The amazing, under-appreciated organ….. The Liver

The liver is an amazing organ within the body.  It is something we abuse with excessive alcohol, medication drugs, those of you who are naughty and take illegal drugs, poor diets, too much caffeine and processed foods.

billarysystem

The liver is the largest organ in the body, second only in size to the skin, supplying the body with 25% of its total blood flow.  It is the heaviest gland of the body averaging out at about 14kg – this is roughly the weight of a staffordshire bull terrier or 7 1/2 2 litre bottles of pop.  It alters in its size and shape dependant on the amount of blood present.  Without a liver our life is reduced to about six hours and death results from multiple factors such as an accumulation of toxic metabolites in the blood stream, this is less time than if we didn’t have water or food!!  It converts glucose which is a sugar that we get from most carbohydrates in our diet into glucogen a process aided by insulin.  Today there is currently a diabetes epidemic which is due to people eating high carb high sugar foods and overloading the liver and the pancreas.  The liver can store around half the bodies sugar reserves and up to about 10% the weight of the liver, so when we need to access our energy the liver releases the glucogen to be used as fuel for the muscles.

liver anatomy

Anatomically it sits just below the diaphragm and is situated on the right hand side of the body.  The liver can be felt under the rib cage in slim people or when the liver has enlarged due to health issues such as fatty liver disease..  It is suspended in the cavity from the diaphragm by ligaments.  The liver tissue is made up of liver cells (hepatocytes), small canals (bile canaliculi) and blood capillaries (hepatic sinusoids).  Histologically, the liver can be described as having 2 vascular trees (portal and hepatic) within it, the branches close but not touching each other.

liver

The Liver Cells (Hepatocytes):

hepatocytes

These liver cells perform numerous metabolic, secretary and endocrine functions so they have an impact on how we burn our energy (therefore how easily/hard we gain/lose weight), they also deal with all of the hormones in our body as well as making hormones itself.  They are specialized cells with 5 to 12 sides and they make up 80% of the volume of the liver.  They contain more rough and smooth endoplasmic reticular, mitochondria and lysosomes are more abundant than most other cells within the body – this means that there are more power houses for producing energy within the liver than anywhere else.  Alcohol or drug abuse increases the number of enzymes within the hepatocytes this is know as induction and is a process to help keep up with the excessive amount of poison that people chuck into their bodies.

Hepatocytes are arranged into complex plates called hepatic laminae which are one cell thick and are highly branched.  Hepatocytes are lined by vascular spaces called hepatic sinusoids with grooves in their membrane for the canaliculi to secrete bile into.

When stressed, the cortex of the adrenal gland releases cortisone and hydrocortisone (the stress hormones) which stimulates gluconeogenisis by the liver, a sympathetic response, inducing the liver to breakdown glycogen (sugars) by hepatocytes and produces a surge of glucose into the blood which is ultimately the fight or flight response.

love your liver

Conjucation is the process where hepatocytes create compounds which can be excreted via the bilary system, so the liver also plays an important process when it comes to digesting food and accessing certain nutrients.  Unborn babies don’t have conjucating enzymes in their livers and so their unconjucated bilirubin diffuses through the placenta and is taken up by the mother for excretion.  Premature babies are frequently jaundiced (have yellow coloured skin) because the conjucating enzymes develop a few days prior the birth, late in the third trimester and therefore they do not have this ability.

Canals in the liver (Bile canaliculi):

bile caniculi

These are small canals in branched structures lining the grooves of the hepatocytes that assist digestion with the absorption of food and the excretory process.  The secretion of bile salts only occurs within the liver – these have a detergent action emulsifying fats so that we can access their nutrition.

Blood capillaries within the liver (Hepatic sinusoids):

hepatic sinusoids

These are highly permeable capillaries in branched structures between the hepatocytes.  They receive two blood supplies, via the hepatic artery they receive oxygenated blood (red blood) and via the hepatic portal vein they receive nutrient rich deoxygenated blood (blue blood) from the gastrointestinal organs and the spleen.

