Tag Archives: Health

The Maliciousness Of Agricultural Chemicals.

Kamo [加茂(かも)] is a small town situated on the southern flanks of Kyoto’s most meridional mountains through which the Kizu river [木津川(きづがわ)] makes its way smoothly-curving towards Osaka. As a former member of the Sōraku District [相楽郡(そうらくぐん)] (with member towns Kasagi [笠木町(かさぎちょう)], Minamiyamashiro [南山城村(みなみやましろむら)], Seika [精華町(せいかちょう)] and Wazuka [和束町(わづかちょう)]) this town is the final stop on the border of Kyoto before reaching Nara prefecture, and simultaneously the most southern tea producing area of Kyoto. It is in this area that Tokuya Yamazaki [山崎(やまざき)徳哉(とくや)] manufactures his naturally produced tea.

The name of the farm, Kamo Natural Tea-farm [加茂自然農園(かもしぜんのうえん)], resourcefully alludes to his stern belief in the use of natural methods only, and the specific area where this farm is situated. As the son of a tea farmer, he grew up amidst the tea gardens in this rural area, and quickly became acknowledged with the orthodox farming routines in this region. In between harvests, weeds should be extinguished employing ample extinguisher; in summer, bugs should be prevented bestowing plentiful pesticides on the bushes; and the soil should be kept thoroughly fertilized with artificial nourishment for the best results of harvest. Such approaches have become common sense, and as a young beginning farmer, aspiring to take over certain parts of his family’s plantation, he learned how to efficiently apply these chemical substances as part of his daily training.

It wasn’t for long however, before these practices started to take its toll on Tokuya’s health. During his youth, he had suffered various illnesses, some of which included acute stomachaches, or numbness and trembling in hands and feet. He frequented doctors, but was never able to gain insight about the source of these recurring issues. The puzzling thing was that they somehow appeared each year during the same period in summer; a period, of which he later found out, the application of pesticides, was at its peak. When he started taking over the methods of his predecessors, and began taking chemicals in his own hands, these issues and illnesses began to appear more frequently and more severely. His struggles now also included severe backache, stress, loss of sight, etc. Yet, doctors remained clueless as to what the essence of the problem was.

His issues became so troublesome that it had started to limit his quality of life, and continuously receiving the same response from doctors also started to work frustrating. He decided to singlehandedly look into the source of his suffering and, to his surprise, Tokuya discovered that others had also experienced similar symptoms. Furthermore, distinct research has pointed to one particular source as the reason of this suffering, a chemical component named ‘Dioxin’ [ダイオキシン] that could cause identical manifestations in the human body as he had been coping with. Digging further, he was able to identify this chemical as an active substance that is strongly represented in herbicides of the kind he had been using in excess. Further research pointed out that most of these symptoms were related to a chronic addiction or intake of an agrochemical [農薬(のうやく)] with the name ‘organophosphorus’ [有機(ゆうき)リン] of which the main component is ‘sarin’ [サリン]. To illustrate the poisonousness of this particular chemical, sarin is the substance that was employed by the attackers during the sarin gas-attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 [地下鉄(ちかてつ)サリン事件(じけん)], killing 12 people, severely injuring 50, and causing vision problems for nearly 5,000 other persons.

Having realized that the cause for his suffering was induced by the over-usage of chemicals by himself and the farmers in his surroundings, and having discovered that these chemicals contain absolutely deadly and dreadfully harming components, he felt urged to rid himself and his tea-bushes of these malicious products. As a means to detox and recover his body, he took up sports again and began to rebuild his muscle.

The impact of this discovery was so great that he immediately terminated the use of fertilizers, pesticides and any other sort of chemicals to his gardens, this however, to the discontent of the subjected plants. The abrupt lack of nourishment, which the trees were used to, made them weak and vulnerable. Moreover, the fertilization that was still remaining in the soil and thus in the leaf of the bushes attracted a variety of insects, which, since he had also omitted any kind of pesticide, were now free to indulge in a feast. In effect, this sudden act almost left one whole farm dead. Taking this as a learning experience, Tokuya opted for a more gentle approach with his remaining farms and decided to first quit the use of fertilizer, and only in a later stage omit pesticides as well. Now, all of his farms have been transferred to natural cultivation methods, and the farm that had almost gone extinct, has also revived to a healthy natural tea garden.

