Sunday, 5 July 2020

Emerging from lock down with natural healthcare

10 Common Mistakes When Using Herbs
This month’s blogpost has been written by a good colleague of mine Jane Robinson who is also, like me, a medical herbalist. The link to her Foxglove Apothecary website and homepage is also at the bottom of this post along with a recommendation to subscribe to her newsletter and articles packed with useful information on natural, herbal remedies. 

It's been an unforgettable year so far and here we are in the middle of summer. I hope you & your loved ones are well!  As we begin to return to a more normal world this is a good time to look at how we approach dis-ease and wellness from a refreshed perspective, I firmly believe that we have the ability to manage our health in a more natural and sustainable way, using holistic methods which are mostly easy to do and these practices give us a better physical and emotional connection with our own healthcare. I'm not an epidemiologist and don't know all of the answers from a natural, scientific or spiritual perspective but as a herbalist I repeatedly see how a natural approach to disease prevention, treatment & recovery can make a very significant difference. 

I wanted to share some principles of practice that I apply in clinic and give an overview of things you can do at home. I've gone into more detail about herbal medicine and it's application because I speak to many people who have some confusion about herbal medicine, often people think we're homeopaths (this is a different discipline altogether) and many people don't realise it's the oldest and most natural form of medicine and still used extensively today across every continent. I've concentrated on tips relevant to Coronavirus protection but these can also be applied for protection against the range of illness's that commonly circulate throughout the year. Importantly, we should remember that we're built to heal from within, if we nourish our physical, mental and energetic bodies, most of us have the ability to maintain good health. The layers of our immune system and our ability to adapt are integral to how we stay healthy & we can easily enhance these processes with diet and plant medicines. We have an abundance of plants readily available to give us medicine, food & oxygen and though they don't always completely prevent or cure an illness, when used correctly, they assist our physiology to work to a fuller potential and do this without causing own side effects. 

Be careful! Herbal remedies are dangerous to your health ...
Even the smallest good habits you introduce make a difference and they don't need to be complicated, most of these recommendations just require a little bit of organisation and maybe adding a few things to your stock or medicine cupboard.

Eat well - decrease sugar, carbohydrate, fat and protein, small amounts of these are good but don't need to be eaten with every meal. Decrease processed foods and increase plant foods. Increase grains, nuts, seeds, pulses and fungi and if organic or local is an option, even better. 
  • Eat your rainbow of food every day. Red, yellow, blue, purple and green fruits and veg contain an abundance of varied substances and compounds which are used by the body to stay in good shape.
  • Maintain good levels of hydration with plenty of decaffeinated drinks and don't forget you can chill herbal infusions in hot weather.
  • Oats actually nourish our nerve fibres, eating oats regularly can help with functional nerve problems such as pins & needles.
  • Excess weight makes us more vulnerable to certain conditions, if you need to lose weight remember that exercise is as important as diet.
The 9 Best Herbs for Lung Cleansing and Respiratory Support | Lung ...
Microbiome health -  can affect our overall health, some of the negative influencer's on our microbiome include sugar, sweeteners, yeast, antibiotics, stress and lack of exercise. The good guys include pre & probiotics, fresh fruit & vegetables, allium foods such as garlic & onions, fermented food and drinks and herbal bitters.
  • Traditional Herbal Bitters are a mixture of  bitter tasting herbs which are are taken in dropper doses every day, normally before meals. They directly stimulate our digestive juices, enzymes & liver, which helps food breakdown, digestion, excretion and intestinal flora.
Supplements - The question of supplements for me, concerns diet, environment and body function. If your diet's lacking something specific or there are issues such as digestive disorders which may impair absorption of vitamins and minerals then supplements might be appropriate. Age is another consideration, as we get older we absorb and assimilate nutrients less optimally and a lack of sunlight in winter months may leave us low on Vitamin D. 
  • Vitamin D is necessary for many cellular functions and a deficiency can affect muscles, bones & joints. Importantly, Vitamin D enhances immune system responses to bacteria and viruses by its influence on the various cells of immune defence. Lack of vitamin D may also increase the risk of Diabetes & Hypertension. Our skin makes Vitamin D on exposure to sunlight and small amounts are found in mushrooms, eggs, oily fish, cod liver oil & fortified foods.
  • Extensive Vitamin C studies show assistance in prevention of colds and flu, in addition, Vitamin C may help prevent respiratory infections. It's found in citrus fruit, strawberries, red peppers & chili peppers, kale, broccoli, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage. Because Vitamin C is water soluble some prefer liposomal vitamin C, which is encased in tiny lipids making absorption easier. This can be good for the elderly & people with decreased digestive function but beware with raised lipid disorders. 
  • Zinc is found in every cell in our bodies and is essential for a huge range of cellular processes. It can interfere with viruses and may help reduce the duration of the common cold. It's found in grains, nuts, seeds, shellfish & offal. Beware of not taking too much in supplement form.
  • Mushroom's contain compounds called beta glucans which stimulate the immune system to defend the body against viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungal infection. Maitake & Shiitaki may be particularly useful.
Respiratory health - our defence against many pathogens begins in the upper respiratory system so keeping the tissues of our nasal passages, mouth and throat healthy can directly enable these parts of our barrier defences to prevent microbes from penetrating the body. Salt or herbal gargles, nasal flushing, throat sprays, good oral hygiene and promoting tissue health from within can be beneficial.
  • An excess of dairy foods can promote mucus formation and therefore congestion, limiting dairy intake and using alternatives as well as increasing fluids can actually thin the consistency of mucus which allows the body to breakdown and expel an excess. 
An overview of Herbs
Many herbs work to increase our natural barrier systems and innate defences. Using herbs regularly can improve your overall health and enhance physiological processes in a safe and gentle way. Mother nature is a far more competent pharmacist than we're led to believe and the myth that herbal medicines don't work, are inferior as drugs, or are dangerous is propaganda spread by those who wish you to believe that the medicine freely found in nature is not scientific or effective.

The beauty of our herbal allies is that they can be easily used to help prevent infections or as direct treatment during illness. All plants have a range of active constituents, most have more than one specific use and when used in their whole state the plant's chemical profile gives a balanced effect on our bodies so we experience less unwanted additional actions which we refer to as side effects. Plants work with the body to moderate health and maintain optimum function, they're often so effective but gentle it's hard to distinguish why we simply feel more normal, this is truly harmonious healing!

Herbs can be immune stimulating or modulating, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, diaphoretic, adaptogenic, detoxifying, anti-congestive and much more. This means we can apply herbs for specific purposes as well as for general health and in doing so we're using the best of both a holistic approach and a targeted purpose. An example is Elderflower & Elderberry which are anti-inflammatory and immune mediating, they're also diaphoretic, which means they enhance sweating but keeps it at a controlled and sustainable rate. This helps to ensure a fever is more healing than harming and at the same time Elder (flower and berry) helps the immune system function better.

Coronavirus: 10 Ayurvedic Ways to Boost Your Immunity During the ...

Top 10 herbs for immune defence:
  1. Echinacea - is an immune modulator, it actually help's to regulate the body's innate immune responses creating faster responses where are needed and slowing overactive responses which may be detrimental. It has particular influence over certain cells of the immune system and is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and topically healing. Traditionally used for respiratory infections and is safe to take for prolonged periods.
  2. Elderberry - good antiviral properties and has been shown to improve immune system activity. It stimulates certain immune cells which combined with an anti-inflammatory action, improves the defences of our innate immunity.  Elderberry extracts are traditionally used for colds and flu and have an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant & diaphoretic action.
  3. Astragalus - an adaptogenic herb (helps the body overcome & adapt during stress), it's used especially for respiratory infections and can increase respiratory function with asthma. Immune enhancing, immune modulating, anti-viral, anti-oxidant. It has a positive effect on the heart, endothelial function and the liver. In Chinese medicine it's called Huang Qi & is used in menopausal preparations and as a blood tonic.
  4. Andrographis - a bitter tonic which stimulates and modulates the immune system, an effective anti-viral which also protects the liver and is hypoglycaemic. Adrographis is used for respiratory infections and the bitter element helps strengthen a weak digestive system. 
  5. Liquorice - has a wide ranging profile and is truly multi-purpose herb! It's soothing both internally and externally and is used extensively in mixtures for respiratory infections, especially conditions that produce mucus. Shown to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic actions, another immune modulator, liver herb and supports the adrenal function. It has a mild hypertensive effect so large amounts should not be used in high doses for prolonged periods by people with high blood pressure.
  6. African Geranium - the root can help decrease excess mucus in the lungs and it's valuable for acute respiratory and sinus infections as it actually helps the body expel excess mucus. Has immune cell enhancing properties is anti-viral.  
  7. Ginger - has been shown to have immune & antiviral activity, ginger heat is useful for increasing body temperature and the anti-platelet and anti-inflammatory actions can help keep blood vessels healthy. Ginger aids digestive function and is good for nausea, rheumatic conditions and migraine.
  8. Marigold - is a great external remedy which promotes skin healing and often used internally for gastric disorders. In addition it has a mild oestrogenic effect making it very useful for gynaecological conditions. It's anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and is a mild immune stimulant.
