Thai-Fusion Vegan Pesto for Stress & Anxiety: Let Food Be Thy Medicine

So we're trying to rebalance ourselves after a horrendous week. Missed that post? We had a wanna-be rapist break into our Thai house and walk straight into my daughter's bedroom. You can read more about that here. We were not physically harmed but both of us came within inches of the man, who FLED. We're having counselling, have cameras installed and have a private police patrol paid for by our landlady. Cos no, they have not yet apprehended the offender.

Nearly 1 week on and both Miss 17 and I are flat out crabby, tired from poor sleep, jumpy as hell and have frazzled nerves. So I found myself doing some reading about the physiological responses to trauma, and how some foods can really help. And the two foods that I KNOW can be spectacularly helpful for nervous anxiety are cashew nuts and holy basil (Thai basil) which is known as Tulsi Krishna in Ayurveda and as Kraphao Dam in Thai.

Cashew nuts are everywhere here in Thailand, and absurdly cheap.

The chemical responsible for managing mood control is serotonin, so depression is mostly the product of decreased serotonin levels, and the amino acid called tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin. Cashews contain vitamins which stabilize the mood: B6, magnesium, niacin, and even tryptophan. B6 allows tryptophan to be converted into serotonin and enables magnesium to reach the body cells.
A combination of these nutrients work with depression; researchers believe that you can get sufficient tryptophan to alter and boost your mood if you consume two or more fistfuls of cashews each day. Cashews can be a natural cure for anxiety and depression and do not bear Prozac’s price tag or side effects. Source

And the herb Kraphrao? Now you know why Thai people are renowned to world-over for being Smiling. So much so that Thailand is often known as the Land of Smiles. Or "LOS" for those of us who live here. 😆 Kraphao is soooo common here that it's not even considered a medicine, but rather almost a vegetable. And yet, in Ayurveda, Tulsi Khrishna has been PRIZED in India for 5000 years for its mood-enhancing and nerve-calming properties.

Tulsi has been studied as an adaptogen in vivo and in vitro, and we know that many of the adaptogenic properties of Tulsi come from its ability to protect the body from toxin-induced damage and regulate and stabilize blood sugars.(1) It reduces DNA damage, and protects against the effects of physical stressors. Tulsi herb contains a high level of phenolic compounds and anti-oxidants, such as rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant, and many other components such as polysaccharides, flavonoids, and a high percentage of eugenol.(2) Eugenol is a primary component of Tulsi’s adaptogenic properties as it has free radical scavenging activity, and enhances cyto-antioxidant properties.(3)
With that in mind, the primary herb uses for Tulsi include as an adaptogen, to help our bodies respond to stressors, stabilize blood sugar, and stabilize and restore our body to homeostasis.(4) Source

And so, this stressed out mama decided that a Thai Fusion Vegan Pesto needed to be on our menu for the next few weeks!!

We start, as you can imagine, with Kraphao - the purple leafed Kraphao Dam found at every Thai fresh market nation-wide.


Locally the kraphao is all coming to seed now, so we tend to pinch those out and toss them all over the garden. 🌱 Although the basil seeds have specific medicinal uses too. Another post for another day.

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Remove the leaves from the stalks and make sure you wash and drain them well. Organic is always the preferred choice.


In a gutsy blender we put a handful for fresh garlic and 1 - 1.5 big cups of oil. I use a blend of cold-pressed sesame oil and premium rice bran oil. Olive oil isn't stable enough for use much here in Thailand and is often rancid, so NOT our first choice. But if you live in a cooler climate, it's fine.

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Add some freshly cracked black pepper and a teaspoon of good sea salt or mineral salt. No, we don't use Himalayan Salt unless it is certified child-labour free. Did you know that most Himalayan salt is mined by poor children in Pakistan? My choice is natural fair-trade mineral salt from Bo Klua on the North-Eastern Thailand-Laos PDR border.

Whiz on high till it's creamy and smooth.

And then in go the soaked cashews. I used about 3 handfuls, soaked for about 4 hours. I use what are sold in the baking and restaurant shops here as "Raw Broken Cashews" - basically the B grade bits that didn't make it into your classy roasted cocktail nut mix. At around $3 for a kilo it's great value that way.


So add your soaked cashews to the creamy garlic-oil mix and whiz again till smooth.

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And now the fun bit. Using the pulse action, and sometimes a chopstick to push them down, slowly add your well-drained-air-dried Kraphao leaves and use the pulse function to work them in.


Keep going, adding bit by bit and pulsing, till all the leaves are blended in and your pesto is nice and smooth.

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Pack it into a clean glass jar and cover with a tiny layer of oil - it lasts in the fridge for weeks and weeks that way.


How to serve? Great simply as a yummy dip on its own. With raw veggies, toast fingers or whatever.


Fabulous in sandwiches. Or have it for dinner, like we did, with pasta and mushrooms.

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And so slowly we support our jumpy, frazzled nerves with natural kitchen medicine and enable ourselves to begin to find healing, to begin to sleep a little bit more, and to gently recover.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine.


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