Decoding Longevity Diet: The Herbal Secrets of Blue Zones


The explorer-turned-journalist who once unearthed and reported on these discoveries is now an expert on Blue Zones, even establishing a company to promote this lifestyle through experiential camps. Recently, Netflix revisited the stories of these long-lived individuals from Blue Zones, sparking renewed public interest in unraveling the mysteries of these areas.

The dietary and lifestyle habits of the world's longevity regions primarily reside in Japan's Okinawa, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, and Loma Linda, California in the United States (known for its large Seventh-day Adventist population where about half the residents are vegetarians). Apart from Loma Linda, all these regions are islands, where residents lead modest, labor-intensive lives, mostly engaged in farming, fishing, and shepherding.

Longevity Diet in Blue Zones: The Presence of Medicinal Herbs

They found that people in these areas consume minimal red meat, only 2-3 times a week, but regularly include a small handful of nuts and beans in their daily diet, moderate amounts of red wine, a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, and use olive oil in their cooking. Additionally, they have a tradition of incorporating special herbal teas into their diets. Japanese prefer green tea and mugwort, while inhabitants of the Mediterranean region favor wild dandelion, rosemary, sage, and oregano. These herbal teas contribute to reducing inflammation, decreasing free radicals, and residents often include various kale, turnip greens, and nettle leaves in their diets, particularly as kale and turnip greens from the cruciferous family possess anticancer properties.

1. Mugwort

It aids in promoting blood circulation and digestion, alleviating irregular menstruation, menstrual pain, and hypertension. As a dietary therapy, consuming small amounts is acceptable, but it's advisable to avoid it during pregnancy or for those with heavy menstrual flow due to its essential oil's neurotoxicity, which is not recommended.

2. Dandelion

All parts—flower, leaves, and roots—are precious. A study in the Journal of Nutritional Ecology and Food Research in 2016 found that dandelion root and leaves significantly lower blood sugar, aiding in controlling diabetes. The study involved 60 individuals aged 40-70 with type 2 diabetes, divided into three groups. The first group consumed 5 grams of dandelion leaf powder daily, the second group 5 grams of dandelion root powder, while the third group served as the control, receiving no treatment. The study, lasting only 9 days due to the third group's lack of treatment, showcased a remarkable difference in fasting blood sugar levels.

Fasting blood sugar in the first group decreased from 192 to 135 mg/dL, and in the second group from 189 to 154 mg/dL, whereas the third group experienced an increase in blood sugar levels. Both dandelion leaf and root intake showed similar blood sugar reduction effects within a short period. I come from a family with a genetic predisposition to diabetes, yet I've been consuming my own formula of dandelion tea, and even after 50, my blood sugar remains stable.

Moreover, dandelion is crucial for detoxification. In traditional Chinese medicine, it's described as having the functions of clearing heat, detoxification, and dispersing swellings. Western research also reveals its benefits in diuretic action, blood purification, strengthening liver and kidney detoxification, accelerating the metabolism and elimination of drugs and chemicals, reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, jaundice, stones, stabilizing blood sugar, eczema, chronic arthritis. However, it's not recommended for individuals with biliary obstruction.

3. Rosemary

In Shakespeare's works, rosemary was cited as the plant that preserves memory and aids digestion. It's used in meat dishes not only to remove odor but also to promote the digestion of fats and proteins. Some studies have found that inhaling rosemary essential oil can enhance cognitive abilities and improve mathematical skills. Applying rosemary essential oil to the scalp can also stimulate hair growth and alleviate scalp itching.

4. Sage

Some varieties bloom with pink flowers, while others display blue blooms. Blue sage is suitable for calming and astringent properties, while pink sage has better blood purifying abilities. In Latin, 'Officinalis' refers to medicine, denoting medicinal and health effects. The Latin name for sage, 'Salvia,' derives from the English 'to be saved,' symbolizing preservation. Famously cooked with meats, sage aids in digesting fats and lowers cholesterol. It's also a liver-protecting herb, possesses antiseptic properties, and when combined with thyme, it's often used as a mouthwash to alleviate pain during colds, sore throats, and pharyngitis.

Note: Nursing mothers should avoid using sage as it can lead to weaning. Individuals prone to seizures, such as epilepsy patients, and pregnant women should also avoid using sage essential oil.

Recent studies have found that sage essential oil and sage extracts contain 'anti-acetylcholinesterase agents' and abundant antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances.

5. Oregano

Commonly used in Italian cuisine, known as the 'pizza herb' for its spicy taste. Among all the herbs mentioned, oregano exhibits the best antiviral and antibacterial properties. Its essential oil can be stimulating, but because of its antibacterial, antiviral, and analgesic effects, local use shouldn't exceed 0.5%.

6. Nettle Leaves

Anti-inflammatory, diuretic, nourishing for the blood, and body purification; frequently used for gout, arthritis, itchy skin, allergies, atopic dermatitis, swollen glands, urinary stones, urethritis, excessive vaginal secretions, endometriosis, and blood sugar stabilization.

These herbal insights from Blue Zones illustrate a holistic approach to longevity, incorporating natural remedies into daily diets and lifestyles, enhancing overall health and wellness."


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