MOUNTAIN SPRING HERBALS
~HERB OF THE MONTH~ > APPLE ~ Herb of the Month ~ October


 ~ APPLE ~ (Malus) 

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away"

 

  Maybe the most widely used fruit,  the Apple is the subject of legends, songs, poems and is one of the most efficient health maintenance medicinal foods available.

While I am sure I was eating apples since I was very small, my first memories of it are of my grandmother sitting beside me when I was sick. She would cut an apple in half and scrape the pulp out of its skin with a silver spoon and feed it to me bite by bite. That was some powerful medicine--a combination of loving care and a health giving food. Conversely, my next most powerful memory of this plant... is of pain. We had an apple tree growing outside the kitchen, down the steps from the porch. My grandpa was the disciplinarian of the house and a no nonsense type. If I had been very bad, I had to go to the apple tree and choose MY OWN switch (one of the thin suckers growing near the base of the tree), pull it off and hand it to grandpa, who would then administer one flick across the back of the knees. I knew a thick switch may leave a mark, but the thin ones hurt a lot more.  Both these memories are some of the strongest of my entire life. I always look at apple trees with a lot of respect.

     I do eat one apple a day--and I have to say, I consider it -- in its raw state, more of a medicine than a food. Eaten on an empty stomach, it can sometimes cause a slight nausea, indicating some fairly potent actions on the body. So, in the case of apples, more is not better and perhaps the dictum of "...an apple a day...." is correct. The seeds are toxic as they contain cyanide compounds and some studies have suggested those who regularly eat the seeds (lots of people take that as a sign of being a fearless eater), have a higher incidence of Parkinson's Disease. It is not unusual in nature for one plant to provide nutrition, pleasure, medicine--and a poison (tomatoes/potatoes/peaches/castor/mayapple, etc). But, few know that Apples reside in the same family as the Rose ~  Rosaceae.

MEDICINAL USES ~

     The Doctrine of Signatures gives a several clues to the health benfits of Apples. First, as with all members of the Rose family, Apple blooms have 5 petals. Ancient healers liken the five petals to that of the outstretched arms and legs and the head of a human- connoting stability/completeness/robustness. apples, roses, etc, then would have been seen as plants that build general strength (what we today would call-immunity) and be used for a wide variety of health situations. The general red color, points to aid for the circulatory system and one that adds warmth. Most red foods/herbs also contain a large amount of Vit. C-which aside from warding off colds, also is responsible for strong capillaries and veins. The roundness of the fruit indicates an affinity for fertility. The skin of wild apples and some organic ones are less than perfect--often showing scars/scabs/blotches. However, it does not change the taste, but more importantly, it indicates that this fruit is actually good for restoring poor skin--and indeed, it can change Ph levels of the hair and skin to help with acne, dullness and imperfections.

     Containing water, protein, carbohydrates, salts, acids, pectin, Vit C, magnesium, iron, phenolic compounds and the cider or juice having acetycholine and fiber--Apples can maintain several bodily systems and fight off various types of cancers and chronic diseases.

Loose Bowels/Vomiting- Scrape the inside pulp of an apple with a spoon-including everything except the outer skin. Usually, skin is good and has its own nutrients, but for this purpose, you do not want to add more roughage to make loose bowels worse. Right under the skin though, is the pectin--which is a binder--(what is extracted and used for jelly making). This constricts the contents of the bowel and stops fluid loss. It also seems to calm the stomach and control vomiting.

Healing Tonic/ Kid's Fevers- For those who have been ill and need an extra boost getting well, making a tea of apple is very soothing and building. Simply chop an apple and stew it for 20 mins. or so, strain the solids and drink. This is the same idea as barley water used a lot in Mexico. This is most effective for fall and winter illnesses.

     Apples in all forms -except plain juice- prevent weight loss, help protect against prostate, lung and colon cancers, heart disease and they lower bad cholesterol levels. The prevention of Dementia is also being studied due to the extreme antioxident properties and the levels of acetycholine in cider. Why not Apple Juice?? Apple juice has been basically "killed"--it is strained so that no pulp or skin remains, thereby removing half of the properties that make apples healthful. Then, the pasteurization process, kills off the fermentation process or living enzymes found in apples--also responsible for several healing attributes. Much of the cider we drink has also been lightly heated. Try to find unpasteurized cider or just eat the apple itself. Apple juice with the pulp removed is no longer a "whole food" way too concentrated a drink and is one of the worst foods anyone could consume--aside from orange juice--but that is another story!