Today, Tokuya continues his efforts to produce a truly healthy and poison-free tea, and has begun to apply the same method on other agricultural products. His experience, and what this taught him is valuable information, which he thrives to share with others in order to raise awareness about the existence of the issues he suffered. His hopes are that this may aid more people to recognize the source of certain discomforts, and in the long run that no one more needs to endure similar hardship.

The Efficiency of Machines vs. Our Preference of Taste

Contemporarily, Japan is renown for its green tea. Matcha is overtaking the world as a ‘power food’, and is rapidly gaining preference with the more health conscious among us. Gyokuro is favored for its deep and varied taste and abundance of umami flavor, and Sencha is known as the most eminent of Japanese teas in terms of green tea of the whole-leaf kind. What these teas have in common, is that they all are non-oxidized green tea variations of tea.

In contrast to black tea, which is more common in the West, green tea has not been oxidized or left to wither after harvest, but has instead been processed to stop the oxidization and maintain its green color immediately after being picked. Through oxidization, several of the active components such as anti-oxidants, polyphenols, and amino acids change structure and generate a variety of flavors and aromas, but recent research has pointed out that maintaining them in their original state has greater benefit to our health and bodies.

One of the reasons that green tea is gaining popularity in the West, is exactly this discovery. I won’t go in detail here, but green tea has ‘proven’ benefits in regard to cancer prevention, blood pressure lowering functions, propels digestion, and is favorable for weight-loss and dieting. These are just a few of the demonstrated effects of this beverage. So, when keeping the leaves green and fresh can have this many different benefits to our health, then why would we even consider withering these leaves? Well, this certainly is a valid question, if you look to this plant only for its – maybe possible – beneficial functions. (Imagine even how many cups you would have to drink daily to get just the slightest benefit)

Everything comes at a cost. And for something new, something old will always have to make room, as is the case here. The freshness of tea that we consume today has only become possible since recently. From the 1960’s onward machines as an aid to harvesting have been employed, cars aided with transitioning crop from field to factory, and a wide array of manufacturing machines have replaced the arduous traditional ways of hand-rolling tea. We have become able to harvest more leaf at once, transfer it to the factory faster, and immediately process tea in large quantities at a much higher pace. The mechanization of harvesting and manufacturing processes has eliminated the necessity for freshly picked leaves to sit idly during transport after picking, and in waiting to be processed.

In the past, tea had to be transported on foot, and since the distance between farm and factory could be rather far, it wasn’t uncommon that the leaves had already begun to oxidize slightly during this journey. Moreover, since only a few trained professionals could conduct the steaming and rolling, harvested batches sometimes had to wait for several hours before they could be processed. It is obvious that during these periods of idleness, the leaves would gradually continue to wither, but rather than to throw them on a pile, or let them sit in the baskets in which they were carried, it was customary to spread them out on large ‘withering’ and drying beds. This would allow all leaves to dry evenly, and enable manufacturers to process each batch of tea individually without having to rush.

What such a process results in, is not the Japanese green tea we know today, but on the contrary a lightly oxidized variant with a much more outspoken aroma, often referred to as floral or sweet. This tea would be somewhat equivalent to what we know as Oolong, although some of the manufacturing processes are different compared to traditional Taiwanese methods. Nevertheless, should a green tea today even offer a hint of this aromatic character; then it is immediately written off as a failed batch. Why? Because since the advent of machinery and the possibility to maintain absolute ‘freshness’, the new standard has eliminated any room for floral scents and other tastes that even slightly give notion of oxidization in the tea. Contemporary green tea is strictly non-oxidized, and in effect is also un-aromatic.

The advent of machinery has once again changed our priorities, and created opportunity for a ‘new’ kind of tea to emerge. ‘Proven’ health benefits have guided us to choose not only tea, but also foods in relation to what it may or may not be able to do for our wellbeing, and such choice even takes precedence over whether or not what we consume is in fact delicious – to give one example, the Japanese eat fermented beans because it is said to be healthy. In doing so, we have chosen for a far more generic taste, because the fragrance and aroma of a green tea in comparison to even a slightly oxidized tea is close to none. An oxidized tea on the other hand, has a much more outspoken and varied aroma, and although it is definitely not my intention to write green tea off in this article, it is my belief that a slightly withered tea appeals to a much wider palette.

I am in favor of re-discovering the true tradition of Japanese tea through fragrance and scent. Do you choose the illusion of health, or are you in favor of sharing in the joy of a truly delicious tea? It is my feeling that the true future of Japanese green tea lies in the possibilities of withering.

