Friday, 20 August 2010

Of Mutants and Agents

Remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Well, they were GOOD mutants, weren't they?

We all know that turtles become slow beings when they reach turtle-adulthood, and even when they are in their turtle-teens, they would have slowed down alot from when they were turtle-babies.

So how could they have become fast-moving ninjas fighting urban crime, alien invaders etc.?

Well, what happened was some part of the DNA in their cells mutated.

Changed in form, that is.

So what is DNA? Well, I haven't seen it for myself really but they say it's something in our cells that looks like a spiral staircase. Somehow this spiral entity stores all the information - the genes -  that defines each one of us as a creation of God.

I have straight hair because that's written in my DNA - I have the straight-hair gene.  I will have wavy hair only if the straight-hair gene mutates into a wavy-hair gene. Which can't be bad if I have the face to go with it but it doesn't really matter much either.

Mutation can be good however, in particular when it helps the mutant cope with his environments eg. colder winter temperatures, or thinner air or even life in the New York sewers, for the ninja turtles.

Sometimes though mutation can be bad. This happens when the body does not adapt well to the change and may then become susceptible to serious diseases, like cancer.

Remember the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And the Chernobyl nuclear fall-out? The radio-active material from these blasts caused mutations on a mega scale.

But please do not think that we are safe from such hazards.

Mutations can also take place without us knowing.

Sometimes substances present in what we consume can cause genetic mutation.

Like undercover agents, these substances work invisibly as agents of mutation. They are called mutagenic substances. They cause genes to mutate.

So if we consume substances that are mutagenic, they may cause mutation in certain genes that have already adapted well to our body chemistry.

Oh yes, CANCER. The big C.

We have heard of carcinogens, haven't we? Those substances that can cause cancer?

They are in fact agents of cancer. Nicotine in cigarette smoke is an example.

Interestingly there are hard-core smokers who live well into their nineties without getting cancer. I believe it's because they have genes that have adapted to the smoky, tarry environment within their lungs. And I believe that they are the exceptions to the norm.

And I believe for many smokers, this protective gene(s), in the course of time mutate, due to the actions of certain mutagens in the body which are present by way of exposure to or consumption of mutagenic substances...

...which results in the body becoming susceptible to the carcinogens in cigarette smoke which is when the smoker may contract cancer.

What should be good for such smokers then (and also for the unfortunate people exposed to secondary smoke) is to consume agents that can PREVENT the mutation of their protective genes, so-called  ANTI-mutagenic substances.

Apparently, anti-mutagens exist. Take Japan, it is a nation of heavy smokers but it has one of the lowest rate of cancer occurrence in the world. (And the most ninjas?)

Anyway that, is my over-simplistic layman understanding of mutagens, carcinogens and anti-mutagens.

And why do I find them interesting?

It's because in the course of my looking-up on sirih (betel-leaf in English) for my previous post, I came across a  blog run by a Malaysian herbalist, it's called Sembang-sembang Herba.  The herbalist had argued that both sirih and it's accompaniment pinang (areca-nut) DO NOT cause cancer as is widely believed, based on their anti-mutagenic and non-carcinogenic properties.

Do go there, have a read and you'll learn that sirih and pinang are in fact anti-ageing too - just short of being aphrodisiacs. You'll learn an age-old secret or two there as well.

Another thing I came across is that the Burmese word for sirih is kunya and isn't it surprising that that is also the Malay word for "chew", chewing being the only way to enjoy sirih!

As to the query whether there is anything for women that works also on men, below is an excerpt of an article, also by the same herbalist.

"Herbs Suitable for Women may be Disastrous for Men

For men only.

Use the following herbs with cautions:

Stop taking them if you notice sign of breast enlargement: Saw Palmetto (anti-androgen), Fennel , Aniseed , Kacip Fatimah, Fenugreek, Licorice, Yucca, Pomegranate, and Red Clover .

