Monthly Archives: May 2010

Saffron


Crocus sativus L.

Crocus is native to Asia Minor and Southern Europe. Saffron is obtained from the stigmas of the flower, which flowers in autumn. Crocus sativus L. is a major agricultural crop, in northeastern Iran. Not only is saffron one of the most ancient spices of the old world, since ancient times, the genetics of this plant has remained unchanged. The labor intensive method of removing the stigmas from the saffron flowers has made the product extremely expensive. Hence, this product may be found in the market place adulterated (Negbi, 2004).

A field of Saffron and the Saffron harvesters

Photo curtsey from: The Penthouse Kitchen

Medicinal value of Saffron

Ancient medicine uses included antispasmodic, carminative, expectorant, aphrodisiac, stimulant, cardiotonic, and stomachic (Zargari, 1993).  In modern medicine, crocus plant constituents are used as an exhilarant and curative of anxiety (Mirheidar, 1994; Salomi MJ, Nair SC and Panikkar KR, 1991). The orange-yellow coloring principle is crocin.

Saffron: Photo curtsey Vaishali Parekh

Pharmacological research has shown the extract of saffron to have antitumor effects (Rojhan , 1995), radical scavenger activities (Nair SC, Kurumboor SK, Hasegawa JH., 1995) and hypolipaemic effects (DerMarderosian, 2001). Research shows potential usefulness in neurodegenerative disorders connected with memory impairment (Abe and Saito, 2000). In addition, Kaempferol, an extract of saffron petals has potential as an anitdepressant (Hadizadeh, 2003; Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H and Khaleghpanah P. 2001).

There are other varieties of Crocus sp. which are highly valuable and economically important in the garden as flowering plants. However, the saffron producing European crop is in danger of extinction. Saffron production has decreased dramatically in many European countries and is already extinct in England and Germany. The world Saffron and Crocus collection makes available a wide variety of over twenty Crocus genotypes. It aims to slow down the genotypic erosion and hosts a database of Crocus species from various countries.

Recipe suggestions:

Visit Vaishali Parekh’s site which has a delicious Indian recipe using saffron.

Visit The Penthouse Kitchen site, caterers serving you recipes using saffron.

Experts on Crocus sativus :

1. Moshe Negbi 
Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel

2. Farzin Hadizadeh*a,b, Naaman Khalilia, Hossein Hosseinzadeha,b, Randa Khair-Aldinea. Faculty of  Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran,  bBu-Ali Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Center, Bu-Ali Square, Mashhad, Iran.

Corresponding author for reference on kaempferol: Email: fhadizadeh@yahoo.com

References:

1. Negbi, Moshe. 2004.

Saffron. ‘Prelims’, Saffron, 1:1, 1 – 12 . Edited by Dr Roland Hardman; Harvood academic publishers; The Netherlands. ISBN 0-203-30366-0 Master e-book ISBN

2. Farzin Hadizadeh*a,b, Naaman Khalilia, Hossein Hosseinzadeha,b, Randa Khair-Aldinea 2003. Kaempferol from Saffron Petals. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research : 251-252.

3) Zargari A. Medicinal Plants, 1993. Volume 4, Tehran University Press, Tehran : 574-578.

4) Mirheidar H. Maarif-e Ghiahi, Farhang-e. 1994. Eslami Press, Tehran : 341-5 6

5) Salomi MJ, Nair SC and Panikkar KR. 1991. Inhibitory effects of Nigella sativa and Crocus sativus on chemical carcinogenesis in mice. Nutr. Cancer (1991) 16: 67-72 .

6) Rojhan MS. 1995, Herbal drugs and treatment. Alavi Press, Tehran :87

7) Nair SC, Kurumboor SK, Hasegawa JH.. 1995. Saffron chemoprevention in biology and medicine. Cancer Biother. 10: 257-264.

8) DerMarderosian. 2001. A. Review of Natural Products, Facts and Comparison, Missouri :520.

9) Abe k and Saito H. 2000. Effects of saffron extract on learning behavior and long-term potentiation. Phytother. Res. 14: 149-152.

10) Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H and Khaleghpanah P.. 2001. Study of antidepressant effect of aqueous and ethanol extract of Crocus sativus in mice. Iranian J. Basic Sciences 4: 186-190.

All rights reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, 
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information 
storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

6 Comments

Filed under Health, Medicinal spice, Spice

Natural science vs Patent protected science


John Sulston, a human genome project contributor, has clashed with Craig Venter over commercial interests in the human genome. He is hoping that Venter’s patent applications on the pioneering synthetic genome will be rejected. He finds the patents too broad and feels the resulting monopoly would choke scientific progress in genetics and would be unethical.

Venter’s Institute spokesman doubted any one company could hold a monopoly on genetic research.

Read an article by Daniel Cressey in The Nature Blog, dated May 25, 2010.

Read an article by Pallab Ghosh, BBC Science Correspondent, dated May 25, 2010, discussing in further detail John Sulston’s argument and concern over an increased use of patents by genetic researchers.