7 Reasons Why Hot Tea Cools Your Body Better Than Cold Water In Summer.

Why we should drink hot drinks instead of chilled drinks on hot days? 7 reasons that will change how you look at that chilled glass of water in summer.

1. HOT TEA COOLS YOU DOWN.

This may sound like the biggest paradox: ice actually triggers your body to heat up. When we drink cold water in summer, our bodies have to compensate for the difference in temperature by heating up more, which leads to even more overheating and related conditions like sunstroke and dizziness. Drinking warm drinks allows the body to relax, calm down, and cool itself down to a normal homeostatic temperature (equilibrium) without needing to compensate for the difference in temperature.

Drinking a hot drink does result in a lower amount of heat stored inside your body, provided the additional sweat that’s produced when you drink the hot drink can evaporate. The increased rate of perspiration is the key. Although sweat may seem like a nuisance, the body perspires for a very good reason. When sweat evaporates from the skin, energy is absorbed into the air as part of the reaction, thereby cooling the body. A larger amount of sweat means more cooling, which more than counteracts the small amount of heat contained in a hot beverage relative to the entire body.

The caveat is that your sweat must fully evaporate in order to produce the desired cooling effect. If you’re exercising hard, or wearing too many clothes, or in a very humid environment, you may produce sweat more quickly than it can evaporate, in which case it is no longer desirable to ramp up your sweat rate further.

2. WARM DRINKS HELP YOU DIGEST.

In hot, humid, summer weather, our bodies can accumulate too much internal ‘heat’ and ‘damp’ energy that can become pathogenic and cause illness. The digestive organs are particularly vulnerable to this.

Drinking ice water or cold water hampers the process of digesting food as it causes your blood vessels to shrink. This restricts blood flow to the digestive system, in effect weakening our digestive function. Sipping warm tea during and after meals helps to keep your digestive organs fully functional.

Moreover, as the food is not digested properly, the nutrients are lost or not absorbed by the body.

3. IT HELPS YOU TO ABSORB MORE NUTRIENTS.

When due to the intake of cold beverages, the activity of your digestive system is lowered, the amount of nutrition you receive from the food you ate is harmfully decreased. Moreover, since the body’s temperature is 37 degrees Celsius, drinking something at a very low temperature, your body has to spend energy to regulate its temperature. This spent energy is otherwise used to digest food and absorb nutrients, thereby leaving your body short of nutrition.

4. IT KEEPS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM STRONG.

Warm beverages promote circulation and nutrient absorption in the body. Consuming cold drinks speed up the gastrointestinal tract, so organs cannot properly absorb nutrition. Over time, if the body isn’t receiving sufficient nutrients needed for growth and repair, organs become more vulnerable to coldness and related illnesses.

5. IT KEEPS YOUR LUNGS HEALTHY.

Yes, a warmer body means healthier lungs. Lung disease is not just related to smoking and genetics. Long term accumulation of cold in the body can really weaken lung function to the point of developing chronic dis-eases like sinus infections, allergies, hay fever and asthma. The stomach is the ‘mother’ of the lung; a strong stomach is needed for healthy lung function. On a more immediate level, excessive cold entering the body also causes blood vessels in the throat to constrict. This is caused by the buildup of respiratory mucosa, which is a protective layer of the respiratory tract. When this layer gets congested, the respiratory tract is exposed and becomes vulnerable to various infections and hence the chances of your throat turning sore are raised.

6. IT PROMOTES A HEALTHY BLOOD FLOW AND REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM.

Drinking warm beverages promotes healthy blood flow. Excessive consumption of cold water can negatively affect the reproductive system, causing menstrual disorders, cramps and eventually impaired physiological functions like infertility. Over-accumulation of cold also creates moisture and dampness: the perfect conditions for things like bacteria, Candida, and parasites.

7. COLD DRINKS DECREASE YOUR HEART RATE.

Drinking ice water or cold water decreases your heart rate. Studies have shown that drinking ice water stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and is an important part of the body’s autonomous nervous system that controls involuntary actions of the body. The vagus nerve mediates the lowering of the heart rate and the low temperatures of ice-cold water act as a stimulus to the nerve, which causes the heart rate to drop.

 

As an all-over conclusion, I think that we can state that, while chilled drinks are simply more harmful and place a larger burden on the body, a hot cup of tea on a hot day can be refreshing, while it is also gentle to your body.

Are you open to try a refreshing cup of hot tea with me?