Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's Farmers Market Time!


The ice mounds and snow berms are history! With the days of unrelenting sub-zero temperatures and continuous blankets of snow that of our long hard winter (emphasis on both long and hard) hammered us with finally passing into painful memory, Spring has finally sprung here in Minnesota.  The occasional 60-70 degree flirtations of Mother Earth coupled with the proverbial April showers, the greening of grass and trees, and everyone awaiting the sighting of the first robin, signals hope to the mind of every Minnesotan.  However, nothing signals hope better than the start of the Farmers Market season!

Winter Goddess Foods has been a part of the Midtown Farmers Market since 2010, and we are proud to be associated with such an innovative and positive community icon.  Established in 2003 as a project of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization in South Minneapolis, the Midtown Farmers Market has developed into one of the premiere neighborhood shopping experiences in the city of Minneapolis.  While some may think that it lacks the polish of markets in the more affluent areas of the city, and is smaller than the huge Downtown or Saint Paul markets, it more than makes up for these trivial short comings by providing one important thing: A sense of belonging.

The Midtown Farmers Market truly is a People’s market.  There is a palpable air of community here.  The vibe is inviting and welcoming, free of any of that awkward exclusionary feel that you might run into elsewhere.  Here you will see shoppers and browsers of every ethnicity, and every background, from the well to do to the economically challenged, gathered together in celebration of goods from local farmers and artisans, good food and good fun.  In fact, the typical market shopper arrives early to meet up with friends, grab a coffee and a scone, or a breakfast sandwich, and settles in at a table for conversation and laughs while listening to live music played by a local artist or group.  When socializing is done, they turn to the business of their weekly hunt for fresh produce, products and gift items for themselves, family and friends.


As innovative as they are welcoming, in 2006, the Midtown Farmers Market became the first farmers market in Minnesota to accept EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) to allow folks who receive food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase healthy fresh produce and local food.  They also established the “Market Bucks” program as an incentive which provides an additional five dollars of buying power to the first five dollars spent through EBT.   This program has become so successful that it has been emulated across the entire state, spreading to 42 farmers markets so far.

There are other things that set this market apart as well.  Since their existence began, the market has always exhibited an earth friendly environment.  Each year their policies on waste collection and recycling have evolved and improved to reduce the market’s carbon footprint on the earth.  This year the market is proud to announce that they are moving beyond recycling to include the addition of food vendors providing food and drink items using certified compostable serving containers, cups and utensils.

In addition, the market provides a forum for a wide variety of community services and educational activities.  In addition to the live music, there are puppet shows and other entertainment for the children, along with giveaways and raffles.  There are also special themed events to be enjoyed over the course of the season including Bike Day and the beautiful pageantry of the popular Native American Heritage Day, along with newly added events such as African American Heritage Day, Youth Leadership Day and Fiesta de Maiz.  Even more wonderful, at the end of each market day, the good folks of Sisters Camelot collect the perfectly good, but leftover produce from the farmers and producers, in order to provide daily hot meals for those in need in the community.

With over 80 vendors that sell over the course of the season at both the Saturday and Tuesday markets, there are many offerings to be had by the savvy shopper.  During the season, local Farmers and growers bring everything from plants and flowers, root vegetables, greens and more, to fresh eggs, smoked bacon, lamb, apples, melons, butter, honey and everything in between.  Local artisans offer a variety of products including handmade jewelry, soaps, aprons, ceramics, wood furniture, clothing items, and even more including hula hoops! If you are hungry, there are a goodly number of food vendors around to satisfy your appetite, serving everything from grass fed beef burgers, omelets, tacos, and arepas, to baked goods of all kinds, fair trade coffee, organic chai, kettle corn, natural ice cream bars and organic candy.


Miguel Goebel oversees market operations and is heading into his second year as market manager. He has a strong affinity for Food Justice and Food Equity, and wants to make people aware of the fact that there is more available besides what is offered by the big box stores.  "It's easy for those with money to go in and buy organic products," says Miguel.  "My focus is on making healthy foods available for those with less resources."  

