Stinging Velvet Beans

Mucuna Pruriens known by common names such as Stinging Velvet Beans, Cowitch and Madness Beans.

The bean seeds or legumes are used in many medicines. Legumes are rich in L-DOPA which is an amino acid. It is the precursor of Dopamine which is a brain neurotransmitter.

The beans are also calm inducing and boost testosterone levels in the males. Mucuna Pruriens legume helps in calming the mind. In comparison to many legumes, these beans contains higher levels of proteins. The beans are used in the treatment of snakebites.

The beans vine comes in two varieties. One is domestic and other grows in the wild. The vine is a nitrogen fixer in the soil and is thus planted to enhance the organic content of the soil and fertilise the soil.

Th wild variety bean shell which is velvety in texture is very harmful to skin touch. It gives the affected person acute itch and pain. This is caused by the mucuna protein which induces allergy.

I happen to spot the vines at few places in a forest near our home. I took the photos for reference.

Stinging Velvet Beans !!

Today I came across a legume vine which has climbed on a tree. I noticed the beans clumps hanging from the vine. These are velvety golden colored. The beans are very pleasant looking. But then I remembered my school days when some boys did the prank of touching someone’s skin with the bean shell. It gives a hell lot of itching and pain.

Pic by Me

These beans are called Mucuna Pruriens. These have other monikers like Stinging Velvet Beans, Cowitch and Madness Beans. If by chance you come in contact with the velvety part of the beans you will get very sharp itching and pain. Itching is caused by Mucuna which is Protein enzyme.

Stinging Velvet Beans

It is not that these beans are that bad. There are nonstinging varieties also. The stinging varieties are generally found in the wild. The seeds contain high amount of L-DOPA and are used in medicine for snakebite, Parkinson disease due to high amounts of L-DOPA. The beans are also used as aphrodisiac because they are very rich in protein content. The bean plant is a nitrogen fixer thus enhance the natural fertility of the soil.

#mucuna, #stingingvelvetbeans, #ldopa, #parkinsonsdisease, #snakebite, #nitrogenfixation, #cowitch, #madnessbean

Bitter Melon!??

Karela aka Bitter gourd is bitter but it is a storehouse of vitamins and minerals. Bitter gourd contains iron, magnesium, vitamins, and potassium. The calcium and potassium content in it is twice that of spinach and banana.

https://www.organicauthority.com/live-grow/why-bitter-melon-needs-to-be-in-both-your-garden-and-your-kitchenter
Bitter Melon

Are you surprised to know that it is not a vegetable but a fruit. It belongs to the family of Melons which are known for their sweetness and are popular all over the world. It is called “BITTER MELON

melonshttps://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/07/19/melons-tips-watermelon-cantaloupe-honeydew/

Karela is a native of Indian subcontinent and now it has been established that it contains a insulin like compound polypeptide-p which helps in regulating the blood sugar.

Karela contains potassium which helps to reduce the blood pressure by replacing some of the sodium responsible for increasing blood pressure.

It improves the skin and hair. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and C.


Even USA is going to take its farming in a big way recognising it’s benefits.

https://sakasaka.net/bitter-melon-juices-7-health-benefits.html

Perhaps when God was distributing goodness to the family of Melons, all the sweetness was bestowed upon its brothern. It was feeling sad as it’s taste was very bitter and it was ruing the fact that due to the bitter taste nobody will like it.

But God blessed it and said “My son, I can’t make you sweet but i will bless you with so many nutrients and medicinal properties that you will outshine all your siblings and become a darling of the human beings”

Carbs: All are not Bad

When the humans were evolving they didn’t know the art of agriculture. So they didn’t know to grow the edible plants. At this stage their diet was obtained from killing the animas. Thus their diet consisted mainly of fats and proteins. When agriculture was established, then humans added the carbohydrates into their food menu.

Carbs or Carbohydrates have become much maligned food from sometime. Many people say they are not good for health. These are mostly sugars. Sugars they say lead to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.

