Friday, April 29, 2016

Let your herbs be your medicine

Humans meet their primary food requirements of carbohydrates and proteins from a narrow selection of foods. For example the primary source of carbohydrates for a majority of humans on earth is wheat or rice. Even when it comes to vegetables and fruits, most choose from a narrow selection according to their varying tastes and availability. While all this can meet primary food requirements, for optimum health and well being, a human also requires a whole lot of other micro-nutrients and organic compounds. A shortage of just one micro-nutrient can create serious health problems.

To ensure that a person may not miss out on essential components required by the body or mind, it is a good idea to have a large variety in food. However, as mentioned since variety is usually not large in main food items of daily consumption, it may easily be added through a variety of herbs, flowers and other plant parts. Many herbs have a medicinal value and even without knowing its precise medicinal effect a human can keep many physical ailments at bay through consumption of a variety of herbs and plants added to main dishes in small quantities. That is what cats and other animals do too as pet owners would have noticed.

Some herbs and flowers can be collected and dried and added to the daily cup of tea. Nuts like almonds may be ground to add a spoonful to a cup of tea, milk, coffee or coco for that additional punch. Some herbs may be added to the bread or pasta mix to push up their nutritional value. For example, dried and crushed drum stick, spinach or goosefoot leaves can be added to wheat flour before making bread or pasta.  A large number of herbs spice up the main dishes. Curry leaf is a great addition to lentils, mint may spice lamb and fennel leaves will brighten a fish dish. Cilantro used as a garnish is good with most any savory sauce or curried dish and celery is great with scrambled eggs or an omelet.

While one can pick up some of herbs in a regular supermarket, others can be picked up from the garden or forests and dried for use later. One can combine a trip to the forest with a picnic for a delightful weekend. If the city you live in has herbal medicine store one may pick some from there too.  Some may be grown in a small garden patch or even flower pots to brighten up a home. This blog has articles on many such herbs and flowers that you can learn about by going through the archives. At times, as this author has discovered a herb containing a most critical medicine has been found growing for years as a weed in the garden or another as an ornamental bush that was regularly trimmed and discarded in the compost heap.

Getting to know your Herbs

A large number of herbs, flowers and plants are edible that are eaten in some part of the world while many others remain unfamiliar with them. The herbal enthusiast would get to know these more by cultivating a friendship with the green side of life. This is done best when we become not just consumers of herbs but also contributors in growing them. One can grown herbs in pots at home, in gardens and the countryside by organizing tree plantation excursions and picnics with family and friends. Aside from information on various plants in this blog there is much more out their on the net. An excellent description of commonly used herbs can be found at the following link with pictures. The link takes you to a list and when you click on a selected herb, it would lead to its picture and description

Information on a lot of edible wild plant material may be found at

And an earlier post in this blog on floral teas carries a list of edible flowers. These are excellent for drying as a tea mix or to use as a garnish on food, especially deserts.

The lists at these links are not exhaustive and with time and exploration you can add to them. Use traditional folk knowledge in your area to discover more and then cross check this knowledge by a search on the internet. When it comes to foods that are new, it is always a good idea to cross check from more more than one source before incorporating it in your food and checking out its effect on yourself, because while there are a huge number of beneficial plants, there are also many that harm. Some are person specific since the chemistry of each person is different and unique. We all know that there are individuals that are allergic to specific common foods but the reverse is also true, some individuals benefit greatly from some herbs, more than others. This individual effect is something that each person has to discover on their own. There are also a few herbs and flowers that are psychoactive and could take your mind on a journey of the galaxies and the stars.Of all herbs two that have the maximum possible benefit on mind, body and soul of humans when used properly are Cannabis and Holy Basil and these two may be regarded as the god and goddess in the herbal world. it is a different matter that the first has been maligned in the modern age as much else that is divine is maligned in the age when evil and greed prevails.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trees for Food – Basswood

Trees make a tremendous contribution to improving climate and environment of the planet. Many provide food for birds, insects, animal and humans. All know of fruits and nuts from trees but the flowers and foliage of some are excellent as food too. At the present time, when population of humans on planets has increased to around seven billion, food producing trees must become the first choice for planting in homes, towns and forests.

