Our bodies digest raw, enzyme active juice far more quickly and efficiently than solid food. Juices are nutrient-dense and supercharge the body in the same way that herbal tinctures work. Phytonutrients are crucial to keeping our bodies healthy and free of cancer, digestive problems, degenerative and aging illnesses. Juicing is popular across a wide range of nutrition therapies including weight loss, detoxing, liver cleansing and Gerson Therapy. Along with the increased interest in nutrition and juicing has come a multitude of electric juicers, blenders and other appliances out on the market. For my workshops I use a very simple manual wheatgrass juicer because:
- It is easy to assemble, easy to wash, easy to transport
- It does not require electricity so it can be used anywhere
- It is perfect for high fibre ‘weeds’ that will tangle blender blades and burn out motors
- Everyone including the kids love turning the handle!!
- It costs under £30 (as of writing this)
Around 2500 years ago, Hippocrates 460-357 BC, thought of as the father of modern medicine, wrote this famous quote: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The actual ancient Greek (Lakonic) text more explicitly translates as: “Your nutrition is your medicine” or, your food is your cure! In the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors when they qualify, one of the things they promise to do is “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure”. It is therefore so surprising that in the sophisticated 21st century “many doctors’ knowledge of nutrition is rudimentary. Most feel much more comfortable with drugs than foods, and the “food as medicine” philosophy of Hippocrates has been largely neglected”. British Medical Journal 2004. Ignorance of nutrition is a huge failing in keeping the Hippocaratic Oath as good nutrition is the key to a healthy life, free of disease. When illness does develop, a focus on diet will nearly always reveal a lack or imbalance in the diet that is negatively affecting a persons’ health.
Go back further than Hippocrates to the dawn of mankind. Homo sapiens evolved as a distinct species from other hominids around 200 thousand years ago during the Middle Paleolithic (Middle Stone Age) period between 300,000 to 50,000 years ago. During this time, around 80,000 years ago we know that man was using herbs as healing medicines from archaeological evidence in the Shanidar Caves in Iraq. We know our bodies have not evolved much since so what were we designed to eat?
We can find this out from archaeological evidence and also from the few non-Westernised native peoples who follow still their original diets today. From 1989, scientist Staffan Lindeberg M.D., led scientific surveys of the diet and health native people of Kitava Island off Papua New Guinea. The Kitava Study, found that these people do not suffer from strokes, heart disease, diabetes, obesity or hypertension.
Farming did not develop until around 10,000 years ago, so our ancestors were mainly nomadic as they follow the foods that were in season. An ancestral diet would have mainly consisted mainly of available leafy wild plants (herbs, weeds and vegetables), berries (fruit), seeds and nuts (when in season) and roots. Eggs and small birds were easily taken from birds nests. A walk along the seashore would have provided easily foraged shellfish, some fish speared in the shallows, crabs and turtle eggs. As light weapons were developed some lean wild meat was added – rabbit, squirrel, small deer. Hunting larger animals involved a lot of effort, coordination and risk and would only have happened occasionally.
What we were not eating was high gluten farmed grains (wheat, bread, pasta), dairy products (milk, butter, cheese), salt, refined sugar (sugar, fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes), foods with long harvests or cooking times and processed oils (no chips and crisps for them!). The early ancestors of plants like wheat, were grains like spelt which has a far lower, and more soluble gluten content than its modern relative.
We also had a lot of exercise as we moved around looking for food. Once berries were picked from a berry patch, we moved on to find more food in another place. As the seasons changed we would make the journey to where we remembered that nuts grew, or where the first shoots of Spring appeared in a warm hollow. We weren’t sitting for hours at desks, in cars, or in front of televisions, computers and Playstations.
SPRING PLANTS FOR JUICING
The plants we ate were quite different to those we eat now as tender broccoli, plump carrots, watery tomatoes and vacuous lettuce were not around then. Here in Britain we would have been eating plants similar to:
Spring: The tops and shoots of clivers (goosegrass, sticky willie), nettle, chickweed, dandelion leaves, lambs’ lettuce, wild rocket, hogweed, sweet cicely, fiddlehead ferns, young clover, wild garlic (ransoms, bears’ garlic) and plants like celery-flavoured ground elder Aegopodium podagraria (introduced to Britain by the Romans) and three-cornered leek Allium triquetum (first cultivated by 1759).
Nowadays many people are suspicious of eating this wild, cornucopia of free, health foods. They do not trust food that doesn’t come pre-washed in plastic bags with Best Before dates. They spray and kill all the ‘weeds’ in their lawns and gardens without realising that many are delicious, and many have enormous health benefits. And for many used to a soft food diet, the higher fibre, slightly bitter, tougher, hairier mouth-feel is a strange experience.
Juicing is one way to obtain the benefits of plants in a delicious way more compatible with our modern diets. I think of herbal juices as Power Shots. They are fresh, living, strong tasting, potent green juices that are full of the life and energy of the plant with all its nutrients antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and other benefits intact. If you are juicing on site then nothing in lost during the long journey to the supermarket. Also juices are quickly absorbed by the body.
As wild juices are so strong I recommend that they are used as shots in combination with more popular fruit and vegetable juices. A “herb shot” is 20 ml in a 200ml glass of juice. Or around 30 ml in a 300 ml glass. All approximate as Paleolithic people did not carry a measuring jug around with them!