Kombucha- Brew your own

A friend recently told me he’d been getting into making batches of kombucha at home and excitedly told me just how easy the whole process is. I’ve wanted to try it for a while but in my mind always thought it was a lengthy task and pretty risky messing around with different types of bacteria. After a recent catch up he sent me on my way with a kombucha recipe and a “scoby” in a little snaplock bag with starter tea, which to me resembled something between a mushroom and an alien!

The benefits of kombucha

Finally much knowledge from the ancient East has swept to the West and in particular the view that many diseases begin in the gut. You need a fine balance of good and bad bacteria to support the production and absorption of nutrients throughout the body, to have goodkombucha benefits digestion and strong immunity (amongst other things). Kombucha helps in all of these ways due to the beneficial probiotics contained within. The scoby stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast” and is the “heart” of the kombucha which can be used time and time again and in fact duplicates upon almost every batch. This allows you to spread the love amongst any friends that are interested in brewing their own batch! Kombucha is a refreshing and bubbly alternative to synthetic soft drinks packed with sugar and artificial flavours.

Key benefits

  • Detoxifying
  • Immunity boosting
  • Increased energy
  • Supported digestion
  • Supports a healthy nervous system
  • Decreases sugar cravings
  • Antioxidant rich

Rather than buying expensive probiotic supplements or milk drinks (you’ve seen the ads!) why not try make your own kombucha! It really is so easy and I can almost do it with my eyes closed only after making a few batches.

How to make kombucha

Ingredients

  • 2L water
  • 100ml white vinegar
  • 1x kombucha scoby (you can purchase online)
  • 125ml starter tea (comes in package you buy online)
  • 4 bags of tea of your choice (I use rosehip & black tea)
  • 1/2 cup of raw sugar

Equipment needed

  • 1 x small funnel
  • 1x pot (to hold 2L water)
  • 1x 2.5L glass jar with sealed top
  • Swing top glass bottles for keeping final product in fridge
  1. Bring 2L water to the boil then remove from heat and stir in sugar and tea bags. Then leave to cool to room temperature (I leave mine out overnight). The mixture needs to be cooled otherwise it will kill the important bacteria in the scoby.
  1. Once cooled remove tea bags and stir in your 100ml of vinegar then pour the liquid into a sterilized glass jar (use boiling water to sterilize). Now pour in your starter tea and either allow the scoby to slide out on its own or rinse your hands in vinegar and carefully place the scoby into the jar. Rinsing your hands with vinegar disallows any unwanted bacteria to enter the batch. You want to make sure the scoby is sitting flat on top and not folded in half.
  1. Seal off the glass jar and use a label to mark the date of brewing. Store the jar at room temperature somewhere out of direct sunlight and leave to ferment the kombucha for 7-14 days. Around the 7 day mark I use a straw to slide in under the scoby and taste test- it’s up to you how long you want to leave it to ferment and all comes down to taste.

There you have it! It’s as simple as that! You will find you need to experiment a little with the balance of vinegar and sugar, I found myself using slightly less vinegar than the recipe and slightly more sugar due to my batch tasting too vinegary. It’s completely normal for floaty or stringy bits to hang off the scoby and even turn up in your final product. You will often find the scoby grows a second layer, which can be separated and given to a friend (see below notes) or simply thrown out into the compost.

To continue making further batches places the original scoby in a small seal bag with 125ml of the final kombucha (this becomes the starter tea). It’s important to inspect the scoby and make sure there is no green or black mold and no rotten or unpleasant odours before using it for a fresh batch. Happy brewing!

Image courtesy of Dr Axe (www.draxe.com)

The wonders of burdock root

What I love about the Japanese culture is just how health and beauty conscious they are. We could certainly learn a thing or two from them in our modern Western world and I’ve recently stuck my head in to the traditional remedies that they and other cultures have natural healthbeen depending on for thousands of years direct from mother nature. Burdock root holds some incredible properties and is great to drop a few roots into a cup of tasty miso soup.¬†

After a bad blood infection and reoccurring large and painful boils on my legs while on an extended trip in remote Mentawai Islands, I decided to look into having a tonic made up from a naturopath that focused on purifying the blood.

