Thursday, April 22, 2010

Edible Medicine

This is one of the subjects nearest and dearest to my heart, I am a lifelong believer in using food to heal, its safe, its natural, and its much more enjoyable than swallowing a pill. I'm not suggesting you ditch your pills, but you can use food to get extra benefits, and I find its easy to treat children with food, assuming they are up to eating or drinking. Everything I cover here today is safe especially if you stick to the standard culinary amounts - I call them Spice Rack Remedies, although I will also cover some fruit and vegetables too. There's only one rule, don't get to thinking 'if this much is good for you, then this much extra will be really, really good'. One law of medicine is that a small amount of any substance gives a predictable effect, but a large amount of the same substance produces the opposite effect in the same body areas.

What I am talking about here is how to use edible medicine in culinary amounts to assist healing and give comfort.

Apple is one of my favourites, it is not only healthy, but lovely moist grated apple flesh is so refreshing and hydrating and is easier to digest than a whole raw apple when you are unwell. Stewed or baked apple with cinnamon helps restore the appetite and are simple first foods for those returning to eating after an illness. Fresh grated apple flesh helps diarrhoea.

Apricot fresh and dried apricots are fantastic during pregnancy and recovery from illness. This fruit is very soothing for the nervous system. Aside from eating the fruit plain, cooked with cardamom in a standard recipe (cobbler, tart, baked fruit, poached fruit....) is a great way to incorporate the benefits of the fruit. Home made juices are terrific.

Bananas these are really easy to digest and have natural antacid properties so are very mild on the stomach and digestive tract and can supplement medicines used to treat heartburn, and gastritis. This low GI food is tremendous for diabetics and for the prevention of adult onset diabetes. My favourite smoothie recipe is: one peeled banana, one cup of milk, pinch of cinnamon, two table spoons of natural yoghurt or vanilla icecream, and a litte squeeze of the honey bottle.... blend away. I have been known to blend the smoothie and then put it in the microwave to warm it up in winter to make it more appealing to the ailing.

Barley yes, the old pearl barley! Who can go past barley water for fever, and inflammation? Very soothing, very nutritious, easy to ingest, if the 'patient' won't drink barley water add barley to broth or soup recipes. Great for sore throats, body aches and pains, bladder conditions. Even dietary consumption can help heal skin conditions.

Black Pepper peppercorns are part of my traditional cold medicine - simply grind a few peppercorns (5-7 will suffice) and mix into a teaspoon of honey, and take the treatment three times a day for cold and flu. Do not give honey to infants, they are vulnerable to bacteria and botulism from honey.

Blueberry this fruit is good after fever when you are ready to eat again. Heals stomach ulcers and the whole digestive tract beautifully. Packed with antioxidants! Blueberries in muesli, fruit salad, smoothies, or pie are ideal. Blueberry and pear juice made yourself is fabulous and healthy.

Cardamom you should definitely have this in your spice rack, not only for the beautiful curries you can make, but the spice goes well with fruits that are baked or poached. Cardamom seeds are healing for the digestive tract, including diarrhoea and flatulence.

Carrot I would not go to a barbeque without eating raw carrot first - why? because this vegetable helps prevent listeria and salmonella poisoning. I would recommend raw carrot for pregnant women. Carrots also help the immune system in general, and can help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels. Carrot soup or juice is good for all of the above, and will help relieve diarrhoea and other digestive tract symptoms.

Celery eating the raw stalks or drinking fresh juice helps balance body fluids (this vegetable has an excellent sodium to potassium balance), I would drink the juice to prevent dehydration.

Chick Peas in the diet, chick peas assist the absorption of nutrients from other foods. Chick peas are great for conditions effecting the nervous system, are great during healing of muscle injury, and are a great source of plant based protein (the western diet relies too heavily on animal based protein).

Chilli ironically, you were likely raised with the belief that chillies cause ulcers, but they actually promote the release of secretions in the digestive tract which help relieve duodenal ulcers. Just another of those myths like not having dairy when you have a cold (the nutrients in dairy products are healing to the membranes in the respiratory tract).

Cinnamon is my favourite natural antiseptic and wound cleaner, but since we are here today to talk about edible medicine, I will stick to this - cinnamon is fantastic for the digestive tract, it will help restore appetite, aid digestion, and and stimulate blood flow to the stomach. The easiest ways to give cinnamon to the ailing are: in stewed or baked fruit, in smoothies, or in milk gently simmered over the burner. Don't forget cinnamon is a natural friend to the diet conscious - I have it in chai latte late in the afternoon when I am hungry and it prevents me from snacking.... how does it do this?.... by regulating your blood sugar levels!!! Yes really!

Coriander the seeds help lower blood cholesterol so make a good preventative measure for regular people. For those with a significant cholesterol condition commercial medicines or professionally prepared herbal medicines are still recommended. Coriander in the diet may help restore appetite and fight infection.

Cranberry the juice of this fruit is celebrated for its healing of the urinary tract, its content of fructose and other substances prevent bacteria from adhering to the membranes of the urinary tract and therefore is preventative medicine for cystitis and the prostate.

