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.



What would our Thanksgiving Day feasts be without cranberries? This staple of our holiday dinner has a long, proud history in the United States. According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee (, Native Americans used cranberries as a food staple as early as 1550. They ate them fresh and mashed them with cornmeal and baked them into bread. They used maple sugar or honey to sweet them. They also mixed cranberries with wild game and melted fat to make pemmican.



My mother loved decorating for the holidays. From the tree in the den to the lights around all the windows and a big Santa decal on the front door, she was all in. She would also hang a sprig of (fake) mistletoe, complete with sharp-edged leaves and white berries, from the lintel of the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. She and my father always shared the first kiss under the mistletoe after she put it up.


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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 is the Editor of Health & Wellness Magazine

more articles by Tanya Tyler