  9. Eucalyptus - often forgotten about as a herb, eucalyptus has an affinity for the lungs and upper respiratory system. Its good for all respiratory complaints including infection, asthma, catarrh & bronchitis and is anti-tussive which helps stop a cough. Its anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. Do not use for young children, in pregnancy and for very frail people. 
  10. Turmeric - this plant has wide ranging benefits and has become known a bit as a wonder herb in recent years, with good reason. Turmeric is excellent for pain and inflammation, for both chronic and acute conditions and regular use can give outstanding relief. It has a powerful anti-oxidant activity and influences cell life cycles in a positive way to be helpful in cancer prevention. Also being an immune modulator, anti-microbial, cardio & liver protector and digestive herb, turmeric is useful to include either via the diet or supplement.  
All of these herbs can be taken individually or in a combination. When it comes to infusions, blending a drink that's tasty and medicinal is as important as is the quality of the product, which is why I spend so long perfecting my range of pre-blended teas, they're made to be enjoyable as well as for a purpose. Or you can have individual dried herbs to drink on their own or blend your favourites. Dried or fresh herbs (loose, good quality herbs) can be made into a Decoction, which is a method that simply involves simmering the herbs in a pan with water for 5-10 minutes, this by far increases the availability of all the helpful active compounds responsible for the medicinal effects and makes a stronger tasting drink. If you need to sweeten you can add a little bit of honey or any plant based unrefined sugar.

Tinctures are stronger liquid extracts of individual herbs and herbalists normally make a combination of several tinctures when making an individual prescription or remedy. Because tinctures are much stronger than teas they're taken in much smaller amounts, usually between 1-5ml at regular intervals (5ml = one teaspoon). Tinctures are fairly safe to take but as with anything you're ingesting, you should know what you're taking, make sure you're taking the correct dose and if you have pre-existing medical conditions, are on medication or are not sure of dosage then seek advice from a professional.

The level of support needed when it comes to taking herbs will be individual, it's a matter of choice as to whether you take a remedy every day for immune modulation and virus protection or if you take a remedy when you begin to feel ill, show symptoms or have had exposure to a pathogen. The sooner herbal treatment begins after exposure to a pathogen has occurred the better, from this point of view I encourage having these herbs at hand for when you need them.

For herbal medicine to be effective it's best to take herbal teas, decoctions, tinctures or capsules for several days (to weeks or even months for chronic medical conditions) as you will need more than one dose for it to be efficient. Natural remedies work in a gentle and accumulative way, to put into context, immune stimulation or modulation would not occur from a single dose or a sub therapeutic dose (not enough) just the same a single antiviral or antibiotic tablet would not work. 

If you buy herbal remedies from a herbalist apothecary or a health shop you'll be given guidance on the best dose. Just be aware that over the counter remedies available from chemists, supermarkets & online often prescribe very small drop doses for safety reasons, sometimes these doses are sub therapeutic and not properly effective. If you buy an over the counter remedy you should do a bit of research or check with someone who knows to make sure you're taking the right dose. Herbal Medicine books are useful and as your local herbalist I'm always happy to give guidance if you're unsure. Growing and foraging your own is a lovely thing to do and really connects you with your food and medicine and you can store your bounty by drying or even making your own tinctures, oils, oxymels and vinegars. 

