More Than Just An Herb
We all know that partaking of natural herbs and plants is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Herbal botanical extracts, including those found in the Marley Natural Body Care line, have a rich cultural and medicinal history dating back several centuries in countries throughout the world. But along being powerhouses of essential nutrients, there are some lesser known, unexpected uses for these super plants – including being symbolic in African naming ceremonies, acting as a natural teeth whitener, and being an accent in popular Vietnamese dishes. Here we explore some of the uncommon benefits and historical trivia of the herbs you thought you knew.
Bitter Kola Nut Garcinia Kola Nut
Bitter kola, also known as Garcinia kola, is a tropical flowering plant found in Central and Western Africa and has been used throughout time for both traditional and medicinal purposes. Kola nuts are also an important part of spiritual practices in West Africa, and are commonly used in social ceremonies – including naming ceremonies – weddings, and gatherings of chiefs. Known as "Bizzy Tea" in Jamaica, this miracle medicine is said to remove poisons and toxins from the body via a "rinse." In Western culture, this wonder plant is perhaps best known as a beverage flavoring ingredient. Yes, you guessed it, the caffeine-containing fruit is behind the origin of the term "cola." But it’s also a great substitute for hops in brewing lager beer, and is especially useful in preventing beer spoilage.
Ginger Zingiber Officinale
Native to southeastern Asia, ginger is one of the most popular plants throughout the world – myth even says it originated in the Garden of Eden. Ginger has long been prized in Chinese and Middle Eastern culture for its aromatic, culinary, and medicinal properties. The spice ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant, whose botanical name is thought to be derived from its Sanskrit name singabera, which translates as "horn shaped." The health benefits of a honey and ginger concoction in treating respiratory congestion are unmatched. But a lesser known home remedy includes chewing on ginger to relieve headaches, or consuming it before a flight to prevent motion sickness. It also makes for a soothing tea and is used in Jamaica to make ginger beer. Ginger is a natural appetite stimulant, making it the ideal spicy addition to almost any recipe!
Greater Burdock Arctium Lappa Root
Originating from the sunflower family, burdock root is an underground tuber from the greater burdock plant that was traditionally used as a vegetable and medicinal herb dating back to the Middle Ages. The plant itself is believed to be native to Northern Europe and Siberia. But it eventually became popular in Japan, where it’s known as gobo, China, where it’s known as niúbàng, and Korea, known as ueong, where it has been cultivated as a major root herb. These days, burdock is the best kept secret behind the increasingly popular macrobiotic diet due to its fair amount of dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, and amino acids. The taste resembles that of an artichoke, and makes a great addition to miso soup.
Guinea Hen Weed Petiveria Alliacea
Guinea Hen Weed, often known as "anamu" by natives in its indigenous Amazon homeland, has been used for medicinal, herbal, and culinary purposes for ages. This unique plant is composed of a variety of antioxidants, naturally occurring steroids, and sulfuric compounds. In Jamaica, it’s often made into an herbal tea and used as a treatment for everything from fevers to anxiety to boosting the immune system. But that’s not all. Alongside its medicinal benefits, Amazonian healers (curanderos) also use it as an herbal bath to ward off evil spirits, while the Ka'apor in Brazil, the Caribs of Guatemala, and the Garifuna people of Nicaragua, use it for both medicinal and magic rituals.
Bitter Melon or Cerasee Momordica Charantia Leaf
Cerasee is a herbaceous tropical vine from the Cucurbitaceae family, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Also know as known as bitter melon, bitter squash, or balsam-pear,, this edible fruit is believed to have originated in India and was later introduced into China in the 14th century – it has long been an integral ingredient in both countries’ cuisines. Cerasee has also been used in various Asian and African herbal medicine practices. What some may not know is that Cerasee tea – touted as a leading home remedy – is a popular Jamaican staple; alongside Ackee and Saltfish it has been dubbed one of the "unofficial" national dishes of the island. A popular "washout" treatment is often given to children at the end of summer to purge the blood of impurities, cleanse the organs, clean the skin, and promote general well-being.
Lemon Grass Cymbopogon Scoenanthus
Lemongrass, commonly known as "citronella grass," is an aromatic storehouse of essential nutrients that provides a wide range of health benefits. Native to India and tropical regions of Asia, this plant is loaded with vitamins and minerals and has a delicious flavor and scent. One of its more common uses is in the production of citronella oil, which is found in soaps, insect repellants, deodorants, and candles, as well as household disinfectants. Adding a few leaves of this nourishing plant to a warm bath makes for a very relaxing soak. But lemongrass is also a delicious culinary ingredient, popular in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. And did we mention that it makes for a tasty lemonade? Just blend watermelon, lemongrass, and lime juice for a satisfying summertime treat!
Turmeric Curcuma Longa
Traditionally known as "Indian saffron" for its yellow-orange color, peppery flavor, and mild fragrance, this spice has been used throughout history as a healing remedy, condiment (popular in curry dishes), and textile dye. Turmeric originates from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has been a staple in both Chinese and Indian medicinal traditions, being best known for it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well as for protecting against memory loss. But what you may not know about this ancient gem is that it’s also an ideal teeth whitener – just mix powered turmeric with water, brush, wait 3 minutes, and rinse. As well, you can make a turmeric face mask for the perfect low-budget, at-home cleanse.