Japa K. Khalsa
Why is there such excitement about seeds as health food these days? Chía seeds, soba seeds, flax seeds: Why are these little nutritional gems called superfoods?
Seeds carry the future plant’s potential energy in a concentrated form. Most seeds have high amounts of micronutrients and special, unique kinds of fats. All of the enzymes, protein, fat and minerals needed to grow the plant are contained within each tiny seed. Most importantly, though, for foodies, certain kinds of seeds, when mixed in with food, can be incredibly delicious. Some special seeds that grow locally in New Mexico have unique healing properties.
A key to good health is to constantly find ways to awaken our inner healing drive. Life is not easy. It takes effort to keep ourselves light, happy and in a self-care healing mindset in the face of the unexpected curveballs and challenges that come our way. Plant foods like vegetables and seeds give us their consciousness when we eat them. Not only do we take the physical life force from them; their inner vitality feeds us at the level of the spirit/body/mind connection. The special energy of a plant’s seeds helps us stay flexible and awakens the internal energy of self-healing.
If you’ve spent time in your own backyard or barefoot on a hiking trail, you may have encountered the dreaded goathead. A common weed with thorny fruits, goatheads are the bane of anyone unfortunate enough to step on one. But surprisingly, these irritating weeds are an excellent medicinal plant, famous in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. They are used traditionally to encourage fertility, potency and to prevent and soothe bladder or urinary tract irritation. The best time to harvest them is right after the tiny white or yellow flowers bloom and a prickly pod has developed on the plant. Once dried, they can be an amazing tea that builds and restores energy to the body. They can also be bought as a premade tea, sometimes called horny goat weed or gokshura. An Albuquerque-based business, Banyan Botanicals, carries it in bulk.
Bring 1 tablespoon of gokshura to a boil in 2 cups of water; then, simmer uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes. Drink this tea daily. For a tastier treat and to support prostate health, simmer the strained tea with goat milk, and then blend in some sesame seeds and raw honey to taste (adapted from Dr. Nadkarni, India Materia Medica).
Piñón Nuts: A Jewel of Local New Mexico Foods
The hard-shelled nut from the piñón tree grows encased inside pine cones and is a treasure trove of healing nutrients. Piñones supply amino acids, phosphorous and healthy fats. Join the farm-to-table movement, and be sure to always purchase locally harvested piñón nuts. Our New Mexico nut has a harder shell than other varieties and a distinctive, crisp, rich flavor. Eating foods like this with plenty of monounsaturated (plant) fats can help satisfy the body and cut back on cravings for junk or processed foods.
The sesame seed has long been touted as an elixir of life. These tiny gems are full of nutrients like copper, magnesium, calcium and healthy fats. Rich in fatty acids, the sesame seed also supports the cardiovascular system, boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, balances hormones and nourishes eyes, skin and hair. There are many ways to get this seed into your body: Sprinkle toasted sesame onto salads or in soups, blend it into spreads or milks, or spread tahini on bread as a nut butter substitute. Tahini is the delicious seed-spread from blended sesame seeds. You can make it yourself by blending sesame seeds and oil. It adds so much flavor to Middle Eastern cooking and is a key ingredient in hummus.
Hummus must certainly be the most delicious, healthful dip on the planet! Life without hummus would just not be the same, and it’s so easy to make. Just blend a can of garbanzo beans, a clove of garlic, the juice of one lemon and a few heaping tablespoons of tahini. Blend in olive oil and maybe a little water to the desired texture, and add some salt and pepper if you wish. Just five main ingredients, and yet it always tastes creamy and tangy. Add some basil or chopped-up olives and serve on crackers or pita bread.
Seeds of Healing
A wonderful way to plant the internal seed of self-healing is to do a springtime cleanse. Just add one healthful habit like a fresh juice in the morning or water with lemon to kick-start your body’s internal detox systems. Support the health of your immune system, lungs and liver to release congestion and stagnation and help you feel healthy and light for the summertime. You can try simple remedies, like three days of broth and vegetables or my favorite, the “Cleanse of Santa Fe” (http://devahealth.com/the-cleanse/). This is a 10-day process of eating whole foods, juicing and taking special supplements. The food during this cleanse is so nurturing that, even though you are cleansing and detoxing, you feel cared for so that your body can heal itself.
Devas Seed Milk for the Cleanse of Santa Fe
2 cups of water
2–3 Tbsp of sesame seeds
A few dates, pits removed
A pinch of cinnamon or 1/8 tsp of vanilla
Juice and insides of one young coconut (optional)
Blend all of these ingredients, and heat the drink if preferred warm
Nurture yourself with simple foods, and try putting more seeds into your mouth. Chew well and be healthy.
Japa K. Khalsa, Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM), is co-author of Enlightened Bodies: Exploring Physical and Subtle Human Anatomy (enlightenedbodies.com). She teaches a weekly yoga class for people with chronic pain at Sacred Kundalini in Santa Fe. She completed her Master of Oriental Medicine degree at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago. She combines traditional acupuncture with herbal and nutritional medicine, injection therapy and energy healing. Her work with patients and students emphasizes optimal health and personal transformation through self-care and awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. www.drjapa.com