Kupffer cells are located within the hepatic sinusoids, they are part of the immune system and are fixed white blood cells which destroy old blood cells, bacteria and other particles in the venous blood draining from the gastrointestinal tract.  Old haemoglobin (red blood cells) are recycled by cells within the liver, the central iron particle is stored for reuse within the liver and the haem (the red transporter of the iron molecule) is converted into bilirubin – a large amount of bilirubin in the blood stream causes jaundice.

Functions of the Liver:

love your liver 1

The liver does so much for us and yet we do take it for granted.  Liver disease and abuse can cause life threatening problems which can greatly shorten our life expectancy.  Here is a list of what the liver does for us on a daily basis for our entire lives.

  • carbohydrate metabolism, the assimilation of sugars within the body – glucose levels
  • regeneration – creating new liver cells if we really abused our liver
  • lipid metabolism – the assimilation of fats within the body
  • protein metabolism – making, storing and breaking down proteins (meat, fish, eggs, pulses etc)
  • processing drugs and hormones – endocrine function either reacts with or destroys most hormones – detoxification
  • excretion of bilirubin
  • sodium metabolism – the assimilation of salt from our diet
  • in fetus’ and new born babies the liver produces red blood cells (erythropoiesis)
  • synthesis of bile salts
  • storage of: glycogen, Vitamins A, B12, D, E and K, iron, copper
  • kupffer cells kill/recycle aged cells and pathogens (any germs) this is known as phargocytosis
  • activation of Vitamin D
  • processing all of the blood within the body
  • regulation of blood clotting

As you can see the liver is essential to our health and wellbeing.  I sell herbal capsules on my website: http://www.herbsforhealthandwellbeing.co.uk where you can purchase Milk Thistle and give you liver some tender loving care.

milk thistle

References:

Homer Andrews, W.H. (1979) Liver. Edward Arnold Publishers Limited

Kumar, P. Clark, M. (2009) Clinical Medicine 7th Edition. Elsevier Limited

Tortora, G. Dickenson, B. (2009) Principles of Anatomy and Physiology 12th Edition. John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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Harvesting Herbs or Wild Crafting

WHO

The World Health Organisation document “Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP)” (World Health Organization, 2003) raises the following concerns about wild collected botanicals:

“Safety – The plant must be carefully identified to ensure that the correct species is harvested and to ensure that there is no adulteration or mixing of different species within harvest batches. Post harvest handling activities should ensure that contamination by microbial or chemical agents does not occur. Harvest site assessment must be carried out to ensure that there is no site contamination with toxic substances.

Quality The botanicals must be harvested at the correct time of year to maximise therapeutic levels of active constituents. The botanicals must be processed, handled and dried correctly to ensure that breakdown of active constituents does not occur.

Efficacy – The botanicals must be correctly identified, the correct part of the plant harvested at the right time of year, and the processing and handling must be done correctly for the final product to be therapeutically effective.”

So I would like to share some information with you all with regards to harvesting herbs from the wild.  There is a lot to know and understand before you choose to harvest wild plants.

 

First you need to be able to correctly identify plants, there are some great ‘keys’ out there that aid identification.  This is a must as there are numerous plants which look very similar and in certain circumstances one can be poisonous whist the other one edible.  It is imperative that you can correctly identify plants – if in doubt leave it out.  Also you need to research the plant and see how long it takes to regrow or re-establish itself.  Some plants are slow-growing and can take up to 10 years to get back to pre-harvested levels, others are fast growers and you wouldn’t be able to tell that you had harvested there in a few months or a season.  Learn all of the poisonous plants in your region so that you can be 100% certain with plant identification.

Secondly, you may have invested time and even money in purchasing a plant identification guide but before you can harvest anything you need to understand the habitat that you are planning to harvest from.  For example, in your area it may seem that a certain plant or herb is abundant but it may be that it is the only patch growing in the region.  There are certain agencies that you can speak to in order to get an understanding of your local area.  One way it to explore it 🙂  As I live in Grimsby, I contacted the Lincolnshire Naturalist Union and I am a member of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.  Both charities can give you the information you require.  Please do not rely on books.  For example, the amazing pasque flower is deemed abundant in books and online – and in places such as Canada it probably is, but in the UK it only grows in 18 sites across the whole country making it REALLY SCARCE!!  

