Down To The Roots: Burdock And Chicory

For centuries, burdock and chicory have been considered important remedies to help the liver. They have also been used to help rid the body of uric acid, to treat rheumatism and to eliminate skin conditions. By helping the liver, they also improve hormonal imbalances. The Chinese eat burdock to relieve constipation. Chicory is an effective digestive tonic, and can be used as a coffee substitute – chicory coffee does not contain caffeine, but it does taste somewhat like coffee. Chicory increases bile production, moderates a rapid heart rate, lowers cholesterol and destroys bacteria.

Burdock and chicory roots are versatile. Burdock can be used much like a carrot – it can be grated, sliced or blended. My favorite introductory-level burdock dish is a gravy. Thanksgiving, I made the dressing and gravy from burdock. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the guests when I told them that it was made from burdock. Of course, I waited until after they had told me how delicious it was! Even after I told them it was burdock, no one refused seconds.

effortless-gravy

Burdock Gravy

1 cup chopped burdock root {1 medium-size root}

1/2 cup yogurt, sour cream or soy milk

1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon honey

Blend ingredients until smooth. Heat mixture over low heat, stirring until it thickens, about 4 minutes.

Fresh burdock and chicory roots are not hard to find. Many natural food stores carry them, at least in the fall and into the spring. Japanese groceries sell burdock as gobo. Even some regular grocery stores sell these roots, especially in Hawaii. You can also grow your own – look for them in the vegetable seed section of a nursery or seed catalog.

In the North American colonies, in the early days of colonization, coffee was cut with chicory so that supplies of the expensive bean would last longer. Later, chicory coffee became a Louisiana speciality. Roasting gives chicory a bitter-sweet flavor. To roast chicory, chop fresh roots, place a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a 325 F degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Roasted chicory roots can easily be made into a tea – just grind them in a coffee grinder and steep.

Millet Loaf

This dish can be cooked as a millet pilaf or a millet loaf of “bread” that is nutty tasting and satisfying for a holiday main meal.

Overnight Preparation Time

You may want to start soaking the millet the night before you want to make this dish (soak for 8 – 12 hours). The recipe itself takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 15 – 20 minutes to simmer on the stovetop.

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups presoaked millet
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons dried burdock root or fresh burdock root, diced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons astragalus powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  • In a saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  • Once water is boiling, add soaked millet and reduce heat to simmer.
  • Add spices, sea salt, astragalus root powder and burdock root.
  • Simmer until millet is completely cooked and the grains are translucent and fluffy.
  • Add coconut oil and stir thoroughly. If you are eating this as a millet pilaf, it is now ready to serve with your favorite vegetable side dish.
  • If you are making millet loaf, let the cooked millet pilaf sit for 15 minutes to cool. Once cooked, transfer into a greased bread loaf pan and cook in a pre-heated oven at 300°F for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool.
  • Slice of bread, spread with some coconut oil, raw butter or ghee if you like and serve with salad and cultured vegetables or with a vegetable soup
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Soothing Burdock Soup

Burdock Root is indispensable for soothing hot, itchy, or inflamed skin. It is an excellent remedy to use when the skin feels fiery, such as during episodes of eczema, psoriasis, or rashes and is, therefore, a herbal ally for stress-reactive and environment-reactive skin personalities.
1 cup chopped Onion
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh Burdock Root
1 cup peeled and sliced Carrots
1 pound Potatoes (russet or wax)
½ cup fresh Dandelion Leaves (optional)
6 cups Vegetable Stock or water
3 tablespoons dry White Wine or Sherry
3 tablespoons chopped Parsley
Salt
Combine vegetables and stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, reduce heat, and cover, simmering for 1 hour. Remove 2 cups of soup, puree in a blender, and return to pot. Stir in Sherry and Parsley and simmer for 20 more minutes.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

If you’re old enough to count among the Baby Boomer generation, you certainly remember the sensation caused by the release of Simon and Garfunkel’s hit song, “Scarborough Fair,” with its haunting refrain, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.” Most people who bought the album (yes, it was an album, not an MP3 back then) didn’t really think about the properties of the herbal list as they sang along, and it’s doubtful that Simon and Garfunkel had anything prescriptive in mind, but in fact, they adapted the song from an old English ballad that some say is about the Great Plague in the Middle Ages. The fact is that parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme were commonly used medicinally in earlier times and may have been used in an attempt to heal victims of the Plague. On the other hand, the four herbs were chief components in a love potion that witches concocted in Medieval times, and they also were used for embalming, so others claim the song is about winning love or dying from a broken heart after losing it.