An earlier note in this blog described the Moringa or drumstick tree as an excellent one for food in warmer parts of the planet. Its foliage, flowers and fruits are all edible. In cooler parts of the planet another tree, Basswood is an excellent choice as a food tree. It is the best wild salad plant in North America. Basswood leaves make a good salad green in spring and early summer, when they are young and tender. They are best just after the buds open, when the flavor is sweet.  Its new leaves and buds are more delicious and crisp than lettuce and older leaves may be cooked as spinach. The fragrant flowers of this tree can be used to make perfume or dried to add to tea. Bees and insects love this tree and the honey produced from it is one of the finest. The tree has other uses as well. Its soft wood is used for carving to make beautiful sculptures.  It has a fine light grain and being light in weight, it has been used for centuries for this purpose, especially in Germany. The bark yields a fiber similar to jute.

It is also called linden or lime tree. The exact number of species is uncertain, as many if not most of the species will hybridize readily, both in the wild and cultivation. The Tilia species may be propagated by cuttings and grafting, as well as by seed although it is more difficult to propagate them from seed. They grow rapidly in rich soil, but are subject to attack of insects. 

Linden flowers are used in herbal medicine for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue. The wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection or ulcers of the lower leg. Therefore aside from its food value this tree is a medicine chest too. 

The basswood is great for wildlife. It tends to become hollow, providing sites for owls, squirrels and in the forest for larger animals too. The tiny nuts it often litters over the forest floor are edible to humans, tasting like sunflower seeds. However, the tiny nuts are difficult for humans to gather. They are a food source for deer mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and other small animals.  Dear readers do plant some in your home or near you and enjoy this gift from mother earth while giving a gift to her too by adorning her vacant spaces

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Wealth and Wisdom are rarely found together among humans

As a step towards peace and happiness, humans seek many different things. Some of these are - wealth, health, fame, beauty, ability, worldly education, education of life etc. A few achieve excellence in one or more areas.

For the moment, let us confine our attention to two prominent acquisitions - wealth and wisdom. There are examples in human history when a few individuals attained excellence in both. Two famous examples of this are - King Solomon the Wise and King Rama of Asian prehistory. However both were godly personalities. More often, among humans we find persons have attained either great wealth or much wisdom but not both. Examples of wealthy persons in modern times are the billionaires of the world. Examples of excellence in wisdom are a series of saints and hermits through human history. These latter have shown the way to other humans when they were in distress.

While wealthy persons have fine jewels, clothes from leading designers, fine mansions with expensive works of art to adorn interiors, fine gardens, swanky cars and in extreme cases, private luxury yachts and planes too. However, they also suffer from stress, extreme anxiety, trauma, strife, depression and health issues from time to time. Managing the psychological impact of this paraphernalia is no mean task.

Examples of excellence in acquiring wisdom are hermits and saintly humans. In extreme cases, their dwelling may be no more than a thatched hut in the wilderness. Yet, they do find peace, happiness, knowledge and understanding in great measure. A forest hermit does not have a private garden to enjoy but one made by God as a forest filled with wild flowers. This latter exceeds in beauty any garden a human may create. A few dried wild flowers and grasses have been tied in a bunch and hang on bamboo door for decoration, yet their charm exceeds that of oils on canvas in the millionaire’s home, for these are works of art by the universe. These hermits do not suffer from health issues nor worry about them much if they happen to come by. They have made friends with their souls and know where it is headed when its present clothing, the body, changes. Men of wealth, approach such men of wisdom, whenever problems in life become too big for their CEOs getting millions in salary to handle.

