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Sunday, December 21, 2008


If there is such a thing as comfort herb like there is comfort food, then rosemary must be it. How to describe the fragrance that comes off a sprig of rosemary with its essential oils drawn to the surface by the caress of sunshine and the kisses of the breeze. Unlike thyme, which clambers and falls in unruly heaps, rosemary grows in neat little bushes and stays resolutely inside its pot. If treated as it wants to be treated, rosemary rewards the gardener with new shoots everyday that broaden into fat leaves glistening with microscopic droplets of oil. Then, all a human need do is to brush the leaves lightly with a loving hand and the rosemary will impart its perfume willingly to that soft touch. 

It seems that these oils that humans so prize from the rosemary, are actually waste products produced by the plant's metabolism. In theory, oxygen is a waste product of plant metabolism too... and essential to human life! Rosemary oils are potent anti-fungal agents. As such, it may be used in a variety of ways to enhance human health. People with oily scalp tend to lose hair because a type of fungus that feeds on hair oil colonizes the scalp and puts many hair follicles out of active duty. For this reason, rosemary has been used in treatments for balding. A good wash with rosemary tea or diluted rosemary oil invigorates the scalp by killing the fungus that all have, but few are aware of.

Others are plagued with flatulence that arises specifically because of an overgrowth of the fungus called "candida albicans". The condition is named candidiasis. The symptoms are embarassing and uncomfortable, for no one likes to feel like one is breathing from the wrong aperture, but the cure is as simple as rosemary tea, 3 times a day until symptoms subside. It helps to eat yoghurt with live cultures at the same time. You see, yeast and bacteria all reside in our digestive tract. After a long course of antibiotics, the good bacteria in our gut, that competes for sugars with the yeast, get killed. Then the balance in our digestive system goes out of whack. The yeast get the run of the place and they multiply quickly. We all know that as yeast consumes sugars, carbon dioxide is given off - hence the embarassing flatulence. And not only is there flatulence, but the body begins to feel extremely tired as the toxins released by the yeast circulates in our bodies. No, no... too much yeast is no good for us. 

What is most unfortunate is that in women, the yeast that overgrows in the digestive tract, sometimes makes it into the vaginal tract. This leads to extremely uncomfortable sensations. Again, a good douche with rosemary tea can clear the fungal infection. Enter rosemary tea and a good dollop of unsweetened yoghurt 3 times a day, to be taken after a long course of antibiotic. This way, candidiasis is warded off even before it starts.

But the best use I make of rosemary tea is to feed a hungry family addicted to spaghetti bolognaise. You will be amazed at the fragrance of spaghetti sauce that is perfumed with a few sprigs of rosemary.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Whitefly are teeny weeny little white flying bugs that feed on plant sap. They look like nothing at all - small, white and innocent, but let me tell you that they have killed many of my plants. One adult whitefly lays about 300 hundred eggs, ALL of which hatch into hungry little wingless "nothings-at-all". For the plant it's like death from a thousand cuts.

Whitefly are little plant vampires. They swarm about their host and suck it dry of plant sap. It doesn't matter that you're a tall and majestic clump of bamboo. They'll still get you and draw the life sap outta you, slowly and hungrily. First, your leaves will dry up and look anaemic. Then, your leaves will drop. And as each whitefly feeds and lays more eggs on you, you will begin to look like you're covered in little white bumps. Each white bump a little whitefly baby suckling at your plant juice mercilessly. Then, you will die. When you do, the swarms of whitefly that lived off the last of your blood sap fly off to find another host.

I hate them little whiteflies and their babies!

I have declared war on them. I hunt down the little white guerrillas relentlessly with my spray gun filled with oil+soap+water mix. I examine the underleaf of every beloved plant for evidence of eggs and hungry whitefly babies. Anything that looks even remotely like a whitefly something gets thoroughly sprayed with the mix. The oily film sprayed on their bodies suffocates them and they die a horrifying whitefly death. I even mix up pails of tobacco tea and feed it to my plants so that any whitefly that sucks on their sap kicks the bucket from nicotine high. Better them than my plants, I say. But I never use tobacco tea with edibles because nicotine in high doses also kills humans!

