Endemic to Hawaii and dynamic in flavor, olena is a healthy way to add a pop of flavor and color to any meal! Read on for a quick snapshot of what it does, where to get it, and how to use it.
Olena is traditionally used in Hawaiian laʻau lapaʻau (medicinal healing) to alleviate everything from earaches to bacterial infections.1 Like many alternative medicines, there is not always much research to back up these amazing health benefits, but modern science and medicine are proving more and more that making olena a part of your diet or using it as a home remedy can spice up your approach to getting more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds into your body.
A native variety of turmeric, olena contains curcumin, the unique compound that gives olena it’s vibrant golden-orange hue and it’s wide variety of health benefits.
Olena’s anti-inflammatory properties have been explored to reveal their effectiveness in complementing treatment for arthritis, some inflammatory cancers, and even common indigestion after meals. It has been linked to reducing inflammation in heart tissue of patients at risk of heart attacks and heart disease by stopping the body from producing agents that inflame these muscles.2, 3
Our immune system can also benefit from the antioxidant properties olena has. Curcumin scavenges free radicals and improves our immune systems in ways similar to how berries, artichokes, and walnuts do.4
Getting the most out of your Olena!
So how do we make the most out of incorporating olena into our diet?
The answer is simple and easy: black pepper! Studies have found that adding black pepper to olena helps our body more easily use it in positive ways. It also helps us keep olena in our body longer, which means you can keep benefiting from olena long after you’ve eaten it!5
Now that we know all the great things olena can do for our health and wellness, where do we get it?
Local farmers markets, smaller produce stores, and grocery stores that locally source their produce are the best places to get your hands on olena. It’s very easy to grow, so save a piece you buy from the store and stick it in a pot in your backyard for olena all year round!
Olena in your Daily Diet
Olena tea is the easiest and most popular way to incorporate this root into your daily diet. It can also be used as a spice in curry, fish seasoning, meat rubs, and veggie stir-fry. Here are a couple quick and easy recipes to get you started on that olena grind.
Slice the raw shoots of an olena root into thin slices, and gently boil in water for approximately 15 minutes. Don’t forget to add a few pinches of ground black pepper prior to boiling to get the most out of your olena! Adding a spoonful of local honey or agave nectar brings a little sweetness to this robust earthy tea.
For a more dynamic taste, the flavors of olena can be easily complemented by your favorite tea bag, or by adding other native plants like the leaves of the mamaki and uhāloa tree, or the roots of awapuhi, the Hawaiian variety of ginger.
This is a tea for our root lovers who are always on the go. Simply put your sliced olena, black pepper, water, ginger, and any other ingredients into a tightly sealed jar, and leave it out in the sun for the day. You will get a tea rich in flavor due to the slow and natural steeping of flavors that you can enjoy at any time!
Olena is incredibly versatile, so don’t be afraid to get creative and incorporate its rich earthy flavors into some of your own favorite recipes! Be sure to remember your black pepper as well, and enjoy olena for its unique flavor and multifaceted health benefits.
1. Dove White L. Na Meakanu o Waʻa o HawaiʻI Kahiko: Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawaii. Waitsfield, VT: Lynton Dove White Publishing; 1994.2. Jurenka JS. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Altern Med Rev. 2009:14(2):141-53.3. Chattopadhyay I, et.al. Turmeric and curcumin: biological actions and medicinal applications.Current Sci. 2004:87(1):44-53.1. WebMD. 20 Common foods with the most antioxidants.http:??www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20-common-foods-most-antoxidants. Accessed April 7, 2017.1. Abou-Elkhair R, et. al. Effects of black pepper (Piper nigrum) turmeric powder (Curcuma longa) and coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum) and their combinations as feed additives on growth performance, carcass traits, some blood parameters, and humoral immune response of broiler chickens. Asian Australas J Amin Sci. 2003:9(1):161-8.