollen and painful
  • Calm the Liver, extinguish wind, descend Liver yang – in cases of headache and dizziness, or high blood pressure.

The white flowering mums are reported to be higher in flavinoid glycosides and additional active ingredients. Traditionally the white flowers are said to be stronger at calming the Liver and clearing the eyes, while the yellow flowers are stronger at dispelling wind-heat and draining heat toxin.
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It is an ideal tea to have at the end of a stressful day and the
benefits of long-term consumption of Chrysanthemum tea have been recognized throughout the history of Chinese medicine.
It is said to prevent ageing and to be a favorite of Taoists and poets, though the benefits are achieved only with drinking the tea over a long period of time. In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, it says, “taken over a long time it facilitates the qi and blood, lightens the body and prevents ageing.” Chen Shi-Dou explains: “Sweet Ju Hua is light and clear in flavor and nature, and its effect is particularly leisurely, it must be taken over a long time before it starts to take effect, one cannot just take more to try for earlier results.”
Probably the most common combination is with Gou Qi Zi (Goji berries), which nourishes the Liver and Kidney yin, benefits the essence and brightens the eyes. Together, Ju Hua and Gou Qi Zi make a tasty tea that treats dizziness, eyestrain, improves vision, and soothes the eyes.
In a cup, add hot water to about 5 grams of Ju Hua, and 5 grams of Gou Qi Zi. Cover and steep for five or more minutes. The tea is visually beautiful and tastes nice as well.

I enjoy a mixture of camomile and chrysanthemum tea at night and this combination calms and relaxes the muscles I can recommend this as a pleasant nightcap!

Alongside the Chrysanthamums piled up are the abundance of pumpkins waiting to be made into soup and pies. These grow in abundance in this part of France and now ripe and ready for consumption.
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Pumpkin refers to certain types of squash, most commonly those of Cucurbita pepo, that are round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin and deep yellow to orange coloration.
They are thought to have originated in North America and the oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico.
It is a very low calorie vegetable, 100 g fruit provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.

Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.

With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help a body protects against lung and oral cavity cancers.

It is an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.

Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. helping to protect from “age-related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.

The fruit is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.

It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

Pumpkin seeds indeed are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.

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It is so easy to use simply cut up, boil with seasoning and garlic, then mash and enjoy as a soup.

Have a memorable Halloween / All Saints Day (La Toussaint) ……..

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Training and Advice

 

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Spice of life

Sir Michael Caine reveals  he eats turmeric to keep his brain sharp
Screen legend Sir Michael Caine has revealed his secret to keeping a razor-sharp brain – the Indian spice turmeric.
The 80-year-old double Oscar winner says a supplement containing the spice helps him ward off the effects of ageing.
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And Caine is grateful to his Indian-born wife of 40 years Shakira for introducing him to its health benefits. Speaking to Hollywood chat show host Larry King backstage after a fundraising event for Alzheimer’s research, Caine said: ‘I am married to an Indian lady and have learned about Indian culture.
‘I looked into what they got and didn’t get. And one of the things they don’t get is Alzheimer’s.
‘They eat a great deal of turmeric in their food. I have been taking turmeric tablets for 30 years and I have a memory like a computer. I remember everything.’
I learnt about the health benefits of turmeric when I studied Chinese herbs but realised it had been imported from India several hundreds of years ago and is now used in traditional Chinese medicine under the name of 姜黄 is also named Jiang Huang ( yellow ginger), Rhizoma Curcumae Longae
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Curcuma Longa/Cúrcuma is a small perennial herb native to India bearing many rhizomes on its root system which are the source of its culinary spice known as Turmeric (Cúrcuma – rizoma secco in polvere) and its medicinal extract called Curcumin (Cúrcuma extracto refinado).
The name comes from Arabic kurkum meaning “turmeric
A relative of ginger, turmeric is a perennial plant that grows 5 – 6 feet high in the tropical regions of Southern Asia, with trumpet-shaped, dull yellow flowers. Its roots are bulbs that also produce rhizomes, which then produce stems and roots for new plants. Turmeric is fragrant and has a bitter, somewhat sharp taste. Although it grows in many tropical locations, the majority of turmeric is grown in India, where it is used as a main ingredient in curry.
The roots, or rhizomes and bulbs, are used in medicine and food. They are generally boiled and then dried, turning into the familiar yellow powder. Curcumin, the active ingredient, has antioxidant properties. Other substances in this herb have antioxidant properties as well.
Turmeric is widely used in cooking and gives Indian curry its flavor and yellow color. It is also used in mustard and to color butter and cheese.
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The problem with the pill is that it is very insoluble in water.The better way to take it, is to use it in your cooking very extensively. If you have any sauté, just sprinkle it in. The moment you heat oil and add turmeric.
It has a mellow, smoky flavor despite its bright color. It tastes great in sautéed vegetables of all kinds and if you are a meat-eater, you can use it in a rub. You can use as little as one-quarter to one-half teaspoon in your cooking, depending on the dish. But there is nothing wrong with using more in intensely flavored dishes like curry. It makes white rice more digestible and in milk it helps with an upset stomach – several of my Asian patients have shared this with me.

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Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds.
Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may afford protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Epidemiological studies show that in elderly Indian populations, among whose diet turmeric is a common spice, levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s are very low. Alzheimer’s disease results when a protein fragment called amyloid-B accumulates in brain cells, producing oxidative stress and inflammation, and forming plaques between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain that disrupt brain function.Turmeric Boosts Amyloid Plaque Clearance in Human Alzheimer’s Patients.In healthy patients, immune cells called macrophages, which engulf and destroy abnormal cells and suspected pathogens, efficiently clear amyloid beta, but macrophage activity is suppressed in Alzheimer’s patients.
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I realise that there are conflicting studies and many of the studies have been carried out in test tubes and animals but there a reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that this spice has amazing anti-inflammatory,anti-cancer (One of its anti-cancer benefits comes from its ability to induce apoptosis (natural cell death) in cancer cells),anti-thrombotic and prevents build of plaque aswell asother properties shown above. It is a natural painkiller in view of its anti-inflammatory properties it helps in diseases such as asthma, arthritis, colitis,stomach ulcers and can lower blood sugar. Many Asians particularly older generation Asians acknowledge it as the ‘spice of life’
and it’s wide ranging health benefits and anti-ageing properties.
Now turmeric will become an important spice in my kitchen and there will be no mustard left on the side of my plate!

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Training and Advice

 

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