Constipation- Stewed apples are best, followed by raw apples. Supposedly, though, an apple a day, would prevent this condition in the first place. Some medications cause constipation-so if you are taking one of those long term, drinking lots of water and eating apples regularly would be a good idea.

Rashes/Inflammation/Sore Throats- Using fresh or cooked apple pulp--or the residue left after cider making, directly on a skin rash works wonders. Applying a warm poultice of this to the throat soothes soreness.

Acid Indigestion- The acids in apples and in cider or vinegar  aid reflux--but this is not so of apple juice. Take a tablespoon of cider or vinegar with meals as needed or once a day in the  morning for chronic cases. This balancing of stomach acids also helps kill off germs/bacteria and thus keeping you protected from certain diseases and food bourne toxins.

Arthritis- It is folk wisdom-but it does work! Every morning, take a Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. of LOCAL honey and add to 1/2 cup water

Kidney Stones- Daily Apple Cider Vinegar guards against kidney and gall stones in those prone to them. Just a Tbsp. per day, is all that is needed.

Gout- Apples and vinegar help resolve uric acid excess responsible for gout. Cutting back on fatty foods is essential as well, but eating apples or drinking cider or taking a bit of vinegar a day keeps acid levels normal if you have eaten hard to digest/fatty food.

Teeth- Eating an apple with skin whitens, the teeth, kills bacteria and the skin actually massages the gums.

BEAUTY ~

Skin Masks- For very oily or blemished skin, try a facial mask of equal parts yogurt and apple or hney and apple. Leave on for 20 minutes and rinse. The Ph balance provided by the acids in all those ingredients, help to restore a lustre and freshness to the skin--that has been abused by sun, harsh makeups or lotions

Hair- Hair also loses elasticity and shine form overexposure to harsh ingredients in many "beauty" products. After shampooing, try an apple cider vinegar rinse-1/4 cup vinegar to 1 quart water. Do not rinse this out--or if you feel you need a rinse--make it quick.

General Beauty- The crispness of apples and their varied healing constituents help all body systems-including aiding in strong bones. This shows on the skin and hair, general posture, flexibility and overall vitality. ...An apple a day!!

RITUAL/MYTHS/LORE & CELEBRATIONS ~

     Once the apple stread all over the world, myths followed, but in Central Asia and Britain, where apples have always found their home, the myths and lore are wide ranging and deep. Though the first pples were not planted in America until the 1600's (first orchard in this country was outside Boston in 1625), this country has its own heartfelt ties to this fruit--"As American as Apple Pie", the iconic journeys of Johnny Appleseed... There is something about this fruit--above others- that lends itself to lore and a real affection.

  ~  Apple's Latin name- "Malus" is related to "Malum", which means "evil"

 ~ Adam's Apple- this anatomical construct was so named supposing that piece of the apple in the Garden of Eden got stuck in Adam's throat.

 ~ In the Norse saga, the Edda, apples were given to the gods to keep them young and vital

 ~ Long associated with knowledge/education/seeds of knowledge-both reviled for ruining Adam and Eve's stay in the Garden, but beloved by students to butter up teachers

 ~ In Ireland, the Feast of the Dead is celebrated by gathering apples on Hallows Eve. Spiced ale is then serves with cut up pieces of apple and toast floating in the beverage--called "Lamb's Wool"

 ~ Celtic traditions:   bobbing for apples, attempting to cut the peel of apples in one piece to assure good luck, using apple peels in divination

~ Wassailing- On New Year's and Twelfth Night it is the tradition to go door to door drinking Wassail (drinking to health), which is a mulled hard cider and to then throw it outside on gardens and trees to insure a good harvest next year.

