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Cocoa, not tea, calms BP:

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Some may see a cup of tea as soothing but chocolate is more likely to lower one’s blood pressure, German researchers reported on Monday.

Foods rich in cocoa appear to reduce blood pressure but drinking green and black tea may not, according to an analysis of previously published research in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The drop in blood pressure among participants who consumed cocoa products for at least two weeks was in the same range as achieved by someone taking drugs commonly prescribed to control high blood pressure.

The fall in blood pressure credited to cocoa could be expected to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks by 10-20%, the report said.

Both cocoa and tea contain polyphenols, a class of chemicals known to help prevent cardiovascular disease that are present in most fruits and vegetables. But cocoa has a different type than tea — procyanids — that appear to be more active.

Currently, patients with high blood pressure are urged to eat more fruits and vegetables, although cocoa and tea products account for the bulk of total polyphenol consumption in Western countries, the study said.

But don’t start gobbling up chocolate bars just yet, wrote the study’s author of the University Hospital of Cologne.

Treats such as dark chocolate might be substituted for other high-calorie desserts, based on the study’s findings, but “we believe that any dietary advice must account for the high sugar, fat and calorie intake with most cocoa products.”

Source:The Times Of India

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Herbs & Plants

Cacao (Chocolate)

Botanical Name :Theobroma cacao
Family: Malvaceae
Genus:     Theobroma
Species: T. cacao
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Malvales

Common Names :Cacao tree and Cocoa tree.

Cacao (Theobroma cacao) belongs to the genus Theobroma classified under the subfamily Sterculioidea of the mallow family Malvaceae. Cacao is one of 22 species of Theobroma.

The generic name is derived from the Greek for “food of the gods”;

The specific name cacao is derived from the native name of the plant in indigenous Mesoamerican languages. The cacao was known as kakaw in Tzeltal, K’iche’ and Classic Maya; kagaw in Sayula Popoluca; and cacahuatl[dubious – discuss] in Nahuatl.
Cacao flowers.

Cupuaçu, Theobroma grandiflorum, is a closely related species found in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Like cacao, it is also the source for a kind of chocolate known as cupulate or cupuaçu chocolate. Cupuaçu is considered as having high potential by the food and cosmetics industries

Habitat :Theobroma cacao is native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make cocoa mass, cocoa powder, and chocolate.

Description:

Leaves are alternate, entire, unlobed, 10–40 cm (3.9–15.7 in) long and 5–20 cm (2.0–7.9 in) broad.

The flowers are produced in clusters directly on the trunk and older branches; this is known as cauliflory. The flowers are small, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) diameter, with pink calyx. While many of the world’s flowers are pollinated by bees (Hymenoptera) or butterflies/moths (Lepidoptera), cacao flowers are pollinated by tiny flies, Forcipomyia midges in the order Diptera. The fruit, called a cacao pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (5.9–11.8 in) long and 8–10 cm (3.1–3.9 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighs about 500 g (1.1 lb) when ripe. The pod contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called “beans”, embedded in a white pulp. The seeds are the main ingredient of chocolate, while the pulp is used in some countries to prepare refreshing juice, smoothies, jelly, and nata. Each seed contains a significant amount of fat (40–50%) as cocoa butter. Their most noted active constituent is theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine.

CLICK TO SEE THE PICTURES
Although not often considered to be a spice, the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree deserve to be thought of as an exotic, aromatic, flavor with medicinal values, i.e. as a spice. It originated in the Yucatan area of Mexico, and it was used as a hot drink by the Maya and as a cold, sweetened drink by the Aztecs. Linnaeus chose to call the chocolate tree Theobroma, meaning “food of the gods”, since it was used as an offering by the Maya and Aztecs in their religious ceremonies. The word “cacao” is from the Mayan, ka-ka-io; the word chocolate comes from Mayan “chocol” (hot) and Nahuatl “alt” (water) implying that the chocolate content of the bean was extracted by hot water.

click to see  the pictures.…..(01)....(1).…....(2)..…...(3).….…(4)....…………….

The Spanish brought chocolate beans to Europe in 1544, but the original criollo cacao trees have since been replaced by a variety of the tree called forastero; this has resulted in a blander form of chocolate which now comes from many parts of the world, including West Africa. The harvesting of cocoa pods in some African countries has become notorious, since it is based essentially on slave labor. Over the centuries and in different countries, chocolate has been enjoyed in many different forms and flavors. The Mayans added vanilla and chile to it, and this exists today as mole. Allspice, annatto, cinnamon, mace and other spices have been added to this sauce; less popular were combinations including ambergris (a secretion of sperm whales), musk, jasmine, lemon peel and so on. Sweetening with honey or sugar and the addition of milk made chocolate drinks and confections more addictive.

At one time, chocolate houses were as popular in Europe as coffee houses have become in the U.S.A. Schivelbusch comments that coffee was a “Protestant, northern drink” while chocolate was its “Catholic, southern counterpart”. However, as chocolate and cocoa spread from the aristocratic courts of Spain to become a more mundane drink in France, it became a more social, Bohemian, non-alcoholic alternative social drink in England and other northern countries. Eventually, the chocolaty drink, cocoa, declined in importance as it became a beverage directed at children, as an alternative to tea and coffee. Nevertheless, countries such as Switzerland and Belgium produced famous varieties of chocolate confections that appeal to ordinary and sophisticated consumers who accept that their delight in the product is a mild addiction, based on the sweetness and the deliciousness of the manufactured product. Surely, this makes the chocolate seed a spice, equal to spicy flavors such as vanilla and cinnamon.
Useful Parts:
All cocoa beans are fermented, dried, roasted, crushed into nibs or pieces, then further ground into a liquid mass usually containing 50% cocoa butter.” (Mulherin. Spices, 1992)

Constituents:  caffeine, flavonoids, phenylethylalamine, anandamide, magnesium, sulfur, oleic acid, theobromine, tryptophan
Medicinal Properties * Antioxidant * Aphrodisiac * Diuretic * Emmenagogue * Stimulant
The theobromine content may stimulate the brain, since it is an xanithine similar to coffee. Recently, the polyphenols in chocolate have been generously praised as being potent anti-oxidants that may prevent degenerative diseases, thus reducing the guilt sensations of chocaholics. However, true medicinal values have not been established for pure chocolate.

Medicinal Uses: * Cholesterol * Cough * Diet/weight Loss * Eczema * Hypertension * Nutrition

Chocolate is made from the fermented, roasted and ground beans taken from the pods of the tropical cacao tree. Cacao Theobroma, named for the Latin ‘food of the gods’, contains oleic acid which may raise good cholesterol. There is plenty more good news for those of us who are chocolate lovers. Dark chocolate’s cacao content has been shown to have positive effects on mood swings, coughing, high blood pressure 119 and even contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay. Chocolate contains stearic acid, which does not raise bad cholesterol levels, and cocoa butter which is in chocolate, contains oleic acid, which actually may raise good cholesterol.

There are over 350 known chemicals found in chocolate, including stimulants like caffeine, theobromine, phenylethylamine and anandamide. Theobromine, the alkaloid contained in the beans, resembles caffeine in its action, but its effect on the central nervous system is less powerful and does not have the sleep disturbing effects of caffeine. It may actually be a more effective cough medicine than traditional remedies making it a safe nighttime calmer for children. 120

Phenylethylamine (PEA) is partly responsible for the “high” that you get from eating chocolate. PEA facilitates the release of dopamine a naturally occurring chemical into your body. The neurotransmitter anandamide, also found in chocolate is responsible for the prolonged pleasurable sensation of the previous mentioned PEA. This positive feeling can help support your diet goals along with cardiovascular exercise and reduced calorie intake. Whatever the reason recent studies show that adults who eat chocolate on a regular basis are actually thinner that those who don’t and that modest, regular chocolate consumption might be calorie-neutral. 3

Chocolate – what women want!

Chocolate enjoys an reputation as an aphrodisiac, which may explain the tradition of chocolates and Valentines day. It’s interesting to note that most researchers claim that women prefer chocolate over sex. Cocoa Butter is an aromatic solid butter pressed from the roasted seeds of the cacao tree that brings a supple, luxurious feel to dry skin.

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Historical View:
Cacao butter has been but lately introduced into the British and United States pharmocopoeias, but it has been long used on the Continent. It is peculiarly well adapted from its consistency, blandness, and freedom from rancidity, for the preparation of suppositories for which purpose it is official. It is also used as a basis for pessaries, as an ingredient in cosmetic ointments, and for coating pills and other purposes.”

Click for more knowledge on Cacao

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobroma_cacao
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail247.php
Medicinal Spices

Categories
Fruits & Vegetables

Onion

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You are what you eat. Some of the gravest health problems can be caused by food and yet, food can also be a cure for many an ailment.

CLICK & SEE THE ONION PLANT 

Onion, like its cousin garlic, is a member of the Allium family. It is rich is certain sulphur-containing compounds. It is these compounds that are responsible for the pungent smell and fumes as well as the various health benefits,

It is Rich in chromium, Vitamin C and dietary fibre.

– Onions have blood sugar regulating effects due to its chromium content as well as increasing insulin availability. This makes it a friend of diabetics.
– Regular consumption of onion reduces bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. It also reduces atherosclerosis.
– Eating onions as little as 2-3 times a week significantly reduces risk of colon cancer
– Onions have this compound that inhibits the breakdown of bone cells thereby reducing osteoporosis.
– The anti bacterial property of onion has long been recognised by Ayurveda. The anti-inflammatory agents present in onions help reduce the cell-inflammation in conditions like asthma and respiratory tract infection. Onion soup could be nature’s own remedy to soothe a cold!

If you ignore the slight side-effect of onion-breath, onions can be just good for you.

Onions have been used for their medicinal properties for centuries. A paste or Ointment made out of onion is said to prevent infection in wounds and burns. Another use externally for age spots, warts, or freckles is to mix onion juice with vinegar and rub on the affected areas. One amusing bit of folklore says that if you put onion juice on your head and then sit out in the sun, you can cure baldness….

Onions and all the other members of the Allium family are thought to have some impact on high cholesterol and blood pressure. An onion Tea can be made and used daily, but I’m not sure how that would taste. The prudent thing for blood pressure and high cholesterol is probably to just include onions in your diet at every opportunity. Unfortunately, the down side to this is that onion compounds travel through the body when ingested and it takes time to process them out through sweat or breathing. Just brushing the teeth doesn’t make the odor go away. So, you’ll live to a ripe old age, but nobody will want to be around you…..

In Ayurveda both Charaka and Shushruta believed onion to be a strengthening food.

*Drinking the mixed juice of onion and bitter gourd cures severe indigestion.
*The juice of a boiled and crushed onion clears phlegm.
*Eating onion helps to clear phlegm from the throat and mouth. Teeth turn brighter. It sharpens the memory and strengthens the nerves.
*One spoonful of onion juice eliminates worms in the stomach of children

Handling onions
Next time you chop an onion and it stings your eyes, remember this is the compound that makes you cry and bestows so many benefits.

Some people soak the halved onion pieces in water before chopping it. But this process causes a loss of nutrients and you may not reap the full benefits of this vegetable. The best way to avoid the tears is to chill the onions for some time before you start chopping. Also, chopping onions in standing position will keep your eyes away from the line of fumes and lessen the eye irritatio.

Some ways to use onion in your diet:

*Use sliced onions in salads with tomatoes, cucumber slices and feta cheese, flavoured with salt, pepper and juice of a lime.
*Roast onion slices in an oven and use them as a garnish on curries and gravy vegetables.
*Make a paste of onions, tomato, garlic, ginger, red chillies and salt. Saut in a little oil and use as gravy for your favourite vegetables.
*Sliced onions can be cooked with any vegetable like cauliflower, gourds, peas, ladys finger, etc., to make a dry curry.
*Mix finely chopped onions in whole wheat flour, with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, ajwain (omum). Bind the dough and roll out into chapattis/parathas.
*Sliced onions can be added to any cooked lentils/ beans like tur dal, rajma, Kabuli chana, chana dal, black-eyed peas.
*Add finely chopped onions to fresh curds with some grated carrots to make a refreshing raita (pachadi).
SOME HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING RAW ONIONS:-

Health benefits of eating raw onions: Cures constipation:

The fiber in raw onions help flush out toxins and hard food particles that get stuck in the intestines. If you are suffering from constipation, have raw onions.

An Ayurveda medicine for sore throat: If you are suffering from cold, cough and a sore throat, have fresh onion juice. Add jaggery or honey to the onion juice.

Remedy for bleeding problems: Have a bleeding nose or suffer from piles? Have raw onions. It is one simple and effective home remedy to cure piles naturally. To cure a bleeding nose, cut a raw onion and smell it for some time. The white onions can help cure bleeding problems.

Controls diabetes: This is one of the health benefits of eating raw onions. If consumed raw, onions increase the production of insulin. So, if you are diabetic, you have a good reason to munch crisp raw onion salad regularly.

Protects the heart: Regular consumption of raw onion protects the heart from coronary diseases. It control high blood pressure and also opens blocked arteries. This is one of the known health benefits of eating raw onions.

Controls cholesterol levels: The small herbaceous plant vegetable has a very good health benefit for obese people and heart patients. Raw onions control cholesterol by reducing the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. It has methylallyl sulphide as well as the sulphur-containing amino-acids that lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol (HDL) levels.Prevents growth of cancer cells: Onion is rich in sulphur compounds. Sulphur protects the body from stomach, colon, breast, lung and prostate cancer and prevents the growth of cancer cells. It also helps cure urinary tract disorders.

We often see tears flowing from the eyes while chopping onions. The sulphur-containing oils and organic sulphides lead to tears once it enters the nostrils. These oils help treat anemia. Note that the oils and the effect of organic sulphides reduce when the onions are cooked. So, to treat anemia, have raw onions. These are few health benefits of eating raw onions. You can have raw onions in sandwiches, mix with your vegetable salad or use as toppings for hamburgers and chaats. To prevent the strong and pungent mouth odor of raw onions, brush your teeth and have some mouth fresheners like cardamom or clove

Ext.from:/www.chennaionline.com/health and http://www.gardensablaze.com/VegOnion.htm

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