One wonders why, a human cannot find both wealth and wisdom together; for while wisdom is required to attain peace, wealth if available, is good, if not to help oneself, others that one may encounter in the journey through life. If a saint has knowledge of life, can he not use it to acquire wealth too? The answer is that saintly persons have neither the need nor the interest to do so. Why waste their pleasant pursuits towards the same? In some cases, when a need does arise, wealth comes with ease. A companion blog of this author describes a Himalayan Hermit – Babaji or Baba Haidakhan. When he wished to build retreats for thousands of disciples that began to pour in from around the world, he willed for resources and millions poured in to build Himalayan retreats that are larger than many castles of the world. Since his prime retreat/ashram was at a remote location in the Himalayas, millions more poured in to build a fine road too, longer than fifty kilometers, cutting though steep mountains. However, a true lover of knowledge and wisdom does not accumulate wealth for as Saint Kabir remarked,
“I don't think there is such a thing as an intelligent mega-rich person. For who with a fine mind can look out upon this world and hoard what can nourish a thousand souls.”    Kabir
Wealth and wisdom are often not found together in humans because both paths may require effort and time to attain. Sometimes wealth can come and go in a day but it is never so with wisdom and it is because of this that the latter is a more precious thing. It does seem that what is required for excellence in one becomes a hindrance in the other. It was because of this that Prince Gautama, gave up his wealth and kingdom and left for the forest in order to seek knowledge and enlightenment. It was after many years of effort that he became the leading spiritual personality of the planet – The Buddha.

Yes the Billionaires and the Saints are fine but what about us ordinary humans?

While the super wealthy and the spiritual hermits are extremes of human condition, most humans shall find themselves lying between these two extremes while leaning on one side or the other. Most would do well if they give more emphasis to love, truth and simplicity in their lives than the mere acquisition of wealth although some would be necessary for them at least to the extent that they can meet all the essential needs of themselves and family under their care with ease. If any person abides in love and truth and lives an organized life ( a reader may wish to look up entropy yoga for suggestion in this direction) then whatever wealth is necessary for good living shall come by easily, however if one runs after accumulation of wealth even through unethical means, wealth may come for a few decades at most but peace and happiness will disappear as surely as the sun shines upon the earth, For as said by the prophets,
“You shall hear minions of devil cry, come, we shall find precious substance; we shall fill our houses with spoil. Cast thy lot among us, we shall be the oligarchy of one purse that shall rule over the world as a master rules over slaves.

“My son walk not with them, refrain thy foot from their path. For their feet run to evil and make haste to shed blood even as foul war mongering leaders who keep one purse with the military industrial complex to butcher innocent babies and kill their mothers in millions around the earth. But they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk for their own lives. So are the ways of all who are greedy of gain, which takes away the life of the owners thereof in agony and pain as surely as the sun shines upon the earth.”

“On the other hand Wisdom cries, in the city, in wilderness, on the street and inside homes - I shall laugh at your calamity and mock at you when your fear comes, when your fear comes as desolation and when your destruction comes as the whirlwind, then shall you call upon me.

“If thou cries after knowledge and seek her as hidden treasures then shall the Lord fill your heart with it, then shall you understand lies from truth. Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee and deliver thee from the evil path. Let not compassion and truth forsake thee, tie them to your neck; write it upon your heart; acknowledge God and his truth in all things and he shall direct thy paths.”

“Happy is the man or woman that finds wisdom and understanding, for it is better than silver or gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies. Peace of days is in her right hand and riches and honor in her left hand and all her ways are those of pleasantness.”

“Withhold not good from those in need when it is in thy power to help. The wise shall inherit glory but shame and pain shall be reward of the fools.

based on an extract from the Proverbs of the Holy Bible with few modern interpretations added, Verses 13 -35 of the chapter on Proverbs.

In a few years, perhaps in a few decades at most, all the characters of this note shall die and leave their bodies for dust. The Millionaires and Billionaires shall not be allowed to carry their wealth with them for that baggage is not permitted on this last flight but the wise shall carry their wisdom with them to realms of bliss.

