Fresh Turmeric as a powerful, natural anti-inflammatory

So April has arrived in the Lake District, a seasonal mix of snow flurries, arctic winds and rain.  And then, suddenly, just in time, an achingly beautiful day of yellow sunshine, bird song and daffodils.

I’ve washed my greenhouse until it sparkles, hauled wheelbarrows of delicious, wriggly compost across to my vegetable beds, pleaded with my roses and upped my wild bird feeding to daily top ups.

Today it was rain again, and all around me my patients are coughing and aching as another bad cold blows in.

Fresh turmeric shots to the rescue!

I spent the morning putting together a recipe for fresh turmeric shots to take into work with me, and hand round to anyone who would like one. Delicious, anti-inflammatoryvirus busting in tiny, daily glass-fulls

Turmeric has been used as a Chinese herb for thousands of years. It has a deep, penetrating, cooling and detoxifying quality and has strong anti viral and anti bacterial properties. It is particularly good for damping down chronic inflammation and soothing away aches and pains. In Chinese Medicine it is too cold to be used on it’s own, and is almost always combined with something that has naturally warming properties to protect the stomach. I’m using fresh ginger here to do the job, but if I were making a fresh turmeric tea then I might also use star anise (which would also help clear phlegm from the chest) or cinnamon. The carrot, apple and orange add in loads of anti oxidant vitamin C. If you’re worried about the rush of sugar from juicing in this way, then you could have something containing protein or  healthy oils at the same time as your juice shot. I had poached eggs with avocado. The oils and protein in the avocado and eggs slow down the absorption of sugar, and also help even more of the turmeric to be absorbed from the juice.

So here it is. You’ll need a juicer of some sort. You could try making it in smoothy form, but I think you’d be better off doing a sort of therapeutic soup if you did it in that way. I’ll  post a recipe for that later.

since this is a juice and lots of the best bits of fruit and veg are close to the skin or peel, try to use organic and keep the skin on. Just wash and scrub with a mild detergent, then rinse. If you can’t find organic, then you’d be better off peeling everything before juicing.

take

an apple (cored)

an orange (peeled)

a carrot

two large, whole pieces of fresh turmeric root

twice as much fresh ginger as turmeric eg a large thumb sized amount

put it all through a juicer (I used a masticating, slow juicer) introducing the softer pieces like the orange first, and the hard carrot chunks last to squeeze everything through.

It’s always best to have juice as fresh as possible, but juiced in this way, with such a high concentration of ant oxidants, and kept in the fridge in a sealed glass container, this juice will still be alive and kicking for the next three days!

 

 

A therapeutic, spicy, pumpkin soup to help eat up your pumpkins!

 

October 31st is here again and I’ve collected all my pumpkins into the safety of my green house before the first frosts.

It’s been a terrible year for growing pumpkins and all other Winter squash here in the Lake District. They thrive on late Summer sunshine and, although we had a beautiful Spring, July onwards rained more than I like to admit. The one squash that did well was a tromboncino, a beautiful squash that left the remains of my climbing bean supports draped in little, twisting, lime green trombones.

But Halloween has its needs, and I sacrificed two of my small collection of round squash to light up my clinic window for tonight. These, in the photo, are a delicious Rouge Vif d’Etampes and a little, blue Crown Prince.

Now both of these are far too tasty to throw away, so I’ve put together the recipe for the therapeutic, spicy, pumpkin soup that I’ve made with my pumpkin innards.

Here you go. Remember, the key with pumpkins is to do everything you can to add flavour. These two types of squash are sweet and nutty without too much help, but if you’re carving a big round American pumpkin, then up the quantities of spices a bit and keep tasting

  • Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out the innards with your hand (very gruesomely appropriate for Halloween!
  • scoop out the flesh with a spoon and knife, cut up the big chunks a bit, place on a baking tray with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast until it begins to brown. This step really helps boost the flavour.
  • Meanwhile slowly fry up four chopped red onions until caramelising.
  • Add four chopped garlic cloves, a half thumb sized, chopped piece of ginger,  the same amount of washed and grated fresh turmeric (or three teaspoons of dried turmeric powder) and continue to fry for a couple of minutes.
  • Add 3 chopped sticks of celery, three chopped, large carrots, a chopped, red pepper and a small red, chopped, chilli pepper. Stir, add a slosh of water to stop it burning and cook with the lid on and occasional shaking or stirring for 10 mins.
  • Add three teaspoons of marigold bouillon, three heaped teaspoons of baharat spice mix, one and a half litres of water and all the baked pumpkin (I hope you started with your biggest saucepan!)
  • Add a mug of red lentils and simmer for twenty mins.
  • Add 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, a slosh of red wine vinegar and a few handfuls of spinach or chard leaves and cook for another ten mins.

