Monday, May 15, 2017

A Weekend Of Learning How To Use Prana To Heal

Last weekend, I was immersed in a two-day workshop on learning how to heal with prana. I didn't plan on going for this workshop called Prana Violet Healing or PVH for short as I wasn't even keen on healing or becoming a healer.

That's Mr Siva right up front. 

But life is strange. Nic had attended the PVH workshops before - in fact, how he came to know of this healing modality is in itself a story of strange incidents. He attended one session last year when I was back in Banting taking care of my mum and as everyone who reads this blog knows, my mum passed away eventually.

While she was fighting for her life in the ICU, PVH came to her via Nic and me. I was desolate and didn't know how else to help my mum. PVH came to mum through the forgiveness affirmations - affirmations that my mum managed to read before she passed away. I believe that forgiveness is the basis of all humanity. I was glad in a way that my mum managed to read the forgiveness affirmations - forgiving herself, her family and more.

That was last year.

In February this year, PVH came to Penang again. Nic went for the 2-day workshop - a totally free one, by the way - and was taught by its founder, Mr Siva, how to use the healing wand to help oneself and others.

The healing wand looks like a cocktail stirrer. It is plastic with a square end on one side and a tiny knob on the other.

This healing wand is the instrument that participants will learn to use during the workshop. It is used to clean the aura, sense the aura and heal the physical body.

I didn't give it much thought until my sister told me she was flying into Penang from Singapore to attend Mr Siva's workshop. My sis is a big fan of Joey Yap and Bazi and all kinds of metaphysical stuff. Nic was already planning to go. So I thought, what the heck, let me go and check it out even though I had a pile of work that I thought I wanted to tend to during the weekend.

All PVH workshops are conducted for free by Mr Siva who is of Malaysian Indian descent. He is a 56-year-old man who is rather humorous and engaging. He also owns his own business in KL but travels around the world giving his PVH workshops for free in the hope that more people can use his healing modality to help others. You can check him out on the many Youtube videos. He usually travels to India so the videos are mostly in Tamil.

The workshops he conducts in Malaysia are in English of course but if the audience is made up of Indians, he lapses into Tamil which is fine by me as I am reacquainted with Tamil - the language that I grew up hearing my neighbours and best friends speak!

I know a few words here and there but that's the beauty of growing up in Malaysia, well at least back when I was a child. These days, kids are all mixing only with their own race. I had Indian neighbours on my both sides of my house (we lived in a terrace house) and I had plenty of Indian and Malay friends.

Anyway, this time the workshop was held at Bodhi Heart Sanctuary, right smack in the middle of Mount Erskine. For those not in the know, Mount Erskine is where the Chinese cemetery is!

We had to drive through a narrow pathway where both sides were Chinese graves and tombs. However, the venue itself was serene.

So what is PVH? PVH is premised on these principles and if you don't believe in these principles, it's not for you.

1. It's a no-touch, no-drug healing modality that anyone can be engaged in, if they learn how to do it properly, practise regularly with the intention to help others get well. It is also non-religious.
2. It's based on the idea that the body can heal itself. Good health is our birthright.
3. Prana plays a role in healing. Prana is qi, life energy or ki. It flows in all living beings, from trees to animals to humans. PVH encourages good thoughts, good words, good deeds which is Buddhistic in nature.
4. There are only a few simple steps involved - cleansing the aura, then using the healing wand to sense the aura or sense for "cords" or sense for health issues and using the healing wand to heal.
5. PVH is also about being grateful to Nature, understanding our connection and link to the Cosmic Universe and therefore, reading the forgiveness affirmations is a must. It is about existing harmoniously with others and others can mean other people, other living beings, other spiritual beings.
6. Cords are emotional connections of a strong nature, usually negative that affect people and causes health and emotional issues. They can't be seen but they can be sensed using the healing wand. Part of why some health issues are longstanding is that they are ill-will sent by others towards a person or emitted by you towards others.
7. Karma and reincarnation play a role in understanding PVH. Part of the affirmations is to understand and accept that we are all here on earth to "balance our karma". Because we are all in some way or another connected to each other, we are not individuals living individual lives but spiritual beings coming back on earth to learn lessons before we move on to the next phase of our 'journey'.