However, not all herbs, commonly taken as food which contain estrogenic phytochemicals bring about breast enlargement effects (in both sexes) including banana, tomato, pomegranate, fenugreek, parsley, carrot, dill, onion, garlic, alfalfa, mungbean, oregano, fennel, aniseed, grapefruit, tarragon, soy."

OK, you may read further here

It was my hubby Red Alfa who made the above query, as he had discovered to his detriment how painful it was to over-indulge on soy-based protein supplements.

Back in the days (circa 2003) when he had just started bench-pressing in our bedroom, drinking protein supplements was part of his regime. Most sold on the market were whey-based, which he couldn't handle due to lactose intolerance which comes with having javanese roots and  by virtue of which soy would be a natural choice, so we thought.

And so he bought soya protein  at the pharmacist's a carton at a time and consumed them with relish.

But it was only when he started getting headaches akin to PMS migraines which made him demand a head scan at the hospital which revealed nothing, that we came across some information on the internet about the pre-cursors of estrogen that are present in soya that had affected him. Estrogen are female hormones and a true man wouldn't want to mess up his system with them. Fortunately they had only given him headaches and a new respect for women who suffer them. I'm not sure though whether any genes had mutated.

But tauhu, tempeh, and taucho do not have the same effect because of the fermentation process that the soya beans have been subjected to produce them. So it was a lesson learnt the painful way for hubby, who still has this habit of experimenting much too whole-heartedly with foodstuffs until they become "poisonous" to his body. Like eating menglembu groundnuts (read protein) by the packets every night after dinner until his gout played up. Or drinking UHT milk by the jugs until a trainer at the gym commented on his belly saying "AHA! YOU HAVE BEEN DRINKING MILK!" And now experimenting with mixing vegetable and fruit juices into yogurt and milk - and he seems to be tolerating that so far.

Here and here is where you can read up on the unwanted effects of soya - the question of which is an on-going controversy in the West actually.

Thanks for making it till the end of this post, do have a good weekend and for Muslims, it's the next 10 days before the last 10 days of Ramadhan, may it be good for you, Insya Allah.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Discovering Herbs Malaysiana - Part 2

Pala is nutmeg. Somehow Penang has become THE place to buy nutmegs, whether the preserve or the liniment oil. Some health effects (copied in whole from ):

  • "One of the interesting health benefits of nutmeg oil is its ability to stimulate the brain - it relieves stress and stimulates mental activity. It is even reputed to stimulate dreams. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it as a brain tonic despite the fact that it was quite rare and costly.
  • Nutmeg is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat joint and muscle pain. The oil works particularly well for this when it is massaged into the affected area. It is an integral herb in Chinese medicine where it is used for stomach pain and inflammation as well as reducing joint swelling.
  • In wholistic medicine it is considered an excellent liver tonic which can help remove toxins. Nutmeg oil is also a good herb for the kidney, helping it dissolve kidney stones as well as relieve infections.
  • Many believe that heart problems may also be alleviated by nutmeg, as it can help increase blood circulation and stimulate the cardio-vascular system. It is also good for digestion, getting rid of both gas and stomach aches and relieving vomiting, diarrhoea, and flatulence as well as encourage appetite.
  • Nutmeg can also help with respiratory problems such as a cough from the common cold. It is often found as an ingredient in cough syrups. It is also said to be able to help with asthma. However, this remains unsubstantiated by research.
  • While there are many health benefits of nutmeg, be careful not to take it in high doses. It can be toxic and can cause serious problems. Never consume more than 30 grams (around 6 tablespoons) in a day, and even this amount would be considered excessive."

