Garcinia cambogia Health Benefits: for weight loss?

Garcinia fruit is usually yellow or greenish and looks like a small pumpkin

Garcinia fruit is usually yellow or greenish and looks like a small pumpkin

Although still called Garcinia cambogia (or just Garcinia) in the popular press, this old botanical name has been revised to Garcinia gummi-gutta, though you might still find it labelled as Garcinia cambogia, Cambogia gummi-gutta or Mangostana cambogia. So far as common names go, it is also known as brindleberry, gambooge fruit and Malabar tamarind.

Description

Garcinia is a tropical tree which reaches a height of 12m and is native to the Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats (West coast) of India. The fruit is yellow/green sometimes with a reddish tinge, about the size of an orange and pumpkin shaped.

Edible uses

In India and Southeast Asia, the rind and extracts of Garcinia are used in cooking, particularly in southern Thai kaeng som (fish curry). It is also used for curing fish in Sri Lanka and South India.

Medicinal uses

Garcinia rind was formerly used to treat gastric ulcers, diarrhea and dysentery. It was promoted by Dr Oz, a US celebrity doctor, as a weight loss supplement some years ago. It’s also used in Ayurveda as a digestive aid.

A compound found in the rind called hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is believed to boost fat burning during exercise and reduce appetite by raising serotonin levels and blocking ATP citrate lyase, an enzyme involved in the production of fat. It is also believed to increase endurance in female athletes, but with no similar effect on men. It’s also used to lower cholesterol, manage stress and level out mood swings.

Research has found that the type of HCA used affects the result. Calcium hydroxycitrate on its own is mainly ineffective, but a mixture of calcium and potassium or magnesium HCA works well. You should always check that the supplement you are using contains either potassium or magnesium, and preferably a low lactone content.

Take about 1.5g three times a day, 30-60 minutes before a meal. If taken with food, the HCA can bind to some of the components in the food and become inactive.

Contra-indications and warnings

At least one supplement containing Garcinia has been withdrawn because of reported side effects including hepatotoxicity and gastrointestinal problems.

High doses may lead to nausea, gastrointestinal discomfort, and headaches. Discontinue use if affected.

Consult your doctor before taking Garcinia if you are currently taking prescribed medication, particularly SSRIs, anti-depressants, dextromethorphan, pethidine, pentazocine or tramodol.

Do not use during pregnancy/breastfeeding, if you have existing liver or kidney damage, diabetes, dementia or are taking blood thinners such as warfarin.

Where to get it

I offer various Garcinia products in my online store.

Aromatherapy

Garcinia is not used in aromatherapy.

Final Notes

Unless you live in its native area or a similar climate, it’s unlikely you will want to grow Garcinia, but if you do decide to, remember that to ensure that any remedy to extract from it is safe, it is essential to follow organic growing techniques. To find out more about organic gardening visit the Gardenzone.


Sacred Lotus health benefits: for men’s problems and women’s problems

The sacred lotus of Buddhists and Hindus

The sacred lotus of Buddhists and Hindus

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera (syn. N. caspica, N. komarovii, N. nelumbo, N. speciosum and Nymphaea nelumbo), is also known as East Indian lotus, lian, lotus, lotusroot, oriental lotus and sacred water lotus. It is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists. The Buddhist mantra “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus” (Om Mani Padme Hum) has many meanings, but the lotus referred to is this one.

At the risk of sounding irreverent, this plant is really just a “posh” waterlily, and requires similar growing conditions, though warmer. It will survive in water from 30cm (1′) up to 2.5m (8′) deep, but in cooler climates it should be grown in water at the shallower end of this range, as it will warm up quicker. Requires a five month growing season and prefers a water temperature of 23-27ºC. Plant them about 1m (3′) each way. In areas with frosty Winters, plant in aquatic containers and move the roots into a frost-free place after the leaves have died down in Fall; store in a tub of water or in moist sand. On the other hand, in favorable conditions where they stay out all year they can become invasive.

Lift roots in Fall or Winter and dry for later use . Collect other parts as required when they become available.

To make a decoction add 30g fresh/15g dried root or other parts to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the water is reduced by half. Strain off and discard the source material. You can take up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, which may be split into 3 doses.

It’s not at all surprising that this plant was considered sacred, as there are just so many uses. It must truly have seemed like a gift from the gods.