The Pasque flower - Pulsatilla vulgaris

The Pasque flower – Pulsatilla vulgaris

A safe way to determine whether you can harvest a herb it to focus on what most people call weeds.  These are plants which have a great ability to adapt and grow in abundance – the likes of dandelions, plantain, chickweed, cleavers, brambles and nettles are all seen as being weeds but in fact have numerous health benefits and many can be eaten as food as well as used as medicine!!

Nettles make a great herbal tea and soup and has medicinal benefits too

Nettles make a great herbal tea and soup and has medicinal benefits too

There are several laws governing the harvesting of plants from the wild.  In the UK it is illegal to cut or chop trees without the landowners permission.  I was walking though a local woodland which is also a nature reserve and saw a guy with a chainsaw sawing up an old oak tree so he could have a garden ornament.  Luckily there were also wardens in the area and he got caught.  He was breaking the law despite the fact that the woodland belonged to the people – it was still maintained by the local council and therefore their permission would be required.  The guy has been charged and is awaiting trial.

It is also illegal to dig up roots without the landowners permission.  So please check who owns the land and contact them prior to digging roots up.  They may be happy to let you dig up brambles for them (the roots of which are astringent and tonic helping to reduce mouth inflammations (as a mouth wash) and reduce diarrhoea.(as a decoction).  Please, please do your research, into ID, the status of the plant and who owns the land.  

Another UK law states that a profit cannot be made from what is harvested from the land so if after all of the hard work and research you chose that you would like to harvest wild plants for food or medicine then please only do so for yourself and your family.  Never take more than you need.

And unfortunately the research doesn’t stop there either.  You may have correctly identified a useful plant, it is locally and nationally abundant and you have the landowners permission to harvest it.  What do you know of the land?  Is it near a busy road? Are pesticides used nearby? Are you near an industrial estate?  You have to assess the area and determine if the plants that you would like to collect are safe from pollution or contamination.  Unfortunately chemicals do not wash off as easily as a bit of dirt.  It is also appropriate to harvest away from regular dog walking runs and avoid the spray line of a large dog.  With all plants harvested it is essential to wash them.  Sometimes with flowers this is detrimental so researching the area is essential.

“It is said that herbs effectively gathered from their natural habitats may be more potent than those that are cultivated. Wild crafting was a common and original worldwide process for collecting herbs; it was only superseded by commercial growing once demand and supply could not be met. It still is a frequently used method of collection and generally only reputable wild herb crafters who know how to correctly identify herb species and who pick from areas unpolluted by roads, industry or conventional farming, pursue this caring profession. Gathering takes place at the peak of each herb’s growing cycle. All harvesting is done taking in mind the non-depletion of natural plant populations or damage to their habitats.”

You have chosen to harvest a common plant, from an area which is free of pollution and with the land owners permission…. When you harvest please only take 10% of the plant.  If you are harvesting flowers or leaves only take the top few stems.  When harvesting a whole plant only take 10% of the total plant population in the area you are harvesting from.  If you are digging up roots, only take 10% and replant the plant to give it the opportunity to reestablish itself.  The key it to be respectful of nature and to only take what you need.  Do not decimate an area.  It isn’t just us who require the plant.  A lot of native species are home to a vast array of different species who are also dependant on it for food, shelter and/or protection etc.  Out of respect, please leave some of the healthiest and lushest plants in the area where you are wild crafting.

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On that not, if you are harvesting in an area and there is some litter…. pick it up while you are there and dispose of it correctly!!  We are all in our environment and whether we like it or not we are all dependant on it for our survival.  It isn’t something which is away from us.  Our whole economy is dependant on it.  The oil, wood, food, shelter, clothing – even the man-made objects have all been created from the resources in our environment.  Please do your bit.  Picking up a bit of litter when you are already out harvesting does make a difference, as does recycling or upcycling.  Not wasting food, lowering your energy consumption and choosing where you want to spend your money!!!

Sorry for digressing there… back to the subject in hand….