Senduduk Putih is said to have high medicinal value and have been used to treat long-term coughing as well as delayed speech development in children. Including the usual diarrhoea and leucorrhea. A reader at shared this tip:

 "Senduduk putih liar yang tumbuh dalam hutan lebih baik untuk perubatan tp susah nak cari..senduduk memang bagus untuk kesihatan. dulu arwah ayah saya tak dapat jalan selama 1 tahun sb sakit sendi dan urat..ada orang bagi petua buat jus daun senduduk putih,senduduk merah dan senduduk gajah..blender semua daun tu dan minum 3 kali sehari..sebelum minum tu selawat 3kali dan niatlah kita minum jus tu untuk menyembuhkan penyakit..alhamdulilah setelah 2-3 bulan amal minum jus daun senduduk ayah saya boleh jalan semula..daun senduduk juga boleh ubati luka2 kecil dengan cara mengumpal daunnya hingga keluar air dan sapu pada luka.insyallah sekiranya kita berusaha pasti Allah akan sembuhkan penyakit kite..tak salah rasanya sy kongsi petua berharga ini demi kebaikan bersama..jangan pandang remeh pada pokok senduduk kerana masih banyak lagi khasiat yang belum kita ketahui."

 Limau Kasturi is just one of the many varieties of limes we have in Malaysia.  The other ones I know are limau nipis and limau purut, but with sambal belacan, limau kasturi is the limau of choice.  This reader shares how and why she uses limau kasturi:
"Saya amalkan minum bersama teh hijau 2 kali sehari, selain dapat menghalang kanser, mengandungi anti oksidan yang banyak, menguruskan badan, menghilangkan bau badan, ubat sembelit dan yang pasti mencantikkan kulit" (Source -

Some other types of lime are limau sundai, limau kambing or kerat lintang, limau pagar, limau mata kerbau, limau telur buaya, limau susu, limau pasir, limau hantu, limau kedangsa, limau celoreng, limau kuku harimau, limau mawar, limau kunci, limau lenang darat and limau manis.

There's an interesting article from NST written way back in 2005 about someone who was (am not sure whether still is) selling at the Chow Kit market a wide array of local fruits and herbs which are valued for their medicinal properties.  He had a farm growing all the above limes, some are used only by bomohs and silat gurus.

And as for Sirih Melayu, from the same site as above ( ) I extracted this:

  • "Dalam perubatan melayu, sirih yang terbukti secara saintifik mengandungi minyak sari (kadinen, kavikol, sineol, eugenol, karvakol) ini digunakan untuk mengubat penyakit-penyakit seperti keputihan, nafas berbau ,badan berbau, batuk, radang selaput lendir mata, trauchoma, jantung berdebar-debar, kemurungan, demam selepas bersalin, air susu terlampau banyak dan sariawan. Disertakan disini beberapa langkah untuk menggunakan daun sirih sebagai penawar. 
  • Untuk penyakit keputihan beberapa helai daun sirih yang telah dibersihkan di rebus dalam air hingga mendidih dan airnya dibiarkan suam. Air ini digunakan untuk mencuci vagina terutamanya setiap kali selepas kencing.
  • Untuk Nafas bebau pula ada dua cara, satu cara dengan mengunyah daun sirih yang telah dibersihkan hingga lumat dan biarkan berada dalam mulut seketika sebelum diluahkan. Satu cara lagi ialah dengan merebus beberapa helai daun sirih hingga mendidih, setelah itu disejukkan dan ditapis, gunakan untuk berkumur dua kali sehari,pagi dan malam.
  • Untuk gusi bengkak pula 5-6 helai daun sirih direbus dengan 3 gelas air hingga mendidih, setelah itu masukkan sedikit garam.Biarkan hingga suam dan gunakan untuk berkumur dua hingga tiga kali sehari.
  • Untuk menghilangkan bau badan, 2 hingga 3 helai daun sirih direbus dengan 1/2 gelas air hingga mendidih, angkat daunnya dan masukkan gula batu sebelum diminum.Jika tidak mahu minum airnya kaedah lain ialah dengan mengambil sehelai daun sirih dan di calit sedikit kapur sirih. Ramas daunnya dan sapukan pada ketiak."