All parts are edible. The roots can be pickled, stored in syrup or cooked Chinese-style giving a result like water chestnut. They are also a source of starch. Young leaves can be used in salad, cooked as a vegetable or used in the same way as vine leaves are used for dolmades. Stems can also be peeled and cooked. The seeds contain a bitter embryo (which can be removed before eating), and are pretty nutritious, containing 16% protein and only 3% fat. They can be popped like corn, ground for making bread, eaten raw or cooked, or roasted to use as a coffee substitute. The petals are used as garnish and floated in soups. Finally, the stamens are used as a flavoring additive for tea.

Attractive to bees and has been used for honey production. Also, of course, it makes a very ornamental water plant.

Every little piece of this plant has been used either in medicine or as food. Because there are so many uses, I’ve broken it down to a quick reference –

leaf juice: diarrhea;
decoction of leaves with liquorice (Glycyrrhiza): sunstroke;
decoction of flowers: premature ejaculation;
decoction of floral receptacle: abdominal cramps;
decoction of fruit: agitation, fever, heart problems;
seed: lowers cholesterol levels, digestive aid, bloody discharges;
flowers: heart tonic;
flower stalk: bleeding gastric ulcers, post-partum hemorrhage, heavy periods;
stamens: chronic diarrhea, premature ejaculation, enteritis, hemolysis, insomnia, leukorrhea, palpitations, spermatorrhea, urinary frequency and uterine bleeding;
plumule and radicle: hypertension (high blood pressure), insomnia and restlessness;
root: general tonic;
root starch: diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhage, heavy periods and nosebleed;
root starch paste: externally for tinea (ringworm) and other skin conditions;
root nodes: blood in the urine, hemoptysis, nosebleed and uterine bleeding.

According to research, the plant also contains anticancer compounds.

Aromatherapy

NB: Lotus essential oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy. It must be diluted before use. It is used for cholera, epilepsy, fever, fungal infections, jaundice, kidney and bladder complaints, skin conditions and as an aphrodisiac.

As with all essential oils, lotus essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Final Notes

It’s always important to grow medicinal plants organically, to avoid the active constituents being masked or destroyed by foreign chemicals. With water plants like the lotus, this is even more important. For example, do not use chemicals to kill algae – use barley straw instead.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Sacred Herbs for Healing”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to buy a copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Sacred Herbs for Healing or search for it by putting B00ASMJFR4 in your local Amazon’s search box.


Hops health benefits: sedative and traditional beer flavoring

Hops in the wild, inset leaves at various stages, male and female flowers

Hops in the wild, inset leaves at various stages, male and female flowers

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Hops, Humulus lupulus, are also called the common hop to distinguish the plant from the related but not very medicinally active Japanese hop (H. japonicus). It is the plant most often used as a base for beer until barley malt took over – but as it is gluten free, is suitable for celiacs, which beers based on barley are not. Hops are also often grown as an ornamental – particularly the golden hop, H. lupulus ‘Aureus’.

The term “hops” is properly used for the female fruits, but is also often used to refer to the plant itself.

The hop is a European native climber. The leaf is variable, depending on maturity. Pictures a-d inset on the main photo show different stages. It is a hardy perennial, not fussy about soil type, dry or moist soil, and even surviving drought, growing well in any situation so long as it is not in full shade.

Hop flowers

Hop flowers

Hops are not self-fertile because you need both male and female plants to produce fruit (sometimes called flower cones), which appear on the female plants. Male flowers are inset as e in the main picture, with cones at f. Do not confuse the fruits with the flowers, illustrated on the left, which are different on male and female plants. It is the fruits which are used in making beer.

A note of caution: Up to 3% of people may be sensitive to hops, resulting in red or purple eruptions on hands, face and even legs. If you experience this problem, it’s best to use other remedies. Whether or not you suffer from dermatitis from handling hops, if hairs from the plant get in your eyes, you are likely to experience irritation.

Hops are easily propagated from seed sown in spring and potted on until they are large enough to plant out in summer. Provide support, as this is a climbing plant which can reach a height of 20 feet (6m). You will need to grow both male and female plants, as the fruits are the main part used in herbal medicine, and these will not be produced if you only grow plants of a single sex. You can also divide established plants or take basal cuttings in spring, planting out immediately into their final position.

Besides their use in brewing, hops can also be used for other purposes in the kitchen: young leaves in salad, shoots, young leaves and rhizomes (underground stems) can be cooked, and the leaves used for tea. Extracts from the plant are used commercially for flavoring non-alcoholic beverages, candy and dessert foods of various types. The seeds are a source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

Hops are useful medicinally in those who are not sensitive to them (see note of caution above). Prolonged use is bad for you – so although you might already have considered having a couple of beers every day as a tonic, this is not an option from the health point of view.