Walking in Bradley and Dixon Woods in the Summer with the light speckling through the canopy

Walking in Bradley and Dixon Woods in the Summer with the light speckling through the canopy

Always leave the area as beautiful as it was before you harvested from it.  Never harvest from nature reserves.  Never harvest herbs or plants which are rare or endangered.  Why not cultivate them instead?  Especially native ones.  I have recently purchased milk thistle and pasque flower seeds.  I am looking forward to cultivating them.  Not only are they rare native flowers in my region but they are medicinal and will benefit the local wildlife as well as myself. Who knows with the permission of landowners I may be able to plant some into the wild and hopefully re-establish the plant population.

milk thistle sliced

There are some great things that you can do though.  When autumn comes and the flowers have set seed, collect the seeds.  You can cultivate some yourself but please spread them in the area away from the mother plant.  Do you bit to help nature along, she will thank you for it.  Also if you are aware that an area is going to be developed or destroyed then please rescue the plants of interest from the area before it is decimated.  Where I live I was only 3 blocks from the countryside but unfortunately they are building out.  There was some beautiful bittersweet (a poisonous herb which as a qualified practitioner I am licensed to use therapeutically).  It is a stunning plant, with bright purple and yellow flowers similar in style to the potato (they are from the same plant family).  It only grew in that area and it was losing it habitat.  I was lucky enough to harvest some of the berries prior to the habitat being destroyed and there are bittersweet plants currently growing in pots in my garden.  I will hopefully keep one but will return them back to a similar habitat locally for them to re-establish.

 

Blue Monday :(

Today is known as Blue Monday – the time of year after christmas, when work and school, money and other problems may just get on top of us.

But lets not be negative nellies, realistically today can be a really a special day, where we can spread some love and make ourselves and others feel better.  Why don’t we use this day to focus on doing good for each other. Good deeds don’t have to cost any money a simple act of kindness can have a huge impact on others.

Wouldn’t it be good to start a new tradition that encouraged people to do nice things for each other? 

Blue Monday ideas should benefit others (a person, an organisation or even internationally) and will probably be something you wouldn’t normally do (but might do regularly from now on), voluntary (compulsory kindness doesn’t really count), thought up by those involved (there’s no formula or template) and fun and creative (for everyone involved).

What are you going to do today?  I am planning to take some of my herbal body care products to the local shelter.

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 19th – 25th January 2014

It is shocking to realise that over 65% of cancers are preventable and down to lifestyle factors.  What is even more shocking is that there isn’t much money being invested in preventable medicines and millions invested in cancer research and treatment.

As a herbalist my view and treatment of cancer is different to modern medicine, although herbalism can be used alongside orthodox treatment to support people.  The key is that everyone is different – their lifestyle, signs, symptoms and reasons.  Therefore when I support people with their health and wellbeing it takes into account the individual – we are all unique at the end of the day.

This week is cervical cancer prevention week.  This is a European wide initiative lead by the European Cervical Cancer Association (ECCA).  Several charities take part in raising awareness.  This is something I am also happy to do to share information about natural ways we can prevent cervical cancer and information about how herbalists support those of us who are affected by it.

Orthodox medicine are aware that cervical cancer is preventable.  Despite the modern advances in medicine 20% of women do not attend their cervical screenings and at present 50% of school age girls don’t take the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination.

Smoking is a serious contributing factor to cervical cancer – being a smoker can increase the risk of getting cervical cancer four-fold!!  This is because the carcinogens (cancer causing molecules) from cigarette smoke are concentrated in the cervical lining – this may be a protective mechanism as levels in the cervical mucus can be 10-20 times higher than levels in the bloodstream.

Unfortunately in western society our diets are lacking in nutrition.  If our body doesn’t get the nutrition that it needs then it cannot work effectively.  Our bodies are complex, but many people like to liken the body to a machine – this is a way of looking at the body using only a physical perspective (and not our mental and emotional aspects) but we wouldn’t allow our cars to run low on petrol, let the radiators run low on water causing the car to overheat, or not top up the oil to ensure the engine runs smoothly.  We are so much more complex than an engine but for those of us who are not mechanically minded then an engine is very complex.