Miguel has made great strides by implementing positive changes to improve vendor and market exposure.  He also enjoys a warm caring relationship with both vendors and shoppers alike.  Armed with a host of volunteers from the community, and backed by the generous sponsorship of local businesses, he has done a wonderful job in making the Midtown Farmers Market what it is today, a lively, vibrant, and fun place to be.  With over 55,000 visitors annually, it’s popularity speaks for itself.


The Midtown Farmers Market is located in South Minneapolis, at the corner of 22nd Avenue and Lake Street, between the YWCA and the Light Rail's Lake Street Station.  Market season starts this Saturday May 3rd from 8 am to 1 pm, and will run every Saturday through October 25.  The Tuesday market operates 3 - 7 pm each Tuesday starting June 3rd - October 28th.  If you are visiting Minneapolis, Terry and I invite you to come on down to the Midtown Farmers Market and see what the fuss is all about.  Don’t forget to stop by our booth for a taste of Chai or Granola, and a little conversation.



Blessings,

Nehemiah

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stirring the leaves Part 3 - Health benefits of Tea



Everywhere you look, from articles in women’s magazines to infomercials, to the latest “Doctor So-and-so’s” TV show, folks are talking about tea.  A myriad of claims are touted about how tea components, specific types, or “proprietary tea blends” can seemingly cure everything from baldness to impotence.  In fact, there is so much out there, that it is becoming exceedingly difficult to figure out what is fact, and what is just some person or company wanting to empty your purse or wallet.  In reality, scoping out the true health benefits of tea, isn't that complicated.



The important thing to keep in mind is that while there is no certified organization that will definitively state that “drinking __ tea will cure ___,” there have been many scientists who have examined the efficacy of tea, and many studies that have drawn enough conclusions to hint that at the very least, drinking tea can be beneficial to the human body. So let’s examine what we do know about tea, and separate the fact from the fiction.




The health effects of tea have been studied and chronicled since the days of antiquity.  Over 4700 years ago, China’s semi mythical divine emperor Shen Nong who’s teachings were compiled into the Shen-nong Pen-tsao Ching (Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica), declared that an infusion made with the tea plant can be used to treat tumors, abscesses, bladder problems and lethargy. As tea slowly began making its way around the world, various cultures incorporated its use in their own medical traditions after noticing beneficial results from using it as a poultice to drinking, eating the leaves and even gargling with it.  However, the most extensive and revealing studies on the benefits of tea have come about over the last 30 years, and their results have been both enlightening and promising to say the least.


What exactly is in Tea that makes it so healthy?

Warning: I’m about to get a bit technical here, so please bear with me.

Tea contains a number of bio-active properties within its leaves and buds.

Polyphenols -  natural occurring chemical compounds derived from plants.
Flavanoids - a unique antioxidant subset of polyphenols which act as Chemical messengers and cell inhibitors
Catechins - the most powerful antioxidant flavanoid that fights against free radicals and blocks cell damage.  Scientifically known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
L-theanine - an amino acid associated with alpha brain waves
Caffeine - a naturally occurring stimulant

These bio-active properties have been shown to possess antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory activities; modulate detoxification enzymes, block plaque buildup, lower cholesterol, and stimulate immune system function.  Simply stated, these natural chemicals have the ability to regulate certain processes in the human body in order to guard it from intrusion on a microscopic level, and clean out or at least lessen the damage that has already occurred. The polyphenols derived from tea have been shown through a wealth of research studies to possess the ability to delay or block the onset of risk factors associated with disease development, and in particular stroke, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.  Studies have also suggested that tea antioxidants can prevent clogging of the arteries, burn body fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce the risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimers’s and Parkinson’s disease, and improve the body's levels of good cholesterol.

Green tea vs. Black tea: which is better for you?

Over the years, an ongoing discussion has developed regarding which type of tea is actually better for you. This debate is usually centered around Green Tea and Black Tea.

The answer is…

It depends on what you are looking for.

Green tea’s storied reputation is lauded by its proponents because of the high amount of antioxidants it contains.  Green Tea is also highly regarded because of its ability to assist with weight loss, and its soothing qualities, which are well known by anyone who has had a sore throat and sipped the beverage. It also contains a small amount of natural fluoride which is important in bone health.   While all true tea contains polyphenols, it is the higher amount of catechin (the most potent of the antioxidants) contained in Green Tea, that is most responsible for fueling this debate about which tea is better.