Older Postings on the super rich billionaires and millionaires here:  
A light poem on the topic 
A Fairy tale for adults on the topic

It is not the giving but the love that matters more

Monday, April 18, 2016

A few words for parents with very young children

Lokesh and his mother. May God bless and protect these children and children everywhere on Earth

Across my home in India, is another home that was sold recently. The new owners are redesigning and reconstructing parts of it. The contractor has allowed a laborer, his wife and two kids to stay in the under construction site so as to keep an eye on supplies in an otherwise vacant home.

In recent times, there is some prosperity in India and extreme poverty has reduced but there still remain pockets of poverty and it is out of these that most construction laborers come. Poverty is not new in India. It has been there now for several generations with some families and when that happens, humans can sink to the lowest of depths of humanity and this could be the case with the laborer just mentioned and his two kids. Often it is a matter of proper knowledge rather than poverty alone that does this to humans. This laborer has a two year old son and a five year old daughter as shown in the picture just snapped.

Now it has fallen on my shoulders, to provide this nice family with some education with the hope that these sweet kids may find a better life ahead and these are some of the things I taught them that I am writing about here. They are useful for not only the poorest of children but also rich ones around the world for some of the modern rich are neglecting their young children too and leading them into poor lives.

I explained to the parents, consider a tree, if it stunted when young, it shall remain stunted for life but if it develops a good trunk than later deficiencies in its branches can be made up with some effort. I told them, consider a building with a weak foundation, it shall remain a weak one forever howsoever much is done to improve it from top, but another one with a strong foundation may be improved later, and so it is with children. The age till they are five or six years old is the foundation of their life.
As regards improving the lives of children, my suggestions were the simplest ones. First she must wash clothes of children and bathe them thoroughly daily and to begin them off, I have provided them with some supplies; second, take care not to get angry or hit a child of less than five ever, for it is with love that the best of minds and hearts develop. Third and the last were hints on nutritious food and water that is easily affordable by this family, things like half a hard boiled egg each for the kids, some milk, fruits and green vegetables aside from the unleavened bread made on an iron plate on a wood fire. She makes this daily; it is quite nice and the kids like it. This last is one thing that has remained with even the poorest of families of South Asia because it was with that that they survived in the main even when there was not much else for food.

The reason why an environment of care and love is essential for children under the age of five is precisely why school, even a play school, is never a great idea for such children less than five years old. A school teacher that has to manage a whole bunch of them cannot do so with love alone despite what the school says because it wants to make a profit from such children. Instead, getting young children less than five some coloring books and some blocks they can put together in different arrangements would go a long way in preparing and developing their mind for school later.  At most, a parent may teach a child of four numbers from one to ten and some of the alphabet at home if they like. It is a misconception in the mind of some parents that sending a child to school early would help the child to become brighter. In fact the reverse would happen with a stunted mind. This author went to school first after the age of five and later went on to get the best of education in the best of universities of the world on fellowships because of his top academic records.
Rather than school, what helps very young children much more is a regular and daily exposure to green surroundings filled with grass, flowers and trees, even as it nurtures the souls of adults too. Parents that live in apartment blocks must take their young children out into green spaces daily or if they live in a crowded city where it is not easily accessible, get out of it unless they want stunted children built on weak foundations. Such a building may be kept propped up for a full life time, but only with much effort may it be prevented from coming crashing down.

UPDATE April 30, 2016 
The name of the little boy in this story is Lokesh. Some days ago I called up my godson Shyamu (he is described in some earlier posts) and asked if there were any clothes left over that had become too small for his son (now 7 and also described in some earlier posts) and daughter (now 4) then these kids could make use of them. He brought over a big bag and now Lokesh and his sister have many bright clothes that are red, blue and green.
Lokesh now visits me every morning when I am in the garden and gets some biscuits from me and two almonds a day that he chews up quick . My own experience and study suggests that almonds help improve the IQ and memory hugely. I use the following dosage, 1 almond a day for one or two months a year for children between one and two, 2 a day for two years old, three for three year old, four for the four years old and thereafter only five a day until old age. The best time for this is before examinations for school children or winters for others. My god grandson on this regime now tops in his school class as did I on the same regime. He does his K-2 arithmetic sums at super speed.
Years ago, as a Professor when I wrote a booklet for students “How to succeed in exams” this tip was included along with several others to help students. The small book is available at Amazon here.  Almonds are a great help for older persons too. Edgar Cayce an American Mystic used to say that an almond a day keeps cancer away and some recent research confirms this. Along with coconut it also helps older persons mitigate dementia and Alzheimer it seems and there are older articles on that in this blog.