In any event, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme each was revered for their healing and magical powers, and those healing powers are as present and valuable today as they were during the reign of King Charles II. Here’s an abbreviated description of what each has to offer.

Parsley

Parsley is something of a wonder herb in that it’s pretty enough to be used as an all-purpose garnish, tastes good enough to be an important ingredient in a huge array of recipes, is positively packed with vitamins and minerals, and has a surprising array of healing properties. An important diuretic, parsley root also helps clear uric acid from the urinary tract and helps dissolve and expel gallstones and gravel – and prevent their future formation.  It also inhibits the secretion of histamine and is therefore useful in treating hives and relieving other allergy symptoms. A decoction of parsley root can help eliminate bloating and reduce weight by eliminating excess water gain.

Note that the emphasis in the above was on parsley root, not on the green leaves, but the entire parsley plant has medicinal value. In fact, parsley has been used for healing for over 2000 years, since Ancient Greece.” It was used medicinally long before anyone figured out that it tasted pretty good and might have value as a flavoring.

Because it effectively clears uric acid from the body and has other anti-inflammatory properties, parsley can be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The herb was used in ancient Turkey to heal diabetes, and in fact, clinical research in recent years bears out the fact that parsley leaf extract can lower blood sugar levels. More research indicates that an extract found in parsley oil called apigenin aids in reducing the recurrence of cancerous tumors. It also contains a flavonoid called myricetin that has been shown to be effective in preventing skin cancer. Finally, because it contains exceptionally high levels of calcium and folic acid, evidence indicates it’s useful in preventing osteoporosis.

While eating the few sprigs of parsley decorating your restaurant meal might not do much to pump you up, you’ll certainly benefit if you make parsley a staple in your diet or take it in supplement form.

Sage

Unlike delicate, curly parsley, sage has a flat-leaved, flat, and fuzzy profile. And yet, it shares with parsley an ability to lower inflammation via the array of flavonoids and phenolic acids it possesses. In fact, chewing on sage leaves is one way to get a burst of anti-inflammatory aid fast. If the taste is too strong for you in the raw, you can also brew sage leaves into a tea. The anti-inflammatory effects of sage have been shown to help with gastrointestinal issues, respiratory problems, arthritis, and even cardiac problems. It’s also anti-spasmodic, which makes it particularly useful in the case of gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or colitis. Also, like parsley, sage is effective as an aid in controlling diabetes.

The word “sage” comes from the Latin root, “salvere,” which means “to be saved.” In other words, the ancients thought it was amazing as a healing aid. One extraordinary benefit of sage is that it’s effective in increasing mental acuity. That’s right: sage can make you smarter, at least in the short run. Clinical studies show that even a small dose of the herb or a sniff of the essential oil extracted from it enhances memory and concentration. Plus, there’s clinical evidence that sage may inhibit Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

Plus, sage has antimicrobial properties that make it great for enhancing immune function. You can press it into a salve and apply it topically to help heal skin infections, psoriasis, eczema, and acne. And finally, sage is a blessing for menopausal women: clinical studies show it has an extraordinary ability to stop hot flashes and night sweats.

Is it any wonder that sage (specifically white sage) is considered a sacred herb by Native American people, used for purification and protection purposes? Many people follow the ancient Native American tradition of burning sage in a house, which is believed to clear away negative energies.

One word of warning: if you’re allergic to mint, forget sage, which is a close relative. Another close relative is rosemary, which looks pretty different with its spiky leaves, but contains rosmarinic acid, also found in rosemary, one of the chief components that helps reduce inflammation.

Rosemary

The benefits of rosemary are similar to those of sage—improved digestion, enhanced concentration and memory as shown by clinical studies. As Shakespeare said (Hamlet Act 4, Scene v), “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…” Rosemary also contains carnosic acid, which seems to inhibit damage by free radicals in the brain, making it useful in limiting brain damage suffered after a stroke and even in promoting repair and recovery. Carnosic acid also appears to benefit eye health and might be useful in preventing macular degeneration.