In general, it is important to preserve the patent process to support innovation, by assisting Biotechnology companies to secure financing, because patents give protection from competition for a fixed period. However, if the patent granted is too broad and chokes future research projects or cloaks research efforts in secrecy to prevent sharing before patent application, then this too chokes the progress of research.

Our job is to discover the natural beauty of the bounty that surrounds us and find how the machinery of a natural organism works and interacts, the various biochemical pathways and their interactions. It has been proven that such work is best done when the best international minds work together to solve great scientific puzzles.

It has also been shown that it is important to bring lab science into the commercial sphere so that the public can enjoy the scientific discoveries eg., Aspirin; Lipitor; Benadryl and more. The genetic revolution has only recently begun to produce personalized new drugs eg., Herceptin for breast cancer treatment and the highly controversial control over the breast cancer genetic lab test. This interplay between the human genome and the unlimited commercial potential of controlling the entire market in genetics drugs is what is drawing the largest adversaries: those for and those against gene patenting. Stay tuned for nature vs gene patents.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Banana – the way to eat and lose weight too


Banana

My best friend was distraught when her toddler refused to drink regular milk. “How am I supposed to keep my baby healthy?” She wailed. Then, her baby girl surprised her. She loved to eat bananas and she ate enough to stay healthy. Fortunately, bananas are nutrition rich, especially in potassium. It made me wonder, what else does a banana have that made it so healthy?

I discovered that doctors have recommended eating bananas to people with low potassium or with hypertension. Scientists (1991) have shown that potassium is the primary mineral of ripe banana, and that crude protein is 3.8% of dry banana flour. They have also evaluated two cooking varieties of banana and shown that the carbohydrate content is 2.8% soluble sugars, 70% starch and 12% non-starch polysaccharides. Scientists have also shown that fresh green banana is a good source of Vitamin C.

I know that Bananas (musa sp.) are very popular in tropical countries. Banana has recently been called the weight loss food. When opera singer, Kumiko Mori, lost 15 lbs on the ‘Morning banana diet‘ developed by Hitoshi and Sumiko Watanabe, the banana became very popular in Japan. The Japanese went bananas over bananas with supermarkets selling out of bananas. Guess, our tropical ancestors were right!

Compared to other fruits the banana provides more energy. During marathons in Europe, runners are handed pieces of banana by volunteers running alongside them. Moroccons have a deliciously cold, avocado – banana smoothie recipe that was made an international hit in 2011 by a blogger. Some always keep a supply of bananas in their fridge.  A delicious banana streusel recipe is another way of eating your bananas.

Is banana the food of choice of thin people or are people thin because they eat banana? Banana recipe suggestions have included eating it with your waffle, and loving sisters have suggested serving it along with a meal on the side to satisfy hungry brothers. The importance of eating breakfast, to maintain a healthy lifestyle has been emphasized by trainers and nutritionists. Some say that’s easy because the banana is their favorite breakfast food. Some have said eating bananas prevents them from snacking by making them feel full. The importance of regular sleep in a banana weight loss diet has been suggested.  Your view is welcome.  Click here for hundreds of photographs and cartoons of banana.

Banana is not always good for you. Apparently, when the kidneys are not functioning correctly, it is best to restrict bananas in the diet. Again, it is the high potassium in the bananas which is to be avoided to keep a failing kidney healthy. Ironically, it is equally important for the remaining family members to eat bananas to stay healthy!

The Banana Tree

In West Bengal, India all parts of the banana plant are used. The fruit is very popular. The stem is cooked and eaten and it’s extract is being researched by Indian scientists to show beneficial effects. The fruit is sliced and dried to be eaten as a healthy snack, which may refer to their potassium, protein, vitamin C, and soluble sugar contents. The dried banana slices are packaged and sold in several health food stores such as Whole Foods and Food Emporium, and very popular as a healthy snack. The leaves are used to serve food in India. The leaves have natural antiseptic properties and hence serve as a healthy, antiseptic, disposable serving platter which are very popular during weddings in India.

Although there are several edible banana varieties, only a few varieties have worldwide appeal, particularly due to ripening issues during storage and transportation.  Marriott has published, highly cited papers on the storage and ripening properties of banana that are important during transportation (1980). There are several new varieties of cooking banana and plantain varieties with improved pest and disease resistance and where the cooking banana had lower starch, and ascorbic acid than the plantains. There has been much work done on how to prevent or delay banana peel spotting.

5 Comments

Filed under FAT free diet, Health, Uncategorized, Women's Health

Essential mission to transform our food procurement pathway


Must read:

1) Michael Pollan, “The Omnivore’s Dilemna”.

An overview of the social, ethical and environmental impact of modern food production.

2) John Mackey, Co-founder and CEO Whole Foods Market.

An open letter to journalist Michael Pollan critiquing the author’s research approach while offering to be an ally to accomplish the essential mission to transform our food procurement pathways into more holistic, ecological and sustainable systems.

