For thousands of years, humans have used herbal and plant remedies to cure illness and prevent distress. These panaceas were part of modern medicine and health studies. Today, there is still a lot more for scientists to discover and understand about what our ancestors used to heal the body, mind and soul to apply in the modern time.
While our civilization becomes more technologically and medically advanced, people are going back to these ancient remedies that have been used for centuries to heal us. People are becoming more aware of their health, choosing natural panaceas to cure ailments makes sense. Add these seven ancient ‘super’ foods to your life today.
World's common ancient panaceas
From West to East, different civilizations offered different ancient panaceas. Depending on your body condition and the illness severity, ancient natural remedy is a healthy and natural way to improve your well-being and bring more balance into your life.
We decided to explore some of the popular and commonly used herbal powdered remedies by people worldwide to manage weight, boost energy, improve immune system and enhance overall wellness. Let’s find out their secrets!
Maca powder is derived from maca root, native to the high Andes of central Peru. For 3000 years, this plant has been cultivated as vegetable crop and herbal medicine.
The main edible part of this plant is the root, similar to carrot or radish. The root is cultivated and often consumed in the powder form. It has an acquired taste which has been described as nutty and earthy, so people often add it to smoothies, juices, oatmeal or sweets.
Maca root is the great source of important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, etc. The major antioxidant found in maca is glucosinolate, a natural compound commonly found in broccoli, cabbage, or horseradish. Glucosinolate has been showed in some studies to possess anti-carcinogenic property by blocking the formation of cancer caused by the environment or within the body. It’s responsible for the release of detoxifying enzymes that eliminate carcinogen from the body.
Maca powder derived from its roots
Due to its detoxifying properties, maca can also help boost our immune system, prevent diseases, and also help keep your skin healthy from free radicals and sun damage. You can also make your own Maca Face Mask to help your skin radiant and shine with this recipe.
Another common use and benefit of Maca is to rev up libido in both women and men. It can also balance body hormones and boost fertility in male. Whereas in female, maca is shown in a small study that it can also help relieve the menopausal symptoms, including interrupted sleep, hot flashes, anxiety and depression.
Also originated in Peru, lucuma is known as “gold of the Incas” and has been cultivated as fruit crops since 200 AD. Lucuma is also the symbol of fertility in Peruvian culture and has been used as staple food and religious offering that associated with fertility.
Lucuma fruits- the famous "golds of the Incas"
With its yellow-orange flesh and texture of a hard-boiled yolk, it’s also called Egg fruit. Its taste is sweet as a tropical mango blended with apricot which is in fact the most popular flavour for ice cream in Peru. The pulp of the fruit is dehydrated to produce the powder form that is widely used in Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and can be shipped around the world.
Lucuma is not only well-loved for its taste but also for its medicinal benefits. Like maca, lucuma is the rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It’s super great for combat skin aging, fight diseases, and can even accelerate healing and tissue regeneration due to its anti-biotic, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Furthermore, lucuma is super great for weight and blood sugar management. It is the natural sweetener with a low GI, an index tells the effect of foods on blood sugar level on the scale of 1-100. With its low GI, lucuma’s sweetness is safe for diabetics and helps maintain a healthy sugar level in blood. As a fruit, it contains healthy carbohydrates and fat which fuel energy for the brain and body yet keep your waistline in check.
Lucuma juice is healthy for your beauty & general wellness
So move over sugar, and substitute this wonderful powder to your morning smoothies, cereals, drinks, baking treats. Don’t forget the ice-cream as well!
Cacao is definitely the most popular plant on the planet where chocolate- the world’s famous sweet treat, is derived from. Cacao, an evergreen tree, is native to the deep tropical Amazon basin and other tropical regions of the Central and South America. Although its name is well-known worldwide, people tend to only think cacao as a treat without knowing the loads of health benefits it carries.
Cacao beans from cacao fruits
Let’s start with the difference of cocoa and cacao powder. Cocoa and cacao powders are both derived from cacao trees. The difference lies in the process of making them. Cacao powder is often raw ingredient where it is the unroasted beans that are cold-pressed while cocoa powder is the raw cacao powder that is roasted at a high temperature.
Because raw cacao is not treated with high temperature its enzymes, vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients retain with all the amazing health benefits that you might not find from an average store-bought chocolates. The content of antioxidants like epicatechins, catechins, resveratrol and procyanidins benefits cardiovascular health and blood sugar level. The antioxidants are also higher than most of the superfoods such as 20 times more than blueberries and four times more than the average dark chocolate.
Raw cacao powder is from un-roasted beans
The best part of cacao is definitely its natural mood booster, stress reliever, and brain enhancer. Raw cacao contains the high content of serotonin, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine which are the neurotransmitters, often-called ‘bliss’ chemicals, that stimulate the euphoric feelings of relaxation, happiness and love.
Another is phenethylamine or PEA which is normally released when you are attracted to someone and can stimulate a release of endorphins to help us stay focused and sharp.
So mix some raw cacao powder to your morning drink like our Raw Cacao Matcha Smoothie to enhance your mood and energy for a new day!
Leaving the West we now explore the first ingredient that originated from the East- the mighty cinnamon. Cinnamon is not so unfamiliar to any of us but not many people know the real story of this spice. There are two commonly known types of cinnamon in the world. Ceylon aka true cinnamon is native in Sri Lanka and southeastern coast of India while Cassia- the closely related species is originated from China, which also is commonly used in the US.