This was with the intention to provide my body with relief after the purchase of cheap and nasty penicillin out of immense pain and desperation while in Malaysia on that same trip. The tonic had a noticeable effect on clearing up the boils and it was years until I had only a small outburst of them again (only after coming into direct contact with someone that had them).

I was pretty impressed given my GP had told me boils once contracted can stay in the blood stream for a lifetime and can reoccur at any point.

One of those many ingredients found in the tincture was “burdock root” and while curiously browsing the aisles of an Asian supermarket I found some dried burdock and decided to look at ways to implement it into my diet.

Burdock root health benefits

Other than being popular throughout Japanese culture, burdock has a long history throughout the American Indians and Europeans for its healing properties. It is also very well used throughout Indian and Chinese Medicine for the treatment of various ailments

Blood purifier

Exactly what I was after when suffering from boils. Burdock root is a great detoxifier and has been found to remove heavy metals from the blood stream which develops through poor diet and lifestyle choices. These toxins are effectively removed from the body due to the active compounds of the burdock.

Clean and pure blood means proper organ function, improved circulation and overall health and vitality. I am assuming that the cleansing properties and improved circulation means more blood is able to be pumped to the surface of the skin, therefore having a positive effect on cleansing skin infections such as the boils I had.

Naturopaths will often prescribe tinctures including burdock root extract to patients suffering from psoriasis and eczema with positive effect. Burdock root tea is also applied topically to acne ridden skin and other conditions to improve skin quality. Burdock root also assists in the drainage of the lymphatic system which is commonly full of toxins and waste, and which can easily block the proper function of the lymph nodes which are vital for a strong immune system.

Youthful skin

Again due to the great detoxifying properties found within burdock root, the quality and pexels-photo-112327appearance of skin is improved through its regular consumption. Perhaps this is one of the secrets to Japanese appearing much younger than they actually are (other than their good genes).

Clinical trials find that burdock root also helps to reduce the common signs of ageing such as wrinkly skin. All that time in the sun surfing over a lifetime surely will add up! It’s nice to know there are natural ways to combat the leather skin look.

Anti-Cancer Properties

The removal of heavy metals from the body and consuming foods that are high in antioxidants are both positive steps towards reducing your risk cancer developing in the body. Burdock root is extremely high in antioxidants meaning it is a great scavenger for free-radicals and harmful metals that you simply don’t want in your system.

As with most natural cures for widespread diseases, not enough studies have been “officially” carried out by professionals, but many naturopaths have continually been amazed by the positive effect burdock (in combination with other natural treatments) has on patients suffering from chronic tumors. They put this down to the anti-mutagenic and anti-tumor properties which inhibit the cancer cell growth, disallowing it to reproduce and spread throughout the body.

Burdock root tea

I found the easiest way to introduce burdock root into my diet is a simple tea made fromburdock root tea the dried burdock root. I found a packet of the dried root at my local Asian supermarket for around $4.60. Simply place a few of the dried roots into the bottom of a cup and pour hot water over top, allowing to steep for a few minutes.

Alternatively you can make up a tea pot but I didn’t have one on hand at the time. The taste I can only compare to miso or a slight mushroom taste and I found it quite pleasant to drink. You can experiment with adding honey or sugar if you like, however I saw it as more of a savory tea.

You can also use the leftover softened burdock root perhaps in stifrys as it has a soft mushroom texture or pour more hot water over the top and use the tea topically for any skin ailments. You can also use as a shower cleanser to really take advantage of the wonderful properties of this plant.

Conclusion

Other than those listed above there are what appears to be an endless list of positive properties of the burdock root and I’m sure many more that we are not aware of. Some of those properties include:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties which is great for the reduction of painful types of arthritis
  • Assisting with those suffering with diabetes
  • There are around 26 known minerals and vitamins contained within burdock root including iron, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, B6 and C
  • Improves digestive issues
  • Assists in the treatment of an enlarged spleen (due to a poor immune system)
  • Boosts memory
  • Antiseptic properties
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases metabolism

There are certainly enough articles to be found throughout the internet and herbal handbooks reporting on the great effects of the burdock root and I’m pretty happy to have stumbled across it and have it so readily available.

