Health Benefits of Juicing

I first discovered the benefits of juicing when a drummer in one of my bands brought his Juiceman Junior to band practice, along with a large sack filled with bulk apples, oranges, and carrots. This drummer was not a particularly health conscious individual, and he liked to smoke and drink. A lot. So it was a bit surprising for him to be expounding on the health value of juicing. He had received the juicer as a gift.

So we humored him and we juiced before we started band practice. We were astounded to find our energy levels and focus were substantially increased during the practice and we accomplished a lot more than we usually did. Always the skeptic, I wasn't certain this was not a fluke, so I told our drummer to bring the juicer and some juiceables (not a real word) to the next practice, and sure enough, we had a similar outcome. After a while, we started ritualistically juicing before shows and it amped up our live rock-n-roll performances considerably.

It's possible these were placebo effects. But it is also possible that juicing was somehow concentrating the life essences of the fruits and vegetables we rammed into the juicer. When we added ginger root to the mix of oranges, apples, and carrots, it seemed to energize us even more. Ginger is known anecdotally as an energizing herb, and it also adds a nice bite to the juice flavor.

Advocates of juicing list several health benefits, including improved nutrition, boosting immunity against diseases, and providing antioxidant protection against free radicals and toxins (possibly a reason my smoking, boozing drummer liked juicing).

Other more sketchy health benefits may include pain relief, weight loss, and a decreased need for prescription medications. (Note: Do not change your prescription medicine dosages without first consulting your doctor.)

There is no convincing scientific evidence that juicing is any better than just eating the whole food fruits or vegetables. However, it is quick and easy, and you can consume the juice of several fruits and vegetables all at once, concentrating their nutrients. Why eat three apples, two carrots, and an orange when you can drink one glass of their juice?

To retain more of the nutrients in the pulp of the fruits and vegetables, try blending them in a blender, rather than juicing them.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a purported health drink that is all the rage among health nuts. But what is really known about this lightly fermented tea?

Kombucha is actually a misnomer. The Japanese name for what English speakers call Kombucha is kōcha kinoko, which literally translates as "toadstool tea."

Kombucha is made by adding a fermentation agent to sweetened black tea (other types of tea also may be used). The fermentation agent is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), which when added to the sweetened tea, forms a microbial mat on the top of the liquid. The mat contains bacterial cellulose and is so firm that it can actually be used to manufacture a form of artificial leather. The mat also helps prevent contamination of the liquid beneath, although when contaminants are found growing on top of the mat, the entire batch is usually discarded for safety reasons.

The fermenting agent in kombucha is not an actual mushroom or toadstool, although it is often casually called the kombucha mushroom because of its solid and leathery appearance. The mat also often sends bacterial "threads" into the liquid portion of the brew, which may contribute to its mushroom-like appearance.

The yeast in the SCOBY converts sugars in the sweetened tea to alcohol, which the bacteria then convert to acetic acid (vinegar). This makes kombucha a somewhat acidic beverage with a low alcohol content. The acidity and alcohol helps prevent contamination of the drink, making kombucha fairly easy to prepare and maintain in non-sterile conditions. By the same token, contamination can be a problem in improper kombucha manufacture, such as home brewing, leading to adverse reactions when consumed. Kombucha products often contain more than 0.5% alcohol by volume, though some contain less. People with alcohol sensitivity are advised to read product labels carefully.

The purported health benefits of kombucha are unsubstantiated by science, but analysis of the beverage has shown that it contains high levels of B vitamins and potentially healthful micronutrients, most notably glucuronic acid, used by the liver for detoxification.

Because it contains bacteria and yeast molds, allergic reactions to kombucha are possible.


Liquid Chlorophyll

A reader asked me to look into what is known about chlorophyll tinctures, so I did a little bit of research and there is very little out there. A tincture is an ethanolic extract of something, and likely contains some water and fat soluble constituents of whatever is being extracted.

There are plenty of aqueous (water soluble) extracts of chlorophyll available in the nutritional supplement marketplace. Some of the lack of tinctures might have to do with the supplement industry shying away from ethyl alcohol based extracts.

The vitamin company I used to work for has a fat soluble chlorophyll extract, but it is unclear how they manufacture it and it is not readily available on the retail market (sold only through clinicians, although there are some pirates who will sell it to you on AMAZON).

Chlorophyll is used medicinally as a blood purifier and a breath freshener (Note: Chlorophyll products are often flavored with mint), however, there is not a lot of scientific research to validate these uses, so it is probably subjective to the user experience. In general, being a constituent of all green plants, chlorophyll is generally cheap and safe. "Can't hurt. Might Help."

The main risks associated with liquid chlorophyll depend on its source. It is usually manufactured from alfalfa, an inexpensive and prolific agricultural plant (hay). Depending on where and how the alfalfa is grown, there can be a risk for pesticide and heavy metal contamination. Read labels and if you cannot determine the source of the chlorophyll in the product, think twice. Nutritional supplements are poorly regulated in the U.S., especially if they are imported.

I have been pleased with NOW Foods brand supplements. I recently started using their herbal sleep aid and it seems to work, even if it is just the placebo effect.