Cold Maceration Of Peppercorns and Almonds

A traditional way to prepare several herbs and spices is by soaking them in a small glass of water overnight. This method of preparation is called a cold maceration. When we do this, we are either looking to soften some of the harder to digest spices and nuts or we are looking to pull some of the plant compounds into the water like a tea, but without using heat. Typically the process is very quick. Place your herbs or spices into a cup and pour tap or bottled water over it. Cover with a small plate to keep airborne particles from falling into your cup while it sits on the counter overnight.

There are many ways to prepare herbs and spices. Many herbs have compounds that are harder to extract and thus require more intense processes than just a cold soak. Various levels of heat are often used, but crushing, pressing, oils, and alcohol extractions are sometimes needed to get at the plant compounds we seek. Cold macerations work simply, gently, and require little in the way of tools or preparation time.

1: Peppercorn Maceration – Pepper is a pungent spice that warms, dries, and stimulates digestion. By soaking five whole peppercorns overnight in water you make them easier to digest. Drink the liquid and swallow the peppercorns whole like a vitamin. Use them to help burn up mucus or to awaken a sluggish digestive system. Sometimes I will do this when I know I am going out for pizza. All that cheesy goodness is a bit hard to process. I will prepare my peppercorns in the morning and drink them before going out that night. This is great for reducing mucus caused by colds as well. It is also wonderful for stimulating digestion if you are overeating. A few peppercorns help to diminish some of the negative effects of overindulgence by enhancing our body’s ability to process all that excess food.

2: Almond Maceration – Almonds help to nourish, replenish, and ground us. Almonds are high in protein, zinc, and good fats and if you’re interested in learning more about their benefits they are often recommended for calming the nervous system, sexual depletion, smooth muscle health, and as a healthy snack option for weight loss. They are excellent for building up fluids in the body, including male sexual fluids. In that vein they are often recommended for men that are trying to conceive.  The practice would be to soak three to five almonds overnight and then eat them as a daily supplement to replenish sexual fluids specifically, but also to nourish and restore the body in general.

Both of these examples are very forgiving to beginners. Give them a try just for fun!

Medical Theories Of The World

There are many healing systems used throughout the world.  Medicine as we typically know it here in the west is called Allopathic Medicine.  It has its own assumptions, theories, and modes of practice.  But, it isn’t the only system of medicine out there. It’s good to know that medicine is a universal human need and that we have successfully created many different systems and theories to help restore health and wellness.

Medical systems tend to develop within cultural frameworks. Every tribe and culture throughout history had its own wise women, shamans, and the like.  Today, three of the most widely practiced medical systems are from three great cultures: Ayurveda from India, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM,) and Allopathic Medicine from the west. Even within our western culture, we have sprouted homeopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine and several others.

All of these types of medicine stand apart from each other in some of their major premises.  Ayurveda and TCM both believe that disease is a result of imbalances within the individual.  They have very different language and practices, but they share the assumption that health can be restored by bringing the body back into balance energetically.  Allopathic medicine uses germ theory, genetic theory, and deficiency theories to halt disease and its symptoms.

Let’s take insomnia for example. One of homeopathy’s primary theories states that ‘like energy cures like symptom.’  So a homeopathic cure for insomnia where your mind, ‘just won’t shut off,’ would be a very dilute dose of something that stimulates your mind, like coffee. This is very different from a chiropractic theory of spinal alignment, which would work to adjust subluxations in your spine in order to calm the nervous system and reduce insomnia.  TCM might look to balance your gall bladder or spleen meridians with acupuncture using meridian theory.

While we can’t define all the differences here, we can get a sense that there are very real and substantial differences between medical systems.  Those differences can result in very different prescriptions from your doctor for the same health problem. Many times I have seen someone switch systems, from allopathic to alternative or vice versa, to great personal benefit. Their new doctor had different foundational assumptions that created a different framework of medicine, different diagnosis and different prescriptions for cure.

Caution: We often get into the ‘Ford vs. Chevy’ argument in regards to medical systems. While we may be firmly entrenched in our own beliefs, we must recognize that all of these different viewpoints on health and disease are being used in the real world.  They have all been around for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Caution:  Finding great practitioners who practice all these different medical theories… that’s another issue altogether.

Juicing and Smoothies

There are lots of food fads that come and go. The juicing fad has recently been overtaken by the smoothie fad, which will move over to the next.  While I enjoy and recommend both smoothies and juicing, I wanted to dig a little deeper into a couple of the reasons that these are beneficial practices. I find that both juices and smoothies work with your digestive system to increase the nutrient density of a meal and to decrease the barriers to bringing those nutrients into your body.

