Malunggay is your all-around miracle tree

Ah, the malunggay tree. You just cannot not love it.

The multi-purpose malunggay tree (its scientific name is Moringa Oleifera), once considered “the poor man’s veggie,” has been touted as a “miracle tree” or “nature’s medicine cabinet” by scientists and health care workers from around the world. As clinical pharmacologist Monica Marcu explains in this video interview, this single plant “contains a wide variety of nutrients in high amounts.”

Dr. Marcu, who has made some extensive research on the significant nutritional potency of malunggay, says that the “miracle vegetable” is an ideal energy food — the leaves can actually be eaten raw, but best added in meals as a special ingredient — or diet supplement that “can help offset a typically unhealthy Western diet” due to its high concentration of nutrients combined with low calories and low sodium content. The author of the recently published book Miracle Tree adds that “most Westerners are deficient in antioxidants mostly found in plants.”

Findings of a study made in India, which were used as the basis of many news reports on malunggay as a wonder plant, states that malunggay contains anti-cancer compounds (phytochemicals) that help stop the growth of cancer cells. Malunggay is said to be effective in treating ovarian cancer, among a host of other diseases like arthritis, anemia, heart complications, kidney problems, scurvy, asthma, and digestive disorders (ulcer, gastritis, diarrhea, colitis, dysentery).

Aside from these, malunggay helps lactating mothers produce more milk. So a breastfeeding mother, say, in poverty-stricken areas in Africa, where cases of malnourishment are quite rampant, can curb malnourishment in her family if she eats malunggay-filled soup or salad, or just about any meal with malunggay ingredients.

According to the Los Angeles Times article written by Mark Fritz way back in March 2000, an ounce of malunggay leaves is worth four glasses of milk (calcium), seven oranges (vitamin C), three bananas (potassium).

The malunggay plant is also a proven water purifier with its remarkable antiparasitic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Its seeds can be used to clean dirty or polluted water.

So, basically, having malunggay trees planted in your garden is like having your ready pharmacy that offers free medicines in your own backyard. (Note: If you want to know how to plant and harvest a malunggay tree, click here. Two American volunteer workers, who are part of the Moringa Project in an African community, show you how it’s done in this video.)

Hawaii-based farmer Vicky Domingo, who has been planting malunggay trees for more than 25 years now, reportedly harvests malunggay twice a week all year round. She says that all parts of the malunggay tree are usable for nutritional and medicinal purposes — from the roots, trunk, and branches to the leaves, flowers, and seeds. The roots, for instance, can be used to make tea, while the trunk, after it’s scraped and squeezed for its juice, can be used to clean wounds.

Malunggay trees thrive in countries that have hot and dry climates. These plants grow wildly and do extraordinarily well in such tropical conditions. They can be found mainly in Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and Africa. It is said that these plants are “low maintenance,” requiring little to no care, which makes it so easy for cash-strapped people to gain health without thinking of budget concerns.

In the Philippines, anything malunggay-related has become an “in thing” ever since the mainstream media reported the plant’s medical wonders on TV and in print.

The Philippine Department of Education had initiated the planting of malunggay in school yards. Moreover, it had promoted the serving of malunggay meals (using 40 original malunggay recipes its health and nutrition center had created) in public elementary schools, where there are lots of undernourished school children. Malunggay recipes, featured in the cookbook, include polvoron, fish balls, buchi-buchi, lumpia, malunggay con caldo, mal-pinakbet, and malunggay laing, plus malunggay-based shakes and juices.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Agriculture had urged the planting of malunggay as a “revenue-generating industry” under its biotechnology program and had encouraged households to plant malunggay in vegetable gardens for personal consumption.

According to this opinion column, Sen. Loren Legarda, an environment advocate, is giving away free malunggay seedlings to those who ask for them.

Today, there is a wide array of malunggay products manufactured in the Philippines and being sold in local and international markets — malunggay tea, malunggay pan de sal, malunggay polvoron, malunggay oil (for cooking and cosmetic purposes), malunggay noodles, malunggay food powder, malunggay supplement capsules, malunggay shampoo and conditioner, and yes, even malunggay ice cream. You name it, the people of the malunggay industry have it, or are currently manufacturing it.

It’s almost too good to be true, this ‘malunggay magic.’ But it is true, and scientific findings can prove it. The malunggay hype is not without basis.