Rosemary is particularly useful as an anti-carcinogen. Studies show that it can slow the spread of leukemia and inhibit breast tumor growth. Also, adding rosemary to meat before cooking seems to disrupt the formation of cancer-causing compounds that might be formed during the cooking process.

Beware, though. You can overdose on rosemary and end up with severe gastrointestinal problems, miscarriage, or even coma. Plus, rosemary can interfere with certain pharmaceutical medications, so be sure to check before plunging into a rosemary orgy.

Thyme

Thymol, an oil extracted from thyme, has a long history as an anti-microbial agent. Before antibiotics, it was used to medicate bandages and is still an active ingredient in products like Vic’s VapoRub. In fact, research indicates it can boost the efficacy of antibiotics when used in conjunction with them. It works extremely well blended into an antifungal cream or used on skin conditions like eczema.

Several studies have shown that thyme can reduce blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels. It also works against pathogens that cause food poisoning, making it a great addition to any meal, and in a similar fashion, it can prolong the life of cooking oils. Plus, thymol seems to reduce symptoms of sore throats and bronchial coughs, while the carvacrol in it enhances feelings of well-being by stimulating dopamine and serotonin in the brain. And like the other herbs described above, thyme fights colon and breast cancers via the carvacrol in it.

The bottom line is that all these herbs offer formidable healing properties, plus they taste wonderful and are easy to grow. Instead of dousing your dinners with salt and soy, try regularly using fresh herbs like these, and reap the benefits.

Three Ayurvedic Practices for Fall

The peak of pitta dosha — one of Ayurveda’s three mind-body types — happens in the fall. To harness the season’s energies and benefits, here are three Ayurvedic strategies that anyone can try.

One of my favorite things about living Ayurveda is how the strategies for finding harmony with nature change throughout the year. I used to blindly follow the same protocols for food, work, and exercise all year, but with Ayurveda’s seasonal guidelines, I enjoy the variety of approaches and am much more in touch with the changes in nature and in my own body and mind. Ayurveda is like an amazing compass with which to navigate and plan my year.

Ayurveda outlines six distinct seasons per year. These specific seasons follow the natural pattern of the three doshas (Ayurveda’s mind-body types, made up of the five great elements in different combinations) as they build up, peak, and then dissipate throughout the year. Following a seasonal Ayurvedic regimen not only keeps you healthy during each current season, but it also prepares your body for the following season.

In fall (September 14–November 14), pitta dosha (the combination of fire and water) peaks. Pitta dosha is all about transformation, and when it is balanced, it gives you the ability to be an excellent leader, makes tough decisions, and perform critical analysis. Imbalanced Pitta creates burning sensations and 40 different diseases, including heartburn, hot flashes, and inflammation. Whether you’re seeking to harness the increased focus that comes with pitta dosha’s peak, or need the cooling medicine of the moon, here are a few simple practices you can adopt as we shift into autumn.

Take advantage of the natural focus the fall season provides to launch a successful new venture.

Fall is the best time to launch a new venture — whether a new business or a new project at your workplace — because this is when pitta dosha is naturally high, giving you focus, clarity, intelligent strategic thinking, and planning abilities.

The fall season also brings illuminating Vedic holidays such as Diwali, the Vedic festival of light. This festival celebrates the victory of the light of knowledge over the darkness of ignorance and the illusions we unconsciously carry around within us. It occurs sometime between September and November and is considered a very auspicious time to launch new ventures with a blast of positivity.

Another nice thing about launching ventures in the fall is that you have the energy to work really hard throughout the winter and spring. By the time summer rolls around, you can afford to schedule downtime, which creates a window of receptivity for great inspiration of ways to improve your project, or for new ideas to explore.

Absorb the moon’s medicine.

As a modern, globalized society, we’ve lost touch with the movements and healing aspects of the sun, moon, and wind. Ayurveda urges you to return to nature and benefit from nature’s subtle medicine. Natural elements are always at play around you and are more accessible than you often realize.

Whereas pitta dosha is connected with the sun and its metabolizing heat and intensity, the moon is associated with Kapha dosha, which is made of the earth and water elements. Kapha dosha is naturally stable, soothing, cool, calm, maturing, and grounding.