It has been determined after analysis that Green Tea contains more catechin content than Black Tea because of its lower amount of oxidation during processing.  However the U.S. Department of Agriculture research suggests that the antioxidant levels between the two are not much different, stating that the EGCG oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC -The unit of measurement that determines antioxidant ability to absorb free radicals) in green tea is 1253 and 1128 in Black Tea.  So while Green Tea technically superior “by the numbers,” it is not by much.


Meanwhile, Black Tea (and teas on the darker spectrum) have additional benefits that Green Tea lacks. Black Tea contains the additional antioxidants Thearubigin and Theaflavin, which while little is specifically known about them, they are also thought to be beneficial in the delaying of the onset of risk factors that are associated with disease development.  Black Tea is also rich in Manganese and Potassium, and also contains B-vitamins.

All tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which has been shown in various studies to help the body’s immune response to infection by boosting the disease fighting capacity of gamma delta T-cells.  In fact in a 2003 study presented to the National Academy of Sciences, blood sample analysis comparing 11 coffee drinkers with 10 tea drinkers after 4 weeks revealed that the production of antibacterial proteins was five times higher in the tea drinkers; an indication of a stronger immune response.


It is also very interesting to note that L-theanine induces a calm, but alert and focused alpha wave-dominant state in the human brain.  This amino acid also enjoys a unique and special relationship with Caffeine.  Coupled with caffeine, L-thearine has been shown in studies to promote faster reaction time, faster numeric working memory reaction time, and improved sentence verification accuracy. While caffeine alone (like in coffee) can give you a jittery, frenetic “buzz” and wake you up, the combination of caffeine and L-thearine can help you be calmly alert and work smarter.  Another advantage that Black Tea holds, is that it works better in this regard, since it contains more caffeine than its lighter counterparts.


Caffeine content comparison



As you can see, there are various advantages to all teas.  It is also clear that at least on some level, tea provides the body with some benefit, and while the research on the health effects of tea is still ongoing, the positive evidence of these effects is growing.  As for the argument on which one is better, in my own personal opinion, I believe that a tea shouldn't be chosen based on “the numbers,” but rather by your own personal preference.  Does it taste good? 

Does it satisfy you?  Does it make you feel better?  Those are the questions that should be asked when selecting a tea.  I encourage you to do a little tea sampling yourself, along with your own research. Then, in the word of the Oracle from the movie The Matrix, you can, “Make up your own damn mind.”

The Oracle from the Matrix
A few more drops of tea knowledge

Decaffeinated tea is not caffeine free.  After processing it still contains 2 - 4 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup.  So if you are caffeine sensitive, or are trying to eliminate it from your diet, you are better served by switching to herbal tea.


As a note of clarification, Herbal Teas are actually not tea by definition, since they are not derived from the Tea plant Camellia sinensis.  Rather, they are a hot water infusion made with herbs.  While they require a longer steeping time and higher temperature than true tea, there are various and sundry health benefits that can be derived from drinking herbal teas, depending on the herb used; many of which have already been mentioned in this blog.

Tea is actually a quite sensitive plant, and as such, environmental factors can quickly affect its taste.  Because of this quality, tea should be stored in a dry air-tight container, so that it doesn’t pick up odors from cooking, foodstuffs, spices and other ingredients. Also, if your tea tastes or smells “funny,” or its aroma is weaker than you remember, it is probably old and has lost its beneficial properties.  Time to get fresh tea!


Low cost or bargain teas can actually be detrimental to your health.  Cheap tea can sometimes be available due to the use of lower quality leaves, added stems for volume, or older leaves that have absorbed higher amounts of chemicals in the environment.  Also many big tea companies spray large amounts of toxic pesticides on their crops, include additives under the name “natural flavors,” use artificial flavors, and in some cases use GMO’s in their tea (Lipton, Bigelow,

Celestial Seasonings, and others.)  Do your due diligence and ask questions and read the label before buying.  Always select higher quality teas for you and your family.  It is definitely worth the expense.  To be truly sure, I suggest using a certified organic tea as the best way to go.