It sounds challenging for many people to accept. One lady remarked at that she was skeptical. But during the workshop, Mr Siva did eliminate a longstanding soya milk allergy of an Australian woman in the audience using the method he taught us all. She said she would have a terrible migraine if she took soya bean milk. We saw her gulping down a small cup in the morning and throughout the day, she finished the bottle of soya bean milk and she looked finer than fine in the evening. She even told a friend that she thought it was magic that her allergy of 28 years suddenly disappeared!

Maybe that's the problem. After years and years of being indoctrinated that medicine/drugs were the only way to heal the body, our logical selves cannot comprehend that a simple purple wand, waved over soya bean milk and over a Caucasian, can destroy whatever allergies she had.

It seemed too simple. Surely there must be a more complicated way! Surely something so difficult must have multiple steps and involve many days and nights of callisthenics, incantations and invocations. It must involve some guru and some medical equipment so expensive that no one can even pronounce its name.

And yet, the healing wand worked.

It worked by channelling universal prana to the affected area. It worked by thanking the universe. It worked by thanking our organs - yes, we thanked our kidneys, liver, lungs, heart.

We took turns to practice on each other - sensing each other's aura and cords. We took turns to send collective prana to a Mr Nadarajan who was in a wheel chair and whose glazed eyes took on an alert look after some 70 people focused their prana on him.

I cannot explain why it works. Because it comes in 2 parts - you can heal yourself using the wand and you can heal others in need. And Mr Siva encourages us to practice so that we can continue to be healers and help others.

When I got home, the big toe on my right foot was throbbing. I took out the healing wand and did the steps he taught and to my surprise, the throbbing disappeared in 5 minutes. I cannot explain what it is that took away the pain.

I tried the wand on emotional issues. Nic was upset with me (now that I'm writing this I can't even remember what it was all about) and I used the wand to remove his anger and all of a sudden, he came into the room to make up with me! That was the fastest cure-all for anger.

If what I've said intrigued you, attend any one of the PVH workshops if it comes to your city. Have an open mind but know that you will come away impressed, skeptical, amazed and in wonderment.

I'm not here to turn you into a PVH believer but what I experienced over the past 2 days was nothing short of out of this world. Lest you think Mr Siva is one of those guru types, he's not. He's one of those down-to-earth guys who think that we all have the power to heal ourselves if only we believe it. He charges no money and even the food he provides during the 2 days are free for all. The affirmation pamphlets and healing wands are freely distributed.

Check it out

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Bleeding Under The Skin

This is a quick post and a shout out to one of my readers who found my blog because he was helping a friend find out more about Five Flower Tea!

You see, it doesn't surprise me anymore now as I meet more and more people who come up to me and say they read my blog. In fact, it gives me a glow of pleasure even though I've been blogging for years and years!

Once at an event, a man in his fifties tapped me on my shoulder. He asked if I was the Soup Queen! He was from Ipoh but he had come to Penang for this particular event (where my friend was promoting powdered ginseng) and he recognised me in a sea of 50 or so people.

Anyway, back to Joe.

I'm not sure if Joe would like me to describe him but suffice to say, we've met! He came to our marketing event called Marketing Mojo in March because he won a ticket.

He is a fount of knowledge about Chinese kung fu, Chinese medicinal ointment (Nic is adamant that one day he will produce his own "tit tar jau" because this husband of mine believes in some far off life in his past, he was a medicine man) and Chinese herbs. And Joe is Cantonese (yay, my kind of people haha).

Joe has been emailing me interesting links and articles to Chinese herbs and health.

Just this week, he sent me a link to this article about bleeding under the skin. The article also recommends some herbs and one of the helpful herbs/vegetables is lotus root.

As you know, I am a huge fan of lotus root soup. I love its simplicity. I love eating the crunchy roots and as a child, I was always fascinated by the holes!

In my Lip Sin market, I usually get to choose from 2 types of lotus roots. It's not that they're 2 different species. They're the same. It's just that the origins differ. The larger ones usually come from China. The thinner, longer and scrawnier ones are local. I prefer to buy local. Or maybe I am too scared of what the Chinese farmers put into their fields and ponds!

So have a go and read this article on bruising under the skin and the healthy and natural kitchen remedies that can help you.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Jamu Kunyit Asam From Freshly Grown, Organic Turmeric & Tamarind Paste

A friend gave me a packet of freshly harvested turmeric from an organic garden and I was wondering what to do with this when I remembered the jamu that I tasted at an Indonesian Consulate event last year.

