Natural and herbal medicine get a bad rap in the Western world, though much like Western medicine itself, everything has its place. Pharmaceutical companies release drugs for every ailment under the sun and run clinical trials for a few years to test their efficacy, until they’re eventually shared and sold. Natural and herbal medicine concerns plants, herbs and weeds, and is often based on information passed down through generations of cultures from hundreds or thousands of years ago.
What many people don’t know is that even Western medicines take their roots from natural and herbal medicines– the key ingredient in Asprin (salicyclic acid) is dervied from the plant Meadowsweet. Even with this knowledge, if I can avoid using Western medicine, I will. Western pharmaceuticals only remove the ‘active’ ingredient (being the thing that works, or in Asprin’s case; makes the pain go away) and couple it with fillers, coatings and preservatives– much like packaged food. Plants and herbs are built a certain way for a reason. They work better and more effectively when they’re taken together– the whole plant is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
A little education is all it takes to realise that there are natural fixes to many of our health problems, especially common ailments like headaches, colds and bloating. Why buy something man-made in capsule form that has only been on the market for two years, when you can buy a vegetable, herbal tea or formula that does the same thing and has been used widely and successfully for years.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practised for centuries; well before Doctors, pharmacies and drugs were as readily accessible as they are today. Treatments for common health problems are based around foods, herbs and plants that existed centuries ago. Trial and error revealed what worked then, and even in our modern bodies, the same foods, herbs and plants still work. Today, many traditional and therapeutic foods like seaweed, tea, herbs and miso are eaten regularly for their health-promoting qualities, not just to treat problems. One of my absolute favorites, is the umeboshi plum.
Known for their salty and acidic flavour, umeboshi plums are incredibly alkalising and energising. For thousands of years they’ve been used to treat fatigue, for detoxing, and for stimulating digestion. They’re also a general preventative food; their alkalizing nature boasts a huge range of benefits to everyday health.
In a dietary context, acid/alkaline refers to the pH levels in foods and their ability to affect pH levels in the body. pH stands for ‘potential hydrogen’ and refers to the amount of hydrogen within in a solution– that’s the level of hydrogen within our blood, lymph and other body fluids (our solution). The body’s desired pH level is set at neutral which in pH terms, is a level 7. Every food has its own level pH reading, but this reading does not always translate to its effect on the body. Lemons for example have a pH level of 2, which is very acidic, but in the body, lemons are highly alkalising.
Many common lifestyle choices and everyday foods are contributing to acidic bodies; alcohol, sugar, cigarettes, processed foods, soft drinks, stress and lack of sleep are all acidic culprits. On the other hand, green leafy vegetables, sprouts, meditation, lemon-y water and umeboshi plums are all very alkalising, contribute to a balanced pH level and a healthy body internally (healthy, happy cells, tissues, organs and body systems) and externally. Bacteria, general health problems and diseases favor acidity, but can’t survive in alkaline bodies. By eating alkalizing foods, you’re giving yourself the best opportunity to live problem-free.
Apart from eating alkalising greens, sprouts and salads all day, everyday, I LOVE umeboshi plums. Aside from their health benefits, they’re really delicious and add a salty, tart flavour to savoury dishes. In this recipe, I’ve paired umeboshi with miso roasted pumpkin– another ancient goodie and the result is delicious. Just one nori roll has the power to cleanse, alkalise and satisfy your system.
- 1/4 butternut pumpkin, sliced into pieces 5cms in thickness (approx 250g)
- 2 tblsp minced ginger
- 2 tblsp mirin
- 2 tblsp sesame seeds
- 2 tsp miso paste
- 6 nori rolls
- 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
- 3 tblsp chia seeds
- 9 tblsp water
- 2 tblsp mirin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cucumber, sliced long
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/2 cup sprouts (I used lentil)
- 1/2 cup coriander springs (leaves and stems)
- 6 tsp umeboshi plum paste
- Tamari and wasabi for serving
- Preheat oven to 175ºC/350ºF.
- In a bowl, combine ginger, mirin, sesame seeds and miso paste. Add the pumpkin and coat well. Spread pumpkin out onto a lined baking tray, then pour remaining marinade onto tray and bake for 35 minutes. The marinade will caramelise on top, giving the pumpkin lots of flavour.
- In another bowl, combine chia seeds and water and leave to sit and swell for 5 minutes. Stir again, then add quinoa, mirin and salt and mix well so the chia is well dispersed and not clumpy.
- When pumpkin has cooked and cooled, you're ready to roll.
- Place nori roll on a clean, dry chopping board. Spoon 3 tblsp of quinoa mix onto nori and spread evenly, leaving a 5cm gap at one end.
- In the middle of the nori sheet, spoon and spread one tsp of umeboshi plum paste, 2 slices of pumpkin, a piece of cucumber, 2 slices of avocado, a tblsp of lentil sprouts, and a few sprigs of coriander.
- With the gap end of the nori sheet facing away from you, roll the other end directly on top of the filling. Continue rolling evenly and tightly, then seal the gap end with damp fingers.
I love these nori rolls as a snack or for lunch and they’re perfect for sharing, for taking to picnics or for popping in lunchboxes. You need to eat them relatively quickly, or else the nori sheet will get too damp and begin to crack. If they do open, they’re still great, you just have to eat them with a spoon!