Last edition of Expat Life I was in Malaysia on my way to Tioman Island where I enjoyed a good few weeks diving and relaxing on the beaches. I had left my large suitcase with large portfolios and paper with a friend in KL so I could island hop so here are a few of the watercolour pencil “paintings” I did “on the road” that depict 2 fruits and one flower I feel we see and have most every day that have medicinal qualities; hibiscus, pineapple and durian.
Sitting on the beach with my portable coloured pencil set allowed me to be a bit more “free” than in the studio. My hibiscus drawing is full of the bright sun and flow I felt from the sea breezes. The hibiscus flower has been used as a healing and cleansing tea for centuries. It is also the state plant of Hawaii, represents Haiti and it’s the national plant of South Korea and Malaysia. In the Hindu religion, it is often depicted as the flower merging into the Goddess Kali and is offered as a symbol of love to Kali and Ganesh. I am seeing so many different species here in Malaysia, more than I knew existed even while living in Hawaii and California, where this plant grows prolifically. The tea is made mostly from the flowers, the scientific name being Hibiscus Sabdariffa. It may be recognised as being called Rosella in other parts of the world also.
The many ailments hibiscus tea can help with can be from common ailments to more serious issues. The tea can help with digestion and inflammation; it is a diuretic so can help to flush the body. The immune system gets a boost with the vitamin C content, there are also flavonoids which act as an antidepressant. The flower contains an acid called protocatecheuic acid that creates in the body apoptosis, programmed cell death, which helps to slow the growth of tumour and cancerous cells. It is a bitter taste and similar to cranberry so you may want to add a sweetener and some spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or ginger root slices! It is delicious hot or cold and can bring down the temperature of someone with a high fever or even after exercise. Some research studies have concluded that hibiscus tea can lower cholesterol which helps to keep type 2 diabetes under control. It is a wonder flower of beauty and elegance, found in many countries around the world. From ancient days to modern ways, hibiscus tea can find a place in our tea cupboards and drinking mugs with low cost, easy preparation and enjoyable tea drinking days in the heat or cold. Be vibrant, be alive and be floral! If the colour alone doesn’t make you feel good, the product from the flower certainly will!
I did a few practice drawings of close up tree bark, sea shells and some fruit rinds, the pineapple skin made for a fun drawing! To take the time to “see” the variety of colour in nature you “think” you’ve seen before can reward you with a contemplative afternoon that can spread into a lifetime. The blues of the skies, the greens of the gardens. Paying attention to the details in nature can help to ignite your awe and wonder at life, or renew it. The name “pineapple” is believed to of been given in the 17th century due to the likeness of pine cones. The diamond pattern and colours on the outside of the pineapple are intriguing. I love all the varieties of greens, yellows, browns, purples and oranges! The fruit is a composite of coalesced berries that grow at the top of a fruiting tree and is a member of the Bromeliaceae family. A native to Paraguay and Brazil, it is now known throughout the world. Not only yummy to eat, there is a high level of vitamins and minerals including potassium, copper,manganese, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, beta carotene, thiamine, B6, and folate, as well as soluble and insoluble fibre and bromeliad.
The pineapple is often depicted as a message of welcome and hospitality, hence carved pineapples on table legs in the kitchen or above doorways. The fruit is often carved creatively at receptions or in welcoming buffets when visiting foreign lands. During the colonisation periods pineapple became like sugar because of the cost of importing it, a commodity of privilege. In this day and age, we can all experience the privilege of having pineapple in our diets, even in canned forms! Of course, I would always recommend fresh fruit and living in SE Asia certainly makes that easy! Contemplation of the details around you can be a lesson in paying attention, being aware. Noticing things with fresh eyes and recognising the beauty all around us seen in the minutest items can be awe inspiring!
Durian … the name can send shudders down some people’s spine and sheer joy to others. You either love it or hate it … I for one, am in the middle. I feel it has a cinnamon/ butterscotch/vanilla/caramel flavour with a sticky sweet texture and smell, but as I said, some people are actually repulsed by it, especially the smell. Nonetheless, it is a very popular fruit in SE Asia as you all know. It is known for many health benefits; boosting the immune system, improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, strengthening bones, reducing inflammation and reducing anxiety and stress. It is often called the “king of fruits” and is native to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei.
I have come across durian in the form of the pure fruit, dehydrated snacks, chocolate covered, milky sweets, added to tea and really any form of confection one can think of. There are also many grades of durian depending on the water in the flesh, the different creamy textures, light or strong flavour, heavy or gentle smell, bitter, dry, gooey and the size of the seeds. There are some people that get hot after eating durian, it seems to raise heat levels in the body and it is not recommended to take alcohol with this fruit. To decrease
the heat in the body after durian I have heard of people swearing to drinking fresh water out of the shell of the durian and that helps to reduce the heat more so than just a glass of water. There may be some chemical in the shell that prevents the heat from rising which would not surprise me. Most plants that have any kind of “bad” effect have within it a cure or there grows a plant next to it that does in the wild. Nature has a way of staying balanced, it is our job to learn from that … I did a watercolour pencil of the durian for fun as I have been tasting lots of different durian products these past few weeks and made the background a strong “heat” colour coming out. Sunglasses may be needed!!Since this is an issue geared for school and home, I wanted to recommend trying out some coloured pencil sets for fun. Adult colouring has become a meditation tool for some and kids also love to play around with pencil sets. The kind I used are watercolour pencils and so one can draw something with them and take a tiny brush, dip it in water, then spread the pencil a bit to create some fun and easy “paintings”. It’s a very good way to add a bit of personal creativity to stationary, journals, schoolwork for kids and/or if you have some time in a coffeeshop and can sketch what you see out the window, then water it when home.
Margaret Elizabeth Johnston ND enjoys travelling around SE Asia learning about the various medicinal fruits, flowers, spices and herbs. Depicting them in works of art is her way of educating the public about holistic health. Blending her passions of art, writing, health and travel, she has carved out a fun life that she enjoys sharing with others. You can follow her and her travels, check out her health and art blogs or just browse through her paintings at www.mejcreations.com. “Incorporating health and happiness in little ways every day is worth cultivating.”