The limited number of almonds must be adhered to because excess may harm. There are strong components in almonds such as selenium that would harm instead of help in excess.

Inspired by my effort the owner of the house under construction, a medical doctor, also brought some prescription health tonics for the kids and the result of all this is that Lokesh and his sister are bright kids now who shall hopefully see a brighter life ahead, God Willing.

One never knows when a small kind deed may have a big impact. He shall note and respond likewise to add joy to your life, a joy that far exceeds what your own efforts may bring to it or be incapable of bringing to it because we all suffer from varying amounts of lust, greed and anger that pushes us towards misery rather than joy.
Lokesh on a visit to the author's garden. May the Lord protect him and all children of the world

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Magic of Medicinal Herbs and Flowers for the Aging - Bougainvillea

“Let your food be your medicine” Hippocrates

While the young may suffer from health issues, several health problems are more common with age. Modern medicines can relieve many common conditions but they often come with adverse side effects that can leave a person compromised in health and worse off in the long run. 

Before modern medicines became prevalent, humans treated many ailments with flowers, leaves, roots and barks of plants and trees. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medicinal science, makes use of herbs and plant materials without substantial extraction of active ingredients as modern medicine does. These are called Ayurvedic medicines. The additional compounds in a medicinal or edible plant are an organic whole and a part of life that supports other life. It therefore helps to balance the chemicals in a way that is more conducive to life than a pure chemical in isolation would be. A modern example in wide use as food is sugar, a pure chemical isolated from juice of sugar cane. It may harm whereas the fresh juice itself has beneficial health giving properties (unless one is a diabetic and must avoid sugar in all forms). That is the reason why alcohol distilled from a natural fermented fruit juice and then diluted with water can give a headache and a hangover while the natural fermented juice with the same percentage of alcohol may not. The difference is created by additional balancing compounds in the natural fermented juice.

Aside from organic food and nutrients, a human also needs very tiny amounts of inorganic minerals as inorganic salts, the common salt being an example. These inorganic salts may be the only appropriate thing as a pure chemical for long term consumption. The same minerals requirements can however me met from organic sources too, for example copper, zinc, selenium, magnesium etc. that is also found in organic compounds in plant foods. Magnesium is as common to green leafy vegetables as iron is to red blooded animals, both playing a similar role in each type of life form.

Not all plants are medicinal. Some are just food and some poisonous too. Indeed there is no food or herb that does not contain a compound or two that could be from mildly to extremely dangerous if isolated and consumed but is beneficial as a group with other compounds. Ancient spiritual persons discovered effects of various herbs through experimentation and at times by observing animals that consumed these plants. However, the diversity and variety of different plants on the planet is so huge that many useful medicinal plants and their precise effect is yet to be discovered. Moreover, such discoveries are not the priority of modern medicinal industry driven by profits. It is not possible to patent a plant. If anything they would like to hide or even get its medicinal used banned as may have been done with cannabis. They would rather discover a new chemical, patent it and then exploit it for financial gain. Natural plant remedies, especially the most useful ones, are a threat to this industry. It seems when profit becomes a priority easing the suffering of fellow humans takes a back seat.

