NATURES BEAUTY - VANILLA

When something (or someone) is bland and unexciting, we usually say they are like vanilla. Simple, colorless, ordinary, easily overlooked – that describes vanilla accurately, right? Well, not exactly. The more you learn about vanilla – its origins, its popularity and what it takes to get it to our pantry shelves – you may refrain from ever describing anything or anyone as “just plain vanilla.”

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NATURES BEAUTY - CHAMOMILE

Have you ever suffered through a bout of insomnia and had someone tell you to try drinking a cup of chamomile tea to help you sleep? Chamomile is a daisy-like plant often employed in herbal medicine. Over the centuries as people have used it, chamomile has been touted to treat a wide range of ailments, from hay fever to menstrual cramps to ulcers, hemorrhoids and, of course, insomnia. Your shower gel, shampoo or skin-care lotion may contain chamomile, which is said to treat conditions such as sunburn .....

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NATURES BEAUTY - BARLEY

Barley is one of the oldest domesticated cereal grains still being grown around the world today. It originated in Ethiopia and southeast Asia. It is most often used in bread and malted beverages such as beer (barley beer was likely one of the first alcoholic drinks humans developed). Over the centuries, barley water has been used for various medicinal purposes; it is good for clearing up urinary tract infections and is also said to be a good remedy for kidney stones.

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NATURES BEAUTY - APRICOT

Remember the scene in “The Wizard of Oz,” where the Cowardly Lion, awaiting his turn before Oz the Great and Powerful, sings a song about courage and asks, “Who put the ‘ape’ in ‘apricot’?”


Well, thankfully, no one did. Who would eat it then? Instead we have a juicy fruit that has been around since ancient times and is enjoyed either fresh or dried. You can also indulge in apricot brandy or jam. The word “apricot” comes from a term meaning “early ripening.” Apricots are related to peaches and nectarines. This fruit is a drupe; it has a centrally located single pit or stone surrounded by edible flesh.


There is some dispute about whether the apricot originated from Armenia, China or India. It’s said Alexander the Great introduced the apricot to Greece. The Greeks called them “golden eggs of the sun.” English settlers who came to the New World in the 17th century brought the apricot to the colonies. Almost the entire U.S. commercial production of apricots is in California, whose climate suits them well. These trees came from seedlings carried to the West Coast by Spanish missionaries. Blending apricots with plums produces a hybrid called a plumcot, a pluot, an aprium or an apriplum.


Apricots have been used medicinally through the ages. Apricot seeds were used against tumors as early as A.D. 502, and in England in the

1800s, apricot oil was also used to cure tumors, as well as ulcers. Apricots were once considered to be an aphrodisiac. Apricot kernels are a component in traditional Chinese medicine. Back in the early 1990s, there was much excitement over a substance in apricots called laetril. It was touted as a miracle possibility for curing cancer. But in 2011, researchers said the claim that laetrile had beneficial effects for cancer patients was not supported by sound clinical data. There have been reports of serious adverse effects from cyanide poisoning after laetrile use. Cyanogenic glycosides are found in high concentration in apricot seeds.


You should nevertheless nosh on apricots once in a while. They contain many good-for-you, potent plant antioxidants, some of which are hard to get from other foods. These include polyphenols, which have been linked to the reduction of heart disease, and carotenoids and xanthophylls, nutrients that purportedly protect eyesight from damage related to aging. (Regularly consuming fruit – three or more servings a day – is associated with a lessened risk of vision loss with aging.) Apricots are a healthy source of vitamin A, which is good for vision, and vitamin C, which helps the body resist infectious agents and scavenges harmful free radicals. A single apricot will provide you with four to five grams of catechins,

anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that can inhibit the activity of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which causes inflammation. Apricots are a good source of dietary fiber, boosting digestive health. Half of that fiber is soluble and that helps control blood cholesterol levels. Apricots contain the minerals potassium, iron, zinc, calcium and manganese. Go ape for apricots!

TANYA TYLER

Tanya Tyler is the Editor of Health & Wellness Magazine

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