I drink to your health! (tea cup in hand)

Blessings,

Nehemiah






*** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs and plants are provided on this blog is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. ***

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stirring the Leaves - Part 2 of 3


Last time we went through an all too brief study on tea; its introduction, history, influence on human events and its effect on language.  Interesting stuff to be sure. Today our focus turns to tea processing, and the various tea types, along with a little tea "primer."  Due to the overwhelming volume of information surrounding the subject, rather than having an overlong article, I have decided to conclude with the health benefits of tea next week.  Thank you for your forbearance.

Time would fail us to describe all of the various and sundry varieties of teas that are available in the world.  The same can be said for the nuances in the processing of each type that evokes its own special or signature flavor.  While each tea has its own property that sets it apart, whether it be taste, color, smell, or appearance, the processing steps used are generally universal, with the addition or omission of a step or two depending on tea type. These steps are:



Plucking - Proper harvesting of the first two tea leaves and the terminal bud.  Done by hand by experienced pickers for highest quality tea, as improper picking reduces the quality of the tea produced.




Whithering/Wilting - Controlled evaporation of moisture which allows the leaf proteins to break down into freed amino acids and increases the availability of freed caffeine.


Disruption - Bruising or tearing of the leaves to mingle tea enzymes and hasten the onset of oxidation.


Oxidation/Fermentation - The most defining step of tea processing.  Leaves are placed in a climate controlled environment and agitated while their chlorophyll content breaks them down, turning them gradually darker over time.  The amount of time spent in this state, coupled with the environmental conditions is what gives tea its strength, color, taste and briskness.


Fixation/Killgreen - Heating the leaves at the proper time to halt the oxidation process, holding their flavor/appearance at a “fixed” point.  Sweltering/Yellowing - Unique to Yellow Teas, the leaves are placed in containers and lightly heated to change their green color to yellow, mellowing their taste.

Rolling/Shaping - A step taken with teas like Oolong where the damp leaves are rolled, flattened and cut into strips which causes the tea’s sap, essential oils and juices to seep, and impart additional flavor.  These strips are sometimes woven into elaborate and aesthetically pleasing forms and shapes.


Drying - Generally the final process that “finishes” the tea for sale.

Aging/Curing - a special step taken for certain teas to impart additional taste or to further mellow their flavor.  This includes repeat oxidation, additional baking/heating, and/or the inclusion of additional flavorings from other sources.  For our purposes in this article, we will simplify matters by breaking tea down into its six major categories.  These are broadly defined according to the amount of fermentation or oxidation that the tea leaves are subjected to.

Types of Tea


White Tea - Shou Mei, Bai Mudan (White Peony) etc. Named for the silvery white hairs on the unopened bud of the tea plant. (The tea beverage is actually a pale yellow) The leaves are slightly withered then baked dry.  Buds shielded from sun to prevent chlorophyll formation. The minimal processing imparts a more delicate flavor.


Green Tea - Junshan Yinzhen (Silver Needle), Xi Hu Longjing, Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring) etc.  Least amount of oxidation.  Fast application of heat after picking.



Yellow Tea - Huang Tang, Huoshan Huangya, etc.  Similarly processed like green but not immediately dried after fixation.  Mellow flavor.


Oolong (Black Dragon) Tea - Da Hong Pao (red robe), Shui Jin Gui (Gold Turtle), etc.  Semi-oxidized semi brisk with fruity or woodsy qualities.



Black Tea - Assam, Nepal, Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Turkish and Ceylon.  Fully oxidized.  Brisk bold flavor.


Post Fermented Teas - Secondary processed teas like Pu-erh (the most common), Liu’an and Liu’bao, or teas with additive like bergamot (Earl Grey), vanilla or caramel.


Now for what I am sure you've all been waiting for… How to properly prepare your cup of tea.

Keep in mind that while there are certain variation depending on specific tea types, the information given below is generally accurate.  This is assuming the use of an 8 oz mug/cup.