Carbohydrates are one of the three essential categories of food along with fats and proteins. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body, fats also provide energy and fat and proteins build the bony structure of the body.

What are the carbohydrates?

Chemically carbohydrates are compounds made from Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. There are many categories of the carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are synthesized in nature by plants and trees by a process called photosynthesis. This way they convert carbon dioxide and water into Glucose which is the starting material for making higher or complex carbohydrates like disaccharides, starches and cellulose. Human beings can’t digest cellulose.

https://pharmeasy.in/blog/know-everything-about-carbohydrates-its-food-sources/amp/

Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides are the simplest sugars. Two of the most popular ones are Glucose and Fructose. Whereas Glucose contains only sugar, Fructose contains vitamins and minerals alongwith sugar. These are derived mostly from fruits. Thus Fructose are better than glucose.

Disaccharides

Disaccharide means their skeleton is made of two Glucose units. Examples are Sucrose, lactose and maltose.

Starches

Starches are very complex molecules made from large numbers of Glucose units joined together. These are obtained from grains like wheat, barley and maize etc. Due to their complex structure, they are slow to breakdown into human consumable monomers.

How Carbohydrates provide energy?

Carbohydrates are like fuel in a vehicle. Carbohydrates are oxidised by Oxygen we inhale. During oxidation energy is released alongwith water and carbondioxide which are exhaled and again caught by plants and trees for making sugars for themselves and humans and animals.

Why body prefers carbohydrates than fat?

Fat provides about thrice the energy than same amount of carbohydrate. Even then body prefers it especially for giving instant energy to the brain. The reason is the ease with which carbohydrates can be broken down into energy. Also the byproducts are easy to get rid by the body.

Complex carbohydrates like starch take much longer to get hydrolyzed. First of all when we eat them, an enzyme called Amylase which is present in our saliva catalysis the starch breakdown in the belly. Thus the breakdown is slow and not instant and sustained over a longer period of time thus providing lower but sustained amounts of energy.

So in the nutshell the whole foods grains are better and useful to be taken. Carbohydrates from these are not harmful but useful.

Argan Oil

Argan oil is one of the most expensive oils. It costs around $300 for a liter of this oil. It is extracted from the ripe fruits of Argan tree which is endemic to Morocco only. That’s is why it is sometimes called “Red Gold”

https://www.feedipedia.org/node/54

This tree is the saviour of Moroccan people. It’s fruits are used to make oil which is used for culinary purposes like sprinkling on the salads. The oil is used now worldwide as a cosmetic products for skin and hair. The tree fights desertification by providing stability to the soil. It is a hardy tree which can tolerate harsh arid conditions.

https://www.travelawaits.com/2549853/things-to-know-about-argan-oil-in-morocco/?amp

The oil contains mostly unsaturated fatty acids along with Vitamin E which is good for skin and immunity. It also contains carotenoids.

The oil is extracted by traditional manual methods in vogue for centuries. In this method the self fallen fruits are collected and the flesh is removed. Then the kernels are dried in the Sun.

After drying the seed shells are delicately broken to take out the oil bearing seed. It takes a woman, who traditionally do this work, 24 hours labour for producing 1 liter oil. The seeds are grounded in the traditional method. After this the powder is hand pressed to extract the pure oil. This is also one reason for its high cost.

The leftover cake is used as a feed for the cattle especially goats and sheep. There was another technique that was used sometimes. The goats were left for climbing on the fruit laden tree. They will eat the fruits and the seeds were collected from the droppings. But this is used these only for tourists who enjoy the goats climbing on the tree branches.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2132751-tree-climbing-goats-spit-out-and-disperse-valuable-argan-seeds

To meet the heavy demand from cosmetic industry more trees have been planted. This also serves the purpose of soil conservation. Women have been organised in cooperatives for increased efficiency.

