LEAVES POWERHOUSES OF LIFE
DR.S.M ALAM AND DR. M.A KHAN
Nov 1 - 7, 2010
The chlorophyll in green leaves forms the basis for all life on Earth. Without it, life as we know it would not exist. There might be a few chemosynthetic bacteria left, since these can obtain energy from chemical reactions other than photosynthesis. Virtually all life depends on that beautiful green chlorophyll molecule.
The chlorophyll pigment is concentrated in the leaves of plants - though it is also present in other parts such as the stems of many herbaceous plants, flower buds and certain fruits and occasionally roots. The chlorophyll molecule is responsible for trapping the sun's energy; and this solar energy is converted to chemical energy in the form of glucose using carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and water (H2O) from the soil. This glucose is then transported all round the plant for use as required.
Some is oxidized for energy, some is stored as insoluble starch when it is not required immediately. Some is converted into cellulose to make new plant structures e.g. more leaves, stems, flowers, roots. Some is taken to fruits and accumulated there. Some is used to make proteins utilising nitrogen from the soil.
All plants live and grow by photosynthesis. The only exceptions to this are extreme parasites such as dodder (which have lost their chlorophyll) and saprophytes such as the ghost orchid, most fungi, and bacteria. The saprophytes feed off dead and decaying vegetation, whilst the parasites feed off living plants and so both are dependant on green plants and chlorophyll, even though they do not possess it. Green plants are the primary producers as a result of their wonderful greenness. Many animals - including humans - eat plants. Some animals eat other animals, but if we follow the food chain back, we will find that green plants are always at the base. Animals and plants die and decay, releasing minerals into the soil and CO2 into the air for green plants to use for photosynthesis. Thus, the cycle continues, and we all (except a few bacteria) need green plants. If green plants were to suddenly disappear, then so would virtually all life on Earth - including Homo Sapiens. Green leaves are thus the powerhouses - the great driving force for life on earth. Photosynthesis is the life generating chemical process. Chlorophyll is thus the Molecule of Life.
1. VITAL LIFE ENERGY: When we eat a leaf we are taking into our body - into our very being - that wonderful source of energy and vitality that powers life on earth. It is no coincidence that the hemoglobin molecule (which is responsible for carrying oxygen in our blood and distributing it to all our cells - as well as picking up CO2 and taking it back to the lungs for excretion - is very similar in structure to that of chlorophyll. The main difference is that hemoglobin contains iron whilst chlorophyll contains magnesium. Some people even believe that by eating chlorophyll you actually make hemoglobin directly!
Freshly picked raw leaves in particular are teeming with activity and vitality. Kirlian photography can measure this vitality, or life force, and it reduces when an individual plant or animal becomes sick or very old. Leaves that have been picked and stored for a while, or leaves which have been cooked or dried, will have much less vitality, but will still be very beneficial.
The chlorophyll molecule itself is very soothing and healing and is useful in healing wounds. It is also a wonderful de-odouriser and can help to remove unpleasant smells from the gut.
2. VITAMINS AND MINERALS: When first changing from an animal based to a plant based diet, people often wonder where they will obtain their minerals, vitamins, protein, and fats. Green leaves will provide most of the nutrients that we require. Of all the many foods, green leaves are actually the richest in vitamins and minerals. Green leaves are the foods richest in easily utilised calcium. On a dry weight basis, chemical analysis shows that most plant leaves are actually as rich or richer in calcium than cow's milk. This may come as a surprise to most people - but the figures are official. Cow's (or goat's) milk is in fact not a very good source of calcium at all because milk is very mucus -forming and tends to generate large amounts of sticky mucus in the gut. This mucus interferes with digestion and absorption, so the calcium it contains is not well utilised. In addition to this, calcium requires magnesium for its utilisation in the body - without sufficient magnesium, calcium cannot be utilised properly. Milk is a poor source of magnesium, while green leaves, are a rich source of both calcium and magnesium together. Also, unlike milk, green leaves are very clean, light foods which the body finds easy to handle, and they actually help to clear the body of mucous and toxins.
Green leaves are also extremely rich sources of potassium - a mineral that tends to be lacking in the processed diet of industrial society. The potassium and sodium are in balance, there being much more potassium than sodium - which is the natural order of things.
