Monday, May 23, 2016

Benefits of Burdock Root Tea

Here's a new remedy for hair loss.

(I am like a dog with a bone. I am not letting up on the hair loss remedies or hair loss cures haha though I am happy that my hair is looking much healthier now. I wonder if it's the natural shampoo I'm using or the daily dang gui capsule that I'm taking? Or the fact that I am keeping my scalp cool and oil-free by washing my hair each time I feel my scalp heating up!)

This humble root called burdock has been made into burdock oil to prevent hair loss and encourage hair growth.

I stumbled upon this root when I was reading a post about the famous Five Element Soup.

I've seen burdock in Jusco and Tesco (funnily, never saw it in my Lip Sin wet market though!). It's a long root, about 2 feet, and usually marketed as gobo (in Japanese).

In Chinese, it's called Niu Pang. If you go to a Chinese herbalist or Chinese medical hall, its seeds are sold as Niu Pang Zi (Zi referring to the seeds).

I bought one gobo/burdock root today from Jusco for RM1.29 - yes, it is inexpensive.

But wait till you hear about the benefits of burdock.

Burdock root 

It's used as a detoxifying agent to clear acne and pimples. It helps with sore throats, rashes and skin conditions such as herpes and eczema. It is often made into a tea to purify the blood. 

The Europeans use the oil extract of burdock root for hair and scalp. It treats baldness and makes hair strong.

Cross-section of the burdock root. It can be eaten as a vegetable if you're not making a tea out of it. 

According to this website, burdock is a "member of the thistle family. It was originally grown in Europe and Asia, but is now widespread throughout the United States. It is a short, dull green plant that grows in light, well-drained soil, with wavy, heart-shaped leaves and roots that are brownish-green or black on the outside.Both the root and leaves are used in herbal remedies; however, the roots are the most important part in terms of herbal medicine."

Burdock is good for gastro-intestinal issues as it contains inulin and mucilage. I went digging about to find out more about inulin. It's a mixture of fructose polymers found in plants. It survives the harsh acidic conditions of your stomach juices and goes to the small intestine where it becomes food for the good bacteria in the large intestine (good bacteria are the same bacteria you ingest as probiotics in your yogurt and Yakult). 

I swear by Marigold yogurt because that's the only yogurt that seems to really have live lactobacili. How do I know this? I make my own yogurt and I often am successful when I use Marigold yogurt as a starter. When I use Dutch Lady yogurt as a starter, my yogurt falls flat. So I am a big fan of Marigold yogurt if only for the live active cultures!

(For my DIY yogurt how-to, I even got featured in a Chinese newspaper. The reporter googled and found me and was so curious about making yogurt at home that she interviewed me. Yes, the things I get up to!)

But I think you get only the goodness of inulin if you chomp on burdock? What happens if we make a tea out of it? Will inulin also be present in the tea? 

(For the record, I drank the tea and ate the burdock root. It tastes bland but the fibre is good for my intestines LOL. And I am never one to waste stuff. Must be those years of listening to my dad telling me about the African kids dying of starvation while growing up!).
Burdock is also anti-microbial. It can also reduce inflammation and liver damage. It also contains saponins which is the what makes it a blood cleanser or blood purifier. Saponins are also present in ginseng so you can say that burdock is a poor man's version. It also contains 150 times more beta-carotene than carrots. 
I made this into a tea because I felt that my body was a bit too heaty (I had a super late night last night - visited a friend and chatted till almost 1am!). 
I just scrubbed the root and using a peeler, peeled it all, skin included. You'll end up with strips of burdock. I saved a small portion of the root because I want to try growing burdock! The burdock I bought was labelled China gobo but I think I can grow this root into a plant. 
All you have to do next is dry the strips of burdock under the sun. I couldn't wait for the sun-dried burdock so I took a handful and simmered it in some water for 10 minutes. (Here's a lovely pictorial guide on making burdock tea.)
If you dry it well, you can keep it in a jar and each time you want some burdock tea to cleanse your blood, you can make tea immediately (either steeping the roots in boiling water or simmering it on a low fire). 
If you like a savoury soup made with this root, try this recipe from this site
*Here's some trivia - burdock or rather its burrs are the inspiration behind the famous Velcro invention. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Of Strengthening Teeth and Hair And A Story of A Place Called Vanamoolika

Remember I was complaining how my hair was falling like crazy some months ago?