Cassia vs Ceylon cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the well-known and widely used in the ancient world. Thanks to the Arabs, cinnamon was first introduced to the West from the ancient trade route went from East to West. It was the big trade good in ancient world and even now. It is used extensively for ritual and mundane purposes such as perfumes, incense, oil, candles. Beside these commercial uses, cinnamons are well-known for their health benefits and medicinal effects.
Both types have been studies and turn out they are not the same. Unlike the true cinnamon, cassia contains a natural chemical compound called coumarin which acts as a blood thinner and can be toxic to the liver and kidneys if taken in large dose. Most cheap cinnamon sold in supermarkets is more likely to be Cassia as Ceylon is more rare to find.
Cinnamon powder is great with many uses
Ceylon cinnamon has the great health benefits you might want to know. A study in 2014 published on PLOS One revealed that cinnamon improves insulin action in brain which help regulate metabolism and brain function. This effect further mediates metabolic alterations in the liver that help reduce liver fat and balance blood sugar.
Cinnamon is super great for the brain, diabetes and weight management. So don’t forget to spice up your oatmeal or tea with some Ceylon cinnamon as autumn is here.
The most common question people ask is probably if turmeric is different from cumin. Although they both are popular spices in curry and used in Ayurvedic medicine, the world’s oldest holistic healing system from India, turmeric in fact is very different from cumin. Cumin is derived from seeds native from east Mediterranean to South Asia while turmeric is a root similar to ginger and native in Southeast Asia. For now we only focus on turmeric.
Cumin seeds vs. turmeric roots
There has been many studies on how turmeric benefits our body. Turmeric contains several pharmacological compounds and curcumin is the main one. It is the most important antioxidant that has powerful anti-inflammatory property.
It helps to repair tissue damages and fight pathogens. With its anti-inflammatory effect at the molecular level, scientists believe that turmeric helps treatment in many different diseases like arthritis or osteoarthritis, improves pancreas and spleen healths, and is a natural painkiller by inhibiting the inflammatory causing pain.
And you might haven’t know but many Asian cultures, including Southeast Asia, have been using turmeric for the skin. As a potent antioxidant, curcumin from turmeric helps prevent skin aging from free radicals, soothe burns and acnes even on sensitive skin, and heal wounds and scars.
Originated from a farland Korea, ginseng is not uncommon in traditional Asian medicine. Ginseng is a type of root that its look resembles a human body with shoots for legs and arms. Because of its look ancient Asian people believed this can treat many human health problems, from cold, flu and fatigue to asthma and cancer.
Ginseng roots resemble human body
Korean ginseng or Panax ginseng have been studied on its benefits especially its immunity boosting effect. Some studies show that ginseng effectively treats inflammatory diseases by protect the cells from pathogens and suppress inflammatory stimuli from bacteria. They also found that ginseng’ positive effect on brain ischemia, a condition of insufficient blood flow to brain that can lead to irreversible brain damage.
Ginseng’s anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity are also studied. It significantly inhibits the activity of influenza virus in flu such as H9N2 virus causing cell death and DNA damage, or H1N1 (swine flu) causing pneumonia or lung infection. Some scientists also believe that ginseng can be valuable in dealing with HIV infection but more studies are needed to confirm that.
Ginseng tea is the traditional Chinese medicine
If you are interested to try out this ancient herb, know that unlike turmeric, cinnamon or cacao powder, it is purely used as medicine. It is better to get advice from your doctor to have the right dosage for you. Asian cultures often use its root or powder form in their herbal tea. So check with your doc and try some ginseng tea for your health regimen.
Matcha is becoming more and more known in the recent years. Originating in China, then popularized in Japan, matcha was mainly used in tea ceremony as a traditional ritual. When this green powder become more well known to the world, matcha is not just a ritual tradition but now becomes the famous ingredient in culinary, beauty care, and health regimen.
Matcha has loads of health benefits
Matcha’s EGCG is the well-studied antioxidant with tons of health benefits from weight management, energy and mood booster, memory and cognition enhancer, to anti-aging and free radicals fighter. Like many other antioxidants, EGCG has an awesome anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Studies showed that anti-inflammatory effect from matcha helps improve acne and oral health. EGCG regulates the sebum production and bacterial activity which cause inflammation and acne on skin, while maintain the skin structure by increasing blood flow and hydration to skin which prevents skin aging.
Matcha face mask - photo credits to @wileyxcoyote
EGCG helps fight bacteria in your mouth that can lead to cavity and bad breaths. EGCG and the high content of chlorophyll in matcha make it the great detoxifier that helps cleanse all the radical toxin in the body.
Not only benefiting skin and teeth, matcha is great for weight loss and blood sugar level control. By increasing metabolism and fat burning, drinking matcha tea daily helps you manage your weight and health. Matcha also increases your energy level and endurance in exercise which helps further in weight loss.
For a healthy mind and mood, matcha contains both caffeine and L-theanine which is the perfect synergy for stress and anxiety reliever, cognitive performance and focus booster, and mood enhancer.
Being creative with Matcha - photo credits to @becomingness
Matcha green tea is not only beneficial to your health, mind, beauty but also is a delicious ingredient in food and baking. Matcha is truly the amazing panacea that nature has to offer us.
The discovery of these incredible panaceas has played an important role in our modern society. The ancient knowledges were the root of our knowledge about health and wellness today. But just keep in mind that these panaceas are not solely miracle. After all, a healthy body is achieved from the food we eat but also the work we do.
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