Looking at natural options and holistic health has never been more important. As we emerge from global lock down we'll be much better off if we harmonise more with nature and use a lighter touch toward our health and our environment, with mindful thinking we can all learn to take better care of ourselves using less toxic and more sustainable self-practices. To share these ideas and knowledge with each other sits with the true nature of herbalism and brings us back to more natural and grounded thinking. Take care, be well and practice Ahimsa* towards yourself and the beautiful planet we share!

*the practice of non-violence in all aspects of life from physical to mental and emotional

With grateful thanks to Jane Robinson, medical herbalists. Please go to her website homepage to subscribe to her newsletter if you want to see more articles like this: 

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Best Cooking Oils for Health & Well-Being

Nutritious plant oils to boost your dietWhen it comes to fats and oils, we are spoiled for choice. Supermarket shelves are heaving with every conceivable option. But these days it is extremely confusing because there is so much debate about the benefits and harm that come from consuming different types of fats. After years of being told, and telling others, that saturated fat clogs your arteries and makes you fat, there is now mounting evidence that eating some saturated fats may actually help you lose weight and be good for the heart.
You might think it is obvious that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat, like lard or butter. But is it really?
When you are frying or cooking at a high temperature (at or close to 180C or 356F), the molecular structures of the fats and oils you are using change. They undergo what's called oxidation - they react with oxygen in the air to form aldehydes and lipid peroxides. At room temperature something similar happens, though more slowly. When lipids go rancid they become oxidised.

Consuming or inhaling aldehydes, even in small amounts, has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer. The oils which were rich in polyunsaturates - the corn oil and sunflower oil - generated very high levels of aldehydes.

What Is The Best Cooking Oil For Your Heart? - Heart FoundationSunflower and corn oil are fine as long as you don't subject them to heat, such as frying or cooking. It's a simple chemical fact that something which is thought to be healthy for us is converted into something that is very unhealthy at standard frying temperatures.

The olive oil and cold-pressed rapeseed oil produced far less aldehydes, as did the butter and goose fat. The reason is that these oils are richer in monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, and these are much more stable when heated. In fact, saturated fats hardly undergo this oxidation reaction at all.

Generally olive oil is recommends for frying or cooking. Firstly because lower levels of these toxic compounds are generated, and secondly the compounds that are formed are actually less threatening to the human body.

Current research also suggests that when it comes to cooking, frying in saturate-rich animal fats or butter may be preferable to frying in sunflower or corn oil.

Lard has a reputation as being unhealthy but despite this, is actually rich in monounsaturated fats. 

It’s always preferable to do less frying, particularly at high temperature. If you are frying, minimise the amount of oil you use, and also take steps to remove the oil from the outside of the fried food, perhaps with a paper towel.

To reduce aldehyde production go for an oil or fat high in monounsaturated or saturated lipids (preferably greater than 60% for one or the other, and more than 80% for the two combined), and low in polyunsaturates (less than 20%).

Pig Oil/pork Lard For Bio Diesel Production - Buy Pig Oil/pork ...The ideal "compromise" oil for cooking purposes is olive oil because it is about 76% monounsaturates, 14% saturates and only 10% polyunsaturates - monounsaturates and saturates are much more resistant to oxidation than polyunsaturates.

When it comes to cooking it doesn't seem to matter whether the olive oil is "extra virgin" or not. "The antioxidant levels present in the extra virgin products are insufficient to protect us against heat-induced oxidation."

Finally, always keep your oils in a cupboard, out of the light, and try not to reuse them as this also leads to the accumulation of nasty side-products.

Polyunsaturated fats contain two or more carbon-carbon double bonds. When eaten in as food such nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens, they have clear health benefits. However, the benefits of consuming sunflower oil and corn oil, although rich in polyunsaturates, are much less clear.