Whizz it before eating and grate some cheese on top when you serve. I like a blob of rose harrisa too.

So from a therapeutic point of view the squash is a fantastic Yin tonic, which is just what we all need for going forwards into Winter with our batteries fully charged! It’s packed with minerals and vitamins;  lots of immune-supportive vitamin A, folate, B6 and potassium as well as loads of free radical- scavenging vitamin C. The spices in the Baharat (one of my favourite spice mixes) are warming and help fend off Winter colds. The turmeric is anti inflammatory and the chilli and ginger balance its coolness to keep the soup warming. So delicious and good for you too.

Now off to squeeze into my Witches costume (Oh I’m in it already!)

 

Two Late-Winter Soups to fight Infection

A photograph of two homemade soups.

Another late Winter day, but I felt the first hint of Spring around the corner last Wednesday!

It’s difficult to define what made it happen, but suddenly I looked at my garden in a slightly different way; I noticed bulbs pushing through, bird song and I had my first urge to start tidying things up. Right on cue my hens started laying properly again. I think day length has something to do with it; and something to do with the quality of light.

Continue reading “Two Late-Winter Soups to fight Infection”

A Therapeutic Soup for a Grey, January Day

A photograph of homemade soup.

Today was a warm day for this time of year, but in all other respects pretty typical for a January day; wet, grey and still dark in the mornings and early afternoons.

There was still a bit of light when I got home this afternoon and I wandered down to the bottom of the garden to check up on my chickens and see what was still growing in the vegetable patch for dinner.

Continue reading “A Therapeutic Soup for a Grey, January Day”

Anti-inflammatory dinners

A photograph of a collection of home-grown squash.

Most people who know me suffer my obsession with pumpkins! It starts about now when the beauties are brought in from the garden, through Winter as I cook them, save the seeds then agonise over which to keep for growing the following Spring, Spring of course when the seeds are sown, and Summer when they are coaxed along with numerous  cunning tricks and treats!

It’s not actually just pumpkins. It’s courgettes, gourds, squash of all types (and marrows when the courgettes get away unnoticed and reappear a foot long!) I have to confess that marrows are my least favourite – but even they have some uses. Winter squash are my true obsession amongst which various types of pumpkin all rate highly!

Pumpkins are truly important in Chinese Medicine, and Autumn is their particularly useful time of year. In Autumn, Chinese Medicine predicts that people are especially vulnerable to lung and skin problems. It’s the season of coughs and colds; the start or worsening of phlegm related problems – sinusitis, asthma, rhinitis, vertigo and sickness. It’s also the season of eczema, psoriasis and all sorts of odd rashes and sores.

Pumpkins to the rescue! (or at least part of the rescue!). Pumpkins are sweet, round and (often) orange, which are all Spleen related attributes. In Chinese Medicine theory nourishing the spleen helps the Lungs et voila!
Plus, of course, they are packed full of an amazing quantity of vitamins and minerals and taste delicious. if this doesn’t sway you then their seeds also have a track history of curing worms, especially tape and round worm – see?!

I tested the anti fungal, viral, bacterial  and worm (slug actually in this instance) properties of pumpkins this Summer when I tragically caught a growing squash with the lawn mower.

After I had calmed down I brought out some pumpkin seed oil and swabbed my pumpkin’s wounds. I braced myself for disaster over the coming days –  but no! the squash grew on undeterred. The scars never regained the right colour but seemed to resist infection perfectly. The survivor is the beautiful green lobular pumpkin in the front row of the photo above.