Ayurvedic sages recommend you go outside to absorb the moonlight in fall when a lot of pitta dosha is present. Those suffering from the excess heat, whether physically or mentally (from too much stress or having to meet many tight deadlines), can particularly benefit from the moon’s soothing, maternal medicine.

The Vedic holiday Sharad Purnima is on the most powerful full moon of the year when the moon is closest to the earth (in 2017, it falls on October 5). On this fall night, as my teacher revealed, “It’s believed in Ayurveda that exposure to the moon’s rays is very helpful in mitigating the adverse effects of excess pitta dosha, including many kinds of digestive, blood, skin, lymph, and heat disorders, throughout the season.”

Reclaim your health with khichadi.

In the fall, seasonal foods to enjoy include rice, green mung dal, bitter and green vegetables, squashes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus, okra, and ghee — foods in the categories of bitter, sweet, and astringent flavors. Made of cooked green mung dal lentils, white rice, and a variety of spices, khichadi (also called kitchari) is one of Ayurveda’s superfoods. It can be made with a number of seasonal spices and vegetables, so you can continually experience different flavors. For those who want to cleanse the body, it is helpful to eat a diet of khichadi and takra, a spiced yogurt drink, for about 7 to 10 days.

Khichadi

Serves 2–3

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white basmati rice
  • 1 cup green mung dal (you can also use ½ cup yellow and ½ cup green dal)
  • Himalayan pink rock salt
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons ghee
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Directions

  1.  Rinse the rice and dal, then add to a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the rice and dal by 1 inch and soak for 3 to 4 hours if possible (or at least 30 minutes).
  2.  Place the pot on the stove over high heat. Heat until it boils, then reduce the heat to low. Add the rock salt and turmeric and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has a mushy consistency, 20 to 25 minutes. Add additional water if preferred, or cook until it becomes as dry as you like.
  3.  Place the ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until the seeds start crackling, about 10 to 15 seconds or less.
  4.  Pour the warmed ghee mixture into the pot with the rice and dal. Serve with fresh cilantro for added flavor and digestive power.

Natural Beauty With Fall Nuts

Autumn is a season of transition and harvest, during which we cut back the garden, dry and preserve our herbs, and enjoy fresh apples, grains, and a wealth of healthy and delicious nuts.

When we think of fall nuts we often think of them defined in the culinary sense: large, oil-rich kernels found in hard shells. Botanically speaking, many nuts, including hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns are actually fruits composed of a hard shell with an edible seed inside. This tasty seed is packed with unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber, and a good dose of omega-3’s.

While they’re certainly tasty, common fall nuts like Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans are perfect for natural beauty because they contain so much protein, as well as vitamins, minerals, and natural oils. Finely ground, they make an effective ingredient in skin scrubs, and they help cleanse the skin without drying it out or damaging the surface. You can also make them into rich milk and butters with very little processing.

Nut oils offer a broad range of beauty recipes, and pure almond and walnut oils make wonderful skin and hair conditioners. {Of course, eating them also promotes beauty from the inside out, because they boost collagen production in our skin.} The bonus: you can find them easily at most grocery or natural food stores. Here are some easy natural beauty recipes for you to try at home. Enjoy!

Hazelnut Cleansing Scrub

Quite a few hazelnut species exist, including one native to the Pacific Northwest and Oregon. These nuts, or filberts as they are sometimes called, grow in abundance and are harvested in the month of October. Offering a sweet, mild flavor, hazelnuts are rich in natural oils that keep skin soft and radiant. They have a long shelf life and can stay fresh up to a year if kept in a sealed bag at room temperature or even longer if stored in the freezer.

1 Tbls hazelnuts, finely ground

1 Tbls walnut or almond oil

1 Tsp honey

Mix all the ingredients together.

To Use: Gently massage into your face and neck, then rinse with warm water and pat your skin dry.

Yield: 2 ounces

Almond Facial Scrub

In this cleansing scrub, almonds gently remove dead skin cells from the face to soothe the complexion. Make sure you grind the nuts into a very fine powder, as large pieces can damage delicate skin {you can do this in a food processor or coffee grinder}. You can also purchase ground almond meal at most grocery or natural food stores

1 Tbls almonds, finely ground, or

1 Tbls almond meal

1 Tbls almond oil

1 Tsp maple syrup or honey

Mix together all ingredients. Store in a clean container.