Monounsaturated oils Contain just one carbon-carbon double bond. They are found in avocados, olives, olive oil, almonds and hazelnuts, and also in lard and goose fat. Olive oil, which is approximately 76% monounsaturated, is a key component in the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Cracking the coconut oil craze - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard ...
Saturated fats have no double bonds between carbon atoms. Although we are encouraged to switch from eating saturated fats, particularly dairy and other fats derived from animals, the benefits of doing so are being challenged.
The percentages of each in the oils below varies somewhat but these values are typical:

Which fats can make you healthy? 
There’s a huge variety to choose from and many are an amazingly concentrated source of vital nutrients including vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, required by every living cell in the body to function properly.
Some oils give us higher concentrations of nutrients than others. As plants produce vitamin E to protect their seeds against oxidation, it makes sense that seed crops such as rape and flax that have relatively exposed seeds will contain plenty of antioxidant vitamin E. In contrast, a coconut that has a thick, fibrous shell to physically protect its seed will have little need for vitamin E, so only contains trace amounts. The different chemical structures of plant oils also mean that some are better able to keep hold of their nutrients when heated. The more stable oils at higher temperatures include coconut oil and rapeseed oil, whereas groundnut oil will lose one third of its vitamin E levels if used for frying.

Whichever oil you choose, there are a few simple ground rules to help buy the best. Always look for the words “unrefined” and “cold-pressed”, as this will mean they’ve been exposed to lower temperatures during production and therefore will contain more valuable nutrients. They also generally taste better too! Choosing oils naturally darker in colour and with a nutty smell is a sure sign that the oil won’t have been bleached or deodorised either. And oils in darker bottles or metal tins are also less likely to have been exposed to any prolonged light which can cause rancidity.
Unsaturated fats are considered to be the most beneficial to our health and, depending on their structure, they can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturates fall into two main groups – omega-3s found mainly in fish but also some vegetable oils, and omega-6s found primarily in vegetable oils. Here are just a few of our Wellbeing favourites:

Olive oil is considered the king of oils with both legendary and proven medicinal benefits. Dominated by monounsaturated fats, it is one of the longest-lasting oils and is also relatively stable at medium-high temperatures so excellent for most cooking, but not frying. Its distinctive, full-flavoured taste also makes it a must for salad dressings or just drizzling over just about everything. Yum!

Rapeseed oil is also known as Canola oil and has the highest percentage of unsaturated fats of any vegetable oil, with just under half being polyunsaturates. It has a wonderful golden glow, much like the incredible yellow rape fields we see in late spring and is a light, versatile oil with a neutral flavour, so is a very useful kitchen staple.

Sesame oil is both a mono and polyunsaturated oil, so it can be heated to relatively high temperatures which is why it’s often used in stir-fries. It has a wonderful pungent flavour and aroma and a high content of antioxidants. Choose the plain, untoasted (burnt) varieties.

Pumpkin seed oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 and also contains useful quantities of zinc. It’s dark green colour makes it a great oil for drizzling on top of lighter coloured food such as mashed or baked potato, risottos or pasta.

Walnut oil is polyunsaturated and contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It has a delicious, strong nutty taste and just a few drops adds plenty of flavour, so it’s perfect to add a healthy depth to dressings or a nutty essence to cakes and biscuits.
Frying: If you're trying to fry something, you'll want to opt for an oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point. Oils with high smoke points are typically those that are more refined, because their heat-sensitive impurities are often removed through chemical processing, bleaching, filtering, or high-temperature heating. A high smoke point is typically one above 375 degrees F, as that's the temperature you usually fry at. Oils with high smoke points include: canola oil, pure olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil.

Baking: If you're looking for something to bake with, it's best to opt for a neutral oil. Think: canola oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oil.

Sautéing and searing: You should choose a more flavourful oil with a lower smoke point. Good options include: canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil.

Dressing: As for dressing, the flavourful stuff is always best. Go for extra-virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil. Even the “good fats” in some of the oils listed below are still fats, so just because an oil is healthy, doesn’t mean you should down it like it’s calorie free. Here are the healthiest cooking oils to keep in your cupboard.

1. Canola oil
I don't know about you, but I grew up thinking canola oil was one step away from propane—AKA, really friggin bad for you. Shaw begs to differ. She says people often think of it as unhealthy because they associate it with fried food. And though yes, canola oil's high smoke point (400 degrees F) and neutral flavour makes it an excellent vehicle for frying, it isn't actually all that bad for you on its own. The reason it has a high smoke point is because it is chemically processed, but that doesn’t have much of an effect on its health qualities.
Much like most of the other healthy oils on this list, it's low in saturated fats, and can be used for roasting, frying, and baking. Because it has a neutral taste that doesn't do much for your food in the flavour department, cooks don't usually recommend using it for sautéing.
Best for: Frying, roasting, and baking
Not recommended for: Sautéing and salad dressings

