Poor Circulation?…..Try Some Water with Dried Longan Fruit

The other day I went for a massage. It was MUCH needed after 6 weeks of traveling with my kids and lots of lifting, sitting and flying. My body was full of aches and pains. The therapist I saw was an interesting guy from China who, upon noticing that my hands and feet felt cold, and my neck and shoulders very tense, had some recommendations for me. He suggested a warm morning drink made with water, dried longan fruit, red date and ginger, explaining that it’s a common drink for Chinese women to improve circulation and help with relaxation. I’m game to trying anything that is natural and helps with relaxation! Since I was already in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco, home to a large Chinese community and many great Asian markets, I decided to pick up the ingredients straight away and give the concoction a try.

At the market, I discovered that dried longan fruit is also known as Long Yan Rou and is closely related to the lychee. And, Red Dates are actually just another name for jujubes. This new drink was sounding better and better! Adding ginger to my water is something I already enjoy (more on that in a future post) but the other two ingredients were new to me and I really had no idea how to prep them for water. Both the dried fruits are the consistency of Medjool dates….so, I assumed that some soaking was in order but was certainly open to more guidance on this.

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The three and hopefully magical ingredients for my warm water beverage

A Google search for ideas on how to make this enticing drink, as well as more information on the properties of each ingredient was in order. First, I researched each ingredient on Wikipedia to find out more about the medicinal properties. Here’s what I learned:

Red Dates: Commonly called jujubes, Chinese dates, Korean dates, or Indian dates are a species of Ziziphus in the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). The fruit and its seeds are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress. In addition to this they are used for many other purposes, including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and their wound healing properties.

Longan Fruit: One of the better-known tropical members of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae), to which the lychee also belongs. In Chinese food therapy and herbal medicine, the longan is believed to have an effect on relaxation. The longan, much like the lychee, it’s thought to give internal “heat”.

Ginger: A flowering plant (Zingiber officinale) whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine. Ginger is one of the oldest and most versatile medicinal foods and in China it’s been used by healers for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that ginger “restores devastated yang” and “expels cold”. Ginger has many believed uses including reducing muscle soreness and inflammation, alleviating nausea and helping digestion. 

Now that I better understood the ingredients, I was ready to use them! I didn’t find much when I Googled this exact combination, but I did find many recipes with ginger and red dates, many of which included goji berries. The closest recipe I found was on a lovely blog called A Beautiful Day and I used this recipe as my reference, omitting the pear and pine nuts.

Here is what I added to 10 cups of filtered water:

25 dried red dates, pitted and sliced

10 dried longans

2 inch chunk of peeled ginger, sliced thinly

After prepping, boiling, simmering for an hour, and finally straining, my drink remedy was ready! I let it cool to a lukewarm temperature and then gave it a try.

It was quite interesting and, based on the profile of the ingredients, more medicinal tasting than I expected, . Right away, I could see why the recipe on A Beautiful Day called for pear because the drink had a bit of a bitter quality and needed something a little sweet to offset this. I added a tiny bit of honey and it became much more enjoyable to drink. I found it very soothing and cozy. It reminded me of Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea, which for years has been a favorite product of mine and something I always have on hand.

I’ve now been enjoying this medicinal water for a few days and have tried it both warm and cold (the batch I made yielded enough for at least one cup daily for a week). I definitely prefer it more as a warm tea-type beverage. And, while I don’t know if it has had any true efficacy on my health, it’s something I’m glad I tried and will make again. It was fun to experiment with new-to-me ingredients that have so many believed healing properties.

 

 

Part 2: The Magic of Lemon and Honey in Water

As promised, I wanted to write about the myriad of reasons why warm water with lemon and honey is so good for you — especially in the morning when you first wake up.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about feeling really crummy and how hot water with lemon and honey helped me get through each day, you can read more about how this concoction helps a cold here: https://momloveswater.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/oh-honey-thanks-for-the-honey-with-lemon-in-hot-water/ This soothing drink made me feel so cozy and good that I’ve continued to drink it. So, I’m happy to know that this mixture’s go way beyond helping the common cold.

Here are 10 other reasons to drink this yummy medicinal combination:

  1. Stimulates Digestive System: Warm water with lemon and honey in the morning simply stimulates the digestive system and gets things moving.
  2. Improves Oral Health: The acidic nature of lemon combined with the innate properties of honey and water can help beat bad breath almost instantly. The lemon cleanses the mouth, activating your salivary glands and killing offensive bacteria. When added to honey and water, it helps wash down bacteria and degraded food that is usually present in your mouth and throat early in the morning.
  3. Helps The Waistline: Apart from its properties of cleansing the stomach, lemon contains a type of fiber called pectin, that helps make you feel full and keeps cravings at bay. Warm water, honey and lemon  also creates a more alkaline atmosphere in your stomach helping  you lose weight faster.
  4. Cleanses the Colon: A build-up of toxins in the stomach often makes us feel bloated. Even worse than this feeling, this same build-up (consisting of undigested food, intestinal cells and dead bacteria) often coats the inner lining of our stomach and is thought to lead to diseases. By drinking Lemon and honey in warm water the walls of the intestine – especially the colon – get stimulated, which leads to the expulsion of this build-up. A cleansed colon functions much better, thereby, helping your body absorb nutrients, get rid of toxins and stay hydrated.
  5. Flushes Out Toxins And Boosts Immune System:  The components of lemon stimulate your liver to produce more bile and help your digestive system by flushing out unwanted toxins. Honey acts as an antibacterial and helps beat any infections that might be present in your body.
  6. Improves Energy And Mood: Water helps clear your mind by providing fresh blood to your brain, lemon activates negatively charged enzymes in your stomach and improves digestion, and honey acts as an instant energy booster. What’s more, the scent of lemon is known to be a natural relaxant and can help uplift your mood.
  7. Cleanses Urinary Tract: Honey is a potent antibacterial agent, that has the capability to beat a number of common infections. When mixed with lemon and water, two agents that act as excellent diuretics, this concoction is the best way to cleanse your urinary tract. This mixture is especially good for women who suffer from frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) as it will keep recurrent infections at bay.
  8. Aids in Clearer Skin: As said above, lemon helps purify your blood which also helps in the production of new blood cells which act as potent cleaning agents. Water and honey offer unique restorative, antibacterial and collagen boosting properties to your skin as well.
  9. Hydrates Entire Lymphatic System: Research says that a dehydrated lymphatic system is a leading causes of illness. Lack of water and essential fluids in the lymphatic system can make you feel sluggish and fatigued, lead to constipation, disturbed sleep, high or low blood pressure, stress and an all-round lack in mental function. The benefit of drinking this mixture early in the morning is that it helps hydrate your entire lymphatic system, which not only helps all of the above symptoms but also improves immunity.
  10. Tastes Delicious: This doesn’t need any explanation — just give it a try! Use warm (not hot) water, add the juice of around half a lemon and one teaspoon of honey, mix well and drink.
Honey and Lemon are two Powerful Ingredients. Image from: http://www.babydigezt.com

Honey and Lemon are two Powerful Ingredients. Image from: http://www.babydigezt.com

Although this drink will always provide some benefit, if you drink warm water with lemon and honey first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, you will reap much more. Additionally, for full benefit, you shouldn’t drink coffee or tea for at least one hour after (I’m still working on my timing and I definitely haven’t worked up to waiting an hour to drink my morning cup of java).

Thanks to The Health Site for helping me explain the content on my list http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/why-drinking-water-early-in-the-morning-good-for-health-p214/

Minerals and Electrolytes – What Are They and How to Get Enough

Most of us are somewhat familiar with electrolytes and know about things like Gatorade to replenish but what I’m going to talk about goes way beyond drinking a sports drink after heavy exercise. While I hold strong that water is the most essential nutrient for the body, I know that water is not the only supplement our bodies crave. Our bodies are basically made up of the same things that make up the earth, so beyond water we need to think about the soil and thus what’s in (or supposed to be in) the earth’s soil. Minerals. Beyond water (or better yet, with our water) our bodies need replenishment of minerals.

I’ve always found the difference between electrolytes and minerals somewhat confusing. Some experts say it’s all the same, or is at least converted within the body to be all the same but I didn’t entirely get it. One of my goals in writing this week’s blog is to gain a better understanding for myself of the similarities and differences (and hopefully be able to convey this new understanding in a very articulate way to you)

Trace Minerals

There are two types of minerals your body needs to stay healthy: major and trace minerals. As their names suggest, your body needs large amounts of major minerals and only very small amounts of trace minerals for normal function. Major minerals include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. Trace minerals are a group of minerals that the body needs in very small amounts. Types of trace minerals include iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine, bromine, and selenium. Both major and trace minerals are vital for all body functions and processes. Without minerals our bodies would not be able to build new tissue, flex and contract muscles, transmit nerve impulses, clot blood, maintain a neutral pH and keep our heart beating.

minerals

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals in your body have an electric charge known as ions. They are in all of our body fluids, tissues and cells. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps the body’s blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Electrolytes are primarily composed of the minerals sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, phosphates and sulfates. They are essential because they are used by our cells to create and carry voltages across cell membranes and they’re a big player in the communication between our cells. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.

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Proper hydration, mineral and electrolyte status are vitally important aspects of our health. Traditionally, eating fresh grains, fruits, and vegetables grown in nutrient-rich soil, was the primary supply for a full spectrum of minerals. However, in today’s world, naturally occurring, nutrient-rich soil is becoming increasingly rare and our intake of all essential elements is at risk of being inadequate. Modern living, with its dependency on processed foods, increased consumption of purified and/or distilled water, and depleted soil has culminated in a distinct drop in meeting our mineral needs. Even though I try to eat a very healthy diet that is full of unprocessed and organic foods, I still take an active role in restoring my mineral balance with dietary supplements and occasional beverages that help me meet my electrolyte requirements. Here are some of the things I incorporate into my daily life to help meet my mineral and electrolyte needs:

1. Coconut Water: If I’m sick or doing intense cardio training (or otherwise feeling dehydrated), I always turn to coconut water. Coconut water restores electrolytes, carbohydrates and other nutrients — it even packs  about the same amount of potassium as a banana.

