The tree known as the carob is an indigenous evergreen tree of the Mediterranean region and some parts of Western Asia and the Middle East. The carob is cultivated primarily in Mediterranean countries these days; most of the world's carob production comes from these countries. Carob plants bear pods which are used for various purposes. The carob is an evergreen tree that bears pods in season. A kind of gum known as the locust bean gum is obtained from the seeds of the carob. The carob is a large evergreen tree that can reach thirty ft or ten m in height when fully grown. The carob possesses compound leaves, bears green colored flowers and large violet brown colored fruiting bodies called bean pods or carob pods. The carob was traditionally used as a food and animal feed in countries bordering the Mediterranean. The carob pods were believed to be the food that the biblical John the Baptist ate in the wild, for this reason, the carob is also known as the St. John's bread. In Mediterranean countries, carob pods have historically been employed in the treatment of diarrhea.
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On analysis, the principal chemical constituents of the carob pods were found to be largely sugars - carbohydrates and plant pigments known as tannins. The reason for the gummy feel of the carob is due to the presence of large amounts of different sugars, when the contents of the pods are eaten, this gum acts like a thickener helping the body in retaining water and thus binding together watery stools produced during diarrhea. The insoluble nature of the tannins found in the carob means that they do not bind proteins as some other plant tannins will. However, the tannins found in the carob do bind some toxins, and thereby inactivate these toxins in the body. The tannins found in the carob also inhibit the growth of bacteria in the body; these two actions of the tannins found in carob are equally beneficial in the treatment of diarrhea and related digestive disorders. The food in the stomach is made more viscous by the dietary fiber and the sugars found in the carob and this interferes with problems such as acid reflux into the esophagus - a common disorder.
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Carob pods were also used in ancient Egypt, where the pulp of the pods was mixed in porridge, with a little honey, and wax as a treatment for diarrhea and other digestive disorders. Carob pods were also used in recipes for expelling intestinal worms, and were used in the treatment of poor eyesight and various eye infections. Carob as a remedy was also written about by the 1st century AD, Greek physician Dioscorides, he wrote that the carob can help bring relief from stomach pain and is useful in settling the digestive system. The carob also had a place in the rites and rituals of the early Christian Church - as it was associated with John the Baptist. The carob pulp has traditionally been used as a sweet food and a traditional alcoholic drink was made using the pods. The carob pulp in the form of flour also forms the basis for many kinds of drinks flavored using cocoa.
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As they are high in sugar content, the carob pods are considered to be very nutritious, these sweet tasting pods also have a mildly laxative effect. However, an herbal decoction made from the pulp is also an effective anti-diarrhea medication, the decoction gently cleanses the gut and helps relieve irritation within the digestive system. While these effects of the carob on the body may appear to be contradictory, it is simply an example of how the human body can responds to different herbal medicines in different ways - the body may respond according to how the herbal remedy was prepared and sometime it may respond according to the specific medical disorder and the way it affects the body. Carob tree bark has a very strong astringent action, an herbal carob bark decoction can be taken to alleviate diarrhea. The treatment of a persistent cough is also carried out using remedies made from the seedpods of the carob. The ripe seedpods are prepared into herbal flour, which acts as a demulcent and an emollient. This flour can also be eaten as treatment for persistent diarrhea affecting a person.
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The carob seedpod flour is used in the cosmetic industry mainly in the manufacture of herbal face-pack - these have a cleansing and toning effect on the skin. The carob bark is also a source for tannin. The wood of the carob is hard and has a lustrous quality. The carob wood is highly valued by wood turners; the wood is mainly employed in marquetry work and for making walking sticks.
The carob tree is a native species of southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa - all Mediterranean regions. The tree grows well in warm temperate climates and one traditional belief is that the tree is said to "want sight of the sea" to grow well. The carob tree is mainly cultivated for its fruit though the bark is used in preparing herbal remedies; the pods are harvested late in the summer and in the fall.
For good growth, the carob tree prefers sites that have good exposure to sunlight. Good growth is also ensured by planting trees any well drained and moderately fertile soils that should not be water logged. The carob tree grows well in soils that are rich in calcium, have good gravel or are rocky. The carob tree tolerates air that is salt laden and moist. The pH range tolerated by the carob tree is a mildly acidic 6.2 to an alkaline 8.6. Carob trees are quite resistant to drought and can grow well even in arid climates. In dry areas, the roots of the carob tree penetrate deep underground to reach for water.
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Carob trees are usually cultivated in many warm temperate zones of the world primarily for the edible seeds and the sweet seed pods. In a normal year, the fully mature carob tree grown under suitable environment conditions can yield up to 400 kilos of seedpods. Carob trees come in many varieties; some of these have thicker pods with more of the gum. Carob seeds have great uniformity in size and weight. The seeds of the carob tree were the original 'carat' weight used by ancient jewelers in the near east.
The carob tree has developed a symbiotic relationship with certain types of bacteria in the soil. The bacteria in the soil form nodules on the tree roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen into an inorganic form. The growing carob tree utilizes some of this fixed nitrogen but some of the inorganic nitrogen is also utilized by other plants growing near the tree.
The carob tree is propagated using seeds. The seeds to be sown must be soaked for twenty four hours in warm water before they are sown on the ground. Seeds that are soaked must be swollen, if the soaked seeds are not swollen, they should be given another round of soaking in warm water they swell up. The seeds can be sown inside a greenhouse in April. Seeds normally germinate within two months of being sown. Once the seeds germinate, and as soon as they are become large enough to handle by hand, each of the seedlings can be pricked the out into individual deep pots and then grown in a greenhouse the first winter. In the late spring or early summer of the next year, the seedlings can be planted outside in their permanent positions only after the time of the last expected frosts has passed. To ensure the health of plants during their few winters out of doors, some protection from the cold needs to be provided to the plants.
Children are normally given fifteen grams of the carob powder mixed with some apple sauce. The ideal adult dosage is a minimum of twenty grams of the carob powder daily. Carob powder can be added to some applesauce or eaten along with sweet potatoes. Ideally, the carob must be consumed along with a lot of water. Carob is not to be administered without medical supervision to infants, cases of infant diarrhea should always be monitored by an experienced health care professional and in all cases, the proper hydration of the infant using a high electrolyte fluid is critical particularly so in the event of acute diarrhea affecting the child.
The carob is normally considered to be one of the safest herbal medicines. There are very rare reports of people having developed allergic reactions to the remedy made from carob.
The "delights" of Ayurvedic cuisine are tasty treasures that simultaneously gratify, nourish, strengthen and heal the human body. The taste of this carob delight is as carefully balanced as its ingredients. This delicious drink is bound to please children and adults.
Crush the cardamom pods in a mortar and simmer in the water for 10 minutes. Pour about a quarter of the water into a mixing bowl with the carob powder and beat with a whisk. Add the rest of the water, then the milk, stir very well and return to the pot. Bring the delight to a boil, let it cool and strain it. Sweeten it with honey or cane sugar.
This recipe comes from the tradition of the Golden Temple Meals. The Golden Temple, the holiest site of the Sikhs, is located in Amritsar in the Punjab. Traditionally, at the gates of the temple, a langar, a free feast, is served to the poor. About ten thousand meals are served there every day. Inspired by the wave of Indian lore that flooded Europe and the United States in the seventies and eighties, several Golden Temple restaurants were opened on both continents. Using the recipes of the langar, these places serve food and beverages to the poor.