When we do not nourish our body our body has to cope without the necessary nutrients to compete thousands of different actions required within our body.  New research is discovering that most health issues are linked to our digestion and yet our western diet is high in calories and low in nutrition.  Folic acid can protect against abnormal changes in the cervix.  Folic acid is usually prescribed during pregnancy to support the development of the foetus.  This is because folic acid is required as an essential ingredient for making DNA.

Although we may be fully grown we still require our DNA daily to make new cells and repair damaged ones, therefore without healthy levels of folic acid in our diet abnormal cell production can occur (cancer is seen as an abnormal cell growth).  Scientific studies have found that 5-10mg of folic acid can reverse mildly abnormal pap smears and that a deficiency of folic acid contributes to the start of cervical cancer especially if the HPV virus is present.  Folic acid is a type of B vitamin and healthy dietary sources include: spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, oranges and orange juice, poultry, pork, shellfish and liver.

Foods that kill cancer

Foods that kill cancer

Folic acid deficiency isn’t the only nutritional contribution, if our body is low in beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium or iron then it can increase cervical cancer risk.  If you are a lady who is taking the contraceptive pill it may be worth ensuring that you are eating a nutritious diet.  Taking the pill helps to reduce breast cancer.  There is research that shows that abnormal changes in the cervix are increased in women on the pill, this may be because it is more natural to have children or because the contraceptive pill impacts the absorption of nutrients (our hormones have an impact on our digestion).  Most nutrients can be accessed by eating a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Hippocrates quote

Hippocrates quote

There is also an emotional connection with our cervix.  Low self-esteem and a disconnection with our bodies can impact our health.  When we are emotionally conflicted the risk of cervical abnormalities can increase.  Symbolically the cervix can represent the potential for change, growth and transformation.  When we are in unhappy relationships, do not stand up for ourselves, have a negative outlook or have recently lost a loved one our risk will increase.  Our emotions are who we are, they are linked to our physical self and can impact on them.  The key is to look after ourselves.  To give us the time we need, not to beat ourselves up when we have a lot on our plate or something goes wrong and to look on the bright side of life.  There is research that has shown again and again that positive people have less health issues, both mental and physical than the more pessimistic people.

I will discuss several herbs which are appropriate for the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, but want to state that herbal treatment depends on the individual.  There may be ten women who have experienced cervical cancer but each one will be supported differently.  One women may have had five kids and be happily married.  One may have been on the pill all her life.  Another may have experienced trauma such as rape.  Women who have low self-esteem will be supported differently from those who are over-confident.  A herbal consultation looks at all aspects of a person’s health and wellbeing.  This includes past history, family history, diet, a deep investigation into the health issue, any other health issues, emotions, social/lifestyle impacts and much more.  This creates a full picture of a person; I can then work out which herbs to offer to support.

Health benefits of Turmeric

Health benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an excellent herb which is utilised in many cancer support formulas in Western Medicinal Herbalism, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.  Curcumin is an active constituent in this spice which has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour effects.  Studies have also found that turmeric can enhance chemotherapy drugs and aid the support of the body.  You can add it to meals to support your health and wellbeing.

The green tea is loose and cut.  The supplier ensures that it reaches a certain standard with regards to the active constituents too.

The green tea is loose and cut. The supplier ensures that it reaches a certain standard with regards to the active constituents too.

Green tea (Camelia sinensis) is a fantastic anti-oxidant herb which contains phyto-phenols and flavonoids.  It has many benefits including reducing mutations, improving cholesterol levels and regulating fat metabolism.  It has been shown that drinking this regularly can reduce many cancer risks including cervical cancer.  You can even add the leaves to stews and soups.

Different fruits which you can try

Different fruits which you can try

When we visit loved ones it normally includes bringing some fresh grapes.  It turns out that grape skins are rich in flavonoids which have anti-oxidant effects which help to reduce the risk of cancers.

ginger tea

Ginger is a spice which I use regularly in my practice (and my cooking).  It helps to reduce inflammation which is linked to cancer, and characteristic of cervical cancer.  You can make a delicious tea using the ginger root and add it to your diet.