My hair salon lady told me it could be the rice intake.

So I started eating more rice and also ate a host of other stuff (black sesame and white sesame seeds) and realized that my hair issue did improve.

Organic Herbal Shampoo Powder from Vanamoolika India

The back shows you the ingredients used in this powder shampoo. 

I also observed that my hair fall increased when the weather was hot and my scalp was sweaty and itchy. I usually wash my hair every two days but sometimes when my scalp became too itchy, I had to wash my hair daily. I realized it also helped prevent hair loss.

I deduced that when my scalp is itchy, the hair follicles may be "open" and this made my hair drop. While I feared daily hair washing could increase the number of hair dropping, the reverse was true.

When I washed my hair daily and my scalp was cool, hair fall became less and less. I was so relieved! You know that feeling....after a shower and shampoo, I'd look at the drain cover and see if there's a bunch of hair over it.

When there wasn't, I was super relieved!

Side Story...My Fascination With Soaps 

Whenever I go for a meal at Ananda Bhawans, I made sure I popped by the Indian sundry shop right across. I usually go to stock up on my soap and toothpaste supply. We've been using this brand called Dabur Herbal Toothpaste (they have variations in clove and neem) for a few years now and prefer this over Colgate.

I think we started using the Dabur clove toothpaste when Nic started to complain about his gums aching a few years back. I started researching and found that neem or clove toothpaste was good for teeth and gums.

That was how we started and till now, I find that it is still one of the best toothpaste around and much better than Colgate.

As for soaps, Nic and I have now gone back to using soaps. I've never been much of a body shampoo fan because I actually like the feel of soaping myself and the actual clean feeling after soaping and showering. I dislike that body shampoo feel - you know, as if you have a layer of something despite showering it all off!

We've been trying a few made in India soaps as well as made in Thailand soaps. But that's another post for another day. Possibly a soap review!

While cleaning out my junk today, I found some Ayurvedic hair products I bought some 6 years ago. I debated whether I should throw them out or not. I disliked wasting stuff so I thought heck, I'd keep them and use them.

Visiting Kerala's Organic Herb Farms 

In 2010, I went off to Pulpally, a town in Kerala, India with a client (now ex-client). He wanted to check out the organic farming of herbs and do some form of joint venturing with the local contact.

From the moment we touched down at the Mumbai airport to the time we left via the Chennai airport, I knew the local contact was an absolute con man.

All of us on the trip comprising us (as in Nic and me), his Malaysian employees and his European friends - all of us knew in the pit of our stomachs that the local contact was a fat-faced liar.

The local contact was promising the sky and the earth and everything else in between.

Eventually, the deal didn't close. But all of us were treated to a week of travelling in Kerala (God's own country, or so says the Kerala State slogan - Kerala is by the way a Communist region), eating vegetarian food, getting oil massages and visiting organic farmers.

It was in a place called Vanamoolika that we started our exploration. This place functioned like a cooperative for Indian farmers. The interesting thing was, the farmers or growers of the herbs and plants were mostly women.

They had a small building that was a factory churning out products made using Ayurvedic recipes and locally grown Indian herbs. Besides herbs for making Ayurvedic medicinal products, they also grew pepper, vanilla and cloves. And they sold them at Vanamoolika.

India is a good place to visit because it's affordable (OK, it's so inexpensive that it's quite laughable).

Organic herbal Kesa Kala Hair Oil from Vanamoolika

See? It says only 140 rupees! 

The hair oil product I bought wasn't expensive at all. At 140 rupees, it was about RM8. I even managed to buy a packet of vanilla pods for RM21. I should've bought more but hindsight is always 20-20. (Now you can see that Vanamoolika has raised its prices for its products. Maybe inflation? Or export pricing is always higher?)

So I found my hair oil product and the herbal powder shampoo today while decluttering. And I decided that I would keep and use them, instead of throwing them away. I doubt herbal hair products have expiry dates.

Herbs In The Ayurvedic Shampoo

The organic herbal shampoo powder lists its ingredients as:

Hibiscus rosasinesis - which is Hibiscus flower (our national flower, by the way). My best friend's mother-in-law uses crushed hibiscus flowers to wash her hair. I know for a fact that her mother-in-law has really dark and thick hair even though she is in her 60s.