Paleo Diet

For a man who barely gets enough to eat, dieting is irrelevant. For farmer who works all day in the fields, no dieting is required.

Whatever food we eat gives us energy. Energy is required for doing work. So when the intake of calories is more than the spending the amount of energy by means of exercise, walking and other physical activity, the remaining amount of energy gets deposited in the body in the form of fat. Over the time, than body weight will go on increasing. The energy group foods are fat and carbohydrate. Our bodies have evolved in such a way that their first choice is sugar or carbohydrate followed by fat in the form of saturated oils.

Most people who wish to shed the extra pounds, go for exercise and dieting. These diets contain generally more proteins and cut down on the carbohydrates and fats and sodium. Also most of the obese people are those who are generally well off and have occupations which involve very less manual activity. As the time passes by, many ailments take over, forcing such people to go to doctors, dieting and exercise. They want quick results which are unattainable causing frustration.

Many smart health experts take advantage of this and float different types of diet plans with exotic names. There are at least more than dozen such plans. Some of these are Mediterranean diet, Ketogenic diet, Low-carbohydrate diet, Intermittent fasting, Veganism, Vegetarianism, Plant-based diet, South Beach Diet, raw food diet, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig Low-fat diet, Dukan Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, WW International
Nutrisystem, Whole30 , Alkaline diet, Blood type diet, Diabetic diet, Cabbage soup diet, Zone diet, Atkins diet, Flexitarian.

Paleo or Caveman Diet

One such diet plan is called Paleo Diet. Also called Caveman’s Diet. It’s based on food sources for humans during the Paleolithic area, which spanned the time period of about 2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago.

caveman

From the name, you can guess the type of things one has to eat or avoid. Caveman was our primitive ancestor who barely knew the recipes and ate whatever came his way. He didn’t know agriculture. Although he had learnt to make fire.

He was essentially a hunter and survived on the animal flesh which means that he consumed more protein rich diet with minimal processing. At the most he was roasting the animal. Secondly he ate fruits and flowers and whatever grains were growing naturally.

So the Paleo Diet plans stresses on eating animal proteins, fish, lean meat, fruits, nuts, eggs, and cereals. It rules out eating the dairy products like milk and milk based products like cheese, potatoes, butter, and curds etc. It also emphasis on inclusion of critical ingredients like vitamins and minerals.

Naturally Paleo Diet will be costlier to other diets. Also from the energy point of view whatever food plan you follow, you have to side by side reduce the already deposited extra fats. So exercise is a must along with the dieting. Caveman didn’t have many worries like modern man. Most of his time was spent chasing the animals for hunting and fishing with not efficient tools. So he was always exercising his body.

I doubt that with this type of strenuous physical routine the caveman would have become overweight even after eating the fat from the animals. These diet plans all boil down to the fact that if the intake of the calories is offset by spending those calories through physical exercise and activity leaving a slightly negative balance, you will be fit

Chemistry Behind Cleopatra’s Beauty Recipes

Everyone has heard about Cleopatra. She is said to be most charming seductress and willy woman who became the queen of Egypt. She was very conscious of her looks and knew the value of being beautiful and always looking young and alluring.

It was Cleopatra, who popularized skin care treatments in her book titled “Cleopatra Gynaeciarum Libri”. There, she recorded recipes for making cosmetics and perfumed ointments. She was so interested in spa treatments and perfumes that her lover, Mark Antony, gave her the gift of a spa and perfume factory that had been built by Herod the Great at the south end of the Dead Sea.

Bust of Cleopatra

Although Egyptians may not be knowing the chemistry behind the ingredients used in the spa treatments but still to date many ingredients used at that time are in use but in the synthetic forms. Synthetic ingredients have low manufacturing cost and avoid lots of labor involved in extracting these from natural sources which only a royal person can afford.

