Chocolates are Good

Chocolates in moderation are good for health. They contain cocoa which is storehouse of thousands of good chemicals which benefit our health. It contains organic chemicals called poly-phenols. These chemicals have been proven to reduces the bad LDL Cholesterol and boosts HDL Cholesterol. This is good for our heart and arteries.

 

A chocolate bar and melted chocolate. Chocolat...
A chocolate bar and melted chocolate. Chocolate is made from the cocoa bean, which is a natural source of theobromine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The benefits of these poly-phenols do not stop here. They are very active compounds and catch the free radicals which are very harmful to our body. Free radicals are atoms, compounds which have free unpaired electrons on them and are very reactive and can oxidize many useful compounds in the body and cause diseases like cancer, Alzheimer and other deadly diseases. These phenols render them ineffective and harmless.

 

Similarly chocolates contain a chemical called “Anadamide” which boost the mood and removes the gloominess. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word “Ananda” which means bliss.

 

Chocolate acts as a stimulant. It contains two compounds namely Caffeine and Theobromine whicha re stimulants. They also contain poly-phenols class called Catechins. These compounds help in reducing the risk of stroke in humans.

 

It contains Cortisol a chemical which boost the morale and reduces the stress levels. 1.5 ounces per day for two weeks have been found to do the trick.

 

But chocolates have a downside to health. They contain a lot of sugar which is bad for health. And also there are many other foods which contain many of these useful compounds but so many of these are collectively found in cocoa. So in moderation chocolates are good for health.

 

About the Power of Breathing

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Breathing is our life. It goes on unnoticed until we are having some problem with our body. It is our constant companion from the time we are born and till the time we leave this world. Following our body breathing can calm our mind.

One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh has led an extraordinary life. Born in central Vietnam in 1926 he joined the monkshood at the age of sixteen.

He tells us about breathing like this. The breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather- our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.

We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.

We may like to recite:

Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.

Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”

We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. With our awareness it will naturally become slower and deeper. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life.

Tobacco & Slavery

When America was in the process of colonization by European powers who began settling their people there, they required large numbers of labors to work on their farms. Most of the people who were enslaved and sold in America were Africans.

The transatlantic slave trade involved many millions of people, and its history and legacy have had an impact all over the world. There were European slave traders, ships’captains and sailors as well as African traders and the African people captured and enslaved.

They cultivated the land which were highly fertile and produced crops in vast quantities. Colonizers saw that these crops were commercial in nature. The produce were shipped to Europe and earned huge profits. One of these was Tobacco.

Dunhill Early Morning Pipe Tobacco, 1990's Murray
Dunhill Early Morning Pipe Tobacco, 1990’s Murray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tobacco is called Nicotiana tabacum in scientific language and English were to make huge profits by selling it just as they did by selling illegally opium produced in Bihar India to Chinese people. The opium trade had two effects which favored English to defeat the Chinese and dictate the terms in future trade of Silk. These were making the Chinese people addicts and siphoning of the money from China. Anyway we are talking about tobacco.

Original people of the Americas were already growing it when the colonizers got foothold there. It originated in the Andes mountains in South America. It was not only smoked but also used in ceremonies and as a medicine. They smoked it through pipes.

It was Mr. John Rolfe who was one of the first English colonists in Jamestown, Virginia which was founded in 1607. He introduced the sweeter Caribbean tobacco to Virginia. Heavily forested island of Barbados were cleared for cultivating the tobacco. Tobacco was the most profitable export from mainland North America before cotton was established, and from the Caribbean before sugar took over.

Tobacco cultivation requires lots of hard work. Many diseases which were unknown to Americans came along with Europeans and reduced the local population. This made the English to capture the Africans and sell them as farmhands in America.

Tobacco became very popular throughout Europe. Francis Drake first introduced it to England in 1585, and Walter Raleigh made it fashionable. It was seen as a miracle medicine, curing anything from stomach ache to gunshot wounds, and snakebites to bad breath.

Eyelashes: Protector of Eyes

Every organ or part of our bodies is designed to perform some biological function for the survival and fitness of our bodies. Some of the organs keep working without our ever noticing it until that organ stops working due to some injury or illness. Only then we realize the importance of that organ. One such part of body is eyelashes.

For centuries the eyes have been recognized as an important part of physical beauty, especially for women. Eyes can communicate without the need of words. The human beings have developed great capabilities of eyes. Attractive women’s eyes are often also associated with favorable social status. And in many cultures long full eye lashes are symbols of beauty. On the other hand, loss of eye lashes is seen as a sign of deficiency in women. And so for centuries women have tried a myriad of methods for making their lashes, longer and fuller.

These beauty part aside, from an anatomy and physiology point of view, however, eye lashes serve several functions. They are intended to keep foreign particles or small insects from entering the eyes and causing damage or irritation. Lashes are attached to eyelids in a curved arc designed to channel water away from the eyes, forming another layer of protection from the environment. Lashes are actually sensitive structures, similar to cats’ whiskers. They trigger the blink reflex response when an object comes too close to the eyes

Lashes are simply hairs that grow from the edge of the eyelid. They are arranged in two or three rows. Each eye has between 100 and 150 individual hairs with upper lids having the greater number. Eyelashes are the widest type of human hair and the most richly pigmented. Each hair is, on average, 8-9 mm long, 7 mm of which extend beyond the eyelid. Lashes grow at a rate of about 0.15 mm per day, which means that if lashes are pulled out they take about eight weeks to fully grow back. Like other human hair, eyelashes are produced from follicles under the skin. Follicles have three stages of growth—an actual growing phase, a declination phase and a shedding phase. Each hair is very strong—capable of supporting 100 grams.