The best temperature for brewing tea depends on what type it is.  Teas that have a lower amount of oxidation such as white, green, and yellow teas are best brewed at lower temperatures between 149 - 176 degrees Fahrenheit, while oolong, black and post fermented teas should be brewed with boiling water (212 degrees) with post fermented teas requiring a longer steeping time.  All tea contains tannin which is bitter.  While tannin add character to and is expected in Oolong, Black and Post Fermented tea, they are unpleasant in the more delicately flavored lighter teas.  Do not overheat or over steep white, green and yellow teas!

In Chinese culture tea preparations have what are called infusions or the number of times the leaves can be reused. Typically the first infusion is used to clean out the leaves, and is thrown away without drinking.  Then the second and subsequent infusions are consumed. The third and later infusions are typically thought of as the best tasting and most pleasant cups of tea.


NOTE: For “stronger” tea, never increase the steeping time.  This only releases more tannin into the tea, making it bitter.  Instead add more tea to your cup, or start with a darker tea.

I have included a handy-dandy table to help you in your quest for the perfect cup of tea.

TypeWater temp.Steep timeInfusions
White tea65 to 70 °C (149 to 158 °F)1–2 minutes3
Yellow tea70 to 75 °C (158 to 167 °F)1–2 minutes3
Green tea75 to 80 °C (167 to 176 °F)1–2 minutes4–6
Oolong tea80 to 85 °C (176 to 185 °F)2–3 minutes4–6
Black tea99 °C (210 °F)2–3 minutes2–3
Pu'er tea95 to 100 °C (203 to 212 °F)LimitlessSeveral
Tisanes
(Herbal Tea)
99 °C (210 °F)3–6 minutesVaried


While some folks use a vast array of special tools and accouterments to prepare and enjoy the wonders of tea, this is hardly required, and you do not need to be a connoisseur to appreciate good flavor.  Tea is a drink of the people, so whether you use a tea bag, ball or hand strain it, it is easy to enjoy and make a great cup of tea.


Next week: the health benefits of tea (I promise!)

Blessings,

Nehemiah

*** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs and plants are provided on this blog is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. ***

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stirring the Leaves, Part 1 of 3


Last week, I was sick. Not just sick….SICK!  I had a fever that wouldn’t quit, as well as body aches that amplified the pain I was already experiencing prior to the onset of whatever “bug” I had contracted.  I was listless, lethargic, my desire for food was nonexistent, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  The only thing that provided me with a bit of respite was the time I was in a bubble of drug induced sleep.  I was a mess. 

Using my cayenne regiment and a few other things, I was able to kick this bug’s butt in three days, but during this whole ordeal, the thing that provided me with the most comfort (besides my wife, Terry) was the simplicity of hot tea.  It soothed my throat, kept me warm and comfortable, calmed my anxiety, and kept me hydrated; particularly helpful since I had a fever.


So what’s the deal with Tea?  A lot!  And let me tell you that you don’t have to be an English aristocrat, an Asian sensei, or Peruvian mystic to enjoy and benefit from tea.  The problem is where to start since it is such a huge subject.  Well, I plan on dividing this subject into three entries in order to cover the most ground.  So with that, let’s take our time, break things down a little and find out about tea!

First of all, what is tea exactly?  Well it depends on what we are talking about.  There are two main definitions of tea.  Technically tea is defined as “an aromatic beverage made by pouring hot or boiling water over the cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia senensis.”  Tea can also be defined as an infusion of hot water into a variety of aromatic herbs and spices without the use of the tea plant, which is most widely known as Herbal Tea.  Both have their merits, and are quite delicious, but for our purposes today, we will focus on the actual plant/beverage definition.

A short history on tea

Believe it or not, after water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the entire world (sorry coffee drinkers). It enjoys a rich history that began with the Chinese, who from ancient times first used the plant to make a medicinal drink.  While nobody knows for sure who invented the actual beverage, Chinese legend attributes it to Shennong back in 2737 BC, with the earliest recorded record of people drinking tea dating back to the 10th century BC.   What is most evident, is that it had become part of the country’s culture, and remained unknown to the outside world until the 16th century, where tea was first introduced to traders and priests from Portugal.  From there, it began a slow migration from nation to nation across the world as it was introduced to more and more people, becoming a much prized and treasured staple.