(Did I mention that I love tempeh, sambal pecel and all things Indonesian? I was in Bali last year and loved eating Indonesian food. In fact, tempeh chips are still my all-time favourite. In Bali, they're sold as snacks in supermarkets.)

fresh turmeric root
Fresh turmeric root, tamarind paste/asam jawa & gula melaka. 

tamarind paste
Tamarind paste mixed with water. Strain before using. 

sliced turmeric root
Sliced turmeric root. Look at the bright orange colour. It's been called Indian saffron but beware, the orange does stain! 

Turmeric is getting into the news for all the right reasons. Fresh turmeric is getting popular in the Western world though us here in Asia have been using this root in curries. I usually use turmeric powder when I marinate fish before frying. (If you marinate fish with turmeric powder, add a few sprinkles of grated black pepper.) Apparently, turmeric and black pepper pack a powerful combo and black pepper makes turmeric more bio-available! Plus if you add fat, it's even better. Who would've known?

I didn't want to just make curry with the fresh turmeric root. I wanted to make a jamu. I googled an Indonesian jamu recipe which called for a few simple ingredients - ingredients easily available in an Asian market - such as gula melaka, asam jawa and of course, turmeric. I counterchecked with my Indonesian friend who lives in Penang and yes, she confirmed that those were the ingredients.

She didn't give me any measurements so I used the "agak-agak" method which is a handful of turmeric root, sliced. Beware when you're slicing turmeric root. The orange does stain! I still have orange stains on my nails hours after cutting up the root.

I placed these root slices into the inner pot of my magic cooker (a new kitchen gadget I bought before Chinese New Year) with a block of gula melaka and reconstituted asam jawa paste. Add about 1 liter of water and bring it to a boil on the stove for 20 minutes. Add a pinch of salt to balance it all out.

Taste after 20 minutes. It shouldn't be too sourish/tangy. If it is, add more gula melaka. Then remove the pot from the stove and place this pot into your magic cooker. Close it and let the brew "cook" in the magic cooker for about 7 hours.

Boil for 20 minutes before placing in magic cooker. 

I made it during lunch time and let it brew till past dinner.

So did my jamu taste after 7 hours in the magic cooker? I came home after a day of shopping to drink this unbelievably smooth and warm beverage that is a little tangy, a little peppery but all goodness! It tasted absolutely wonderful. It had a lovely flavour of turmeric and asam jawa, leaving a slight spicy taste on the tongue. I'm no Indonesian but I'm quite proud that my first ever jamu came out pretty damn good.

I shall weigh the ingredients the next round to ensure the recipe is more "scientific" rather than go by the "agak-agak" method.

Jamu is basically an Indonesian herbal drink drunk for health maintenance purposes. This jamu kunyit asam is meant for slimming and helps to reduce bloated tummies (which is great for all of us with flabby bellies!). I was supposed to peel the skin off the turmeric root but I didn't. I just washed the turmeric and sliced it, skin and all.

According to WebMD, "turmeric contains the chemical curcumin. Curcumin and other chemicals in turmeric might decrease swelling (inflammation). Because of this, turmeric might be beneficial for treating conditions that involve inflammation."

In fact, there are some 9902 studies referencing curcumin and its healing properties. If you want a full list of what turmeric or curcumin in turmeric does, read this article by Dr Axe. One of the biggest discoveries is that curcumin kills and prevents cancer cells. It also reverses Type 2 diabetes and is able to neutralize free radicals (that's why it is such a good antioxidant).

This website states that taking whole turmeric is more advantageous than its extract (curcumin). Whole turmeric includes three different curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and demethoxycurcumin plus volatile oils like tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone. And all these components are all health-giving! 

And did you know that satay - my favourite food of all time - uses turmeric in its marinade? Turmeric also helps prevent the formation of HCAs (heterocyclic amines) in grilled meat. HCAs are the culprits in health risks in grilled meat protein. Turmeric, when combined with carrot or pumpkin, reduces the loss of beta carotene from these vegetables. 

