Elwood 5566

Korean Teas: Solomon's Seal Tea – 둘굴레 차

Posted in Food and Drink, oriental Medicine, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on June 26, 2011

I prefer it cold when it is wonderfully refreshing

Specifics: Solomon’s Seal (둥굴레 차). Made from a root but available in tea bags.

Okay, you can easily buy this in boxes of 50 or so tea bags at most decent stores. However, if you’ve wandered around Korean markets you may actually have seen this tea’s  main ingredients, in the form of dried roots looking a little like brown turmeric.

the roots, according to one company, are 'pan fried' to dry them

Solomon’s Seal is a tea made from the roots of plants bearing the same name. The plant is one of an extensive group, similar to lilies, and known by its botanical name, Polygonatum. The species in Korea, is specifically Polygonatum Sibiricum. The Korean species is particularly noted for its medicinal properties due to its demulcent properties, that is its ability to soothe and protect swollen ligaments and tissue.  However, it has numerous other applications and widespread medicinal uses. Naturally, it can also be enjoyed simply as a beverage.

Solomon's Seal tea bags

Like most of the Korean teas I drink, I usually drink it cold and it is probably one of my more favourite teas with a distinct flavour which lacks any bitterness and is quite smooth. It has a slightly sweet smell which is reminiscent of caramel.

'caramel' aroma

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Sucking a Crystal Failed to Realign my Wonky Teeth (Kombucha and Pas 파스)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Ballads, Health care, oriental Medicine, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on February 27, 2011

commercial kombucha

Podcast 73

You can probably buy them back home, I’ve never looked, and you can certainly buy something similar in spray form. Medicines work better when you haven’t a  clue what they do. The addition of a language you can’t read plus the fact the ‘medicine’ is traditional, and we all know the allure of oriental traditions in western culture,  lends a mystique to the product in which we tend to put more faith than in western medicine, and in which some put excessive faith. Of course, there may be some truth in the power of positive thinking which can boost our health and possibly rid our bodies of cancers and impurities so, I don’t want to be too dismissive of products which help to wish yourself well.

a wide choice of ‘pase’ (파스)

So, for the last month I’ve been laid up with painful knees caused by too many trips down the local mountainside. My injuries stem from October, shortly after an eye infection (red-eye) stopped me using the gym and bathhouse. Instead, I took to the mountains and overdid it and because I go down uneven ground, left-leg leading, I’ve had persistent problems with that knee. The bout of red-eye I contracted began on the very evening of the autumn festival (ch’u-sok), so it was only to be expected that the problems with my knees would flare up on the very eve of the Lunar New Year.

as advertised on TV

Then I was recommended these large patches (파스) that you basically stick  wherever you have a pain. You can buy them in any chemist where they are available in different sizes. And though I can’t read what the patches are supposed to do, I am confident that the miraculous powers of crystal crap are at work. Not only do some of the patches chill the area under them, numbing any pain, but they smell like they might work. There are many different brands and while some are impregnated with conventional analgesics, others seem to be based on oriental formulas or possibly an east meets west medicinal fusion a little similar to pizza and jam or don gasse and tinned fruit. On my second night of wearing them, I went to bed looking like something from Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, and on every area of my body where I had an ache or soreness, and I discovered a few, I stuck  a plaster. I was sure they were working, that was until my doctor (of western medicine) told me all theywould do is reduce pain and totally lacked any further potential.

wtf?

Where the cold light of science doesn’t shine to dismiss the incredible, we find sanctuary and it’s amazing the things we will subject ourselves to once we’ve taken solace in the concept – which is really no different from religion. A few years ago I spent 18 months brewing a living jelly mold in a warm, dark corner of my house. Every few days I would tap off  the liquid on which it floated. Kombucha is a drink believed to have numerous health benefits if drunk on a regular basis but it is difficult to prompt a thirst for it when it’s basically moldy water. However, in fairness, it was palatable and a cross between a mild vinegar and apple juice. It is also mildly alcoholic (0.5%). I have since tried commercial kombucha and it was very refreshing, if not expensive. Kombucha tea is easy to grow and you can birth yourself a batch with a cup of cold, sweetened tea and within a month or so, you too can have a ‘mother’ sized jelly pancake from which you can make other batches at an accelerated rate. I have also heard of people eating the mold, also known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), by frying it. I found it too gelatinous and phlegmy to enjoy. Interestingly, kombucha has a long history throughout various parts of the world, including Russia, Japan and Korea. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the name ‘kombu’  may have derived from Korea and mold in Korean is kom-bang-i (곰팡이).