Hop pillows (a small cushion stuffed with flowers) are often used as an anti-insomnia device. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of hops to your evening bath for the same purpose.

Hops have been used for many purposes, in particular as a sedative and digestive aid. The ability to improve digestion is a function which hops share with other bitter herbs. Female fruits can also be used as a tonic and to reduce fevers. The hairs on the fruits contain a substance which has been shown to increase milk flow in nursing mothers. Make an infusion of the fruits using 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried fruits to 120ml (1 US cup, 4 fl oz) of boiling water. This can be taken hot or cold.

A poultice made from fruits can be used to treat to treat boils and other skin eruptions, and is also said to relieve the pain of external tumors. To make a poultice, make a paste of the fruits mixed with hot water, wrap in a bandage and apply to the area to be treated, refreshing in hot water as required.

A standard infusion of leaves, shoots and female flowers can be used for anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and premature ejaculation, or externally as a wash for external ulcers and skin conditions such as eczema, herpes and skin infections. Make this with 30g (an ounce) of dried or 3 handfuls of fresh mixture as described to 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water, and leave to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours before straining for use.

As with all plants used for herbal medicine, hops should be grown organically to avoid corrupting the active constituents with foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic hops visit the Gardenzone.


Basil Thyme health benefits: for toothache and rheumatic pain

Basil thyme tastes like a milder version of thyme

Basil thyme tastes like a milder version of thyme

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Basil thyme, Acinos arvensis (formerly named A. thymoides, Calamintha acinos, Clinopodium acinos and Satureja acinos), is also known as basil balm, dandy, mother of thyme and Spring savory. It is not closely related to sweet basil, holy basil, thyme, lemon thyme, Summer savory, Winter savory or lemon balm. it is said to taste like a mild version of common thyme.

Basil thyme is an attractive hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 6 inches (15cm) and spreads over about a foot (30cm). It is a European native, though it’s also found wild in some parts of the USA. It likes well drained, light to medium soil, though it’s not fussy as to acidity levels. It will grow in poor soil, dry or moist soil, in full sun or semi-shade.

It is not a long-lived plant, but if it is happy will self-seed, so you are unlikely to have to replace an older plant. To propagate, you can grow it from seed, divide established plants in Spring or take basal cuttings, also in Spring.

Basil thyme was once a very popular medicinal herb, but is not much used in herbal medicine nowadays. The whole plant can be used to make infusions, usually prepared from fresh herb, and the essential oil is also used.

As I have failed in a search online to find the essential oil on sale, I will give instructions on how to make a usable approximation (although genuine essential oil is prepared by distillation, a technique which uses equipment not available in the average home). You will need:

  • an airtight clear glass jar (a small preserving jar is ideal),
  • enough of the fresh chopped herb to fill the jar,
  • enough olive oil to cover the herb, and
  • some spirit vinegar to act as a preservative.

The olive oil is being used as a carrier, and should be the lightest you can find. If you can’t find light olive oil you could substitute sweet almond oil, although this is likely to be more expensive.

  1. Fill the jar with the chopped herb, pushing it down so that you can get as much in as possible.
  2. Add 1 tablespoonful of spirit vinegar (not malt vinegar)
  3. Cover with the oil
  4. Seal tightly and put it on a sunny windowsill.
  5. Every day or so, turn the jar round so that a different part faces outward, and give it a little shake.
  6. After 2-3 weeks, strain off the herb:
    • put some cheesecloth into a colander on top of a large jug
    • pour the oil through the cheesecloth into the jug
    • let it stand for half an hour or so to get as much of the oil out as possible
    • twist the cheesecloth with the herbs inside it to squeeze out the last drops
  7. Transfer the oil to a smaller dark-colored airtight glass container.
  8. Label it “Basil Thyme essential oil. Made on ” and the date.
  9. Store it somewhere cool.

This will keep for at least 6 months, but it’s best not to make more than you think you will get through in this time. If you’re still using it after the 6 months is up, always check that the oil smells good before use.

This oil can be used as an external rub for rheumatic pain, sciatica, neuralgia and bruises. A single drop on a piece of cotton wool can be used to help alleviate a toothache.

A standard infusion can be made by using 3 handfuls of fresh basil thyme to 2.5 US cups (570ml, 1 UK pint) of boiling water. Strain after 15 minutes to 4 hours for use. The dosage is 75ml (1/3 US cup) up to 3 times a day. This can be used as a diuretic and to aid digestion.

As with all herbs used for medicinal purposes, basil thyme should be grown organically so as to avoid foreign chemicals being taken in along with your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.