Manuela Heider de Jahnsen is a medical therapist of the Traditional Chinese and Ayurveda Medicine. She is the author of the standard reference “Das große Handbuch der chinesischen Ernährungslehre“ (The Big Manual of Chinese Dietetics). Besides being a lecturer, she runs a surgery in Berlin, specialized in nutritional advice, yoga therapy and acupuncture. For us, she considers common health opinions, starting with detox. How good are self-prescribed cures really?
After an in-depth look at blended leafy green treats in the last issue I’d like to address another new development: aphrodisiacs and stimulants for kids.
Yesterday at the drug store a young Thai woman was standing in front of me with her 10-year-old son. He was drinking a Red Bull. No, that’s not something we do here! Pick-me-ups such as soda, Red Bull and coffee are not things we heath-conscious parents with health store memberships give to our kids.
Making my way through the aisles of the health food store I encountered all kinds of exciting substances that have found their way into the wonderful world of organic goods – not least because of their potent powers! The comment “but in small amounts…” doesn’t work here, after all we don’t always know how big the consumer is. And some are so little that you have to pick them up so they can reach the colorful bars, should they not be sparkling within arm’s reach at the register old school-style.
Of course, it’s not easy to get kids excited about nuts if they’re already acquainted with milk chocolate. Here marketers have to put in a little extra effort. And we adults enjoy the unexpected effects. The great thing is you get used to it quickly, and the kids always want more organic soda. Yes, they formally request it.
Natural plant essences – such as maté, guarana, maca and tea concentrates – are used in lots of munchies and cereals, as an ingredient in smoothies and as additional ingredients, and they have a definitively stimulating, even aphrodisiacal effect. Yet most consumers of certain drinks and nibbles from the health food store aren’t aware of what is hiding in these paradisaical products. Paradisaical because they contain such joyfully stimulating substances that make your daily grind so lively.
Maca is popular for gearing up for a weekend of partying. Guarana, the mysterious plant from the rain forest delivers a very intense, very quick caffeine rush with a comedown that’s not to be underestimated. Maté not only suppresses hunger and raises people up out of their fatigue in Argentina; it also keeps non-gauchos alert on the road and causes withdrawal headaches among the sensitively inclined. It has a pronounced effect on the nervous system and suppresses the need for sleep.
I don’t want to claim that cocoa is harmless. Cocoa, with its high percentage of theobromine packs a punch, especially since organic cocoa varieties are no longer mixed and in their purity, in particular when raw, exhibit high levels of theobromine. Similarly, green tea extract contains both valuable antioxidants and the high levels of caffeine we need to include in our daily balance of stimulants!
Because in Germany many Ayurvedic medicines are traded as spices, and because they evoke India and yoga so well, they’re available over the counter with ashwagandha (“horse’s scent” in Sanskrit) leading the way: a classic aphrodisiac with many other effects a knowledgeable therapist could assess upon careful inspection. Your appetite at the register, however, is not as reliable.
The nervous system of infants is very undeveloped and reacts unpredictably to our little surprises. As such, a return to simplicity is the way! To be sure the little tyke doesn’t get into attitude adjusters too early: make your own tea, make your own sandwiches and pack them with fruit in an airtight container.
And, dear breastfeeding mothers, in case you’re wondering: all of the substances mentioned here pass into your breast milk. After reading this little piece, I think your baby will be able to sleep better too.
Text: Manuela Heider de Jahnsen