Herban Homeschool: Week 3

This past week we went through three letters (and corresponding fairy tales).

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We read Jordan & Maria, a tale of two children who forage for food and find a kind herbalist who teaches them to survive by eating from the woods.  The kind herbalist makes them a peppermint tisane to cure their stomach aches.  We picked our own ginger mint (mentha x gracilis) and made some fresh hot tisane for the morning.

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Later in the week we did both letters E (The Golden Key) and F (The Fisherman’s Son).  We were not quite as intrigued in these stories but they still gave us lots to talk about.

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We also got out a paper doll that was gifted to us from a friend.  The box says 1978 on it, so I attempted to get across how old this toy was and how gentle we needed to be with it. I told them how I used to cut up my mom’s JC Penney catalogs and make my own paper doll scenes at the dinner table. Now the girls both asked for paper dolls for Christmas.

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It is still quite hot here for September.  Our leaves are still green.  Soon it will cool off and we will find ourselves outside more collecting leaves and acorns for science. Off to week four.

 

Bee Balm in the Fort

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I had some great conversations this week with new people about herbalism.  One man was from the local ‘The Old Fort’.  He asked me about Bee Balm (Monarda)— which we grew last year and loved! (We actually grew Monarda didyma.)  I encouraged him to use it as a tea, since they were not sure if it was just used as an ‘aromatic herb’ or for cooking.  He told me a story of essential oil distillers from overseas who visited the Fort after attending a work conference at IPFW.  He shared how they were fascinated with the herb since they do not grow it where they are from.  That right there is the beauty of growing North American herbs.  We can continue to pass on herbal knowledge not found in other places.  I told him how it was the preferred ‘patriotic’ drink for a time while the settlers were boycotting British tea tax— which is why another common name for it is still Oswego tea.

He told me of all the educational experiences they offer to school aged children and I encouraged him to continue the herbal study for whatever time period they were using.  Many of the herbs used by the natives and the settlers will flourish on the land and can be useful.  He grabbed some of our seeds and I hope to talk to him again about some possible collaboration.

A Brief Look At Green Rooibos

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We love rooibos.  I remember drinking ‘red tea’ for the first time back when I was a young college student and barista.  We sold Republic of Tea and always had to try the new flavors that came in so we could recommend properly.  I fell in love with their iced ‘red tea’.  It was refreshing, it had some sweetness.. it was wonderful during a busy 8 hour shift at the coffee shop.  Flash forward ten *yikes* years later and I still like rooibos… but when I had the chance to try green rooibos (unfermented), I could not let it go.  It is a little less ‘woodsy’, a little less ‘obviously sweet’ and the nutrient benefits are surprising.  If you are a lover of ‘red tea’ and have yet to have the green counterpart, don’t miss out on a chance to try it.

Most of our herbal tisane blends have a base of green rooibos.  We find it adds that subtle sweetness that can curb the urge to add extra sweetener, gives the water a lovely dark(er) red color, and lends it’s nutrients to enhance the benefits of the other herbs.

Like all things health-related, there are many ideas and claims out there concerning rooibos.  It is hard to know what is truth and what is preference.  It is hard to know what was exaggerated and what was explained correctly.  I’ve added quite a few different articles (both scientific and ‘lay-man’) that those who are interested can wade through.  I’ve found cross referencing many, many articles helps find a balanced opinion.

Is Rooibos better than Green tea?
Highlights:
“It is the ‘new fad'” {remember I said Republic of Tea pushed this 10 years ago… yeah…}
“unfermented is a close second to green tea antioxidant wise”
“It’s popular now because we can now import it from South Africa, the only place it grows, since apartheid-based trade sanctions were lifted in 2000”.

Teas Ect. on Rooibos
Highlights:
“Rooibos does not have 50 times the antioxidant benefit of green tea, it does not even have as much.”
“Rooibos does not contain any vitamin C.”

Rooibos from Natural News 
Highlights:
“It is low in tannins which allows easier assimilation of its minerals”
“Rooibos is a good source of essential and trace minerals as well, including: iron, magnesium, potassium, (organic) fluoride, copper, manganese, zinc, and vitamin C. {Oh wait, didn’t the other article say it does not contain any vitamin C?? mmmmm}

Phytochemicals in Rooibos
Hightlights:
“These are typical phytochemicals found in rooibos: aspalathin, nothofagin, caffeic acid, chrysoeriol, isoquercitrin, orientin, isoorientin, luteolin, vitexin, isovitexin, luteolin, rutin,flavonoids, quercetin, polyphenols.”

Metaphoric Labs: Regular Rooibos vs Green
Highlights:
“Green Rooibos has 100 times more antioxidants and 10 times more aspalathin (buzz word) than regular fermented Rooibos.”
“Rooibos contains nine flavonoids. Two of these flavonoids quercetin and luteolin, also occur in fruit and vegetables. They are potent antioxidants that can cause cancer cells to “commit suicide” (apoptosis).”
“In in vitro studies, it was found that Green Rooibos was generally more protective against DNA damage than fermented Rooibos. However, senior research scientist at the Medical Research Council of SA, Jeanine Marnewick says her group’s research shows that fermented Rooibos has a stronger effect against some mutagens. She says that both the fermented and unfermented Rooibos show significant protection.”

Ray Sahelian M.D. : Rooibos Herb
Highlights:
“Aspalathin information:  Q:  What is the specific benefit of aspalathin from rooibos tea? Why is it aspalathin better or stronger than other antioxidants?  Also, does green rooibos have a higher concentration of aspalathin and greater anti-aging potential?
A:  There are countless antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, herbs and various plants. Each antioxidant works in a slightly different way in the body. It is not practical to claim aspalathin is better than EGCG in green tea or vitamin E, or astaxanthin, etc. Just as it is preferable to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, it is a good idea to consume a number of different antioxidants. I am not aware of any actual studies done with aspalathin supplements. Limited evidence suggest green rooibos has a higher antioxidant profile than red, but for practical purposes it should not make too much difference.”

“Q:  Does rooibos provide electrolytes and minerals, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, all which you lose through sweat.
A: I find it difficult to accept this claim. Rooibos is a tea that can provide antioxidants and is a healthy addition to one’s tea consumption, but it is premature to make fantastic claims about this tea. There are countless herbs and teas that have health benefits.”

 

We get our Rooibos from Mountain Rose Herbs.  It’s fairly priced, and we trust the company concerning sustainable practices and organic labeling.

Tips on drinking Rooibos
1.  You can use the herbs more than once without the tannin risk associated with black tea and still enjoy a flavorful drink a second round.
2.  Due to the herb being ‘chopped’, it falls through most tea infusers unless they are the fine mesh ones.  If you do not mind the extra nutrients and fiber (if the tea is organic and you trust the company, eating the herbs aids in both) you can just let the pieces be in your drink.
3. Let the entire family enjoy, as there have been no studies to show that young, pregnant, or elderly individuals can not enjoy the beverage.
4.  If you don’t like the taste, even with sweetener, drink something else. Seriously, why drink something disgusting when there is bound to be a nutritional drink out there for you that you’ll love!