To Use: Gently massage into the face and neck. Rinse well with warm water and pat skin dry.

Yield: 2 ounces

Walnut Oil Cream

Europeans have cultivated walnut trees since the time of ancient Rome for both culinary and cosmetic use. The oil extracted from the walnut contains essential fatty acids important for maintaining beautiful skin and hair.

2 Tbls grated beeswax

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup walnut oil

2 Tbls rose water

In a heat-resistant container, mix together the beeswax and oils. Heat gently in the microwave or a water bath until the wax and coconut oil is melted. Stir in the rose water and pour into a clean container. You may have to stir once or twice to keep the oil and water blended as the mixture cools into a thick cream.

To Use: Massage this rich cream into dry hands, or add a tablespoon mixed with vitamin E oil for a remarkable eye cream to dab on at bedtime.

Yield: 4 ounces

Nuts & Natural Beauty

Here are a few simple ways to use nuts and nut products in your skincare regime:

Oils: Add walnut and almond oils to baths or creams for extra moisture and softness. If you have thick or damaged hair, these oils work great as natural, leave-on conditioners {apply lightly}.

Ground Nuts: Cleanse and exfoliate your body with finely ground nuts, which remove dead skin while also cleaning pores and moisturizing.

Nut Milk: These are classic skin cleansers that you can use in place of soap. Find them in stores or make your own. Add milk to the bath or use as a base for facial masks and skin scrubs.

Nut Butters: If you grind fresh nuts with a bit of oil you will produce an edible nut butter that’s high in protein and natural fats, For cosmetic use, try nut butters as a conditioning hair pack or skin treatment for dry skin and rough skin spots.

Almond Milk Bath

Honey, a natural humectant, locks in moisture in your skin, while almond milk provides rich, natural fats and oils that soften and treat dry or sensitive skin. For a scented bath, use a combination of your favorite essential oils. Scent combinations to try include: sweet orange and lemongrass; peppermint, tea tree, and rosemary; and lavender and rose.

1 cup almond milk

2 Tbls pure honey

4-5 drops essential oils

Mix together all ingredients.

To Use: Pour into a warm bath as you fill the tub. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat your skin dry and follow with a rich cream or natural oil.

Yield: 8 ounces

Lavender Almond Milk Facial

We all know lavender for its ability to soothe and relax a stressed mind and spirit. It also has antibacterial properties that, when combined with almond milk and yogurt, help deep clean your skin to remove surface impurities and dead skin cells. This is a good facial mask for all skin types, especially sensitive or mature skin {use it weekly}.

1 Tbls Greek yogurt or sour cream

1 Tbls almond milk

1 Tsp dried lavender

1 drop essential oil of lavender {optional}

Mix together all ingredients.

To Use: Spread on face and neck and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with warm water and follow with a cool-water rinse. Pat your skin dry and use your favorite moisturizer or skin cream.

Yield: 1 ounce

almond milk

Make Your Own Almond Milk

Store-bought almond milk can be expensive; this simple process offers an easy way to make it at home. Just follow these steps.

  1. Place 1 cup of raw almonds in a bowl and cover with water. Let sit 12 hours to overnight, and then strain.

  2. Place the soaked nuts in a blender with 3 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon of honey or agave if you like a sweeter flavored milk. {You can omit the sweetener if you’re using the milk for cosmetic use}.

  3. Process the mixture on high. You should have a white creamy milk. Strain your milk through a piece of cheesecloth and discard the solids. Pour your milk into a clean container and enjoy.

Raw Sugar Walnut Lip Scrub

When it comes to exfoliating, we often neglect our lips. But we want to keep them clean and clear of dead skin, so we look and feel fresh. A gentle scrub with oil-rich walnuts will do the trick!

1 Tsp finely ground walnuts

1 Tsp honey

2 Tsp brown sugar

Mix together all ingredients until you have a smooth paste.

To Use: Gently massage a small amount of the scrub into your lips using your fingertips. Rinse well with warm water, then follow up with a rich lip balm or natural oil.

Yield: Just over a half-ounce