 I was fascinated by the names of these plants that I had to pose with them

Lidah Jin is known in the West as Mother-in-Law's Tongue where it is used mainly as a decorative indoor plant. It is thought to be toxic hence inedible but there's a reader of the site who told of someone who had been treated of kidney disease with the roots of this plant:

"Tumbuhan ini adalah saudara kepada lidah buaya dan yang sejenis. Saya ada seorang rakan yang memberitahu bahawa tumbuhan ini amat berkesan bagi merawat penyakit lemah buah pinggang. Beliau pernah merawat seorang guru yang berbulan-bulan menderita sakit buah pinggang dan seringkali keluar masuk wad untuk rawatan hingga kulit badan cikgu tersebut menjadi agak kehitaman akibat toksid dalam badan yang tdk dpt dikumuhkan oleh sistem perkumuhan beliau. KERANA merasa kasihan dgn penderitaan cikgu tersebut maka kawan ini telah membantu dgn memberi rawatan cara tradisional dgn sup lidah jin tersebut dan syukur beliau telah beransur sembuh dan sihat kembali menjalankan tugas seharian. Tumbuhan ini tidak beracun dan selamat untuk diminum sebagai penawar. Bhg yg digunakan ialah bhgn akar dan pangkal daun direbus dan diminum seperti teh, amal sehingga sembuh. Jika tuan/puan yakin boleh mencuba…"

 Also someone in India attested to it's use as a fresh-air generator indoors.

And so on to the Jarum Tujuh Bilah which according to a book on Malaysian Medicinal Herbs can be used against breast cancer and gout. Read on:
"It is named in Malay as the Jarum Tujuh Bilah plant because of its appearance that produces stems on which are grown with clusters of thorns and each cluster has seven to eigh thorns. Its scientific name is Pereskia bleo (Kunth) DC from the family of Cactaceae. It is known in English as the Leaf Cactus.
The leaf resembles to that of a coffee plant, around 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, and is soft, crunchy and slimy. The upper epidermis of the leaf is smooth and the veins are interlacing, while the veins of the lower epidermis has purplish veins. The leaf is chewable and tastes stale.
It bears flowers that are different in colour depending on areas of habitat – orange, purple; the fruits look like inverted cone. The older stems have white patches, while the younger ones are light green and shiny. To consume the leaves, they are plucked in separation to avoid being pierced by the prickly thorns.
Since ages ago the leaves are consumed to combat breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and gout. The water from the boiling stock of the leaves are also consumed to treat fatigue and headache."

OK, we'll move on to misai kucing, belimbing buluh, Tongkat Ali, and Kacip Fatimah in the final instalment, although I have a sneaky suspicion that everyone already knows all about the last two.

Discovering Herbs Malaysiana - Part 1

The Avillion in Port Dickson, where we were two weekends ago,  maintains a herb garden within a gated and locked enclosure. However some herbs are planted on a terrace that lines part of the jogging track . The plants are labeled with their local names and there's quite a variety too. I'm guessing that the chefs also use these herbs in their cooking at the resort kitchen.

Here are kunyit (turmeric) molan, gajah beranak, and cekur mas 

The leaves of the "kunyit molan" definitely do not look like the turmeric leaves I cook with.  The closest thing to "molan" Google came up with was one Dr. Peter Molan who had done extensive research on Manuka Honey. I wonder what those leaves actually are.

The roots of Gajah Beranak are supposedly good as a remedy for chills as it has "heaty" properties. For this reason perhaps they are also used as a tonic for ladies in confinement. But not for pregnant ladies however, as they might cause miscarriages (source -

As for the Cekur  Mas, apparently it is one of several varieties of cekur - others being cekur jantan, cekur betina, cekur hitam, cekur merah, cekur batik, depending on the characteristics of the leaves. Actually it's the rhizome that is used in cooking as in pecal or masak lemak. Said to be useful in the treatment of flu, inflamation, dandruff, constipation, reducing womb size after pregnancy, and for anti-ageing (source -

 These are kayu manis (cinnamon), tunjuk langit, kadok, and lemba.