At last! On to something useful! Here comes a recipe containing foods and herbs and spices which are medicinally therapeutic  from a Chinese Medicine perspective, and also makes a perfect anti – inflammatory dinner.

Heat up some oil –  Coconut oil is a good one to heat up and contains Lauric acid – good for infections.

cook some chopped onion in the hot oil until soft and a bit brown then add lots of chopped up veg and herbs and spices. You really don’t have to be too careful which, but if they’re denser like butternut squash, cook for a bit longer than leafy veg like broccoli or spinach. Here’s how;

Start with lots of chopped garlic, root ginger, fresh turmeric if you have it,
then add ground cumin, a few squashed green cardamom pods, ground coriander, crushed, chopped or dried chillies, depending on how hot you like things.
Add some marigold bouillon powder

next the veg;
I like to use winter squash (of course) cut into chunks, sweet potato, carrots
then add some or all of;
french beans, celery, broccoli, or cauliflower
then spinach, chard or pak choi
I like to add loads of chopped parsley

Add a little water and cook until the veg are nearly cooked through (this won’t take long)

Add a tin of coconut if you like it.

Bring back to a simmer

slide in some big chunks of fish. I like naturally smoked haddock – just boned.

cook until the fish is cooked through (about five to ten mins depending how big your chunks are)
Try not to break up the chunks of fish too much if you stir.

Delicious, easy, uses up all your veg left overs, and perfectly anti – inflammatory.

Don’t forget to keep your pumpkin or squash seeds for growing next year!

Ps I know its not right to have favourites, but the tastiest pumpkins are the grey lobular French ones if you can find one!

Chinese Medicine and the Autumn Equinox

A photograph of the sun setting in Cumbria.

Happy Autumn equinox!

This is one of the important times of year in Chinese medicine – the change from Summer to Autumn. 

It’s a good time to plan ahead for looking after ourselves as the days get shorter.

For some people this is an instinctively energising thought! The smell and feel of Autumn makes this group of people want to wrap up and go mushroom hunting in beautiful woodland! They want to build bonfires, make chutney and pick apples for making cider all at the same time!

For everyone else the arrival of Autumn is a deeply mournful event, with the prospect of song birds departing, day-light dwindling and – oh most misery making of all – Christmas embedded somewhere in the heart of the long months ahead!

There are acupuncture points which can help with seasonal adjustment and – particularly important for this seasonal change – help protect us from catching one of the colds, flues and sick bugs that are out and about.

To help ourselves we can make sure that we stay warm enough – still not difficult in this amazing weather but watch out for it getting colder!

We can take up some gentle form of exercise like yoga or walking, make the most of the last of the sunshine strong enough to be topping up our vitamin D levels, and start adding warming herbs and spices to our food and drinks again. Try cooking up apples and pears with cinnamon and a tiny bit of clove, make your own elderberry cordial or spicy ginger cordial. I’ll add a recipe for these next time.

Anti-inflammatory Diet

A photograph of turmeric root.

Here it is at last!

An anti inflammatory diet that anyone can do with a bit of planning ahead!

I’ve seen an increasing number of clients recently who would love to try to make some changes to help themselves, but are out-faced by the mountain of conflicting dietary advice there is out there.

Chinese Medicine has a fantastic approach to how and what we eat.

As always with Chinese Medicine, it’s very individually tailored; taking into account the time of year, climate, constitution and individual health needs of each person. But at its core it has the same basic principals for making food as easy to digest as possible, so that we can extract the energy that we need and love to make our lives as fulfilling as possible.

So I’ve taken Chinese Medicine principals and merged them with the best researched and recommended dietary advice for helping reduce inflammation in the body.

Just to prove how determined I’ve been to make sure this is achievable while keeping up a busy lifestyle and a love of good food, I’ve been eating this way for two months now and its just felt easier and easier!

So…here we go…..

First of all who would this be good for?

Well anyone with any level of inflammation!

That would include sports injuries, arthritis and general aches and pains, autoimmune problems for example rheumatoid arthritis and MS, hay fever and other conditions causing sinus inflammation, menopause or other problems relating to a drop in hormone levels for example PMT, and anything else where inflammation is causing problems.