2. Extra-virgin olive oil
This oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and a quality bottle can truly take you on a taste bud adventure. There's one catch with extra-virgin versus other grades of olive oil: It has a relatively low smoke point (325 to 375 degrees F), which means you may not want to use it for frying or roasting at temperatures above that smoke point. Additionally, cooking a good extra-virgin olive oil will break down its structural integrity which messes with both its flavour and nutrition, so you may want to save your fancy bottle for drizzling and finishing dishes. Find out just how to find your perfect bottle here.
Best for: Sautéing and drizzling
Not recommend for: Frying or roasting above 375 degrees F

3. Pure olive oil
If you love frying things in olive oil (which, like, who doesn't?) you'll want to use the pure stuff instead of extra-virgin olive oil. Pure olive oil has a smoke point of 465 degrees F, which can stand up to that frying heat. Unfortunately, it's not quite as flavourful, because it's chemically processed. It also doesn't have as many heart-healthy fats as high-quality extra-virgin. But that’s the trade off for being able to use it for heavy duty cooking.
Best for: Frying
Not recommended for: Salad dressings

4. Avocado oil
Avocado oil is the new kid on the block. Much like coconut oil, it is beloved by the clean-eating community and surrounded by that same health food halo. However, unlike coconut oil, it doesn't have quite as much saturated fat (only 1.6 grams per tablespoon). It is, however, packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and it has a high smoke point (375 to 400 degrees F) and neutral flavour without being chemically processed like canola and vegetable oil. It's a bit more expensive than those more processed oils, but if you're interested in avoiding refined foods, want that high smoke point, and don't mind the splurge, then this is a great alternative.
Best for: Frying
Not recommended for: Budget cooking

5. Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is kind of a sister to canola oil. It's also chemically processed, has a similarly high smoke point (400 to 450 degrees F), and is neutral flavour. Again, these characteristics make it good for roasting, frying, and baking. It’s certainly not the healthiest oil going since the chemical processing depletes the natural mineral content—and that's why it has that high smoke point.
Best for: Frying, roasting, and baking
Not recommended for: Sautéing and salad dressings

6. Safflower oil
If you're still sceptical of vegetable and canola oils, may I recommend safflower oil. Shaw says that safflower oil is low in saturated fats, high in omega-9 fatty acids, and it has a neutral flavour and high smoke point. In fact, at 510 degrees F, it has the highest smoke point of all the oils listed. Safflower oil is sold both chemically processed and cold-pressed like olive oil, and either version you opt for will have that same high smoke point.
Best for: Frying and sautéing
Not recommended for: Salad dressings

7. Peanut oil
Peanut oil is one of the more flavourful oils out there. Meaning, you should probably only use it if you want your food to be peanut flavoured. It can be recommended for adding it to peanut butter cookies, or using it to sauté stir-fry recipes. It also has a high smoke point (450 degrees F) so you can even use it to fry foods like tempura. Like vegetable and canola oil, it is also chemically processed and low in saturated fat.
Best for: Frying and sautéing
Not recommended for: Foods that shouldn't taste like peanu

8. Sesame oil
Another highly flavourful oil, this one goes a long way. Sesame oil adds so much to a dish, so you don't need to use a lot. It’s a great alternative to peanut oil if you have a peanut allergy (or just aren't fond of that peanut flavour). And like extra-virgin olive oil, it's cold-pressed rather than chemically processed. So while it may not have the highest smoke point ever (350 to 410 degrees F), it's a good unrefined option, if that's what you're looking for.
Best for: Sautéing
Not recommended for: Foods that shouldn't taste like sesame

9. Flaxseed oil
This oil has a couple interesting characteristics: For one, it's high in omega-3 fatty acids, so you may want to look into using it more often if you don't eat a lot of omega-3 rich fish. That said, you absolutely can't cook with it, because it's incredibly sensitive to heat and oxidizes quickly, she notes. For this reason, she says you'll want to use it in salad dressings and drizzle it over dips like hummus. Buy small bottles so you can use it up quickly, and be extra sure to store it in a cool dark place.
Best for: Drizzling and salad dressings
Not recommended for: Cooking