What I am learning these days that the best way to get the benefits of turmeric or any other herb for that matter is through cooking. Many studies use the extract of turmeric on rodents in lab research and some websites have stated that they would rather see effects of the actual herb on humans instead of the curcumin extract. 

I agree quite as much. I think the best way to get the most out of herbs is using the way our grandmothers did - eat your food as medicine. Make them into teas, soups, broths or dishes. Because certain herbs complement vegetables. You can't get one to work without the other. 

But I underestimated the humble turmeric. It is arguably Nature's pharmacy without the side effects. (Planting turmeric is easy. Just pop the root into the ground and it will grow. The leaves can be used in cooking. I have a small pot of tumeric in my garden though I've never harvested the roots!)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why I've Been Missing....

I've been missing for some time because my mum was hospitalised in July and I went home to be with her. 

However her lung complication got the better of her and after exactly one month in the ICU ward, she passed away on 1 August. 

Yes, you read right. My mum passed away. 

You know how you often grow up always believing that your parents will be there like forever? 

Death seemed so far away because my mum was only 67 years old. She wasn't really old. 

I have friends whose mothers are like in their 90s and play games on the iPads. 

I have friends whose 80 year old mums go to the beach in swimsuits and get a tan. 

I have friends in their 70s who go scuba diving and scale mountains and do all sorts of exciting outdoor sports. 

So you see, it was hard to accept that one day my mum was alive (albeit breathing with a ventilator) and 30 days later, she was dead. She lost consciousness 2 days before she died and never woke up again. 

It was a shock to my sisters and me.

It was totally devastating as we always expected her to get well and get home. 

Unlike all the previous hospital stays where she would get well after a dose of antibiotics in a week, this time she was too weak. 

When I was home in Banting for 19 days (from 1 July to 19 July), I told myself that it was impossible that the antibiotics didn't work. The doctors couldn't believe it. She couldn't breathe on her own due to a collapsed left lung and had to use a ventilator which pumped oxygen into her lungs. She had to have nurses extract her phlegm daily because the bacteria was that vicious! 

Halfway through her ICU ward stay, she had a tracheostomy done - a minor operation to insert the breathing tube through the base of her throat (all the while the tubing went into her mouth and down her lungs).

Still, she couldn't take solid food. For the entire month, she subsisted on a special liquid supplement that was poured down a tube - the tube went from her nose to her stomach. She wasn't allowed to drink water - not even a sip! 

She grew weak and fragile and thinner day by day. And all my sisters and I and my dad could do was visit her twice a day (once at noon, once in the evening) to talk to her and massage her hands and legs. I even had a ritual of my own. I'd go in, wash my hands properly and start updating my mum on the day. She could be alert at times and would try to speak but eventually, she would ask for pen and paper to write. 

She would say things like she wanted to go home and that many people have died in the ICU ward (she had seen the Indian lady next to her pass on). 

To say that the ICU ward is very "yin" is true. It is a place that has no "yang". In the ICU ward, one either gets well and gets discharged or deteriorates and dies. My sister and I would say our respective prayers each time we were with mum. She needed lots of spiritual help! 

I am a big believer in the power of prayers and I felt so blessed because when my friends knew, they too started praying for my mum. One good pal even sent a get well card which I believed my mum appreciated when I read it out to her (though it quoted the Bible and my mum's a pure Taoist!). 

We were there so regularly that the nurses recognised us and so did the security guards. 

I am one of those crazy optimists in that each time I talked to my mum, I told her, "Mummy, you are getting out of this ICU ward soon". I practically willed it. The doctors and nurses were not very hopeful but there I was with my sisters each day, motivating my mum and giving her lots of encouragement. But then again, when are doctors ever hopeful? 

I had not much respect for the doctors because they never really updated us properly. I had more respect for the nurses because they had to do the unpleasant tasks - clean my mum, extract her phlegm, etc. The nurses had more empathy than the doctors. 

When I left Banting to come back to Penang, I had planned to fly back again on 2 August for a week. I told my mum just as much that I was coming back to Penang to settle some things (my book which was in its final stages of edits before printing, my women entrepreneur organisation's anniversary dinner, my own client projects) and then go back to see her again.

It was not to be. 