Inflammation often causes pain and a need for our bodies to try and repair things and that can be a cause of tiredness, low energy and not recovering or feeling as well as we feel we should, so I’d give this a try if any of that fits the bill too!

What to have lots of:

– Vegetables. You can limit tomatoes if you like. I’m eating tomatoes because they have so many health benefits, but I’m limiting concentrated tomato paste.

– Fish. Especially fish that live in cold water. I’m avoiding farmed fish and most tinned fish, although I’m having Fish 4 ever sustainably caught, tinned fish.

– Fruit. Lots of delicious in-season fruit around at the moment. I’m avoiding unripe fruit including fruit that’s imported and will probably never properly ripen. This isn’t such a problem at the moment but for example, in Winter I’d avoid strawberries.

– Nuts and seeds. I’m making a big mix of hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, linseed, poppy seeds, un-hulled sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. Lightly toast them and keep them to add to things in handfuls, or just snack on when you’re hungry.

– Healthy oils (pumpkin oil, hemp oil, olive oil).

– Pulses (I love adding cannellini beans, butter beans, chick peas and lentils to vegetable casseroles and tagines.

But don’t panic!

I think it’s important not to get too focussed on the things that are best limited. I’m relaxing things at weekends and having a big cappuccino and croissant for breakfast for example!

An excellent Chinese Medicine principal is that whatever we do shouldn’t feel too forced, unnatural or stressful. In dietary terms this includes fasting, drinking lots of cold water at meal times, only having juices or smoothies as our nutrition and on and on.

I see so many people who have ended up restricting their diets so severely and fearfully that food becomes primarily stressful.

Not what we’re after with this at all!

Bearing this in mind I think I’ll launch this just in its present format!

Anyone who wants to have a go or join me on this dietary adventure, start off working on the list of things to have lots of!

Keep that up for a week and then get going on the things to limit; I’ll write about these on Friday!

Good luck!

Early Winter

We’re heading towards December 21st and the shortest day now.

In Chinese medicine there are quite a few points of interest about this time of year.

In general terms it is a time of increasing yin with less light and warmth, and more rainfall.

In theory our behaviour should complement this by our taking more rest and relaxation, slowing down, taking stock and, crucially, getting to bed earlier for more hours of sleep.

Of course this doesn’t fit at all with our acceleration towards Christmas! It’s the season of late night shopping, Christmas parties and, for a lot of people, mounting stress from distant family members all homing in-or missing people who won’t be able to be present  at family Christmases any more.

Our coping strategy is often to take more stimulants to keep us going; warm, yang enhancing substances like coffee, spirits and chocolates. Unfortunately, in Chinese medical theory, this has the effect of depleting our yin, leaving us exhausted and vulnerable to colds and aches.

It might be worth banking some early nights, finding a good book and starting that long promised stretching routine.

I’m off to bed but I’ll write about SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in the morning!

Keeping healthy in Autumn

Early Autumn.

This weekend has been a perfect couple of Autumnal days.

Warm enough in the sunshine to encourage my bees out for a last bit of nectar gathering but not warm enough for a brave skinny dipper at Beacon tarn to get in further than his ankles!

In Chinese medicine this is one of the two most powerful times of the year (the other being early Spring).

The late Summer time of plentiful food, daylight and warmth start moving into Autumn with its rapidly shortening days, drenching dews and first frosts.

This is the season of the Lungs in TCM. It’s a time when a lot of people catch chesty colds, andasthma can worsen temporarily. Because of the connection between the Lungs in TCM and skin, I often see more skin problems at this time of year too.

Historically the Chinese have always been very careful with their health at this time of year. In Japan too, when I lived there, the company canteen would be careful to add warming, pungent spices to our food.

The aim in Chinese medicine is to hold onto the health that we have gained through the Summer for as long as possible into the Winter months. It is thought helpful to avoid getting cold and wet, and to take special care drying off properly. In TCM open windows at night at this time of year, along with going to bed with wet hair, are thought to contribute towards stiff, painful necks and shoulders.

Using warming herbs and spices like ginger, coriander, pepper, cumin and turmeric in our food and home made drinks can help to stop the cold and damp from getting inside us!

In my next post I’ll write a few recipes aimed at restoring or maintaining health at this time of year.