Commercial growth of soybeans dates back to as early as the 11 B.C. when the Chinese cultivated it on large tracts of land. While the Chinese called soybean as the ‘greater bean’, it is also known as the ‘meat devoid of bones’. The inventive American Ben Franklin, who was highly flabbergasted with tofu – a cheese made by the Chinese from soybeans – introduced the plant in the United States in the 18th century. He had shipped some beans from Paris and distributed them among the American farmers in Pennsylvania. And today, soybean is definitely among the largest and most extensively cultivated as well as used legume worldwide.
Similar to all other beans, soybeans too grow in pods. While the most common variety of soybeans is the green ones, it can also be found in yellow, brown and black colors. Over the ages, soy has been known to be an exceedingly wholesome foodstuff. What drew the interest of the Western researchers towards soy is when they found that people sustaining on Asian diets had lesser chances of suffering from heart diseases compared to those habituated to the usual Western food. In addition, they had noticed that people having Asian food were less susceptible to diseases like cancer and osteoporosis as well as hormonal problems than their Western counterparts.
Soy is a perennial plant whose growth ranges between one and five feet. The stems of the plant are vertical and partial shadowy with trifoliate leaves coated with delicate and softy hair. Soy plant flowers are either white or purple in color and each oblong-shaped pod hold up to four yellow to brownish beans or seeds.
Researches have shown that when taken in as a food, soy has numerous fabulous health advantages. Interestingly, soy is not expensive, but contains superior value plant proteins that are rich in vitamin and mineral content. These plant proteins contain excessive fiber that dissolves in the digestive system, organic omega-3 fatty acids and most significantly helps the body with multiple phytonutrients that help to combat diseases. Scientific researches have shown that soy is one of the well-off nutritional resources of potent health-endorse phytoestrogens. Researchers have acknowledged the medicinal values of soy in averting diseases like cardiovascular disorders, cancer and osteoporosis. Soy is also of immense benefits to the women as it helps in alleviating menopausal symptoms and PMS.
All these notwithstanding, the greatest benefit derived from soy is its use in healing cardiovascular diseases. While this quality of soy has been decisively established, researchers have also conducted widespread examination on soy’s usefulness in lowering the cholesterol levels in the blood vessels. One of these studies has illustrated 38 different chemical analyses. It shows that consuming soy protein has led to remarkable drop in the overall cholesterol level (9.3%), Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (12.9%), and triglycerides (10.5%). However, this study noted a very insignificant rise in High-density lipoproteins (HDL). The research also found that if women in the pre-menopausal stage consumed soy it would largely help in avoiding hazards for coronary artery diseases, strokes as well as cardiovascular disorders.
Researches have established soy as a powerful food that helps to fight diseases like cancer and numerous ingredients of soy has depicted anti-carcinogenic results. These soy ingredients comprise phytosterols, saponins, phenolic acids, phytic acid, isoflavones and protease inhibitors. Genistein and daidzein, two isoflavones present in soy, are worth mentioning as they comprise the primary food source of soy diets and, at the same time, they function as feeble estrogens in the body. Although the scientists are yet to completely ascertain their consequences in the human body, it has been established that they can contend with estrogens taking place naturally in the body and facilitate in averting breast and prostate cancers that are dependent on the hormones.
Normally, the isoflavones are attached to different places on the cell’s outer covering where one would usually find hormones that kindle tumor development in the body. Apart from impeding the activities of the powerful hormones produced by the body naturally, genistein are also helpful in restraining the actions of the enzymes that promote the development of blood clots and tumors inside the body. Although different scientific researches relating to consumption of soy vis-à-vis breast cancer have shown diverse results, it is an established fact the women in the Asian countries who intake substantial amounts of soy in their diets have six times lesser chances of having breast cancer compared to their counterparts in the Western countries who seldom consume soy.
Some researches had claimed that excessive intake of soy often helped in people becoming senile. Fortunately, such researches were found to be baseless and finally invalidated. However, it is a fact that people consuming substantial amounts of soy in their diets have lesser degrees of dementia compared to those who do not intake soy.
Scientific researches have shown that soy is also beneficial in healing menopausal symptoms. During an experiment carried on some women, a group of researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy offered them either 60 grams of soy protein or a similar looking panacea prepared from dried milk protein every day for 12 consecutive weeks. Significantly, the researchers found that the women who consumed soy complained of smaller number of burning sensations and sweating during night time than the women who were given the milk protein panacea. It was found that the estrogen-like isoflavones contained in soy were accountable for the difference in reactions between the two groups of women. Scientifically speaking, there is a fall in the normal intensity of estrogen in a woman during her menopause and in this situation isoflavones are said to facilitate in raising the estrogen levels. Researches have proved that as soy functions like estrogens, it is also beneficial in maintaining the strength of bones and helps in keep away from osteoporosis.
The Chinese as well as the Japanese knew about the dietary and medicinal advantages of soy for long and cultivated it since the 11 century B.C. While soy is also referred to as the ‘cow of China’, in Japan people scatter or spread out lucky roasted soy beans in their homes during the Setsubun festival in early spring with a view to protect against malevolence as also to usher in the new year with joy and cheerfulness. According to the Japanese tradition, people consume a quantity of these roasted soy beans that is corresponding to their respective ages with the hope of wellbeing during the ensuing year. There are numerous substances that comprise soy-based proteins and they include glycerin, soaps, paints, linoleum, rubber substitutes, ink, enamel, varnishes and even artificial petroleum.
As mentioned earlier, isoflavones, the most important ingredient found in soy, usually attach itself to the estrogen receptor sites – like the cell membranes – in the body. These plant estrogens, also known as phytoestrogens, have great therapeutic value and are generally used to heal menopausal indications like hot flashes and also stave off bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Herbal physicians also use soy to restrain hormone-dependent, especially estrogen-dependent, cancers like breast and ovarian cancers as well as prostate malevolencies.
There is ample evidence that soy constituents like isoflavones, genistein and daidzein impede the development of natural estrogens in the body and protect from their damaging consequences. At the same time, soy provides the advantages of additional estrogen. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has approved dietary products having 6.25 grams of soy protein for every serving as a preventive measure for heart diseases as well as cure for lower cholesterol levels in the system. Most importantly, soybeans contain great nutritional value and are abounding in protein, minerals and fiber. Owing to its high fiber content, soy is also useful in treating intestinal problems like constipation and bowel disorders.
Despite the fact that soy only has moderate therapeutic functions, it is very effective in exciting the blood circulations as well as acts as a common detoxicant against most venomous substances. Chinese herbal physicians use the sprouts of soy to aid in alleviating ‘summer heat’ and fevers.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Soy is native to east Asia. This useful herb is now cultivated in Europe and in the United States.
Orange flower cleansing cream
Orange flower cleansing cream is among the herbal cleansers that are perfect for dry as well as normal skin conditions. The ingredients required to prepare this recipe include:
- 1 oz (25 ml) orange flower water
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) beeswax
- 1 oz (25 ml) almond oil
- 1 oz (25 g) cocoa butter
- 5 drops of essential oil of neroli
- 1 oz (25 ml) soya oil
To prepare this herbal cleanser, you first need to mix all the oils and warm them. Next, liquefy the cocoa butter in a separate pot, add it into the oils and stir the blend. Thaw the beeswax next, mix it with the oil blend and continue stirring. Add the orange flower water to the mixture and allow it to condense and cool down. Keep whipping the essential oil while the mixture condenses and put it into a jar using a spoon. It is worth mentioning here that neroli encourages the development of new skin cells.