Juicing is a great way to increase nutrient density in particular. By extracting all of the juices and leaving the heavy pulp, you create a situation where you can get much of the nutrients from a piece of fruit, while taking up only a fraction of the space in your stomach.  In this way you can juice many times the amount of fruit and veggies that you could eat in a day.  One juicing program I know recommeds each person juice 22 lbs. of fruit and veggies a day! Juice also takes very little energy to digest keeping all your energy available for detoxification.

Cons of juicing are that you leave behind a couple important dietary items in the discarded shavings, you need to purchase a juicing machine, and it takes a bit of time to clean up.

Smoothies take a slightly different approach.  They don’t focus on providing such intense nutrient density, but they make fruits and vegetables much easier to digest because a blender has already chewed up the food.  Smoothies give you all the fiber and nutrients that you would be dumping out in the pulp after juicing.  It doesn’t let you get the number of vegetable servings that juicing does, because you are eating the whole vegetable, but it does a great job of delivering nutrients that are digestable.

Caution: The new smoothie fad is all about prepackaged smoothie mixes.  The tradeoff you get with these easy to make powdered products is that you lose the vitality and active enzymes that you get with real foods.

Many healing diets and cleanses are built around the two core concepts of getting high nutrient density into the body and decreasing the energy we spend digesting our food.  Both smoothies and juicing deliver on both of these key points and should be considered parts of a healthy diet or for special cleanses.  Plus they taste delicious!

Looking for a simple juice recipe to start?  Try 3 carrots, 2 apples, and 1 stalk of celery.   Add a pinch of ginger for some spice!

A nice place to start with smoothies is: 1/2 cup Apple Juice, 1/2 cup yogurt, and 1 cup of your favorite frozen berrys.  Optionally, you can add 2 Tbs. protein powder and honey to taste.

Greenwashing

Today I wanted to make you aware of a term called greenwashing.  It’s an important trend for all of us to know about; especially if you are trying to go green. The idea behind greenwashing is that companies can take advantage of the green consumer by slapping an “all natural” label on products without really providing a green product.

One example of a product line getting greenwashed is Burt’s Bee’s.  Burt sold his company several years ago to Clorox.  Burt was a hippie through and through, and built a brand that stood for his ideals from the ground up.  He made a great product that spoke strongly to his market and made millions because of it.  I was managing a yoga gift shop at the time, and I watched the Burt’s Bees product line change drastically for the worse after Clorox purchased the brand.  Let me just say that we stopped carrying it within a year because the only thing that stayed the same was the packaging.

Greenwashing happens in many ways, and it happens a lot. Sometimes it is blatantly unethical marketing.  Sometimes executives simply don’t understand what going green means.  Regardless, the bottom line is that the scope and extent of greenwashing puts serious distrust into the process of purchasing green products. People looking for healthier options believe they have a right to know about the ingredients in the foods they eat and in the personal care products they put onto their bodies.  They also believe that there need to be standards upheld in the definitions of the words used, such as natural, organic, and ethically sourced.  They want to trust that their ideals and ethics are shared by the companies they purchase from.

Since the practice of greenwashing strikes deep into the ideals of green consumers you can guess that there is some activism in response.  Two issues that are being battled in courts right now are truth in labeling, and legally defined standards for terms like ‘organic.’  Voices for the green movement are fighting for structure so that the muddy terminology can be cleaned up, making greenwashing more difficult to do.  The most interesting, and to me scary, legal battles happening right now are the truth in labeling ones.  Recently California voted no on a proposition to force GMO foods to be labeled as such.  Why would special interests spend millions to keep the fact that we are buying products that include GMO foods hidden? It makes me wonder, “Would we buy their products if we knew the whole truth about how they were made, packaged, and their ingredients?”

And so the issue is trust and how much energy you are going to devote to making sure your products are delivering to your standards.  Retailers all have buyers and policies about how they choose their products.  One of the best ways to make the process easy is to find a retailer that you can trust and let them do the research for you.  However, you need to trust the retailer and pay attention to what products they have on their shelves.  Back To Bliss has very stringent product requirements on personal care items, however there are others that are even more strict than us.

The bottom line on the issue is that if you are one of those green consumers, you need to decide how passionate about it you are, because when it comes to green, the path is pretty gray.