Nic and I drove back for the funeral (and had a massive argument with the funeral manager) who tried to con my dad out of almost RM28K for mum's funeral. Luckily, we stepped in and managed to control the situation (and get rid of the gangster guy). I almost lost it on the day of the funeral when he kept harassing us for the final payment. But I didn't want to cause a scene in front of neighbours and friends so I just ignored his crudeness. 

My sis carrying my mum's remains in a yellow cloth.
We were on our way from Negeri Sembilan to Port Klang to scatter her ashes. 

We eventually hired our own Taoist priest from Negeri Sembilan for the funeral rites and cremation rites. My mum was cremated three days after she passed on. Her remains were scattered off the sea at Port Klang on a beautiful day. 

At Port Klang, after scattering her remains at sea. 

Still, we've had a tough time coming to terms with her death. On one hand, as the priest says, she has gone on to a better place and is no longer suffering. On the other hand, my sisters, dad and I have been in a daze because suddenly mum is no more. 

She isn't there to nag my nephew and niece about bathing. 

She isn't there to quarrel with my dad over petty issues. 

She isn't there to make us our favourite curry puffs and Nyonya acar. 

She isn't there to watch Wah Lai Toi all day (we've since terminated her Astro account). 

She isn't there to have 1-hour phone conversations with.

She isn't there to complain about dad. 

There was also an element of the occult which I believed in. A spiritual teacher said that there were 7 people on her side of the family who wanted her dead. We don't know why. Even when a Christian friend prayed for my mum, she recalled seeing a vision of a man who was trying to suppress my mum. She called me worriedly and asked if I knew of any man that would want revenge. I had no idea. My mum was adopted and was the only child of her adoptive parents. 

The final photo we took with mum as a family this Chinese New Year.  

But I can tell you that my mum started getting chills in the middle of the afternoon some 2 years ago. She'd wrap up in thick clothes at 2pm and told us all she was very cold. Due to this, she refused to go out with us to the malls anymore. She said going out made it worse. This off and on chills and fevers made her very depressed. 

When we asked her to visit a doctor, she'd refuse and self medicate. Or if she did see a doctor, she wouldn't complete her course of antibiotics properly. She throw half her meds away or leave them in the fridge. 

We encouraged her to see a temple medium, if only to prove that there was nothing spiritual bugging her (or offended any spirits). Since I wasn't with her, we don't know if she took the advice of the temple medium. 

When I did manage to get to a temple, I met a medium who told me directly that if a soul is departing, there's nothing you can do to stop it. He had met my mum once when she went to see him, just to ask about his schedule. He remembered her. Strangely, I had never met him with my mum but he seemed to know who I was talking about. 

The night that I spoke to him a thunderstorm was brewing and rain was falling. The whole atmosphere felt creepy and weird. Yet he was kind despite his piercing stare. I started to cry right in front of him, a total stranger I had never met. (He reminded me of a Datuk Kong. He could very well be a manifestation of a Datuk Kong trying to give me some advice.)

It was then that I knew that my mum was going to die.

That's a feeling of all the air sucked out of you. Of a huge hole in your being. 

And there was nothing we could do for her. 

Not even my optimism, encouragement and motivation. 

So there you have it. 

I am still trying to come to terms with the grief and sadness but life has to go on. 

One of the reasons why I continue to blog as Soup Queen is this: let us all have good health through eating right. If we all had better health, we would live longer lives. 

Until today, I still don't know why mum didn't recover. Was it a hex or was it just a sign of weak health? 

I shall leave you to ponder. 

But you know what? I discovered that my mum's passing made me more fearless. I've seen death conquer two people in my life - my grandma and my mum - and it makes me more aware of living well, living strong. These days, I'm a lot stronger inside because nothing shakes you up like the death of a loved one. There is nothing more intense than death; ridiculous clients or stupid remarks or toxic people don't even come close. 

p/s: Two weeks after my mum passed on, I picked up a book by psychic Richard Lawrence called Gods, Guides and Guardian Angels. It came to me at the right time. His book answers a lot of questions about death and dying and where do souls go. I felt a lot calmer after reading his book and believe that there are things we do not see but that doesn't mean we cannot understand. 

Plus before my mum passed on, I gave her the Forgiveness Mantra to read. I encouraged her to forgive and I think that was a balm to her soul. (The website for Pranic Violet Healing looks a little on the suspicious side no thanks to its awful web design but the stuff is legit. Forgiving oneself and others is a powerful gesture indeed.) 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Benefits of Burdock Root Tea

Here's a new remedy for hair loss.