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Coconut water, full of electrolytes and other nutrients, has earned the reputation as nature’s sports drink

 

2. High quality Sea Salt: High quality seal salt like the one I use pictured below, Celtic Sea Salt, contains electrolytes and trace minerals. Each morning, I prepare a pitcher of water for my family to fill their glasses and water containers with and leave it on the counter. In this water I always put 3-4 pinches of sea salt. I also use this salt for cooking and baking.

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High quality and properly harvested Celtic Sea Salt contains electrolytes and trace minerals

 

3. Trace Mineral Drops: I take a daily dose of high quality trace mineral drops, like the one pictured below. I know I get my major minerals through my diet and other supplementation but I find I need to be more intentional about getting enough trace minerals so I supplement with this regularly.

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Trace mineral drops help me ensure I’m getting enough “minor” minerals too

 4. Epsom Salt: This is my favorite! My doctor told me that our bodies absorb magnesium simply by soaking in Epsom Salts — what could possibly be a better excuse than that to take a relaxing bath? I also put Epsom Salts into my kids’ bath a few times each week.

Dr. Teals

The best way I can think of to get my magnesium!

 

Please check back next week, I’ll be taking things in another direction and blogging about Paddle Board Yoga……something I just tried for the first time. Since it takes place in the water I figured I could tie it in to MomLovesWater 🙂

How Much Water Do I Need and What Really Counts?

Water is our body’s main component and makes up about 60 percent of our body weight. It’s an essential part of our health since every system in our body depends on it. We should all want to keep our body happy and functioning optimally, and drinking enough water seems like a pretty easy way to make a big impact. But how much is enough? It seems like water intake recommendations change as often as the seasons, as does the list of what actually counts toward the ounces. There is no magic formula but there are general guidelines that should help us stay on track, especially when considered in conjunction with individual lifestyles.

how much H2O do you need? Image courtesy of http://www.cleanwateraction.org

The ‘eight glasses of water a day’ guideline that’s ingrained in my head (and most likely yours), is no longer the right rule of thumb. The most recent report by The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (released 2/11/14) includes total water general recommendations for women of approximately 11.5 8-ounce glasses (91 ounces or 2.7 liters), and men approximately 15.5 8-ounce glasses (125 ounces daily or 3.7 liters ).

The truth is…..You need more than 8 cups of water each day photo courtesy of: Rita Maas

These are “general” recommendations for a reason. It should go without saying that water needs depend on many individual factors, including health, age, weight, activity-level, climate and pregnancy / breast-feeding. The following information is probably obvious and really just a matter of common sense:

  • Exercise – If you engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups (400 to 600 millilitres) of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense exercise lasting more than an hour requires more fluid intake.
  • Climate / Environment – Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluid. Heated indoor air also can cause your skin to lose moisture during wintertime. Altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your fluid reserves and require additional hydration.
  • Illnesses – When you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses additional fluids. In these cases, you need to drink more water to replenish. 
  • Pregnancy & breast-feeding – Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. Large amounts of fluid are used especially when nursing. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink approximately 13 cups (3 liters or 101 ounces) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume about 16 cups (3.8 liters or 128 ounces) of fluids a day.

So what exactly counts toward the optimal intake number? It’s also ingrained in my head that beverages like coffee clearly do not count because caffeine is dehydrating, however this is no longer the case. For the most part, current recommendations say that all fluids count toward your daily “water total”. Beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water, and even beer, wine and caffeinated beverages (i.e. coffee) can contribute, though these beverages should not make up a major portion of your total fluid intake.

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Even wine and coffee contribute to your total water intake Photo courtesy of: Rob Qld/Flickr

And, not only does just about any fluid count, food counts too! On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are 90 percent or more water by weight. For more on this see my earlier blog post ‘Keeping My Kids Hydrated with Water-Packed Foods‘ I’m a big fan of hydration through healthy foods, especially for those that have a hard time meeting the recommendations through fluids alone.

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Hydrating foods are an awesome way to “drink” your water Image by Mark Laita (courtesy of Runner’s World)

I wouldn’t run out and buy a fancy water tracker just yet, with almost all fluids counting toward the total, along with the water content found in food, the vast majority of healthy people will adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. However. it’s always beneficial to pay attention to your intake and be aware and ready to compensate for changes in your routine or environment that will have your body wanting more. And although the new guidelines allow for lots of creativity in meeting your water intake, remember that basic H2O is still your best bet because it’s the most rehydrating, readily available and inexpensive.

Personally I think gadgets like this Intelligent Water Bottle are a waste of money but if you like gadgets and think it will help you drink more then give it a try

 Check back next week, I’ll be blogging about trace minerals and electrolytes.