I've been at war for months. I thought it would be quick victory with my air power (spray gun) my chemical weapons (nicotine tea), but these adversaries are still around. I cannot let my guard down, nor can I withdraw troops. Any slight lapses in my attention, and they gain ground on me. So onwards I march with my trusty spray gun, and by now, the people at 7 Eleven think that I am nicotine addict smoking 5 bags of tobacco leaves every week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Kapok Tree

The Husband took leave today. Little Boy and I were thrilled to bits. We decided to give ourselves a day off too, and make like tourists in Singapore. We went to the Botanic Gardens. Now that we have a garden, the Botanic Gardens look different to our eyes. We notice how flowers are structured. We look at soil. We touch leaves. We open seed pods and examine seeds. And we can discern the different shades of green. To be sure too, the Botanic Gardens are far more beautiful today than 10 years ago. There were rock beds with running water, waterfalls, cosy cafes, manicured lawns, elegant ponds, fossilised tree trunks, fragrant herbs...

But what most took our breaths away has been there all along. For the first time in my life, I noticed The Kapok Tree. Oh yes... THE Kapok Tree. THE One that has been designated a Heritage Tree. I have a Kapok Tree in my garden but it sits in a pot and is about the height of Little Boy. THE Kapok Tree was enormous 10 times over. The height of its roots is twice The Husband's. To see the top of the tree, you lift your head up... and up... and up... and up again.

Ever since I started gardening, I sometimes think I can sense the thoughts of the plant. My little ones at home communicate to me their happiness or sadness or hunger for nutrients and water.
The Kapok Tree communicated a sense of wisdom and contented gentleness. It seemed happy to be there looking upon the world, basking in the tropical sun and simply just being BIG. It made me feel like going up to hug it, and pat it and tell it that I love it because it is all goodness and beauty and grand majesty.

But of course, The Husband thinks I am imagining things.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Batavia Salad

Salads are yummy. A bit of olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, salt, some drops of honey dribbled over crisp salad leaves and lunch is served. All by themselves, salad leaves make my mouth water. So, imagine my great pleasure when I discovered some salad seeds that could grow in our tropical clime. I was careful though. I placed them in a spot that gets the gentle morning sun, not the harsh afternoon sun. And this is what they look like now.

I look in on them every morning, and their perky leaves perk ME up too. It has been 5 weeks. I feel so impatient. There looks to be enough to make a meal but the instructions on the packet stated that they're ready to eat in 60 days. So, I have 3 more weeks to go. These days, the leaves look so attractive that I pop in on them twice a day. Once in the morning and once at dusk.

It is terribly hard to refrain myself from digging them up for dinner. Yes, very very hard.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Our family has this really unorthodox method of throwing off a flu before it has a chance to start up. At the very first few sneezes, my husband will request for the family goldenseal treatment.This consists of having him lie down with his head tipped over the edge of the mattress so that I can look into his nostrils as I stand over him. I then use a dropper to drip diluted goldenseal tincture into his nose - 2 drops at a time into each nostril. The first 2 drops that touch the nasal membranes will smart... not as painful as when you put antiseptic on a cut, but not pleasant either. I try to put 12 drops into each nostril so as to be thorough. It is really extremely effective because the goldenseal tincture solution contains a substance called berberine, which has been shown to both kill bacteria as well as inhibit the adhesion of pathogens to the mucous membranes. On top of that, it acts to soothe already inflamed mucous membranes.

The first time I carried out the treatment, my husband needed a lot of coaxing. But only that one time. He was so happy that I had saved him from a full blown flu, with fever and chills that he has repeatedly requested for this really strange and unpleasant treatment.

I even experimented with goldenseal on some eczema I occasionally get. I had one patch of skin which stayed red and itchy for many weeks. I soaked a cotton pad with goldenseal and taped it there for 20 minutes. After about 6 applications over the course of 2 days, the itchy patch completely disappeared. My mother-in-law had a fungal infection on her skin that went away after consistent application of goldenseal. So too did my husband's itchy patch.

Goldenseal has become an important part of my family's pharmacopeia. 2 bottles sit in a privileged spot in my fridge like firemen ready to swing into action when my family needs to fight a new flu, or when anyone has conjunctivitis or eczema.