(I am like a dog with a bone. I am not letting up on the hair loss remedies or hair loss cures haha though I am happy that my hair is looking much healthier now. I wonder if it's the natural shampoo I'm using or the daily dang gui capsule that I'm taking? Or the fact that I am keeping my scalp cool and oil-free by washing my hair each time I feel my scalp heating up!)

This humble root called burdock has been made into burdock oil to prevent hair loss and encourage hair growth.

I stumbled upon this root when I was reading a post about the famous Five Element Soup.

I've seen burdock in Jusco and Tesco (funnily, never saw it in my Lip Sin wet market though!). It's a long root, about 2 feet, and usually marketed as gobo (in Japanese).

In Chinese, it's called Niu Pang. If you go to a Chinese herbalist or Chinese medical hall, its seeds are sold as Niu Pang Zi (Zi referring to the seeds).

I bought one gobo/burdock root today from Jusco for RM1.29 - yes, it is inexpensive.

But wait till you hear about the benefits of burdock.

Burdock root 

It's used as a detoxifying agent to clear acne and pimples. It helps with sore throats, rashes and skin conditions such as herpes and eczema. It is often made into a tea to purify the blood. 

The Europeans use the oil extract of burdock root for hair and scalp. It treats baldness and makes hair strong.

Cross-section of the burdock root. It can be eaten as a vegetable if you're not making a tea out of it. 

According to this website, burdock is a "member of the thistle family. It was originally grown in Europe and Asia, but is now widespread throughout the United States. It is a short, dull green plant that grows in light, well-drained soil, with wavy, heart-shaped leaves and roots that are brownish-green or black on the outside.Both the root and leaves are used in herbal remedies; however, the roots are the most important part in terms of herbal medicine."

Burdock is good for gastro-intestinal issues as it contains inulin and mucilage. I went digging about to find out more about inulin. It's a mixture of fructose polymers found in plants. It survives the harsh acidic conditions of your stomach juices and goes to the small intestine where it becomes food for the good bacteria in the large intestine (good bacteria are the same bacteria you ingest as probiotics in your yogurt and Yakult). 

I swear by Marigold yogurt because that's the only yogurt that seems to really have live lactobacili. How do I know this? I make my own yogurt and I often am successful when I use Marigold yogurt as a starter. When I use Dutch Lady yogurt as a starter, my yogurt falls flat. So I am a big fan of Marigold yogurt if only for the live active cultures!

(For my DIY yogurt how-to, I even got featured in a Chinese newspaper. The reporter googled and found me and was so curious about making yogurt at home that she interviewed me. Yes, the things I get up to!)

But I think you get only the goodness of inulin if you chomp on burdock? What happens if we make a tea out of it? Will inulin also be present in the tea? 

(For the record, I drank the tea and ate the burdock root. It tastes bland but the fibre is good for my intestines LOL. And I am never one to waste stuff. Must be those years of listening to my dad telling me about the African kids dying of starvation while growing up!).
Burdock is also anti-microbial. It can also reduce inflammation and liver damage. It also contains saponins which is the what makes it a blood cleanser or blood purifier. Saponins are also present in ginseng so you can say that burdock is a poor man's version. It also contains 150 times more beta-carotene than carrots. 
I made this into a tea because I felt that my body was a bit too heaty (I had a super late night last night - visited a friend and chatted till almost 1am!). 
I just scrubbed the root and using a peeler, peeled it all, skin included. You'll end up with strips of burdock. I saved a small portion of the root because I want to try growing burdock! The burdock I bought was labelled China gobo but I think I can grow this root into a plant. 
All you have to do next is dry the strips of burdock under the sun. I couldn't wait for the sun-dried burdock so I took a handful and simmered it in some water for 10 minutes. (Here's a lovely pictorial guide on making burdock tea.)
If you dry it well, you can keep it in a jar and each time you want some burdock tea to cleanse your blood, you can make tea immediately (either steeping the roots in boiling water or simmering it on a low fire). 
If you like a savoury soup made with this root, try this recipe from this site
*Here's some trivia - burdock or rather its burrs are the inspiration behind the famous Velcro invention. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Of Strengthening Teeth and Hair And A Story of A Place Called Vanamoolika

Remember I was complaining how my hair was falling like crazy some months ago?