By the 1700’s, drinking tea became a popular pastime of the wealthy in England, although it was quite expensive.  The British eventually introduced tea seeds to its colony in India in order to compete against the Chinese monopoly on the supply. In time they were successful and fashioned an abundant supply of their own, creating a flourishing and profitable enterprise.  Unfortunately by the 1770’s due to an overabundance of tea on their hands, and thanks to the efforts of tea smugglers who sold it to the common folk in both Great Britain and the American colonies at reasonable prices, their profits dwindled, causing no small amount of consternation to the British government and their East India Trading Company.  Eventually to both save their company from financial ruin and to tighten the reins on the colonists in America, Britain enacted the Tea Act, which became the catalyst for both the Boston Tea Party and America’s Revolutionary War.


Wow!  Who knew that such a small leaf could have such a large effect on world events?

The three names for Tea
Being such a large country with many provinces and dialects, China gave rise to many different names for the tea plant and the beverage that it made.  The most influential and important of them can be boiled down to two main names, plus a special third derivative.

Te - from the Amoy language of the southern Fujian province.  This name migrated to the west through European traders who spread it throughout western Europe. From England to the colonies in America, Te became tea

Cha - from the Cantonese language of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau.  This name migrated to southern Europe and Portugal through trade with primarily Portuguese traders.

Chay - a Persian derivative of Cha.  The name Cha passed overland to Central Asia and picked up the yi suffix in Persia, before being passed on to Russia, Arabian and Turkish lands.  Our modern word Chai is derived from Chay.

Masala Chai
Interestingly enough, the English language over the years has used all three words.  Cha in the 16th century, Tea from the 17th century and Chai from the 20th century

Fun Fact:  Many people at coffee houses and shops often ask for “chai tea” when they are referring to the South Asian beverage with milk and Indian spices.  The proper name for this beverage is Masala Chai.  This knowledge is inferred by the server when you ask for the beverage referred to as chai.  Technically, by saying chai tea, you are actually saying “tea tea.”

In part two, I will delve into the health benefits of tea.  I will also provide you with a little information on proper tea preparation according to variety.  Stay tuned.

Blessings,


Nehemiah

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Plant Medicine: Eucalyptus: The Wonder from Down Under!



In my final installment about herbs and plants that are especially beneficial during cold and flu season, I would be remiss if I didn't bring up one of the most tried and true and most used remedies in the world; fragrant and refreshing Eucalyptus.


Native to Australia, Eucalyptus is related to the Tea tree, and is one of the fastest growing and tallest trees in the world.  In fact, Eucalyptus can grow as tall as 300 - 480 feet tall.  The name Eucalyptus means “well covered” which refers to the cap that cover the flower of the tree before it buds.  As trees go, it is a huge water lover,  and enjoys living in hilly terrain as well as damp marshy valleys, extending its very large and extensive root system deep into the soil.  It makes up about 75% of Australia's flora, and is especially abundant in the Blue Mountains region; so named because of the blue tinge the hovers over the entire area, caused by light reflecting from the fragrant organic gasses emitted by these trees.
   




Eucalyptus was revered by the Aboriginal Gundungurra and Darug peoples, used not only as a natural cure for fungal infections, skin wounds and a wide range of other illnesses and conditions, but as building material, fuel, and a natural wind break.   German born botanist and explorer Baron Ferdinand Von Muller after extensive study decided that the oil of the tree contained more antiseptic properties than the Cajeput oil used at the time.  As director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens he embarked on a quest to promote this discovery to the world, and succeeded in introducing Eucalyptus trees in southern Europe, North and South Africa, California and extreme tropical areas of South America.


In 1855 the French government planted the fast growing trees in Algeria during the Malaria outbreak, hoping that its aromatic properties would ward off the noxious gasses thought to trigger the disease.  It worked, but not because of the essential oils it contained, but rather because of its water hungry nature, the trees eradicated the habitat of the mosquitoes which transmitted the disease.

Though Van Muller publicized Eucalyptus oil as an antiseptic, it was first distilled back in 1788 by Dr. John White and Dr. Dennis Cossiden, who used the fragrant oil to treat disorders in the chest. Eventually it was prescribed for all respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, coughs and the flu. Over time, most families in Europe were using the oil and leaves to treat not only respiratory ailments but fever, skin problems, burns, ulcers and wounds. 
  

