What We Know
What we know, what we have always known, and keep coming back to is that what we consume matters. Some of us come to this knowing through the frustration of watching our bodies decline in health when we consume things that are not in our best interest. Others of us have watched the toxic nature of fad dieting consume our loved ones and we have watched their health decline as a result. Still, others of us have been starkly aware of the devastation of our natural resources when they are depleted to over create processed goods whose shelf-life can outlive our own lives by more than 50 years.
Then, there are many of us who choose to consume mindfully because it feels good and that is enough. We may not understand the why or the how and even what is happening on a chemical level when we eat raw, whole foods, or when we support our local ecosystem and infrastructures but we feel good and that beats feeling bad any day.
Call it getting older, wiser or simply growing more conscious of how we consume; whatever it is, it’s working. Watch as our children thrive cognitively and mentally when we reduce their processed food and artificial intake, watch our economy boom when we support local businesses and farmers and watch our communities grow wiser and stronger when we come together to support each other and hear each other’s voices and concerns.
At Shanti Elixirs, not only do we talk the talk but we walk the walk alongside our community. We are putting into practice long held ideas and vision around sustainability and reciprocity and watching each other thrive in our shared efforts. Recently, through many different strands of collaborative effort, we were able to be in relationship with Blackberries and Hops in their raw form. Having the honor of working with these living foods brought up the questions about the wisdom and medicine that these plant beings had to offer, why they matter and how to properly utilize them so that we can reap their rewards.
When we have the privilege of having blackberry brambles within reach of our fingertips, we know the pleasure that picking these sun blackened treats can provide. The earthy, tart flavor is not all that these berries have to offer; from fighting whooping cough, treating ulcers and aiding with sore throats, blackberries, its leaves and roots have been held as a natural remedy and have been cultivated specifically for its medicinal properties. Highlighted are just a few of the surprising benefits that we have uncovered in our research.
We were amazed to learn that the juice of blackberries has been used to aid and support pregnant women for centuries. The juice contains recommended prenatal vitamins and minerals, such as folate, which helps in healthy cell growth and formation, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, vitamin K & phosphorus; all of which are also found in honey. The roots were also used to make a tea to help with labor pains and, post birth, the juice was used to help ease the symptoms of colic in newborns.
Blackberries also contain high amounts of a naturally produced hormone called phytoestrogen. This compound plays an essential role in the prevention of cervical and breast cancer. Our body also recognizes and utilizes phytoestrogen in the same manner as its own estrogen production.
Aids in Digestion
Blackberry juice is reported to be gentle on the digestive tract. Not only can it help to ease nausea and other stomach illnesses, the juice is said to be used to treat diarrhea, aids in the release of fluid retention and can reduce the symptoms of intestinal inflammation. It is also considered as a treatment for gout- it is lower in sugar and higher in water content, registering it as a low-glycemic fruit and drink which is ideal for people with diabetes as it helps to regulate blood-glucose levels.
Blackberries are a low-carb and high fiber food and offer more fiber than most grains.
High in Antioxidants
Blackberries have been reported to be one of the top ten highest antioxidants foods amongst all fruits and berries. Antioxidants aid in fighting free radicals that occur sporadically in our bodies which, when produced in overabundance can lead to toxicity and cancer cells.
During the colder months, it is recommended to give our immune systems a boost by drinking blackberry leaf tea or blackberry juice. Blackberry tea and juice is especially helpful during common cold and flu seasons and can help to ease the symptoms of sore throats and fevers as well!
Why Support Local?
There are over 375 species of blackberries ranging from thorny to thornless grown around the world. When we consider the numerous health benefits and gifts that these berries have to offer we are amazed that they haven’t been overproduced to extinction. Support your local blackberry farmers by getting these delicious berries in season! Cultivate your own blackberry patch and give this gift of wild abundance to neighbors and friends! These berries truly are the gift that keeps on giving.
When we think about Hops, most people will say, “Oh, like in beer, right?” and though they aren’t wrong it’s not even the entirety of what our sister bine has to offer to the conversation.
We know that there is medicine in plant foods which is why we source our ingredients from farmers who grow their crops ethically and responsibly. We know that the love that is put into the growing of our foods is the love we receive when we consume them. We know that certain foods are more potent in a given season than others. And while we always know that there are medicinal properties in the herbs, fruits and spices that we’ve chosen to curate our beverages, we don’t always know the hard science behind them and why it matters that we consume them at all.
Hops and It’s Entourage
When writing about Hops it’s hard to say that this beautiful cone is simply this or that. Hops (Humulus Lupulus) contains essential oils, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals that gives these unassuming cones their powerful therapeutic properties. This article serves to give a brief synopsis of the compounds working behind the scenes, where else to source them and how they might be beneficial to our overall health.
Hops contain a flavonoid called xanthohumol that, in studies, has shown to lower cholesterol, blood sugar and weight gain. Xanthohumol also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce the overall stress on our nervous systems. Xanthohumol has even been shown to be effective in inhibiting various types of cancers.
Myrcene is a monoterpene that can also be found in fresh mangoes, wild thyme, ylang-ylang cannabis and other plants. The presence of myrcene in plants determines the sedative effect of the plant. Hops have a high amount of myrcene which is responsible for increasing one’s sleep and relaxing one’s muscles. If you are a regular beer drinker you are already familiar with that sedate feeling after consuming a lager or two. That feeling is largely due to the presence of hops in the beer and, on a more micro level, due to the presence of myrcene in the hops. Research tells us that for hundreds of years hops was used as a natural sleep-aid. People were advised to stuff their pillows with hop cones to help cure their insomnia. Their calming effects have also been touted to help soothe our nervous systems which can ease anxiety symptoms.