Processing foods tends to leach out the mineral rich and potassium rich part, and piles on lots of sodium in the form of salt, sodium bicarbonate (bicarbonate of soda) and various other sodium salts. This excess of sodium causes serious imbalance in the body resulting in numerous health problems. Green leaves are a very rich source of iron. They are also good sources of zinc, manganese cobalt, copper and many other minerals that we need, but tend not to think much about. Green leaves are a rich source of the whole B complex (except perhaps B12 - which can be obtained by other means - see later). Pregnant women are often advised to take vitamin supplements, and especially folic acid, in order to prevent Spina bifida in babies. All they have to do, of course, is make sure they eat a salad every day since, of course, foliage is the best source of folic acid. The B complex is involved in many different bodily functions, but two of the most important ones are:
1. MAINTAINING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM.
Green leaves are the richest sources of carotene, or pro-vitamin A, from which the body easily makes as much vitamin A as it needs. Pure vitamin A or retinol (found in animal products) is highly toxic if eaten to excess - Arctic explorers have been known to die from vitamin A and vitamin D poisoning after eating the livers of polar bears since this is where these vitamins are stored in particularly high concentration. Carotene is totally non toxic and in fact is very beneficial and healing in large quantities. It is a very useful antioxidant vitamin in these days of high pollution. I have heard of children going blind in India because they did not have enough vitamin A in their diet. No - they do not need high-tech eye operations - all they need is green leaves to restore their sight.
2. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: Although leaves are very low in fats, the small amounts of fat that they do contain tend to consist of the essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid. These are essential for the health of the immune system and in making cell membranes.
3. PROTEINS: And, believe it or not, green leaves contain a fair amount of top quality protein. On a dry weight basis, leaves are about 25 per cent protein, so they are comparable to beans here. And, unlike the storage proteins of most seeds, which tend to be somewhat short of one or more essential amino acid, green leaves are high in all of these substances. The reason for this is that leaf protein is actually in the form of enzymes (biological catalysts which speed up and direct biochemical reactions such as those responsible for photosynthesis, respiration, digestion and so on.). These are the many enzymes that work with that wonderful chlorophyll molecule in the process of photosynthesis.
4. FIBRE: Leaves are an excellent source of healthy fibre. Lack of fibre (usually due to a diet of processed foods and animal products) causes pain, constipation, and disease. Adequate fibre results in regular soft stools and health. The fibre in leaves is particularly beneficial and much healthier than excessive amounts of bran (from wheat) which can act as an intestinal irritant. In fact, the fibre present in fresh raw leaves encourages the "friendly" lactobacteria - mainly lactobacillus acidophilus in the intestines to proliferate and grow there. These bacteria thrive on green stuff. Bowel toxins are a major cause of disease in Western Society - and can even result in colon cancer. It is often said that disease starts in a toxic colon.
5. MEDICINES: In addition to using green leaves as a food, specific green leaves make excellent natural medicines. Leaves generally are very cleansing, healing soothing and revitalising as well as being very nourishing. A green leaf juice is in fact an excellent nutritional supplement, and such juices are often used in natural therapies, including in the treatment of cancer. Specific leaves are good for specific things. For example, dandelions and chicory are good for the liver and kidneys and are good blood purifiers. Dandelions are also good diuretics, but, unlike diuretic drugs which deplete the body of minerals especially potassium, dandelions are so high in potassium and other minerals that the body has a considerable positive gain in potassium despite the diuretic effect. Nettles are good blood purifiers and help in the treatment of Arthritis. Mint and fennel leaves contain aromatic oils which help with the digestion of food and also dispel intestinal gases. The juice from comfrey leaves and or Aloe Vera leaves applied directly to a wound, burn or ulcer, will greatly speed up the healing process.
It is the chlorophyll in green leaves, which is responsible for virtually all life on earth. No green leaves - no life. Leaves are the power houses of the plants where sunlight energy is transformed into plant energy. And, when we eat leaves we eat this energy, vitality, life-force and power which has wonderful energising properties for our whole beings. If we eat a leaf - we take in life.