So, if you can plant a malunggay tree or two in your backyard, why not start now? It can save your life and help you cut down on medical costs in these trying financial times. (Source: YouTube video courtesy of the Youmanitas Energy Farms in Holland)



Try the thank-you therapy and be happy

Research shows that cultivating an attitude of gratitude greatly benefits our general health and contributes to our personal happiness.

Prof. Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis is a ‘gratitude expert’ and has been doing research on the psychology of gratitude for 10 years now.

In a Nov. 2007 online interview with Alvaro Fernandez, co-founder and CEO of SharpBrains (see the Q&A here), Emmons says that gratitude is a “positive emotion” which he and his team are studying “not merely as an academic discipline, but as a practical framework to better functioning in life by taking control of happiness levels and practicing the skill of emotional self-regulation.”

Emmons claims that the practice of gratitude can increase a person’s happiness level by around 25 percent and can bring positive health effects, such as a better sleeping time. He points out that people who keep what he calls a “Gratitude Journal,” where one jots down things he/she feels grateful for, often experience a “meaningful difference” in their level of happiness, even for as little as three weeks of gratitude journaling.

Of course, this positive psychology concept is not entirely new to us. We’ve heard more than once in church sermons or read in self-help books about the benefits of “counting our blessings” and “giving thanks in everything.”

We just couldn’t measure scientifically the results of being in a constant state of thankfulness the way Emmons was able to measure “objective data” in his study of the psychology of gratitude. We just noticed that people, who had a mental gratitude list, looked happier…and healthier. And they exuded that positive aura that made us want to be around them.

It seems, though, that being thankful has become an obsolete practice. A number of people, especially those who live in First World countries, have sadly become a generation of whiners, who take many things for granted.

However, it’s not yet too late to breed an attitude of thankfulness in your lives. By choosing to put into practice the basic principles of the thank-you therapy, you get to raise your happiness level dramatically, enjoy a healthier lifestyle, and build better relationships with others as a result.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can improve your practice of gratitude:

• Write a gratitude list regularly. List down things and/or people you’re thankful for in a journal. Make sure that you write at least five gratitude points a day/week (whichever frequency you prefer) on your journal — e.g. 1) morning hug from your spouse, 2) a surprise call from an old friend, 3) learning how to knit a scarf, 4) a new French word or phrase learned this week, 5) a job offer — and review your thank-you lists regularly. Better yet, create a “gratitude blog” (on Blogspot or WordPress), where you can post your gratitude lists on a regular basis.

• Count your blessings, and share your ‘praise report’ with another person. While keeping a gratitude journal does help cultivate an attitude of gratitude, sharing your list of blessings you’re thankful for with another person boosts your personal gratitude practice a hundredfold. Hopefully, your positive attitude will rub off on him/her.

• Thank someone today. Think of a person who has helped you tremendously in the past (i.e. did you a great favor) or has inspired you to be the successful person you are today. It can be your mom or dad, your sis, your teacher, your classmate, or your friend. Send him/her a personalized thank-you snail mail, pointing out how he/she made a difference in your life.

• Surround yourself with ‘gratitude practitioners.’ The company you keep is vital to maintaining a thank-you therapy that will work and last for a long time. If you spend more time with grumblers than with grateful people, you’ll soon become one of the whiners, who complain at every hassle that they encounter day in and day out.

• Always try to see the bright side of life. It’s not easy to be thankful when your mind is automatically set on a glass-half-empty mode. True, life is not always a bed of roses — bad things do happen in all parts of the world — but it helps to remain hopeful when things go wrong. Hope is a great thing.

• Look around you and appreciate the beauty of creation. Take time to smell the roses, as the cliche goes. Be thankful for the fresh air, the blue skies, the colorful blooms, the scenic mountains, the laughing children, and all the beautiful things around you.

• Focus on what you have, and not on what you don’t have. Think of the things you do have — i.e. your family and friends, house/apartment, education, job, food on the table, etc. — and make a conscious effort to be thankful for them.

• Say a ‘thank you’ prayer every day. At the end of each day, review how your day went and thank God for all the blessings (e.g. a safe journey to your destination, a sumptuous meal, a productive meeting, a new friend, etc.) that have come your way. Be as specific as possible.

Feeling and expressing gratitude may be quite a challenge in these tough times, but it’s doable. And the sooner you start your own thank-you therapy, the sooner you’ll reap the rewards: a healthier and happier you.

The clutter-filled life

Many of us have had our share of exposure to and experience with clutter, either our own or others’ — a messy working area full to the brim with paperwork, a hallway littered with personal belongings and household appliances, shelves stacked with valuable collectibles, closets filled with clothes that don’t fit anymore, or an entire house covered in piles of unnecessary clutter that had accumulated over the years.