Hair growth in humans is different from hair growth in many mammals that shed their hair all at once. Human hair growth is asynchronous—that is, some follicles are experiencing growth while others are in decline or being shed. The eyelash growth cycle is variable, lasting between five and twelve months. The first phase is called anagen. This is the growing phase and lasts about 45 days on average. The normal length of a person’s lashes is determined by this phase. In the second stage of growth, called catagen, follicle cells undergo programmed cell death, a process that takes about fifteen days. About 3% of all lashes are in this phase at any given time. The lashes then enter a period of rest, telogen, which can last as long as nine months. Up to 15% of hair is in this phase. At the end of this phase lashes are shed in a process labeled exogen. As this phase ends, anagen begins again.

Like all human hair, eyelashes are made of 85% proteins, primarily keratin and melanin. Water makes up 7 % of human hair and 3 percent is composed of lipids. The keratin is made up of eighteen amino acids, 7 percent water, and low concentrations of trace minerals (e.g., iron, zinc, copper).

Calories or calories??

There are millions of people for whom it is almost impossible to arrange two square meals for the families. So they don’t have any choice of what they eat. On the other hand, there are affluent people for whom what to eat or what not to eat is a big problem. They are grappling with obesity problems which are the precursor of so many lethal ailments like heart attack, blood pressure, backache and diabetes. They are always conscious of the calorific value of the foods they consume.

Any student of science or health conscious person is aware that calorie is unit of energy. Our bodies continuously require energy to properly perform normal functions of the body. Even while doing nothing, our body consumes energy called basal metabolic rate.

Calorie and calorie are slightly different. In nutrition science, Calorie with capital C is equal to 1000 calories. Sometimes, Calorie is also called kilo calorie. 1 Calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise 1 kilogram of water 1 degree centigrade at sea level.

The calorie content of foods consumed  by a human being was determined in the late 1800s by Wilbur O. Atwater, an agricultural chemist. He built a device called a “Respiration Calorimeter” to make direct measurements of heat released by humans from the food they consumed. At 4 feet by 8 feet, Atwater’s calorimeter was big enough to allow a person to step into it. The device measured the amount of heat released by that person, along with the amount of oxygen consumed and carbon dioxide given off.

Wilbur Olin Atwater
Wilbur Olin Atwater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using this device, Atwater was able to measure the precise amount of energy contained in thousands of food items. He found that carbohydrates and proteins are worth 4 Calories per gram and fats about 9 Calories per gram. This 4-9-4 system is how labels are determined today. In some cases, dietary fiber is subtracted from the total carbohydrate count because it is assumed that it provides no nutritional calories. Also, alcohol, if present, is accounted for as 7 Calories per gram.

Basal metabolism reactions occurring inside our bodies consume 70% of the calories. Rest 30% if not consumed shall be deposited in the body mostly in the form of fat.

Mind Minds its own Business

The mind called “Mann” in Hindi, made from only two alphabets, is contains oceans in it which are so deep and vast in their extent. It exists physically or not, we are not sure. Even in this “Mann” is a component called “subconscious mind” which is like an ocean on which the “conscious mind” floats like an iceberg.  Conscious mind is so small in comparison to the subconscious mind. It stores all the past memories and suppressed emotions and saves us from the embarrassments the conscious mind can land us in.

Layers upon layers of memories are deposited with the passage of  time. These reams of memories are not deposited one upon another. There is an unknown architectural scheme for storing the data. Sometimes any disturbance or catalyst brings some memory floating up. It comes, surprises you, disturbs you, you earn to live in that moment again and for a time forget about the present. Suddenly the conscious mind taps you on your shoulders and reminds you about your present. The memory again sinks back and settles somewhere. Who knows how much is its resident time there? Whether it will come up ever again or be buried forever. Or someone shall again stir the settled memories and bring it up again.

Aloe

Aloe has a very long history of use. The sap was used medicinally by the Greeks and Romans, who obtained it from the island of Socotra. The Greek physician Dioscorides recorded the use of the leaves to treat wounds in the first century AD. Aloe had reached England by the 10th century, where it appears to have been one of the drugs recommended to Alfred the Great by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. In the early part of the 17th century, the records of the East India Company show payments for aloe being made to the King of Socotra, who held a monopoly on the production of drugs from the Socotrine aloe.

Spotted forms of Aloe vera are sometimes known...
Spotted forms of Aloe vera are sometimes known as Aloe vera var. chinensis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is not known whether the Socotrine aloe obtained in Greek and Roman times was from wild or cultivated populations. Today, however, African aloe (both Socotrine and Cape) is collected from wild plants, while in the West Indies, the plants are laid out in plantations like cabbages.

To prepare Aloe vera for market, the leaves are cut near the base of 24-36 year old plants. The resulting latex is collected and concentrated to the consistency of thick honey. A true concentrate produces a clear, translucent gel, which can be applied fresh, or it can be commercially converted into a more expensive ointment.

The gel can also be fermented to produce a tonic wine, to which honey and spices are added. In India, this is used to make a drink called kurmara or asava to treat anaemia and digestive and liver disorders.

The gel can also be inhaled in steam, and the powdered leaves can be used as a laxative. There is a danger that the huge tonnages of gel now sold in the developed world will mean that aloe is regarded as a cure-all for any ailment.