Read more from Dr Axe here

Resources:

Clinical trials: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21429215

Clinical trials anti-aging properties: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19146605

Dr Christopher’s herbal legacy: http://www.herballegacy.com/Light_Medicinal.html

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/burdock

http://www.naturalnews.com/031390_blood_cleansing.html

On-The-Go Natural Hand Sanitiser

It seems in recent years the market has been flooded with pocket-size hand sanitisers. Big sanitiser pump bottles can also be found in businesses such as banks and retail outlets at the front counter.

I remember growing up I only ever saw this in places that made sense to have them, such as pet stores, hospitals and kindergartens. As with most things in life, it’s all about balance and we most certainly need some bacteria and germs to support and protect our immune systems.

If we live in an environment where there is no kind of bacteria, then we step outside and come into contact with the smallest hint of bacteria then we are going to react radically to that exposure. Sure we want to kill harmful bacteria but we don’t want to wipe out bacteria all together. Overuse of “convenient” hand hand sanitisersanitisers can see both good and bad bacteria being stripped from the skin and it dramatically upsets our skin’s antimicrobial defenses.

We need some bad bacteria residing on the skin in order to make the transmission of disease harder to break through! The fact of the matter is we can’t always be “sterile”. With the use of hand sanitisers, we are not improving our immune systems but rather weakening it, by living in neurotically clean environments where any trace of bacteria that “could lead to a cold” needs to be exterminated.

Harmful chemicals found within hand sanitisers

The problem is we have no idea what chemicals are used to make up the sanitiser formulas as manufacturers aren’t required to list them. However, one chemical that is often listed on the ingredient panel and most commonly found in the majority of hand sanitisers is “triclosan”.

It is a known hormone disruptor as found in studies carried out on lab rats. It further interrupts proper muscle function and in one experiment in particular where rats were exposed to triclosan, it was found that their heart muscle function was reduced by 25% and their gripping strength reduced by 18%.

In fact triclosan was first used as a pesticide and still is widely used in agriculture- so how on earth did it end up in the majority of our every day skin care products?¬† As with most harmful chemicals that you should avoid, it’s simply a matter of large scale companies producing low cost, yet popular products that they know will sell, with zero care for our health and well being.

The stripping of natural oils from the skin

Hand sanitisers contain large quantities of alcohol in order to be effective and therefore very easily dry out your skin and strip away natural oils by dehydrating the skin cells. The protective layer of oil coated on our skin exists as a natural barrier for protection against bacteria. The process of smothering hand sanitiser on our skin is then removing that barrier completely! Therefore we are actually increasing the risk of germs and bacteria making their way into our bodies!

Try my safe alternative 

I use tea-tree oil for anything bacteria related and always have a small 100% pure tea tree oil bottle sitting in my bag or bathroom cabinet. When travelling I carry a small spray antibacterial soapsbottle of water with about 20 drops of tea tree oil and this is what I use as a hand sanitiser. I know that it’s 100% natural and don’t have to worry about exposing myself to nasty chemicals. The spray bottle is also great to use as a deodorant if you forgot to put any on before your long trip!

Depending on how often you feel you need to “sanitise” yourself, it may seem like small exposure to chemicals via hand sanitisers-in particular triclosan.

However, you might want to pay attention to just how many other every day bathroom products contain this chemical. You also want to take into consideration the exposure of chemicals in your every day life whether through the foods you consume, cleaning products you exposure yourself to or use of skincare products. It all adds up and increases the risk of nasty side effects and especially the many variations of cancers more commonly being diagnosed.

Resources:

FDA proposing rule to determine safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm378542.htm

Triclosan: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/29/triclosan-in-personal-care-products.aspx