While there are over 400 different varieties (all with different variations of scents), Eucalyptus Globulus (also known as Blue Gum or Tasmanian Blue) is the main source of the Eucalyptus oil produced throughout the world, with the more significant producers including South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Chile, Swaziland and of course Australia.  However, pharmaceutical grade oil must have a minimum cineole (the active ingredient eucalyptol) content of 70%.  This strength is also used in very small quantity in commercial food preparation for flavoring.  Two other varieties Eucaluptus kochii and Eucalyptus polybractea have the highest cineole content between 80-95%.  Some producers of lower grade oils use a method called rectification (multiple distilling) to raise their oils up to the higher standard.

In today’s world, Eucalyptus is especially revered by aromatherapists and homeopaths due to its multiplicity of effects and uses.  Eucalyptus acts as an analgesic, antiviral, antiseptic, deodorant, expectorant and contains anti parasitic properties as well.  It is also frequently used as an ingredient in chest rubs, antiseptics, nasal decongestants, cough remedies, and in muscle and joint ointments. For your own personal or household use it can be used very easily in several ways.


For cold and flu: add several drops of Eucalyptus oil into a humidifier, vaporizer, or in a pot of boiled water removed from heat.  Breathe the steam deeply. This will allow for freer breathing as it relieves both nasal and lung congestion.  It also kills germs and helps to boost the immune system.  The oil can also be rubbed on the chest, back, throat, temples and on the reflex points of the feet (cover with socks).  Added to distilled water and “spritzed” on the body Eucalyptus oil can grant cooling relief for anyone suffering from fever (or for anyone during a hot day).


Skin support:  Add several drops to your bath or wash water.  This helps to relieve skin eruptions and oily complexions.  A few drops of oil on a cloth or compress dabbed on the skin can help treat eruptions from acne, herpes and chicken pox.

For wounds, boils and insect bites: Mix with an equal amount of Apple Cider Vinegar and dab on problem areas.


Deodorizer: Fill a spray bottle with distilled water.  Add several drops of oil.  Spray into the air.  In Europe and elsewhere, due to its stimulating properties, this mixture was sprayed within meeting halls before and between sessions of important meetings and discussions to "clear the air."  This gave rise to the belief that eucalyptus oil can cleanse the air of negativity.
 
For sore muscles and joints: Massage several drops of oil on the affected area.  As a natural analgesic, Eucalyptus can act as a liniment to relieve rheumatic, arthritic and other types of pain. It's perfect for sports medicine use on athletes as well.

As a delouser: Oddly enough, one of the benefits of Eucalyptus since it is a relative of Tea Tree, is that it is a very potent lice fighter.  It can be used in the same way as a substitute for Tea Tree oil.  I have included the recipe for a natural head lice treatment here.

A natural “Pick-me-up”: Place several drops of oil on the collar of your shirt if you like, or on a cloth, and carry it with you, sniffing it throughout the day.  Eucalyptus has a stimulating effect on the nervous system and has been shown to increase brain wave activity.  As such it can counter both physical and mental fatigue, as well as adding support for folks battling depression or lethargy.  It is also perfect for study time at school or while working on projects.

***There are a myriad of ways that Eucalyptus can be used, but as with all plant and herb remedies, caution should be applied before using it.  First of all, always search for and use the highest grade of oil.  If you suspect that you may have sensitive skin, use Eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil, or in a gentle cream or lotion before rubbing on the skin.  If you are unsure, do a spot test on a small area first, to see how your skin may react.  Eucalyptus oil should never be used during an asthma attack!  It should also never be used on infants, and should only be used on young children under the advice of a health care professional. As it can be highly toxic when taken internally, it is not advised unless approved and guided by a healthcare professional.

There are so many other uses of this wonderful bit of Plant Medicine, that space would not allow it all.  Search the internet and do your own research, and you will be amazed to find even more natural cures and benefits are available to you, compliments of the Wonder from down under.

Blessings,

Nehemiah

*** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs and plants are provided on this blog is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. ***