For example, Indole is a organic compound present in the jasmine flowers as well as the feces of crocodiles and other animals. In high concentrations, this has a repulsing odor but at very concentrations it exudes fragrance. If you extract the chemical from the Jasmine flowers, you require millions of flowers for obtaining 1 Kg of oil costing approximately $10000. So these days synthetic oil is prepared from Indole and other ingredients at a low cost. Cleopatra used the excrement of crocodiles to clean and embellish her complexion.

She is said to bathe in the milk of asses to keep her skin soft and supple. This milk has an important ingredient Lactic acid which being an alpha hydroxy acid breaks down the dead cells of the skin. Even today’s many skin care products contain lactic acid.

Cleopatra painted her eyes with green and black pigments to protect her eyes from those ever-present flies and to enhance her appearance. On special occasions, she may have added glitter made from crushed beetle shells mixed with her eye paint. And she would have cleaned her teeth with natron, a natural form of baking soda, and freshened her breath with spearmint.

Egypt is an hot country and there is lots of perspiration which imparts body odors. So for Cleopatra, perfumes were important not just for masking the smells of skin treatments but to cover offensive body odors. Cleopatra would have carried small containers of her perfumed ointments and powdered perfumes that she would have reapplied several times a day to keep her complexion looking fresh and her skin sweet smelling.

Chemists have reconstructed a number of ancient perfumes using Cleopatra’s own recipes and analysis of perfume residues found in jars from Cleopatra’s spa. They discovered that Cleopatra favored perfumed ointments made from Moringa oil or horseradish oil (Moringa pterygosperma or M. aptera). Those ointments would have disappeared into her skin quickly and left no greasy feeling behind. Moringa oil is still used in Persian perfumes today, and chemists at L’Oreal have recreated ancient Egyptian perfumes using Moringa oil.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie is the shining example of Grit and Patience. She is an example of unerring in her enquiry and never afraid of hard work.

She was born in Warsaw Poland which was under the control of Russia at that time. She left Warsaw for Cracow which was under Austria then. From there she went to France for higher studies and settled there.

Marie Curie is considered the Greatest Scientist. She set a shining example for generations of scientists.

Marie Curie

She and her whole family was the family of illustrious scientists.

It is 110 years since Marie Curie became the first person ever to win two Nobel prizes. Marie and her husband Pierre pioneered the study of radioactivity and discovered two new elements, Radium and Polonium. The name Polonium was given as an honour to mark the country Poland her bith place.

The couple shared the Nobel Prize for the radioactivity work with Henry Becqerel who discovered the X-rays. Curie and her husband established the technique to isolate the radioactive elements from ore.


The pair had to process 8000 kg of pitch-blend minerals under horrific conditions to extract tiny amounts( 0.1 gm) of radium!!!!!!!


Their daughter, Irene, also won a Nobel prize in chemistry, and Marie is remembered in the names of universities, institutes, charities and the element curium.

Changes in Periodic Table of Chemicals….

We know that everything in the universe is made from the atoms. They are the basic building entities. Atoms are not solid entities but are made of dense nuclei surrounded by fuzzy cloud of electrons whizzing in the outer. Nucleus is made of protons and neutrons.

Things don’t not end here. Nature is very complex. Even the atoms of same elements can have different number of neutrons making them have different weights. Such atoms are called isotopes.

Atoms of same element or different elements can combine in umpteen ways resulting in diverse molecules and different substances from very simple molecules like water and methane to complex molecules containing thousands of atoms.

Many elements have more than one isotopes. One of these is the most abundant and is for all practical purposes considered as the representative. Other isotopes exist in very low abundance. All elements can be divided into different groups in which the chemical and physical properties vary in periodic manner.

Earlier, we remember the chemical composition of compounds was determined by chemical methods using classical techniques. From the elements proportions an empirical formula was derived. Methods gave numbers of constituent elements which have to be rounded off. This happened due to the inherent limitations of determinations. So generally the molecular weights were either whole numbers or at most rounded off to first decimal place.