Alpinia galanga - which is greater galangal. Galangal is a root that's often used in Southeast Asian cooking. Mixed with a base-oil, it is employed as an anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatic ointment, or otherwise as a topical hair and scalp oil said to promote hair growth by increasing blood flow towards the scalp (says this website).

Cardiospermum halicacabum - which is Balloon Vine. This is a plant with a heart-shape on its seed! It is reputed to be prevent hair from graying, is a hair growth enhancer and prevents dandruff. In Mexico, it's called Cat's Testicles. This plant is also used for regulating menstrual disorders.

Indigofera tinctoria - which is Black Henna or True Indigo which is also a plant. The leaves of the Indigo plant are used to make hair dye and medicated hair oil. Powdered or ground leaves is made into black hair dye. It makes hair more manageable and shiny.

Sida retusa - which is Wireweed...and yes, it's actually a weed! I couldn't find any info on why this weed is useful for the hair but it does cure headaches. Maybe it cools the head!

Cyclea Peltata - which is Raja Patha, another herb.

Saturday DIY Hair Spa

I also tried them on my hair today, just to give myself some pampering. I massaged the hair oil into m hair and scalp and left it on for a good 15 minutes. Next, I poured out the herbal powder shampoo and mixed it into a paste with some water. I slathered this onto my oiled hair and scalp. Left this on my head for a good 10 minutes before washing my hair.

(If you know me, I am always using some Indian hair oil or something. I love how Indians have shiny, thick hair and I believe their hair oils and hair treatments have something to do with it.)

Apparently I shouldn't use any shampoo after this treatment but I felt my hair was still a little oily so I used a little shampoo to cleanse my scalp.

Accordingly, the hair oil and herbal powder shampoo contains herbs that cool the scalp. When the scalp is cool, fewer hair issues happen. I also think if the head is hot, there's just too much "prana" and my remedy is to wash my hair or in extreme cases, have a hair cut!

I learnt about prana during my years doing yoga and I believe that too much heat in the head also causes hair loss. I always think of the brain as a hard disk - it spins all the time (or fires neurons or synapses or what have you - I am so not a brain scientist) and this creates heat. The heat has to go off somewhere but doing hair treatments like these perhaps helps remove and reduce the heat!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pegaga Juice Benefits The Brain & Then Some

I bought a bunch of fresh pegaga leaves from the market last week. They were selling for RM3. Initially I didn't know if I should make ulam with it or blend it into a juice.

To make ulam, I had to have sambal belacan which I didn't! I have some ulam raja growing in my garden now and that would have made a great ulam platter together with pegaga.

In the end, I decided to juice the pegaga leaves. What I did was simply throw them into my blender with some water, blended them thoroughly and then sieved the juice out. I also mixed in some honey. I end up with quite a bit of pegage juice so I bottle them up using glass bottles and refrigerate them. 

Pegaga can still be found in most markets and even if you're too lazy to juice your own pegaga, you can still get it cheaply at drink stalls like the famous Penang Road Teochew cendol. 

Pegaga juice is a refreshing and cooling drink for hot and humid days. Penang is undergoing its hot spell now and each day I seem to sweat buckets. I am bathing some 4 times daily and sometimes just before I go to bed.

Besides being a cooling beverage, pegaga or gotu kola is also good for "fatigue, anxiety, depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer's disease, and improving memory and intelligence. Other uses include wound healing, trauma, and circulation problems (venous insufficiency) including varicose veins, and blood clots in the legs". (from this source)

There's also an alternative way of drinking pegaga from this useful blog post.

It goes on to say that some women use gotu kola for preventing pregnancy, absence of menstrual periods, and to arouse sexual desire. Gotu kola is sometimes applied to the skin for wound healing and reducing scars, including stretch marks caused by pregnancy. (I wonder if the leftovers from blending the juice can be used for this!)

WebMD states that "gotu kola contains certain chemicals that seem to decrease inflammation and also decrease blood pressure in veins. Gotu kola also seems to increase collagen production, which is important for wound healing."

Another thing to note: I often see on blogs that they feature pegaga that is ornamental. I have a pot of ornamental pegaga too but i am unsure if this is the edible species. The ones I buy from the market is a little different in appearance.