Only Kayu Manis is familiar to me and I use it in my curries and spicy soups.
Here are 10 health benefits of cinnamon based on studies (source: 10 Health Benefits of Cinnamon)
  • Just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.
  • It may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.
  • It has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.
  • It can reduce the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
  • It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.
  • Patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month.
  • When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.
  • Smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.
  • It fights the E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized juices.
  • It is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

 The Lemba seems to have some medicinal value. According to the page on the MARDI website (, various parts of the lemba may be used to treat
  • a low appetite
  • menorrhogia
  • urinary problems
  • fever
  • inflammation
  • and as a drink for ladies in confinement

The fruit of the Tunjuk Langit  is also known as the Mahogany fruit and is purported to have
"special properties which cannot be found in any other herbal plants around the world. It contains the highest three main superior active ingredients which are Flavonoids, Saponins and Bitter Alkaloid. In addition, the seeds also contain natural nutrition which helps to increase energy and blood flow throughout human body system such as proteins, minerals, vitamin enzymes, carbohydrates and many others"

Here is a list of it's medicinal benefits.(source:

Functions of Flavonoids
  • Reduce blood sugar (glucose) level
  • Neutralizes blood sugar level
  • Promotes blood circulation
  • Free radical scavenger
  • Widens and strengthens blood vessels
  • Reduces bad cholesterol level
Functions of Saponins
  • Enhances the immune system
  • Helps to stimulate the production of insulin
  • Increased production of blood cells
  • Eliminate muscle cramps in the respiration system
  • Increased male sperm count
  • Revitalize blood circulation
  • Detoxification
  • Increased resistance to alcohol and poisoning
  • Calming effect on mind and body
  • Eliminates stress
  • Slows the aging process
  • Remedy to insomnia
  • Strengthens the liver

Daun Kadok is a popular herb for ulam (salad). It is believed that eating daun kadok can reduce malaria. It is also said to cure constapation,tooth ache, worms and also cough. How this is done is to boil the leaves and drink the water. (Source - Health Benefits of eating Ulam-ulaman)

Ladies may find the following recommendations for using daun kadok interesting: (Source - Daun Kaduk Mengurangkan Keputihan)

  • Pucuk kaduk selain dibuat ulam yang menyelerakan samada di makan mentah atau di celur, daun yg tua saya akan rebus, sejukan dan di buat air basuhan selepas membuang air kecil atau selepas habis haid. Khasiatnya ialah dapat menjadikan awet muda, mengurangkn keputihan, menghilangkan gatal dan kerengsaan pada bahagian sulit. Saya menanamnya di belakang rumah dan mengamalkan memakannya selalu.
  • Daun kaduk juga digunakan untuk menuam perut bayi mengalami masalah kembung perut. Caranya layurkan daun kaduk dengan api lilin kemudian tuam diperut bayi dengan menekan perlahan-lahan.Insyaallah perut bayi yang kembung itu akan beransur lembut dan anda akan dapati bayi itu kentut. 
  • Untuk ulam digalakan celur sekejap saja kerana kalau lama daun kaduk berlendir. Kalau saya, saya lebih suka buat kerabu. Caranya daun kaduk dihiris nipis sebanyak yang diperlukan kemudian campur dengan 2 camca makan garam ramas dengan sedikit air bertujuan untuk mengurangkan rasa pijar daun kaduk. Basuh dan tapis.Ramuan lain masukan 1 tin sardin kecil,bawang besar 1 labu, kelapa parut anggaran 50 sen, cili padi dipotong kecil atau cili tumbuk, garam, serbuk perasa atau gula.Kesemua bahan digaul rata. Disyorkan makan dengan ikan kering gelama masam dan nasi panas. Selamat mencuba.

We have here pala, senduduk putih, limau kasturi and sireh melayu.

But I've yet to google them..... Insya Allah I'll have some information to share with my next posting - including that of lidah jin, jarum tujuh bilah, misai kucing, belimbing buluh, tongkat Ali, and kacip Fatimah   :)

And yes, that kunyit molan still boggles me.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Nobody's Picture Perfect

I found a picture of me when I was 14 years of age - now I am 42 and a half years older.

Studying it closely, I noticed that my face was / is assymetrical especially my chin senget, and my eyes sepet sebelah.

I remember my hair was parted at the centre in primary school, but I must have changed it according to the fashion of the time, I suppose.There's nothing one can do with straight hair except change partings anyway.

