Citrus peel medicine! 🍊🍊🍊

The dried peel of mandarin or clementine oranges (Citrus reticulata) and of tangerines (C. tangerina) is used in Chinese medicine as a warming digestive bitter.  It regulates Qi in the body and helps move a sluggish or stagnant digestive system.  

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Bevin Clare
Guo Lao, “venerable national treasure”

Guo Lao, “venerable national treasure” is the nickname given to licorice (Glycerrhiza uralensis or G. glabra) because of its popularity and its ability to harmonize other herbs in a formula.  The actual Chinese name for this sweet rhizome is Gan Cao. 

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Bevin Clare
Do you like goji berries?

Do you like goji berries? Goji berries and the juice made from them have become popular the U.S., but they are actually a traditional Chinese medicinal food, known by the name Gou Qi Zi.  The botanical name, Lycium chinense, or L. barbarum, is sometimes called Chinese wolfberry. 

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Bevin Clare
Zizyphus

Zizyphus always sounds like an adorable, oversized, fuzzy monster to me 😜 but it's a delicous, medicine fruit commonly consumed here in China. How common? This photo is from Walmart here in Beijing (!).  The jujube fruit from the Zizyphus jujuba tree is used in traditional Chinese medicine .

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Bevin Clare
Petasites japonicus

In the early spring at my home garden one of the first flowers I see is that of Petasites japonicus, an edible non-native which produces gigantic umbrella like leaves. The medicinal species of butterbur is similar but has pink flowers which are in a more vertical cluster. 

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Bevin Clare
Hibiscus 🌺🌺🌺

Hibiscus 🌺🌺🌺 Jamaica, or Agua de Jamaica, is a popular, refreshing beverage in Mexico, one of the agua frescas enjoyed as an afternoon beverage.  It is made with the flower (specifically calyx) of Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Flor de Jamaica or Roselle.

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Bevin Clare
Epazote - have you cooked with it before?

When black beans are served in Mexico they are frequently cooked with epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides), also known as wormseed or Mexican tea. The name epazote comes from the Nahuatl word epázotl, which is derived from the word for skunk, epatl, no doubt named for the herb’s pungent taste.

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Bevin Clare
Chamomile

Do you think of chamomile (Matricaria recutita) when you think of Mexican herbs? After all, it is native to Europe where it is also known as German chamomile (to distinguish from Roman chamomile) and has been used there since time immemorial.  But it found its way to Mexican and Latin America with early explorers and settlers, and it took root in the culture. 

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Bevin Clare
A popular way to use Annatto

Do you remember the last time you ate annatto? Whether we know it or not, most of us have had annatto (Bixa orellano), or achiote as it is known in Spanish.  The seeds of the plant are a common coloring agent in foods, giving a stronger yellow appearance to butter and a yellow-orange color to cheddar cheese. 

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Bevin Clare
Cayenne as Medicine

While any of the chilies can be used as herbal medicine, the one most frequently cited is cayenne (Capsicum annuum, although sometimes attributed to C. frutescens). Cayenne has been used historically as a respiratory decongestant, a circulatory stimulant, and a diaphoretic to encourage sweating to break a fever.

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Bevin Clare
🌶️ A Dozen Varieties of Mexican Chile

From mildest to hottest (on a scale of 1 mildest to 10 hottest), here is a sampling of “chile” peppers from the species Capsicum annuum that are found in Mexico. When you wander the markets here you can spot the tables heaped with chiles from bright red to black, whole, powdered, or turned into various pastes.

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Bevin Clare
A Dozen Varieties of Mexican Chile 🌶️🌶️🌶️

From mildest to hottest (on a scale of 1 mildest to 10 hottest), here is a sampling of “chile” peppers from the species Capsicum annuum that are found in Mexico. When you wander the markets here you can spot the tables heaped with chiles from bright red to black, whole, powdered, or turned into various pastes.

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Bevin Clare
Mexican Oregano 🌿🌿🌿

You’re familiar with oregano, that savory, peppery herb used commonly in Mediterranean cuisine, but what about the un-related herb which is commonly called Mexican Oregano?  Mexico has its own version of oregano which matches its more spicy, forward-flavored cuisine. 

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Bevin Clare
Chilies!!! 🌶️🌶️🌶️

The word chili comes from the Aztec Nahuatl word chílli, meaning a “red pepper.” Chili peppers, or “chile” peppers in Mexico, are the fruit of various species of the genus Capsicum, a diverse and colorful genus pretty enough to inspire artists for millenia.

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Bevin Clare
Capsaicin and the Heat in Chilies

The fiery heat of chili peppers is due to several chemical compounds, especially the alkaloid capsaicin which is co-concentrated in the seeds and pulp. Capsaicin and related capsaicinoids account for the various levels of heat experienced when you taste different chili peppers.

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Bevin Clare
Medicinal (and refreshing) iced herbal teas for summer

In the heat of the summer we are drinking glass after glass of water. What if we replaced some of that with a refreshing and medicinal iced herbal tea?

Herbal teas are easy to make and will keep for several days in the fridge. There are endless varieties and variations and very few rules when blending summertime herbal teas.

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Bevin Clare
Favorite new natural products

ASI tea uses the local native holly plant which is closely related to Yerba Mate. It has caffeine (well, technically a caffeine like alkaloid) so it has a kick. One of the things which is fun about this product is that they are cleverly avoiding the botanical name, which is Ilex vomitoria for good reason. It's great to see a plant which is underused get out there a bit more.

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Bevin Clare
Herbs and Doritos?

When I educate pharmacists about herbs (which I do a lot of), one of the things which is hard for them to grasp is the chemical complexity of plant medicines. It's understandable, because to them, 3 drugs in one person is a lot to figure out when it comes to safety and interactions. So you can imagine their uneasiness when you are talking about 100 chemicals in one plant.

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Bevin Clare