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Dietribes: Peppermint

• Peppermint has long been used as a natural supplement to aid in soothing symptoms or getting rid of "the common cold, cough, inflammation of the mouth and throat, sinus infections, and respiratory infections. It is also used for digestive problems including heartburn, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, irritable bowel syndrome, cramps of the upper gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts, upset stomach, diarrhea, bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, and gas." It also makes for a great soap. Not bad!

• The National Institute of Health also mentions, "Peppermint oil is applied to the skin for headache, muscle pain, nerve pain, toothache, inflammation of the mouth, joint conditions, itchiness, allergic rash, bacterial and viral infections, relaxing the colon during barium enemas, and for repelling mosquitoes. Some people inhale peppermint oil for treating symptoms of cough and colds, and as a painkiller."

• How does it do it? Peppermint and its main active agent, menthol, are effective decongestants. Because menthol thins mucus, it is also a good expectorant, meaning that it helps loosen phlegm and breaks up coughs. It is soothing and calming for sore throats (pharyngitis) and dry coughs as well.

• If you're like me, you have a hard time differentiating between peppermint and spearmint: according to Garden.org, peppermint is more pungent, while spearment tends towards the sweet.

• Of course, Tis the Season when peppermint is everywhere you turn! The King Leo pure peppermint stick candy was developed and trademarked in 1901. That same stick has been in continuous production since, although the origin of the candy cane is much older.

• PEZ was actually first marketed as a compressed peppermint candy over 83 years ago in Vienna, Austria. The name PEZ was derived from the German word for peppermint... PfeffErminZ (say that three times fast).

• Life Savers also began as a peppermint candy in 1912, and it would be 22 more years before it would expand to the five-flavor roll.

• Popping pills like candy? You may well be tempted when peppermint-flavored Prozac was being marketed.

• A middle school in Maryland is using a unique method to help kids do better on their tests: chewing peppermint (thought to increase concentration). Did anyone else's teachers try this in school? I had one teacher who encouraged us to chew mint gum when taking a test, though I'm not totally sure it helped ...

• Peppermint may help concentration, but not on food: Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W. Va., asked 40 people to sniff peppermint every two hours for five days, followed by five days of a placebo. During the week they sniffed peppermint, they consumed 1,800 fewer calories (… and a new winter weight-loss plan is born!)

• Double your pleasure, double your fun radiation? "In "gamma gardens" run by national laboratories in the US, plants growing in concentric circles were bombarded with radiation from a central source - such as cobalt-60 - elevated on a pole. The pole could be lowered below ground when people were tending the plants. Plants nearest the centre tended to die, a little further out they developed tumors and developmental problems, but the plants furthest out sometimes developed potentially beneficial mutations. It was hoped the treatment could, for instance, produce color changes in flowers, disease resistance in wheat and increased sugar content in maples. 70 per cent of the peppermint sold in the US is descended from a mutant in a neutron-irradiated source."

• If you aren't running a "gamma garden," beware that peppermint can actually be considered an invasive plant to home plots!

• And FYI: Peppermint Patty’s real name is actually Patricia Reichardt!

• Do you guys prefer peppermint to spearmint gum, or just can't stand it at all? What other peppermint flavored foods or scented products do you use?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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University of Pittsburgh
Researchers Create Motorized Wheelchair Made for the Water Park
University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh

Despite advances in technology, there are many aspects of the world that remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. But researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working to make one activity easier for people who use motorized wheelchairs: navigating water parks.

The average motorized wheelchair has a number of electrical and battery components that can’t get wet, limiting who can access the joys of splash parks and pools. But a new wheelchair that uses compressed air instead of a heavy battery could change that, Gizmodo recently reported.

Created through a joint research project between University of Pittsburgh engineers, the university’s medical center, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PneuChair is lighter and quicker to charge than traditional motorized chairs. It can also be repaired with basic hardware tools if something breaks in the midst of all the splashing.

The 80-pound chair (a traditional device can weigh up to 400 pounds) can travel about three miles on one charge, about a third of the maximum distance of an electric mobility device. Another benefit: It only takes 10 minutes to recharge rather than eight hours.

The university's Human Engineering Research Laboratories is also working on a scooter version for people who don't need the assistance of a full chair. “The potential to open opportunities for people with disabilities who need powered mobility to access splash parks, water parks, beaches or pools is transformative,” lab director Rory Cooper told the university's press service.

The PneuChair was designed in part for use at Morgan’s Inspiration Island, an upcoming water park in San Antonio that’s designed for people with disabilities. The accessible splash park—which is part of Morgan’s Wonderland, a fully accessible theme park—will initially offer 10 of the chairs to its guests for use while they’re there.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Dietribes: Cabbage


• Cabbages are derived from the wild mustard plant of the Mediterranean region, and have been popular since ancient times. Cato the Elder praised the cabbage for its many medicinal uses.

• Cabbages are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of Vitamin C, folate and fiber. That and its low calorie count is why some people use cabbage on weight-loss diets.

• However, the cabbage is also known to have a certain undesirable gastric side effect. As Nicholas Culpeper said in A Complete Herbal (1653) "Cabbages are extremely windy, whether you take them as meat or as medicine, as windy meat as can be eaten, unless you eat bag-pipes or bellows."

• Remember "freedom fries"? That wasn't the first time the name of one of our foods has been attempted to be changed because of political fervor. During World War I, Americans renamed sauerkraut "liberty cabbage."

• No one knows exactly how the Cabbagetown neighborhood in Atlanta got its name, though stories include the idea that the original poor Scotch-Irish residents (workers at the nearby cotton mill) would grow cabbages in their front yards, and that the smell of cooked cabbage was a nuisance (and later a point of pride). Other apocryphal suggestions include a train derailing or a Model T car overturning and spilling cabbages everywhere for people to snatch up, shouting "Free Cabbages!"

• Georgia has another cabbage connection - Cabbage Patch Kids, which were originally called Little People. In the late 1970s, art student Xavier Roberts started creating "soft sculptures," which he later expanded on by giving them birth certificates and allowing "adoptions." In 1982 the name changed to Cabbage Patch. By the mid-80s, the dolls went on record as having the most successful and in-demand introduction of a toy ever.

• Though cabbages have often been thought of throughout history as a cheap food, that's certainly not true in Northern Canada, where a cabbage can cost $28. The northern Canadian territory of Nunavut is so remote that anything not a product of hunting and gathering must be flown in.

• By the way, that corned beef and cabbage you cook up for St. Patricks Day? Not actually Irish. Though corned beef was made in Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, most Irish families were too poor to eat it. Instead it went to British citizens as well as the British and U.S. military. These days, the Irish reportedly find the dish just plain boring.

• Cabbages can have a killer instinct - genetically modified cabbages can produce scorpion poison that kills caterpillars when they bite leaves. But don't worry, the toxin is modified so it isn’t harmful to humans. (I like that the title of the article is "Venomous Cabbage"!)

• Another way to get rid of pests in your cabbage? Er, human urine. According to a 2007 study, "Our results show that human urine could be used as a fertilizer for cabbage and does not pose any significant hygienic threats or leave any distinctive flavor in food products." Good to know?

• The largest cabbage on record was called "The Beast" and weighed 127 pounds. Reportedly it wasn't actually particularly tasty, so it ended up as compost rather than on anyone's plate.

• How do you like to eat your cabbages, Flossers? And have you found a way to counteract their less-desirable side-effects?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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