a kombucha ‘scoby’ which provides the culture for future offspring

a ‘scoby’ looking somewhat scabby

My faith in both the kombucha and passe patches (파스) of the non-analgesic variety is borne out of my faith in the mystical powers of eastern medicine and it is the same faith which spurs crystal crap in general as well as the wider interest in Feng Shui (known in Korea as 풍수). The one problem with alternative medicine is that credible practices are lumped together with totally loony ones. I am skeptical, but selectively so and for example; with muscle aches, strains and sprains, or joint problems, I go to an oriental doctor before a western one. Crystal crap however, just seems to lack credibility. I have had several friends give me small crystals with instructions on where to place them and then been told they would ‘heal me’ or help promote ‘good health.’ What I find rather amusing is that in the west such crystals are always pretty and do make lovely ornaments, if that’s your thing, but no one ever suggests you to put a lump of charcoal by your bed, and charcoal is used in Korean bathhouses, and no one ever tells you to use something ugly like coal or a chink of flint.  And neither would I mind being recommended some crystal therapy with an ounce of jade except for the fact I’ve bathed and saunaed in, and slept on a couple of tons of it. Every time I go to the bathhouse I end up bathing in one pool or another, or one sauna room where the walls are made from something, jade being the most common, which is supposed to benefit the body,  yet  I seem no more benefited by such elusive powers than someone who has never set foot in a bathhouse. Perhaps I lack the faith to will myself well when it comes to crystals but, until sucking a crystal can rectify a badly rotted set of teeth, I will retain my scepticism.

homemade kombucha, actually, quite palatable

Yes, the patches reduced pain and the the kombucha was fun to make and tasted okay!

Chinese names for kombucha include:

红茶菌 – red fungus tea

红茶菇 – red mold tea

茶霉菌 – tea mold.

In Japanese it is known as ‘red tea mushroom‘ – 紅茶キノコ

Interested in kombucha – click this link.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Monday Market -Oriental Quince (모과) Chaenomeles sinensis

Posted in Nature, oriental Medicine, plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on November 16, 2010

oriental quince bonsai

Another portent that winter is approaching is the appearance of the oriental quince, mo-ghwa (모과). Unlike the quince found in parts of Europe and North Africa where its uses, depending on climate and hence proportions, span from making jams and jelly to a substitute potato, the oriental quince is mostly used in oriental medicine and as tea. However, the mo-ghwa’s predominant use is as an ornamental air freshener. Don’t expect wonders! It won’t clear the smell of fried mackerel or unpleasant toilet odours and neither is one potent enough to scent an entire room but for scenting corners or enclosed spaces, a car being ideal, they are successful. I have one sitting on my desk and  it subtly scents that corner of my room.

moghwa (모과)

by the bowl

Moghwa have a very waxy skin in which the scent is contained and they sort of look quite attractive. The scent is similar to that of a fruity apple. The cost varys from about a 1000 won upwards and ideally you should buy one unblemished as these will last well into spring. Supermarkets often sell them in a small basket.

oriental quince tree and fruit

At this time of year one can see many trees bearing fruits, dae-ch’u, unhaeng (ginkgo), persimmon and Asian pears, for example. However, it is illegal to pick fruits from any tree on sidewalks or parks as the trees are not public property.

When buying one, especially from street vendors where they are much cheaper, avoid ones with blemishes or other forms of damage. A good moghwa will last the entire winter and into spring but a badly chosen one can be brown and rotted within a few weeks!