 ~ Rosh Hashana-The Jewish New year is celebrated with the eating of apples and honey to welcome a sweet new year

 

FOOD ~

     I was brought up eating apples in both sweet and savory ways. My grandfather spent hours every week at a local orchard getting bushels of apples which were brought home to my grandmother for processing into applesauce and applebutter, cider, wine, and stored in the cellar for winter eating to be eaten raw or stewed and mixed with onions, pies, cakes ........ It was not until years later, when I was served a melted  sandwich with cheddar and apple slices that I realized all the newfangled cool things you could do with apples in the kitchen. Serving cheese with apples in one form or other tastes wonderful, but it also allows you to enjoy your food and still  digest it well and process the fats in a healthy way. Nature has also put in her two cents on this matter by making apples a fall/winter food--the same time we are craving and actually need fatty foods to get us through the cold season. So, if serving a "heavy" meal, think of some way to work in an apple dish. Do not underestimate the satisfaction of going to an orchard, picking your apples and then making something with them. It is an ancient and organic process-at a time of year we are connecting to ancestors and thinking of the past. It is a good family tradition ~

     There is no shortage of good apple recipes, but here are the ways I have enjoyed them most:

 ~ FRIED APPLES - After making applesauce or cider or pie--do not throw away all those peels!! My grandma would put some oil in a cast iron skillet, saute some onions and then add apple peels/scraps and cook until soft. A nice, savory, warm side dish.

  ~ DRIED APPLES- Core and slice apples and put in a dehydrator. Add to granola, pancakes or eat plain

  ~ APPLE CRISP- I never learned proportions to this recipe- it all depends on how much you make, how sweet/crunchy you like it: Peel/slice apples (use a firm sweet apple) and toss with brown sugar, butter, lemon juice and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, lots of butter and a tad of vanilla. Put on top. Bake at 375 on th elower oven rack for 20 mins and then on the top rack for another 15-20 mins.- until th etop is brown and the bottom is bubbly

 ~ APPLESAUCE- Most people have no idea how simple this is to make. In a big pot, put 1/2 inch of water and then add your cored/cut apples (no need ot peel). Heat it up until the apples become soft/cooked. Run it through a strainer. Add sugar if you want or if you/ve used really tart apples. DONE!! Freeze it or can it 

 ~ APPLEBUTTER- Proceed as with applsauce EXCEPT-instead of using water, add 1/2 as much apple cider as apples. After it is cooked, put through a strainer. Add cinnamon, cloves and sugar to taste  and then continue to cook for several hours either on the stove top or in the oven in a large shallow pan. Please do not add those horrible cinnamon hot candies! Applebutter is a lot more labor intensive because you have to cook it for a long time and keep stirring it every 10 mins.--but on bread/biscuits--there is nothing better. Applebutter  in an American dish--made popular by the Pennsylvania Dutch

 ~ Melted Sandwich- A local restaurant used to serve this heavenly sandwich called "Poet's Delight": Bread can be Challah or whole grain- butter the bread, add slices of cheddar cheese, thin apple slices and slices of avacado. Grill until cheese is melted. Tastes extra good served with a dill pickle!

 ~ Cider/ Hard Cider/Vinegar- Making your own cider is a lot of work. We had a cider making party last year--to help spread some of the labor around. You work up an appetite and thirst--but what better way to spend a Fall day?

You do need to get a good cider press. To me,  it is worth the money as it is nearly impossible to get unpastuerized cider today--and cooked cider is not a healthful beverage-nor does it taste like cider!  Buy your apples as "Utility Apples"--the price is extremely lower and the apples are great- (these are also what I buy to store for winter eating). Then ,for several days, let your apples "sweat"--then follow manufacturers directions for using your press. Once made, drink it up, freeze it in plastic or glass jars (leaving 2 inches of headroom in the containers)--but also let some of it go "hard". It will start  to bubble and fizz in a few days. As it ferments , it loses its sweetness and becomes a wonderful alcoholic beverage. In other countries that savor cider--they almost always drink it hard.Sweet cider is mostly an American tradition. When it tastes the way you like it- stop fermentation by putting in a scant Tbsp. of brandy or vodka and screw the lid on tight, store in a cool place and drink or freeze. But don't stop there!!! After it ferments, if you take the lid off and cover the opening with cheesecloth (DO NOT add the vodka/brandy), it will turn to VINEGAR--just like you buy in the store and will grow a "Mother" so you have a good starter for all future vinegars.

It is not hard to find a good way to eat an apple a day one way or another!

                                       

 *READ MORE ABOUT APPLES

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DISCLAIMER: The content of this web site is not intended to replace the guidance of qualified, certified medical professionals.  The author and web hosts of this site do not take responsibility for viewers' health decisions. Views and information presented here are meant to be educational in nature only and not to diagnose or prescribe. Visitors to this site must take full responsibility for their health care and dietary choices.

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