Thanks to the extremely accurate measurements now available with advancement of science, we are measure the abundance of all isotopes very accurately. Ten elements namely hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulfur, chlorine and thallium which have one or more isotopes have now been selected whose atomic weights shall be displayed in the periodic table as a range.

For example, the atomic weight of boron (atomic number 5) is currently written as 10.811. On the new periodic table, it will be given as an interval—from 10.806 to 10.821. This might not seem like a big change—and it is very small—but such a change can be critical to calculations in scientific research and for industrial applications. Also, chemistry teachers and students will have to learn how to use the new weight intervals.

Since now we the abundance and atomic weights of each isotope very accurately, the range will fix the upper and lower limits. By comparing the atomic weight of a particular element in a sample and mapping it on the range interval we can know the source of sample.

For example, oxygen atoms in the water samples contain isotopes. During evaporation fractionation occurs. Water molecules with lighter oxygen atoms evaporate faster leaving behind the water with heavier isotopes.

Similarly, the atomic weight of carbon is smaller in performance-enhancing drugs than in natural testosterone meaning natural testosterone contains higher abundance if heavier carbon atoms. This difference can be used to test whether athletes used these drugs to improve their performance.

The new atomic weight measurements not only account for the presence of isotopes but also consider their relative concentrations in the universe. Carbon 12 makes up 98.89% of all carbon, while carbon 13 is 1.11%, and the natural abundance of carbon 14 is 0.0000000001%.

So, the weight interval for carbon will lean more heavily toward carbon 12 and range from 12.0096 to 12.0116. This range will replace the average atomic weight for carbon listed in any chemistry textbook, which is 12.011.

Magic Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fungi. There are numerous varieties of the mushrooms. Some are edibles and considered very healthy. On the other hand some varieties are very poisonous and cause fatalities on consuming.

Magic mushrooms or shrooms as they are called commonly are hallucination drugs. These can be divided into two groups: The Psilocybin-bearing mushrooms, found primarily in the Psilocybe genus, and the Muscimol-containing mushroom Amanita muscaria.

Psilocybe mushroom

Psilocybe mushrooms contain psilocybin and/or psilocin and psychedelic tryptamines that are structurally similar to serotonin, a strong regulator of mood, state of mind, and consciousness.

Several species of Psilocybe also contain the alkaloid baeocystin, which is a demethylated derivative of psilocybin. Other genera that contain psilocybin include Conocybe, Copelandia, Gymnopilus, Inocybe and Panaeolus.

Amanita muscaria

Amanita muscaria, or Fly Agaric, contains many entheogenic elements, most notably muscimol, but also including muscazone, ibotenic acid and muscarine. It produces a much different experience compared to a Psilocybe mushroom.

This mushroom is toxic in large doses, as ibotenic acid and muscazone can cause unpleasant side-effects such as nausea or even permanent damage, although there are very few fatalities caused by Amanita muscaria.

Recreational users who wish to consume the Amanita muscaria often heat dry or cook the mushrooms, as the high temperature is believed to reduce negative effects by converting ibotenic acid into muscimol.

When eaten or drunk in a tea, they combine readily and hungrily with the brain to evoke a powerful psychedelic trip experience, shorter-lived but similar in tone and effect to LSD.

There are over 90 species of magic mushrooms world-wide. Common varieties include UK and Northern Europe’s ‘Liberty Caps’ (Psilocybe semilanceata) and North America’s Psilocybe cubensis.

The world’s most famous magic mushroom is the European Fly Agaric (amanita muscaria), the red-and-white spotted toadstool which often pops up in children’s literature. However, it contains ibotenic acid and muscimol not psilocybin and has very different effects.

Appearance

Mushrooms are light to dark brown in colour and come in fresh, dried or powdered forms. All of them taste disgusting.

They smell distinctively ‘mushroomy’ and are impossible to confuse with any other powdered drug.

In the UK, mushrooms and psilocybin are class A drugs, alongside LSD, cocaine and heroin. In the US they are in schedule 1.

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