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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

High on Mugwort (쑥) Artemisia Asiatica

Posted in herbs and 'woods', oriental Medicine by 노강호 on May 16, 2010

After using mugwort in various soups, I decided to use it for the purpose of eliciting deep and prophetic dreams, which in the little research I did on this herb, is one of its claimed properties. You can find an interesting link for ‘dream pillows’ in my original article (mugwort). I bought two large bags of fresh mugwort, each the size of a carrier bag which I subsequently dried on my apartment floor after spreading them fairly thinly on newspaper. The drying process took about 5 days, each day, turning the ‘leaves’ to minimise the chance of decomposition. They entire two loads dried quickly with no decomposition at all. What started out as a large amount of mugwort quickly shriveled to around a quarter of the original proportion.

This was originally one entire carrier bag load of mugwort. it significantly reduces when dried.

I bought a small pillow, cost 4000W (£2) and taking out the inner pouch opened it and removed the filling. This I then replaced with the dried mugwort.

bagging the mugwort

In then replaced the inner pouch, now stuffed with dried mugwort, back into the original pillow. This in then inserted inside the larger pillow on my bed.

The 'dream pillow' - ready to go!

Now, strangely, as the mugwort was drying in my room, and it was quite a smell, like decomposing grass cuttings. I awoke one morning and instantly recalled a vivid dream about a boy who had left our school  a few months earlier. Why I dreamt about him, I don’t know but I subsequently forgot the dream and started my day. However, in the evening, as I was about to leave school, my boss told me that this boy is due to return to our school later in the week. Suddenly, I remembered my dream. Yes, strange!

I subsequently slept using the ‘dream pillow’ for around a week before removing it. I have a theory that the smell of mugwort, which is reminiscent of lying on a pile of grass cuttings, actually interferes with your deep sleep, causing you to hover over the kind of sleep during which dreams are more easily recalled. So, I don’t want to dismiss mugwort as a dream enhancers as total ‘crystal crap,’ because of the one odd, and vivid dream I did have. So,  next I want to try sleeping with the bag after the smell no longer wakes me up.

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Quintisentially Korean – Mugwort (artemisia asiatica) 쑥

Posted in Food and Drink, herbs and 'woods', Monday Market (Theme), oriental Medicine, seasons by 노강호 on April 20, 2010

Mugwort (artemesia asiatica) 쑥

In the  ebente-tang (이벤트 탕) last Thursday, the essence of the day was mugwort (쑥) which is a coincidence.  This plant has a long and extensive history in both the east and west and being Spring, it is currently readily available in street markets and from the elderly women who sit on pavements with a small selection of vegetables.

I bought a very large bagful for 2000Won (£1 sterling) which I washed, drained and put straight in the freezer. Now, to be honest, I’m not sure how it is used but a quick search revealed one use is in soups. Immediately, I added some to my bean paste soup (된장 찌개)  which I was making for breakfast. Don’t be fooled into think I’m a health freak, I had a BHC fried chicken last night, with a complimentary bottle of cola! My initial reactions to the mugwort were good but I’ll need to try it again.

Mugwort is also known as Felon Herb, Chrysanthemum Weed, Wild Wormwood, Old uncle Henry, Sailor’s Tobacco, Naughty Man, Old Man or St. John’s Plant. Korean uses it to colour some types of rice cake green and it is known as a blood cleanser. It is also used in the production of the small cigar shaped burners used in the oriental medical practice of moxibustion.  The genus, artemisia, is extensive and one type, artemisia absinthiumm, is used in the production of absinthe, the oil of the plant giving this powerful drink, among other things,  its rich green colour.

Absinthe

Mugwort pillows, also known as dream pillows,  basically a pillow slip filled with mugwort, can apparently induce vivid and even prophetic dreams. I’m skeptical when it comes to ‘crystal crap’ so in my trawling for information on various aspects of mugwort, I fell upon a youtube video by ‘New Age Goddess, Djuna Wojton,’ which was too good to ignore. Djuana is a typical Earth Mother eccentric who is both entertaining and somewhat charismatic, so you can try the link and learn how to make yourself a mugwort pillow – which I intend to do when the market is next in town.

Interesting links for Mugwort:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_vulgaris

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mugwor61.html

http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_mugwort.htm

Absinthehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absinthe