These days, one needs not down a beer to receive Hops’ soothing qualities as they are now available in capsules, tinctures, liquid extracts, and in our case, in our Blackberry Hops Jun Champagne!
Another hard working terpene found in Hops that is also found in cinnamon, basil, oregano, cloves, rosemary and black pepper is Caryophyllene. Caryophyllene is not only responsible for the woody, spicy scent and the pungent peppery taste in these spices but is also shown to help reduce pain, anxiety, depression and substance addiction. Caryophyllene is the only terpene that binds to the CB2 receptor in your endocannabinoid system. The CB2 Receptors are commonly found in the peripheral nervous system where they modulate levels of pain and inflammation. The interaction between caryophyllene and our endocannabinoid system offers the therapeutic effect of chronic pain, anxiety, stress and inflammation relief. The CB2 receptors are believed to be a potential target to treat inflammatory disease. Studies have also shown that caryophyllene helps with alcohol dependence, cancer and aging.
The terpene farnesene is responsible for the fruity, warm and sweet notes that are present in Hops. It is the primary terpene found in green apple skin and is also found in sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, hops, ginger, turmeric, potatoes, gardenias, ylang-ylang, grapefruit, quince, chamomile, and myrrh.
This terpene also has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties as well as calming and sedative effects but does not interact with the endocannabinoid system. Farnesene has been noted to induce mental calm and can act as a muscle relaxant.
Farnesene can be used to help reduce bowel cramps, spasms and is effective in reducing inflammation of the bowels. Studies have shown this terpene might inhibit bacteria’s growth, assisting the body to return to homeostasis by killing harmful bacterias. It has also been shown to be effective in preventing tooth-related diseases.
This terpene has also proven to be effective as a neuroprotectant meaning it can reduce neuronal damage and necrotic cell death which are both prevalent in Alzheimer’s disease. Farnesene is FDA approved for its use as a flavoring agent in food. There have been no reported safety concerns when it is ingested in food or beverages.
The terpene Humulene is responsible for the herbaceous scent that is exhibited from Hops and other plants in the Cannabinacea family. Humulene derives its name from the essential oils of Humulus Lupulus, commonly known as Hops. That bitter taste that is significant to hops is also due to Humulene.
Though hops and its sister cannabis have the highest concentration of humulene, the terpene can also be found in Basil, Ginger, Cloves, Black Pepper, Ginseng, Sage, Spearmint, Ginseng and Vietnamese Coriander.
Humulene’s health benefits also include antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antitumor effects. Humulene shares the same chemical formula as Caryophyllene but differs in structure.
The high amounts of this terpene is also responsible for the ability of the plant to protect itself against pests and prevents fungal infestation.
Vitamins and Minerals
The vitamins found in hops include vitamins C, E and B6.
Vitamin C is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues, it helps the body absorb iron which is needed for red blood cell production.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant compound that is important for our vision, reproductive health and health of our blood, brain and skin. It occurs naturally in nuts, seeds and leafy greens and helps to enhance immune function and prevents clots from forming in the arteries of the heart. It helps to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
This vitamin is important for normal brain development and for keeping the nervous system and immune system healthy and functioning optimally. It is needed in the creation of neurotransmitters and helping to regulate our moods. Our bodies do not produce B6 naturally so it is important that we eat a diet that is rich in this compound.
How these Terpenes, Flavonoids, Antioxidants, Vitamins and Minerals go to work for us
First disclaimer is that hops, true to form, are bitter; this is due to the high amounts of humulene present in the plant. They present a bitter, herbaceous flavor and, if you are brave enough to pop a cone in your mouth, will only intensify and multiply in pungency as you chew, same with when they are cooked. If you are a fan of bitter, then adding hops anywhere from your salads to your bruschettas might be right up your alley. We’ve even read that ancient Romans used to cook and eat the young shoots of hops like asparagus citing them as a great source of fiber.
Hops are an excellent source of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds in plants that our bodies respond to as though our own estrogen were present. This means that the phytoestrogen in hops accomplishes some of the same effects that our own body’s estrogen would accomplish.
Anti-Inflammatory & Pain Relief
The high amounts of terpenes found in hops makes it an excellent source for anti-inflammatory and pain relief. The analgesic properties of the female parts of the plant can be attributed to the high myrcene levels that are present in the cones as well as the alpha acids that can be extracted and used primarily for pain relief. Before the advent of over the counter pain relievers were widely used, Hops was commonly taken to relieve joint pain, migraine, muscle aches and sprains. Studies have shown that hops extract is able to neutralize damaged cell molecules and is a far more effective alternative to over the counter pain relievers and has not been shown to cause any harmful side effects.
In the 11th century when Hops was first introduced to the beer-making process, it was quickly realized that beer no longer spoiled as quickly and maintained its flavor longer. This was due to Hop’s anti-bacterial and antifungal properties. Adding hops allowed brewers to keep their beer for far longer which allowed them to transport their brews to a larger audience.
The Rockstar – Hops
Not only are hops responsible for the foamy head after a pour of your favorite hoppy beverage, the cones are also rich in flavonoids, terpenes, vitamins and minerals which helps to support our entire being. From brain health to joint support, hops can ease tension in our muscles, our bowels and can significantly reduce anxiety.
The rockstar hydrocarbons called myrcene, caryophyllene, farnesene and humulene that are found in the essential oils of Hops are also responsible for the anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties of the plant as well as for their work on our endocannabinoid systems. Hops can be eaten in a salad, taken as an extract, tincture, capsule or topically. These unassuming cones have much to offer with very little reported side effects when consumed safely.
To experience the flavor of humulene and the aroma of farescene, to taste the spiciness of caryophyllene and the relaxing effects of myrcene try our newest flavor Blackberry Hops that is available at an EarthFare near you.