I hope that you have found this information helpful.  If you have any questions I am more than happy to answer them.  Also if you would like support with your health and wellbeing and live in the Grimsby area I am available for consultations at The Achilles Centre which is an accredited health care centre based on Dudley Street.

Magical Mistletoe – Viscum album

“I lived my life between the worlds
Neither earth nor sky would call me child
The birds were my companions
The wind and rain my mentors
Daily I grew in power and strength
Till snatched out of time by the trickster”

mistletoe

Mistletoe is a native plant to England and grows abundantly down south.  It even grows in North East Lincolnshire at four sites around the county.  This makes it a rare herb for our region.  I use mistletoe in my practice and recently purchased some fresh berries to grow on my apple tree in my garden.  It is this recent planting of Mistletoe which inspired me to write about this mystical herb.

Mistletoe is also known as Churchman’s Greeting, Kiss-and-go, Masslin, Misle and Mislin-bush.  It is a semi-parasitic plant as it roots itself under the bark of tree branches but can produce enough energy from photosynthesis from its leaves to sustain itself.

The scientific name – Viscum album gives an indication into the plant (which we all know from Yule traditions) Viscum can be translated as sticky and album – white.  Sticky white is a perfect description of the berries – especially if you have ever squashed one of them 🙂  Also Mistletoe can be translated using the Anglo-Saxon language –  mistel, meaning dung, and tan, meaning twig.  Mistletoe has a narcotic effect on birds.  Birds who eat the berries off the twigs do have a psychedelic experience. The sticky white sap covering the berry doesn’t get digested easily so when it is passed from the bird (hopefully on the branch of a rose family tree) it can then stick to the branch and hopefully take root – dung on a twig!!

mistletoe2

As a herb please NEVER self-medicate with Mistletoe – all parts of the plants contain toxins and the plant is considered unsafe with use restricted to qualified professionals such as myself.  Mistletoe poisoning can occur when someone eats this plant. Poisoning can also occur if you drink tea created from the plant or its berries.  Raw, unprocessed mistletoe is poisonous. Eating raw, unprocessed European mistletoe or American mistletoe can cause vomiting, seizures, a slowing of the heart rate, and even death.

Despite this I do use this herb as I have been trained, I understand how to use it, who it would benefit and how much to give.   I have found it to be a great herb to help with insomnia, epilepsy and arterial hypertension (high blood pressure). Mistletoe is antispasmodic and reduced blood pressure which makes it beneficial for someone with epilepsy.  At university we were taught that it was a bit like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole.  We can hide from our emotions and repress certain things with a negative outcome on our health and wellbeing.  Mistletoe is a nervine and a narcotic which has a profound effect on our nervous system.  Mistletoe can help us to reconnect with the emotions and situations that we repressed and then we can work on them, resolve them and feel a hell of a lot better.  This herb is also undergoing several scientific trials for its use as an anti-cancer herb.  Juice of the berries have been applied to external cancers since the time of the druids but research is looking at internal use.  There has been some success with this and it kinda follows the principle of like cures like (which is more homeopathic than herbalism) – the mistletoe is a semi-parasitic host and therefore would it not cure an unwanted growth?

Mistletoe was sacred to many people including the Druids.  It was seen as even more magical when it grew from an Oak tree.  Iron was never used when harvesting Mistletoe (or any other herb) and sacred rituals for harvest could include using a gold sickle and not allowing the herb to touch the ground once cut.  It was collected under a waxing moon and fed to livestock to ensure fertility.  It is seen as a plant which enhances fertility.  When you hold a branch it does resemble a male and when you squeeze the berries it can look like something which represented the sperm of the Gods.  Kissing under the mistletoe was meant to help aid conception –  it was seen as an aphrodisiac plant and in the past a girl that was getting kissed under the mistletoe maybe wanted something more…

The tradition of hanging it during Christmas was to ward off evil spirits and ensure a good new year ahead.  Myth and folklore also state that the herb is associated with peace and love, something we all want around Yule time.