My hair salon lady told me it could be the rice intake.

So I started eating more rice and also ate a host of other stuff (black sesame and white sesame seeds) and realized that my hair issue did improve.

Organic Herbal Shampoo Powder from Vanamoolika India

The back shows you the ingredients used in this powder shampoo. 

I also observed that my hair fall increased when the weather was hot and my scalp was sweaty and itchy. I usually wash my hair every two days but sometimes when my scalp became too itchy, I had to wash my hair daily. I realized it also helped prevent hair loss.

I deduced that when my scalp is itchy, the hair follicles may be "open" and this made my hair drop. While I feared daily hair washing could increase the number of hair dropping, the reverse was true.

When I washed my hair daily and my scalp was cool, hair fall became less and less. I was so relieved! You know that feeling....after a shower and shampoo, I'd look at the drain cover and see if there's a bunch of hair over it.

When there wasn't, I was super relieved!

Side Story...My Fascination With Soaps 

Whenever I go for a meal at Ananda Bhawans, I made sure I popped by the Indian sundry shop right across. I usually go to stock up on my soap and toothpaste supply. We've been using this brand called Dabur Herbal Toothpaste (they have variations in clove and neem) for a few years now and prefer this over Colgate.

I think we started using the Dabur clove toothpaste when Nic started to complain about his gums aching a few years back. I started researching and found that neem or clove toothpaste was good for teeth and gums.

That was how we started and till now, I find that it is still one of the best toothpaste around and much better than Colgate.

As for soaps, Nic and I have now gone back to using soaps. I've never been much of a body shampoo fan because I actually like the feel of soaping myself and the actual clean feeling after soaping and showering. I dislike that body shampoo feel - you know, as if you have a layer of something despite showering it all off!

We've been trying a few made in India soaps as well as made in Thailand soaps. But that's another post for another day. Possibly a soap review!

While cleaning out my junk today, I found some Ayurvedic hair products I bought some 6 years ago. I debated whether I should throw them out or not. I disliked wasting stuff so I thought heck, I'd keep them and use them.

Visiting Kerala's Organic Herb Farms 

In 2010, I went off to Pulpally, a town in Kerala, India with a client (now ex-client). He wanted to check out the organic farming of herbs and do some form of joint venturing with the local contact.

From the moment we touched down at the Mumbai airport to the time we left via the Chennai airport, I knew the local contact was an absolute con man.

All of us on the trip comprising us (as in Nic and me), his Malaysian employees and his European friends - all of us knew in the pit of our stomachs that the local contact was a fat-faced liar.

The local contact was promising the sky and the earth and everything else in between.

Eventually, the deal didn't close. But all of us were treated to a week of travelling in Kerala (God's own country, or so says the Kerala State slogan - Kerala is by the way a Communist region), eating vegetarian food, getting oil massages and visiting organic farmers.

It was in a place called Vanamoolika that we started our exploration. This place functioned like a cooperative for Indian farmers. The interesting thing was, the farmers or growers of the herbs and plants were mostly women.

They had a small building that was a factory churning out products made using Ayurvedic recipes and locally grown Indian herbs. Besides herbs for making Ayurvedic medicinal products, they also grew pepper, vanilla and cloves. And they sold them at Vanamoolika.

India is a good place to visit because it's affordable (OK, it's so inexpensive that it's quite laughable).

Organic herbal Kesa Kala Hair Oil from Vanamoolika

See? It says only 140 rupees! 

The hair oil product I bought wasn't expensive at all. At 140 rupees, it was about RM8. I even managed to buy a packet of vanilla pods for RM21. I should've bought more but hindsight is always 20-20. (Now you can see that Vanamoolika has raised its prices for its products. Maybe inflation? Or export pricing is always higher?)

So I found my hair oil product and the herbal powder shampoo today while decluttering. And I decided that I would keep and use them, instead of throwing them away. I doubt herbal hair products have expiry dates.

Herbs In The Ayurvedic Shampoo

The organic herbal shampoo powder lists its ingredients as:

Hibiscus rosasinesis - which is Hibiscus flower (our national flower, by the way). My best friend's mother-in-law uses crushed hibiscus flowers to wash her hair. I know for a fact that her mother-in-law has really dark and thick hair even though she is in her 60s.