10. Coconut oil
I don’t mean to burst any bubbles, but coconut oil isn’t quite the miracle cream it’s advertised as. Well, actually, as a cream, it is kind of a miracle worker (there are so many ways to use it for beauty), but when it comes to preparing meals, I can’t suggest a free pass to eat as much as you want.
In fact, by some measures, it’s about as healthy as butter and much like butter, it’s solid at room temperature because it has a high content of saturated fat—12 grams per 1 tablespoon. There’s a lot of debate over whether or not saturated fat is good or bad for you, so this intel doesn’t mean you should totally rule out coconut oil. Coconut oil, unlike most other saturated fats, raises both your “good” and “bad” cholesterol, and since it’s the ratio of those that matters most to heart health, it gives the oil an edge over butter or lard.
But overall, you’re better off using other oils, like extra-virgin olive oil. The exception: baking. That creamy, fatty quality makes coconut oil a great vegan butter alternative for baked goods. If you do want to use it for other methods like sautéing or roasting, know that it has a relatively low smoke point of 350 degrees F.
Best for: Baking
Not recommended for: Frying

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Examining cinchona bark in tackling the coronavirus

Medicine Cabinet - Pioneer ThinkingPosts touting the curative effects of cinchona, or fever tree bark have recently been circulating on social networks such as Instagram and Facebook. These posts promise a “natural” source of the prescription-only drug chloroquine. Even Donald Trump has admitted to self-medicating on the stuff!

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are currently being researched as potential treatments for COVID-19. The public has paid increased attention to these drugs since US President Donald Trump mentioned “promising” results in a speech on March 19 2020. As the drug is not available over the counter and is in relatively short supply, there is an interest in alternative sources, and the bark of the cinchona tree is being advertised as one.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are antimalarial drugs. (Although, despite nearly a century of use, scientists still don’t fully understand how their antimalarial properties work.) They are also prescribed for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Most people would not have heard of these drugs, though, if it hadn’t been for recent news reports about research which suggests they may inhibit the ability of the novel coronavirus to infect cells. However, some have expressed concern about the quality of the trials and the statements made by Trump. More worrying are reports of people self-medicating, with one couple taking a fishtank cleaner, containing chloroquine phosphate, resulting in the death of one and the hospitalisation of the other.
Peru in danger of losing its national cinchona tree
There has also been a rise in demand for chloroquine, which has meant some patients have been unable to access their regular prescriptions.

False links are now being made between another source of antimalarial compounds, cinchona bark, as a natural or alternative source of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. As quinine from cinchona bark is an ingredient in tonic water (in very low amounts), there have been rumours that it could also protect against SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.

Cinchona, quinine and chloroquine
Since its discovery in the 17th century, the bark of the Andean cinchona tree and its chemical constituents, known as quinoline alkaloids (quinine, quinidine, cinchonine and cinchonidine), provided the only treatment for malaria for over 300 years. In 1934, scientists developed the first synthetic antimalarial, later known as chloroquine. Although chloroquine was inspired by the antimalarial activity of quinine, its chemical structure (and pharmacological properties) are quite different from the natural compounds found in cinchona bark.

The different chemical structures of quinine and chloroquine. 

To date, there is no laboratory or clinical evidence that quinine or any other cinchona bark compounds exhibit activity against COVID-19. Also, not everything that is natural is safe. Cinchona and quinine are toxic and can cause serious side-effects known as “cinchonism” which can include hearing and vision loss, breathing issues, and heart and kidney issues. It can also lead to a coma.

While quinine pills were once sold over the counter in the US to treat night leg cramps, they were pulled from the market by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 after serious side effects and death were reported.

Pandemic profiteering
History is full of examples of people profiting from the public’s panic and fear during unstable times. The European Union law enforcement agency has already seized 48,000 pquinine, chloackages of potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals, including unauthorised chloroquine, as well as fake masks and bogus coronavirus cures.
malaria Archives - Science Talk Archive
The benefits, if any, of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 are still not fully understood. Cinchona bark does not contain either of these compounds, and the alkaloids in the bark bear no relation to them. Likewise, there is no evidence of cinchona being able to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Cinchona is highly toxic and self-medication with it or any other unproven cures should be avoided. Protect your health and don’t waste money funding unethical people and companies profiteering off fear in these uncertain times.

Reference: Cassandra Quave, Emory University.