However there are also difficulties with ancient herbal science. It has not been put through the same sort of rigorous scientific analysis as modern medicines. Further the knowledge has not been recorded carefully Names of some herbs are misunderstood and some have become extinct. There is also much fraud in this area as humans are prone to resort to whenever there is profit and when regulation is lacking. Another major difficulty is that when a plant part is consumed as medicine or as a simple natural extract for example by boiling then it is not possible to control dosage with same precision as an isolated chemical and one may have to approximate or play it by the ear. Fortunately a natural plant material may do little harm in most cases as compared to a pure chemical if consumed in excess except the most powerful ones. Many common medicinal herbs are like food and do no more harm than food consumed in excess. As humans lose the glamour of modern science and once again realize value of natural plant materials, it is hoped that these would be subjected to more modern research and better ways can be found to control their use and required dosage.

Even when original source of a medicine is a plant, modern practitioners isolate the active or so called active agent and use that as a medicine, an unnatural product. The process of testing is so long that the scientist has little time to study combined effect of other ingredients in the plant that God put in there along with the so called active substance. The result is that many modern medicines are far more likely to cause a harmful side effect as compared to a natural herb that comes from life and supports life.

Even addictive herbs such as Marijuana and Opium in their natural state appear to be far less addictive than some chemical medicines. Steps are underway around the world to legalize Marijuana which this author supports, since it kills far fewer people than Alcohol does but governments must be careful not to legalize their extracts and so called active agents without considerable study not motivated by a desire of Pharma profits, something that seems to be lacking in many instances in these times driven by corporate greed.
Herbs and Flowers for the Aging
Earlier articles in this blog have described several useful herbs and flowers especially useful for the aging. Some of these may be found growing near you or even in your own garden while some may have to be acquired from elsewhere. An earlier article described the Palash flower that helped this author overcome back problems with magical speed. Another article described a common weed – Phyllanthus- that helps overcome urinary difficulties with a few weeks of use. 

A common problem with aging, especially aged persons who lead a sedentary modern life and tend to be overweight is diabetes type II and blood pressure as also a poor lipid profile that can go on to develop into cardiac problems and strokes in the worst cases. Just recently, this author discovered that there is a very common herb that deals with all three of these issues simultaneously. It is the common bush that grows in many a garden of warmer climates. While this plant has found traditional use for such ailments, modern research has also confirmed these benefits (for example see). 
Subsequent to some earlier annual medical tests the doctor had informed this author of the presence of slight high blood pressure and prescribed some medicines for it. On returning home, as usual this author threw the prescription in the dust bin. He avoids modern medicines except for most critical of needs and has managed with things like mindful breathing and herbs as when the need arose. But now, having learned of the use of bougainvillea, I have begun adding a few leaves of that to my morning tea daily. It has a mild taste and does not alter the flavor of tea. Modern research on this can wait but I am already feeling wonderful. LOL. 

A large bougainvillea bush with red flowers has been growing in front of my home for years as shown in the photo accompanying this post. It seems the plant contains pinitol among other chemicals which are considered to be helpful in the treatment of non-insulin diabetes, regeneration of cells, controls lipid profile and blood pressure. One can expect that in near future such chemicals extracted from the plant would be available in drug stores. However I shall not use them for reasons already explained at the outset even if they were given free. There is no need to with the Grace of the Lord and Mother Earth.

Different Colors

There are several varieties of bougainvillea and the flowers too come in a wide range of colors. Since precise chemical compositions of these varieties differ it goes without saying that their precise influence on human health and psyche would vary too. Aside from prominent health effects of different herbs and flowers, they have an influence on our psyche and emotional states too, indeed as all foods have. There is an older post in this blog about it – You are what you eat. Determining these second order effects precisely would need much more research.

Tomorrow morning, this author proposes to collect a whole lot of leaves and flowers, dry them and store them beside the tea in a jar. It is so much easier to use a dried herb then to go out in the garden every time one needs a cup of tea and the flowers have been used for drinks earlier by others as well. This blog is not recommending the use of this herb to others but more research into it but in case you take the chance as this author has, it would be nice if you share your experience as a comment here whenever you get the time for it. Best wishes to you.

UPDATE: The leaves and flowers dried in three days on a newspaper spread on the dining table. The leaves become very crisp on drying and crush easily if rubbed between fingers but the colorful bracts are less crispy and break off in bigger bits. The mix looks lovely.

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