Alpinia galanga - which is greater galangal. Galangal is a root that's often used in Southeast Asian cooking. Mixed with a base-oil, it is employed as an anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatic ointment, or otherwise as a topical hair and scalp oil said to promote hair growth by increasing blood flow towards the scalp (says this website).

Cardiospermum halicacabum - which is Balloon Vine. This is a plant with a heart-shape on its seed! It is reputed to be prevent hair from graying, is a hair growth enhancer and prevents dandruff. In Mexico, it's called Cat's Testicles. This plant is also used for regulating menstrual disorders.

Indigofera tinctoria - which is Black Henna or True Indigo which is also a plant. The leaves of the Indigo plant are used to make hair dye and medicated hair oil. Powdered or ground leaves is made into black hair dye. It makes hair more manageable and shiny.

Sida retusa - which is Wireweed...and yes, it's actually a weed! I couldn't find any info on why this weed is useful for the hair but it does cure headaches. Maybe it cools the head!

Cyclea Peltata - which is Raja Patha, another herb.

Saturday DIY Hair Spa

I also tried them on my hair today, just to give myself some pampering. I massaged the hair oil into m hair and scalp and left it on for a good 15 minutes. Next, I poured out the herbal powder shampoo and mixed it into a paste with some water. I slathered this onto my oiled hair and scalp. Left this on my head for a good 10 minutes before washing my hair.

(If you know me, I am always using some Indian hair oil or something. I love how Indians have shiny, thick hair and I believe their hair oils and hair treatments have something to do with it.)

Apparently I shouldn't use any shampoo after this treatment but I felt my hair was still a little oily so I used a little shampoo to cleanse my scalp.

Accordingly, the hair oil and herbal powder shampoo contains herbs that cool the scalp. When the scalp is cool, fewer hair issues happen. I also think if the head is hot, there's just too much "prana" and my remedy is to wash my hair or in extreme cases, have a hair cut!

I learnt about prana during my years doing yoga and I believe that too much heat in the head also causes hair loss. I always think of the brain as a hard disk - it spins all the time (or fires neurons or synapses or what have you - I am so not a brain scientist) and this creates heat. The heat has to go off somewhere but doing hair treatments like these perhaps helps remove and reduce the heat!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pegaga Juice Benefits The Brain & Then Some

I bought a bunch of fresh pegaga leaves from the market last week. They were selling for RM3. Initially I didn't know if I should make ulam with it or blend it into a juice.

To make ulam, I had to have sambal belacan which I didn't! I have some ulam raja growing in my garden now and that would have made a great ulam platter together with pegaga.

In the end, I decided to juice the pegaga leaves. What I did was simply throw them into my blender with some water, blended them thoroughly and then sieved the juice out. I also mixed in some honey. I end up with quite a bit of pegage juice so I bottle them up using glass bottles and refrigerate them. 

Pegaga can still be found in most markets and even if you're too lazy to juice your own pegaga, you can still get it cheaply at drink stalls like the famous Penang Road Teochew cendol. 

Pegaga juice is a refreshing and cooling drink for hot and humid days. Penang is undergoing its hot spell now and each day I seem to sweat buckets. I am bathing some 4 times daily and sometimes just before I go to bed.

Besides being a cooling beverage, pegaga or gotu kola is also good for "fatigue, anxiety, depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer's disease, and improving memory and intelligence. Other uses include wound healing, trauma, and circulation problems (venous insufficiency) including varicose veins, and blood clots in the legs". (from this source)

There's also an alternative way of drinking pegaga from this useful blog post.

It goes on to say that some women use gotu kola for preventing pregnancy, absence of menstrual periods, and to arouse sexual desire. Gotu kola is sometimes applied to the skin for wound healing and reducing scars, including stretch marks caused by pregnancy. (I wonder if the leftovers from blending the juice can be used for this!)

WebMD states that "gotu kola contains certain chemicals that seem to decrease inflammation and also decrease blood pressure in veins. Gotu kola also seems to increase collagen production, which is important for wound healing."

Another thing to note: I often see on blogs that they feature pegaga that is ornamental. I have a pot of ornamental pegaga too but i am unsure if this is the edible species. The ones I buy from the market is a little different in appearance.