It’s one thing to be an occasional collector of things that you place neatly in their respective storage units. But it’s another to be a chronic hoarder, who collects things in unbelievable excess that it already affects the way you live your life — in a negative way.

The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, through its Older Adults Services Division, defines hoarding as “the excessive collection and retention of things or animals until they interfere with day-to-day functions such as home, health, family, work and social life. Severe hoarding causes safety and health hazards” (see the Hoarding Fact Sheet published here.)

The said fact sheet lists down possible reasons why people hoard:

— Items are perceived as valuable
— Items provide a source of security
— Fear of forgetting or losing items
— Constant need to collect and keep things
— Obtaining love not found from people
— Fear others will obtain their personal information
— Physical limitations and frailty
— Inability to organize
— Self neglect
— Stressful life events

People who keep buying items they don’t really need, live in homes bursting at the seams with forgotten stuff, and who find it hard to let go of things they haven’t used for ages most probably have what is called the “Hoard and Clutter Syndrome,” otherwise known as the “Packrat Syndrome” or “Compulsive Hoarding.” It’s reportedly a clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder, and compulsive hoarders are said to have “the inability to resist the urge to acquire an object, even though acquiring or possessing the object may create problems.”

John (not his real name), a student, used to collect old newspapers in his bedroom. He thought it was a great way to keep himself informed of what was going on. When things were getting a little bit out of control — old newspapers were piling up so fast that there was no more room to walk around John’s room — his parents tried to intervene one day and cleared things out in the room of horrors, without their son’s knowledge. When John got home after the secret cleanup activity, he got so enraged at what his parents had done to his prized collection of old newspapers and used shipment boxes that instead of thanking them for their well-meaning initiative, he cursed them. He felt sabotaged by their act of kindness.

Lisa (not her real name), a widow and mother of four, knew how it was to live during the Second World War. Food was scarce and her children had to make do with meager portions. After the War, where she lost her husband, she moved back to the family home, with her deceased husband’s pension supporting them all. Through the years, she would hoard things — from old pens, magazines, and tin cans to unused toys, plastic containers, and all sorts of bric-a-bracs. She seemed to have found comfort in things.

There’s a BBC show called Life Laundry that helps self-confessed clutterbugs get a fresh start by initiating a two-day decluttering therapy. Its TV presenters, home consultant Dawna Walter and antiques expert Mark Franks visit the homes of these compulsive hoarders and take part in emptying the contents of each home and placing all of them onto the front or back lawn for some rigorous scrutiny and screening.

Things are basically divided into three piles — items that stay, those that will be sold at the car boot sale or given to charity, and those that get destroyed. While Franks scrutinizes and values items that could be sold at the car boot sale, Walter gets the uneasy task of talking to the participants about their hoarding behavior. Most often than not, they (hoarders) end up crying because it’s so hard for them to let go of things they have been clinging onto for so many years. One mother was even holding on to her children’s baby clothes even though they’re all grown-up now! In the end, though, the hoarder realizes the importance of letting go, and walks happily into a clutter-free home that gets redesigned by the BBC team. A liberating experience indeed.

It’s not easy to live with hoarders, as family members of Life Laundry participants confess. A Reader’s Digest article on the Hoarding Syndrome even states that this obsessive-compulsive disorder can even be “dangerous”:

The dust, mildew, mold and rodent droppings commonly found in extreme clutter can irritate allergies or lead to headaches or respiratory problems like asthma for hoarders and their families. In some cases, home maintenance suffers, so individuals may endure freezing winters without heat and sweltering summers with no air conditioning. Clutter also places hoarders and their families, especially the elderly, at high risk of injuring themselves in a fall.

So, if you have been showing signs that you’re a potential compulsive hoarder — or maybe you already are — it’s highly important to address the issue at hand. It’s not only you who suffer, but the people around you as well. Know the cause of the problem and seek help.

When there’s no more space for you to eat, sleep, sit and work properly in your clutter-ridden home, maybe it’s time to turn your landfill of a house into a proper home and take matters under control. People are supposed to own things, and not the other way around.


TIDBITS: Philippine Tourism Secretary Rafael Alunan III once told his staff during a meeting in the ’90s: “The landscape is reflective of the mindscape.” While he was specifically talking about how to handle the country’s tourism programs at that time, what he said could well be applied to how well — or how bad — we manage our homes.