Wild Lettuce and Family Dinners

My grandmother knew how to lay a spread on the dinner table.  When our large family came together, we gathered around a long table stacked high with country-style home cooking.  In the middle of all the protein and starches was a large bowl of field greens tossed with honey vinaigrette. I didn’t understand it then, but this simple dish did a marvelous job of balancing sweet, salty, bitter and sour.  Even though I was a typical kid who avoided vegetables, her salad was an exception.

One of the ingredients was Wild Lettuce, which despite its name is a member of the sun flower family.  Like aspirin, it is bitter and has a mild analgesic effect.  Even though Wild Lettuce has a history of use dating back to the Egyptians as an opium substitute, it is a mild plant that is not addictive, unless you include the natural response to wholesome foods that nourish our body and restore good health.

Like carrots it contains Vitamin A, an anti oxidant connected to eye health, a strong immune system, and the growth of healthy new cells.  As you know, we are constantly replacing our old cells with new ones, lending credence to the idea that we are forever renewing ourselves.  This renewal takes fuel and a good place to fill her up is with wild edibles like Wild Lettuce.

Here’s to your good health, my friends.

Peace out,

Robert

 

Pennywort and Longevity

On May 6, 1933 the New York Times published the obituary of Li Ching-Yeun, a Chinese herbalist, who died at the age of 197. Other Chinese government sources claimed he was even older at 256. If you’re like me, you have mixed feelings about a story like this. My practical lawyer-side finds it hard to believe that a man actually lived that long and would like to see credible proof of these claims. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that wants to believe there is hidden knowledge out there that can forever change my life. What if?

I like to think I have a healthy balance between critical thinking and open-mindedness. I never accept the opinions of “experts” as the final word. You should always do your homework and make the best possible choice given the information available to you. As an attorney, I’ve questioned many expert witnesses who reach different conclusions about scientific data. At the end of the day, their opinions are only educated guesses. Maybe a career in litigation has left me a little jaded, but I prefer to think for myself and encourage others to do the same.

Part of my homework is to slowly incorporate wild-plants into my diet. I pay attention to how my body reacts, looking for any sign the plant doesn’t agree with me. I also note any positive reactions. If there are no adverse reactions, then I give it a try for a while. If it improves the quality of my life, then I’ve lost nothing and gained everything.

One of the herbs Li Ching-Yeun was said to favor is Pennywort (Gotu Kola). It has a history of use in both Indian Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. I follow the example of Asians and add it to a tossed salad of wild herbs and common garden vegetables. In traditional Chinese medicine it is used to reduce fever, treat ulcers and anxiety, as a laxative, and to calm the nervous system. Nutritionally, it is rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and the B Vitamins, thiamine niacin, and riboflavin.

Here’s to your health and long life.

Peace out,
Robert

Lucky Clover

There is nothing like feeling soft grass between my toes. I’m not exactly sure why, but it gives me such pleasure. I think maybe it’s a need to feel connected to the Earth, because I feel much the same thing gardening as I plunge my hands into the rich soil.

I grew up in a neighborhood where the kids ran barefoot all summer. Rarely was anyone injured, because the soles of our young feet were tough as shoe leather. The one exception came from the bees harvesting fields of clover. They didn’t care much for being disturbed from the busy work of collecting pollen to feed the hive, and although our soles were protected from their stingers, the rest of the foot was not.  In my mind, the patches of clover were the bee’s domain.

It wasn’t until I became interested in herbal remedies that I learned of the health benefits of red clover. Herbalist use the flowers to treat a wide variety of conditions, fight infections, promote hormonal balance, and restore the glow to ashen skin. This plant is a source of beta-carotene, zinc, calcium, potassium, selenium, iron, and vitamin E, C, B1, B2, and B3.

Sometimes when I hike I like to munch on a flower and stick a few more in my pocket to add later to a cup of green tea.

Here’s to your good health, my friends.

Peace out,
Robert

 

I’m Not a Weed

Milk Thistle

“I am not a weed,” the flower replied, sweetly.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint−Exupery

A weed is a useless and undesirable plant growing where it is not wanted. Very often, our attempts to remove them backfire on us as in the case of the recent death of a friend’s family member. Her death was swift and unexpected. The doctors told the grieving family her liver failed, but couldn’t say why someone who had been the picture of good health would suddenly take such a deadly turn.

My friend believed she had an adverse reaction to a herbicide she was using just before she got sick. She was trying to wipe out a patch of Milk Thistle so her cattle wouldn’t get into it. Of course, proving his suspicions is a daunting task and the family had no intention of pursuing legal action against the chemical giant who manufactured the poison.

The heartbreaking twist to this story is Milk Thistle is not a weed. It is a very old medicine that has been used for centuries by herbalist to flush toxins from the liver. Maybe her legacy to us is a reminder to add Milk Thistle to our salads instead of reaching for the poison used to kill this beautiful plant.

To your good health, my friends.

Peace out,
Robert