My holiday in Greece a couple of years ago, inspired me to read about the inhabitants of Ikaria (a Greek Island) who have a very high rate of longevity. In fact they are part of the blue zone , places where the majority of people live above 80-100 years old. This in turn got me thinking about our own quest for health and our recent obsession with super foods and fad diets. I wonder what the old folk in Ikaria would say to a suggestion that their daily diet would be vastly improved with some chia seed pudding or a smoothie with added macca and moringa powder.
Don’t get me wrong I too have a selection of these things in my cupboard, although I am slowly trying to replace them with cheaper and more sustainable options. I too have been seduced by the promise of longevity and funky packaging of acerola and baobab fruit. And then I start to wonder, what are all the Peruvians eating if we are tucking into their quinoa and goji berries? How do the farmers in chocolate growing regions feed their families if all the land is taken up with the ever-growing demand of premium raw cacao?
So going back to the centenarians on Ikaria, what makes them live so long? Well diet plays a role for sure, and most of the inhabitants do in fact grow their own vegetables. Due to the temperate climate and rich soils, produce grows very well here. Pulses and vegetables are the corner-stone of their diet, add some olive oil, foraged greens, raw goats milk, honey and a little bit of meat and that’s what they mainly live on. They also consume a large amount of wild mountain tea and some red wine. I also see a great absence of refined sugar and pre packaged food. Diet isn’t the only factor though, in fact the Peoples in the blue zone all share some common life style characteristics, which I’ll delve into some other time.
So how can we learn from this and how can we add some super foods to our diet, without buying expensive packets from Peru?
My guess is that the consumption of these wild herb teas, combined with raw honey contributes somewhat to their longevity. Herbs in their wild form are vastly superior due to their high volatile oil and medicinal substance content, however any cultivated herb is better than no herbs at all. We are now starting to realise that wild food is an important part in our diet and herbs are an easy source of wild food. It is literally like drinking your medicine, and you can sweeten the tea with raw honey to make it more palatable for children or even ferment it cold, using my ginger bug or mead recipe.
Last year in March, I attended an herbal first aid course in beautiful Dorset, and came away with a renewed inspiration for what nature can provide for free. And if you don’t know how to forage yourself, you can either grow a selection of herbs or buy them dry from a reputable source. There is an infinite combination of herbs, each with their unique qualities, depending on what you are using them for.
I’ve given a suggestion for three different teas here, but once you get started using herbs on a regular basis I’m sure you’ll fall in love with them as much as I did. The invitation here is to experiment and to listen to your body, it will be your best guide.
Tea 1 – DIGESTION
Nettle, Peppermint and Fennel seeds
Fennel and peppermint are known digestive aids and nettle is very high in iron and a very nutritious herb. Any of these herbs on their own are delicious, but combine them for an after dinner drink, in equal quantities, and your digestion will thank you.
Tea 2 – A Coffee Alternative
Dandelion and Burdock root roasted, with cardamom pods and orange peel
In case your sensitive to coffee but want to keep the bitter flavours going, here is a great tasting alternative. Dandelion and burdock stimulate your liver and cardamom is a warming and soothing herb. The orange adds zing and lifts this tea up. For a large cup, I use: 1 tsp dandelion and burdock root roasted (you can buy this premixed in most health food stores), 1tsp whole cardamom pods smashed and a large slice of fresh organic orange peel. Put everything into a tea bag or strainer and leave to steep for a good 5-10 minutes. I like to use my tea thermos with inbuilt strainer and leave it to steep for a good hour. I drink this with milk but it is just as good without.
Tea 3 – Relax
Lavender, lemon balm and chamomile
All of these herbs have calming properties and combine to a very exquisite taste sensation. A nice cup before bed time, or after work instead of a glass of wine. The lavender is very strong so I would suggest 1tsp of each chamomile and lemon balm and 1/2tsp of lavender per cup. I often use this combination in my mead or water kefir for a truly delicious fizzy drink.
With Love x