Mistletoe prefers to grow on members of the Rosaceae family preferring cultivated apple trees, lime, hawthorn and populars.  They were seen as more sacred when growing on Oaks.

mistletoe3

To grow, squeeze a fresh berry and wipe the seed and glue on the side or underside of a branch which is at least 20cm in diameter.  It is worth tieing some wool loosely where you have ‘planted’ the seed, this will also prevent them from falling off.  It is worth ‘planting’ around a dozen a time although I only put two on my apple tree as I didn’t want it to be overrun.  It will take a year before the seeds produce leaves and start to grow into a recognisable young plant. Each year, individual shoots produce just two new branches with one pair of leaves at the tip of each; so progress is slow taking four years before berries are formed.  But I feel that it is worth it.

mistletoe4

On Imbolc in February I will be going around Lincolnshire and ‘planting’ the rest of the fresh berries which I have.  In order to keep them fresh I have placed them in water.  Hopefully this will replicate being in a birds gut as Pliny stated “Whenever Mistletoe is sown, it fails to sprout, which it will only do when it is passed through birds – particularly through pigeons and thrushes.  That is its nature: if it is to grow, it first must be ripened in the guts of a bird”

 

 

Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake

The new year brings forth many new resolutions to improve our lives.  A lot of these are health related.  I am drinking 2 litres of water a day in an attempt to improve my bodies hydration levels and have more energy.
Hippocrates quote

Hippocrates quote

Unfortunately a lot of us do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.  They should be what we eat the most of in our diet (not carbohydrates) and are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants.  It is best to purchase vegetables from organic local seasonal providers.  In Grimsby we are lucky to have Green Futures Grimsby, an organic farm which produces vegetable boxes which can be delivered to your door every Friday.  The vegetables taste so much better than the ones we purchase from the supermarkets.  It is a shame that as consumers we prefer fruit and vegetables which look great but without the taste instead of rough and ready fruit and veg which is packed with flavour and goodness.
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Here are some great tips on increasing the fruit and vegetables in your diet 🙂
  1. You don’t have to faff about with calorie counting – instead aim for 2 handfuls of fruit a day (2 closed fists) and 2 1/2 handfuls of vegetables.
  2. Start of introducing one extra portion (a fistfull) of fruit or vegetables a day – once you have maintained this regularily, increase this.
  3. Although the government recommend 5 portions a day they were frugal as to their recommendations as they didn’t want it to seem unobtainable – for optimal health to enjoy life to the full try and build up to 8 portions a day (over time)
  4. Be sneaky – add finely grated carrot or courgette to a pasta sauce, meat loaf, chilli or stew to get extra servings.
  5. Blending up a smoothie using fruit and/or vegetables is a great way to get your portions up.
  6. Mash it and spread it – for a savoury option try advocado, for a sweet and filling option try mashed banas on toast with honey – healthy, nutritous and delicious.
  7. Try a omelette with veg added for breakfast, or if you opt for cereal add sliced fresh fruit.
  8. A glass of pure fruit juice counts as one of your portions.
  9. Try roasting vegetables – it brings out loads of different flavours – they can be a side dish to your main meal, added to salads or put in sandwiches.
  10. Don’t like prepping veg – supermarkets have done all of the hard work for you with their prepared fresh produce.
  11. Improve on nature – if it’s a bit bland, jazz it up with herbs, spices, chopped nuts, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil etc.
  12. Sweet tooth? Try melting some 70% dark chocolate and dip fruit into it such as melon, banana, strawberries etc.
  13. Dip crunchy raw vegetables into a salad dressing, mashed advocado or hummus.
  14. Add sweetcorn to salads.
  15. Spread tomato and onion salsa over grilled fish or meat.

Why not grow your own?  It is fun, rewarding and helps to connect you with nature and where our food comes from.  Plus gardening is better than therapy and FREE 🙂

There are many other ways to increase the fruit and vegetables into your diet – the key is to experiment – try unusual vegetables, look at your favourite recipes and see how they can be added there.  My daughter loves super noodles – such a adrenally depleting source of refined white carbohydrates so I add a cupful of frozen vegetables and some meat (cooked chicken, bacon, salami etc) to it to ensure that she is receiving her vitamins and minerals and not creating a nutrient deficiency.