They say symmetry is a sign of beauty - as perceived by the beholder.

I wondered how that face would look if it was symmetrical.

Out of curiosity, I did some cutting and pasting.

 Snipped my left-side and right-side.
 See the difference already?

Flipped them to get their respective mirror images.

 And then combined them.

See the results!
Left symmetrically
(like an Inca Indian)

Right symmetrically
(A softer look but don't know what to call the hair-style)

But what God created is still the best

And 42 years on... still lopsided

Tak apa lah.... yang penting, hati mau baik beb....

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Lodgings On Stilts.

Seems to be where I ended up on recent getaways

Firstly at Captain's Longhouse (picture nicked from

Then at Awi's Yellowhouse (well, have not stayed there yet but we had checked it out and paid a courtesy call on THE Awi... a chiseled 58 year-old Ganuman with a pony-tail, and we had also bantered with the housekeeper - an ageing eccentric Englishman named Tony who had offered to make us a cuppa, as is quite typical).

 And recently at the Avillion in Port Dickson. I'm not sure how it's pronounced so let me just call it Avi.

All three are close to or even on huge bodies of water, hence the need to be raised on stilts, above levels at high-tide or during the monsoon.

Both Avi and Awi's have the same design concept - that of a traditional fishing village with dwellings above water.

Awi's is rustic, back-to-basics, no frills accomodation, with old-fashioned roofless bathrooms.

Avi's chalets are luxuriously furnished - ours had a romantic feel with a king-sized poster-bed draped in nettings - and a queen-sized day bed by the french windows overlooking the sea.

What's similar to Awi's is the open-air bathroom but in tasteful finishing and the ubiquitous white fluffy towels and...... a private flush loo

As with the other places, we were there for only one night but we thoroughly enjoyed the ambience. There's a pet farm where you can pet and feed the animals.

Pictures follow:
Pathway to the conference block

Adult Swimming Pool
Kiddies Pool

Our chalet
The "luxurious" spa is across from us - a few hundred RM a go

Overlooking The Straits of Malacca
Low tide
Exploring... in the rain
Walkway (trying out a ghostly effect...)
Which is which - lidah jin or jarum tujuh?

That's all, folks!

To all Muslims, may all your good efforts this Ramadan be blessed by the Almighty.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Good Romance

I feel like listening to Nat King Cole tonight. I doubt anyone below 50 years would know of this man, a black American who made it big as a singer/musician in the 40's through 60's. It was said he had "a distinctive voice, which has been compared to the quality of velvet, a pussy willow, a calm evening breeze, a still summer morning and a soft snow fall".

Nat wasn't terribly handsome but in those days of radio, voice mattered much more than looks - unlike today of course, you've got to be packaged right. Just lend him your ears and tell me if his voice doesn't make you gooey inside.

(Sometimes Mixpod refuses to load - so just right-click/open new tab on the "music" button to listen)


If I Give My Heart To You
If I give my heart to you
Will you handle it with care?
Will you always treat me tenderly?
And in every way be fair?
If I give my heart to you
Will you give me all your love?
Will you swear that you'll be true to me?
By the light that shines above?
And will you sigh with me when I'm sad?
Smile with me when I'm glad?
And always be as you are with me tonight?
Think it over and be sure
Please don't answer till you do
When you promise all these things to me
Then I'll give my heart to you

Think it over and be sure
Please don't answer till you do
When you promise all these things to me
Then I'll give my heart to you
These were the songs of a bygone era - the age of innocence - so they say. The lyrics so sugary sweet and "romantic"? Can we describe any of todays song lyrics by such a word?

Take this snippet from Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance"

I want your psycho 
Your vertical stick(???)
Want you in my room
When your baby is sick
I want your love
I want your love
I want your love
What a cheek to put the word "Romance" in the song-title!

 Anyway, I'm in the mood for mush tonight....

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue Moon
You knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will (ever) hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked to the Moon it turned to gold

Blue Moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked the Moon had turned to gold

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own