Recently, scientists have shown that there may be a connection with ADHD or attention deficit disorder and a diet of pesticide covered fruits and vegetables.

We shall continue to update this with more examples of such food procurement pathways such as non-pesticide farming methods, grass-fed cows, seasonal vegetables and more. Please, feel free to alert us with factual health sites covering such issues.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kidney care and okra


Okra (or ladysfinger) has some reputation as a kidney cleanser. I shall look for peer-reviewed journal publications on this subject and post them here. Once kidneys fail, dialysis assistance is begun. If prevention of kidney failure is a goal then it may be prudent to include in one’s diet vegetables such as okra, which have a reputation for maintaining kidney health, until proven otherwise. Kidney care may be essential for the generous donors who are left with a single kidney to ensure renal function (Click here to read a story about one such donor, written by the donor).

Some may find okra cumbersome to handle, and you too may be intimidated, if you handle okra for the first time. Please, trust me. Do not be turned – off. Continue to explore this little, green, ribbed pod, full of these magnificent protein packed seeds. Together, they deliver a major dose of a beautiful, mixture of vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, iron and iodine. On top of all this it includes crude fiber bringing with it a totally separate set of benefits. If the little okra did not deliver a serious benefit why else would ancient people on two separate continents be so devoted to the cultivation of fresh okra until current times? Click here for more than 400 photos of okra and okra recipes. A mucilaginous exudate appears when one chops the okra. Does this exudate have preventive properties? I shall look into it and post it here. Also, should I find a collection of tested recipes using okra, I shall post them here. Please, feel free to share your favorite okra recipes here too. Many kitchens have successfully conquered the art of cooking okra to include it as part of a renal – care menu, while celebrating the joy of a good meal. Please, visit by clicking on the international recipes featured here by different authors. You may be delightfully surprised by how flavorfully you can add okra to your own table through some of these following recipes:

1) Some, like their okras stuffed with masala, as in this Indian recipe.

2) Others like their okra fried, as in this Southern USA recipe.

3) While still others like it delicately spiced as in this Persian recipe.

4) The young fruit is eaten fresh in Nigeria, which perhaps is the only country that has two equally popular varieties of okra; one which is popular in the other countries and the second native to a restricted part of Nigeria. Although, there are several delicious African recipes to cook okra.

5) Chicago Tribune features this Indian style  okra with tomatillos recipe along with a weight loss cartoon!

It is evident that okra has long been revered from these ancient recipes. Some more recipes sites are mentioned in the Bon Appetit magazine.

Okras are difficult in find in stores but you may want to look out for them. Also, they are easy to grow from seed in the summer. Exploring both options may prove rewarding.

Research on the cultivation and utilization of Abelmoschus esculentus or okra has mainly focused on several aspects, including its cultivation as a vegetable, as a medicine and for health care, as a beverage, and in gardening. The vegetable it produces contains many nutritious ingredients: 100 g of dry, tender okra pods includes 2.11 g of deoxidized sugar, 1.06 g of cellulose, 2.44 g of CP, 0.682 g of carotene, 26.5 mg of vitamin C, 1.25 mg of vitamin A, 10.2 mg of vitamin B, and many minerals, having slightly more than common vegetables and fruits. In addition to being a good source of vitamins A, B, C it is also provides protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, iron and iodine (Diaz and Ortegon, 1997). Consuming 100g of fresh okra pods provides 20, 15 and 50% of the daily recommended requirement of calcium, iron and ascorbic acid, respectively (Hamon, 1988; Schippers, 2002). It is advisable to eat the whole seeds. The seeds and their kernels are rich in protein as well as fat. Most of the protein and fat of the seed is found in the kernel while the seed coat is composed of crude fiber. It is a good source of essential amino acids but its levels are lower than that of whole egg protein.

References:

ISBN 90 – 5782 – 147 – 8

Related Articles
How to introduce Calcium in the diet of Autistics and Allergics
How to balance minerals in diet for healthy kidneys

7 Comments

Filed under Health, Uncategorized, Women's Health

Can the emotion of fear be treated with herbs?


In a Dominica village three herbs, along with prayer and exercise are reportedly used by 27% of adults for medicinal treatment for fright. Dr. Marsha Quinlan, an Anthropologist at the Washington State University, Pullman, WA says that “Fright” is an english speaking caribbean idiom for an illness, or ethnomedical syndrome, of persistent distress, with parallel terms in other cultures such as West Indian, Hispanic and French. The three herbs are:

1) Gossypium barbadense L.

2) Lippia micromera Schauer

3) Plectranthus [Coleus] anboinicus [Loureiro] Sprengel

The entire article is available at (online: http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/6/1/9):

Ethnomedicine and ethnobotany of fright, a Caribbean culture – bound psychiatric syndrome.

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 2010, 6:9.

Dr. Marsha Quinlan is a sociocultural medical anthropologist concerned with the ways culture affects health and medical care.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized