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Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo

October 14, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, order, anti-oxidants, Asia, bamboo, bamboo - as medicine, bamboo - nutritional value, bamboo shoots, bamboo wood, Bambusa, beauty, bone growth, building material, calcium, carcinogenic, Chinese brush painting, Chinese culture, Chinese food, cholesterol, coconut milk, copper, Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon, crystal healing, culm, curry, cyanide, dance, Dendrocalamus, fat, flavonoids, fiber - dietary, Four Gentlemen, furniture, gem stone, grace, harmony, healing stones, Hong Kong, infection - bacterial, ink - black, immune system, Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo, iron, Japanese culture, kitchen utensils, lungs, Made in China, manganese, migraine, mineral, mushroom, mushroom - button, mushroom - raw, Nature, osteoporosis, Phyllostachys, Poacea, poisonous, potassium, power, protein quartz, sauce, scaffolding, silica, snow, socks - 100 percent bamboo, TCM, tools, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, true grass family, variegated, vitamins B, vitamin C, winter, zinc

One time, traveling in Hong Kong, we saw a bamboo outside our hotel room window grow about a foot per day. Amazing. The record for bamboos seem to be somewhere at a yard per day – which makes them the fastest growing plants on record.

Those were tall bamboos. At home, we grow smaller varieties – and always in a huge tub lowered into the soil. These things throw out side-shoots or culms, as they are called botanically, so fast – they would run over the yard in a few seasons if not properly grown in a pot. One stand in front of the entrance and greets the visitors.

Easier, of course, would be to not grow bamboo. But that is impossible. Because, for me, bamboo stands for beauty. They don’t flower (or only about every one hundred years or so); they don’t lure you with colorful berries. But their pointed leaves have a charm that I wouldn’t want to miss it from my garden. If you watched the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” you know what I mean – the scene in the tops of swaying bamboos is unforgettable! When I drew my first bamboo leaf with black ink, I was hooked forever on Chinese brush painting – and the living plant, which we all – from humble student to great master – try to capture, is so much more beautiful. It is as if grace and dance have been captured in a plant.

Bamboo is not one single species – there are many, from little to very tall, mostly green, sometimes variegated – but all in the Poacea family – also called the “true” grass family. Their long stems barely taper which makes them perfect for building materials. In China one can see huge skyscrapers being built or renovated, and the scaffolding is all bamboo – many, many stories high – quite an astounding sight for western eyes! The light but tough wood makes furniture, tools and kitchen utensils. And last time I bought a pair of socks, I found they were made of 100 percent bamboo, made in China.

In Asia, bamboo is used for food and medicine; you certainly have eaten crispy bamboo shoots in a Chinese dish. In Chinese Traditional Medicine, bamboo is used against bacterial infections, especially in the lungs. But be cautious: There are so many different “bamboos”, and some are poisonous. But the genera Bambusa, Dendrocalamus and Phyllostachys are generally edible – but check before you put them in your mouth: As with mushroom, 99 percent is not good enough; you have to be sure 100 percent!

It is better to stick to the ones you can buy in the supermarket: They are those fast-growing shoots I described initially. Make sure they are fresh and white once peeled, not already brownish. Even the edible bamboos contain toxins (cyanides) that have to be destroyed by cooking – never eat them raw (as you also know never to eat any mushroom raw – not even those innocuous-looking button mushrooms; they are carcinogenic).

The nutritional value of bamboo? They are high in protein and dietary fiber, and contain zinc, iron, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin C and many B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 - plus flavonoids – anti-oxidants. Because of their very low fat contents (and no cholesterol to speak of), they are delicious in coconut milk, as sauce or curry.

Those bamboo shoots have a high silica content; they make good food and allegedly are good for all connective tissue, including skin, hair and nails, and feathers – in case you grow them ...

Silica is one of the many minerals you need for strong bone growth – there’s a reason why those bamboo trunk grow into the sky so rapidly (and you know already that calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bone). Silica is the main mineral in quartz, which is also used as a healing crystal. I have not quite made up my mind about healing stones, but I like the beauty of gems, and a clear quartz supposedly is for harmony and power – it might be only in the eye of the beholder, but that counts heavily for healing. I look at them a treasures Nature gives to us.

In TCM, bamboo is thought to help the immune system. I have never used it myself or on patients though. Bamboo also seems to prevent migraines.

Japanese and Chinese culture revere bamboo. In Chinese painting, Bamboo is the first of the Four Gentlemen, and stands for an upright, hardy character – not difficult to see why, if you find the green leaves still on the stem in the middle of winter and snow.

Invasive? Yes! But useful and beautiful!

My Neighbor Is Sick

June 22, 2011

Tags: food, order, abdominal pain, addictive, aging - premature, appreciating, artificial molecules, book, bowel, cancer, car, cell phone, chewing, cholecystitis, colors, computer, constipation, conversation, dairy, diet, dinner table, dispute, distraction, eggs, fiber, fish, flavors, food - inflammatory, fork, fruit drink, gallbladder inflammation, game, grace, HFCS, high blood pressure, high fructose corn syrup, high-protein diet, hunger, inflammation, iPod, iron-fortified, kidneys - compromised, kidney stones, meal, meat, mindful eating, mouth, My Neighbor Is Sick, Nature, neighbor, newspaper, osteoporosis, pounds, preservatives, protein, public transportation, radio, religion, roughage, savoring, sitting down at the table, soft drink, spoon, starch - white, stress, sugar, supermarket, table – set the, taste enhancers, Tibetans Alternative, TV, vegetable, vitamin-enhanced, water – drinking enough, weight gain, weight loss

My neighbor suddenly has abdominal pain – on the right, under his rib cage. Now there are many reasons to have that kind of pain, and he of course needs a check-up with his doctor – very soon. Today.

The doctor will hopefully soon find out what ails the neighbor - but here are some ideas. Because the other piece of information is that he has been on a diet for a while - a high-protein diet.

After having made sure he sought an immediate appointment with his doctor, I gave him a piece of my mind: No diet is a short-cut for good, healthy, everyday eating habits. “But I already lost eight pounds!” he said.

Eight pounds lost weight does not prove that one is healthy! It always puzzles me: People who would never feed their car the wrong octane fuel, seemingly give little thought to what is healthy fuel for their own bodies and thus constantly violate the laws of Nature.

These are the most frequent bad consequences of the ill-advised high-protein diet (and I have seem them all!):

• Constipation. The bowel needs roughage to function according to plan. Protein is digested more thoroughly than fiber, leaving little substance in the intestines lumen to push matters forward, which will lead to impaction can lead to a plugging-up of the whole plumbing system.
• Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis). High protein diets are often also high in fat, which may drive the gallbladder into overdrive. This can cause inflammation and/or move stones.
• Kidney stones. High protein can lead to kidney stones, especially in already somewhat compromised kidneys – which come naturally with aging. At any rate, drinking enough water is always advisable.

A high-protein in the long one has been shown to promote premature aging, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cancer – neither of which plays a likely role in my neighbor’s present affliction.

Whatever he has, he needs to reassess what he is doing to his health. And I am sure after this scare, he will. We have talked about diet and healthy eating here often, so I can make this short:

• Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!
• No artificial molecules (sweeteners, flavors, colors, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, taste enhancers, vitamin-enhanced, iron-fortified, soft or fruit drinks, etc.).
• No dairy – because it is the most ubiquitous inflammatory and unnecessary food there is.
• No sugar and white starch; they are addictive and put the pounds on you.
• Have a modest intake of meat, fish and eggs.

In order to turn around your eating habits, it is useful to practice mindful eating – the way of slowly savoring and appreciating everything that goes into your mouth.

• Sit down at a table when you eat – set the table in a nice way, even if you are alone. Especially if you are alone.
• Say grace for your food - even if you are not a religious person. Because millions of people go hungry every day.
• Have no distractions – no TV, computer, cell phone, game, radio, newspaper, or book.
• Have no stress – avoid disputes at the dinner table. But have a lively conversation about important things in your life.
• Never ever eat in the car or on public transportation; teach your children that NOTHING can be eaten in the supermarket because it has not been paid for (and one should sit down for eating).
• Chew thoroughly; put fork or spoon down between bites.

The How you eat might be more important than the What you eat – at least for a while.

If you live alone, go back to the Tibetans Alternative: Where one eats one food at each meal, and rotates, instead of filling the plate with everything at the same time.

Whatever the neighbor has, let’s wish him a speedy recovery!
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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