Cucumber I give cucumber slices or juice to the ill to prevent dehydration. Cucumber contains a lot of water, and with its manganese and sulphur helps manage the fluid balance. Cucumber is a great anti-inflammatory agent and is fantastic in the diet or applied externally for skin conditions.

Fig the food of life! Figs are great for preventing constipation, the fruit is consumed during colds and flu to ease sore throat and heal the respiratory system.

Garlic this is so obvious I was going to skip it altogether, but I just know you'll be reminding me that this is fabulous for the immune system and taken before hand will help prevent cold and flu. Garlic in the diet will also help prevent the wrong kind of cholesterol buliding up, and there are indications it may help prevent hardening of the arteries. Of course, the main problem with garlic is that we often consume it in vast amounts of olive oil - there is such a thing as too much of even the good oil!

Ginger another of our spices that has gone mainstream in medicine, I am sure by now you have heard of ginger for nausea whether it is caused by motion sickness, morning sickness, or is the result of illness, surgery, or a side effect of medicines prescribed. Ginger tea, ginger beer, and foods gently flavoured with ginger root will all make a pleasant form of edible medicine. Ginger in culinary use also aids in the digestion of meat, especially beef.

Grapefruit yes she's very sharp, but she's very healing! Fresh grapefruit and juice is a tremendous anitbiotic, boost to the immune system, bolster to the bones, and an aid to fat metabolism. You can make your bones stronger and healthier, keep your blood clean and stocked with the good cholesterol, and fight colds and flu with this fruit.

Horseradish eating horseradish is healing for the sinuses, helps hayfever, sinusitis, colds and flu, and it may help cool a fever (by generating persperation). Very good for the pancreas and liver.

Kale traditionally used to prevent bacterial infection or heal it. Great preventative medicine for the heart, and is being shown to have connection to preventing or healing oestrogen linked cancers (breast, ovarian etc).

Lemon again this is a great agent during colds and flu, I am sure you have heard of, if not tried a honey and lemon remedy. Like other citrus fruits, lemon helps the body make collagen which is essential to the health of skin and joints.

Lettuce my two favourite uses of lettuce are: eating a few leaves before a meal containing meat, this helps digestion; and eating a few leaves before bed to help with mild insomnia.

Nutmeg dietary use helps the digestive tract, can relieve diarrhoea, and is great in the regular diet of people who have rheumatism, arthritis, other inflammatory conditions, and is fabulous for the heart and circulation system, and can assist in the reduction of blood cholesterol levels. Of course eating a dessert containing nutmeg and then drenching it in cream is self defeating, so stick to yummy, natural recipes where the fruit and nutmeg are the star of the show - baked, poached, and stewed fruits are the best.

Oats mmmm I love rolled oats, they give me that healthy glowing feeling immediately because I know how good they make my body feel, mentally I get that head start just thinking about it. Oats are powerfully healing for the muscles, and that means your heart loves oats. Oats reduce bad cholesterol, heal muscle tone, help supply healthy energy and are therefore great for chronic fatigue syndrome and the recuperating, and of course you will have a healthy digestive system with a diet of oats. Oats help sooth the stomach, I eat porridge (Americans say oatmeal I think) when my stomach is burning, and also I am prone to false morning sickness when I get my period, and porridge is the first food I am able to eat and keep.

Paprika very high in vitamin C, this spice is a great stimulant for the immune system, and is great preventative medicine for disease and infection. My favourite recipe for paprika is Hungarian goulash.

Sesame Seed in the diet these will also help lower bad cholesterol. Very good inclusion in the diet for those experiencing anxiety and stress.

Star Anise exellent for digestive complaints and colic, helps promote healthy digestion, and is the secret ingredient in many cough remedies.

Strawberry excellent for high blood pressure, is a super source of vitamin C a powerful anti-oxidant, I would recommend strawberries above oranges for vitamin C and fibre. Herbalists bow to Culpepper, who says that strawberry is healing for the liver, and inflammatory conditions.

Thyme I would recommend thyme in soup or broth for throat infections, cold and flu, and healing after tonsilitis or even surgical tonsil removal.

Turmeric is great for the liver, gall bladder, heart, eczema, psoriasis, and period pain. My favourite use is in curry.

Zucchini culinary use is great for insomnia, heartburn and indigestion, gastro-enteritis, and is being researched for use in dietary control of diabetes.

and if you got through reading all that, well done, I think I know how you feel, I typed it after all! I have had to omit many, many, brilliant and healthy edible medicines, some for the purposes of brevity, some because they are complicated in terms of contraindications for use.... I wanted this to be simple and safe. I will definitely do other posts on this theme in the future.

If you need a recipe for a soup, main, dessert, juice, or smoothie, I am happy to share.


Deb - Two Cheeky Monkeys said...

Great post Starry! My family and I actually eat a lot of those foods, so I'll be upping the quantities next time we're sick.

Have you tried Manuka honey? Works quite well for my family members who get hayfever and other throat and sinus problems.

Starry said...

Hi Deb,

I love manuka honey inside and out... yep its great for wound care especially ulcers and bedsores.

I'm glad you're all eating such great healthy good, its the best in preventative medicine, and hey it tastes so good mmmm afternoon tea time - chai latte for me today!

Anonymous said...


Honeymark said...

Manuka Honey is an excellent natural healer.