Many powerful medicines from around the world are currently in your kitchen pantry. I am talking about those flavor-enhancing herbs and spices. They are potent for many acute and chronic health complaints. For chronic conditions, consider using them regularly in your food; for acute conditions you can make a cup of tea by steeping ½ – 1 teaspoon of the crushed herb or spice with a pint of boiling water. Let it soak about 10-15 minutes, then strain and drink in 2 or 3 portions throughout the day.
DIGESTIVE and URINARY AIDS
Seeds of Anise, Fennel, Cardomom, Caraway, Dill, Coriander (Cilantro seeds), Cumin – all improve digestion, relieving discomfort, indigestion, bloating and gas. The tea will be stronger if seeds are crushed in your mortar and pestle or coffee grinder before preparing. Parsley promotes digestion, especially if you overeat. Additionally, Parsley promotes urination to reduce edema and strengthens the kidneys and adrenals. Celery seeds will relieve water swelling and the pain of gout. Sesame, Hemp and Flax seeds ease constipation. Ginger and Cinnamon aid chronic diarrhea, especially cooked into a white rice porridge (lots of water, not much rice, cooked for 1 hour).
Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves, Allspice all help warm the circulation. Think about the mulling spice mixes that we use with apple cider in autumn…this group are great for pain. A painful tooth can be numbed by holding a whole Clove in your mouth near the problem tooth.
Cayenne pepper – it’s heat can improve blood flow to painful areas with just a pinch. Apply to cuts to stop bleeding quickly. Put in socks to keep feet warm. Capsaisin pain ointments are derived from this spice and used for shingles topically.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory, used for liver, gall bladder and stomach conditions, as well as joint pain. In India, this is eaten daily in curries and their incidence of dementia is very low as a result. Indians also apply it to cuts, rashes and sores. Curcumin, the active ingredient, is available in supplement form. (Not for those on blood thinning drugs.)
Saffron is a powerful blood moving herb…only a few threads at a time are needed. This helps pain anywhere in the body due to poor circulation. (Not for those on blood thinning drugs.)
Rosemary and Peppermint are both good teas for headaches and sinus pain. Peppermint is not for GERD patients because it relaxes the stomach sphinter, allowing for the upward acid movement that causes heartburn, chronic cough and chronic throat discomfort. (Although not a cooking herb, Slippery Elm Bark tea may help heal that inflamed stomach.)
COLDS and RESPIRATORY PROBLEMS
Basil, Cilantro (Coriander leaves), Scallions, Perilla, Ginger, Garlic, Sage, Thyme: these all have anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties to help hasten the healing of a respiratory infection.
Sage and Thyme will be particularly drying for cases with lots of phlegm discharge.
Garlic has a wide reputation as “poor man’s penicillin”, treating virus, bacteria, parasites, fungus and yeast; it improves heart health and circulation. (Not good for those with dry eyes.)
Oregano is equally powerful for fungal and bacterial infections. Sprinkle on food daily to prevent illness and assist the immune system. Cousin Marjoram is similar, but milder.
Fresh Ginger Root is especially effective with digestive “bugs” causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion and for the treatment of food poisoning.
Cathy McNease is a nationally certified herbalist with a Diplomate in Chinese Herbology from the NCCAOM, a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Western Michigan University and two Master Herbalist certificates from Emerson College of Herbology in Canada and East-West Course of Herbology in Santa Cruz.