Foods as medicine

What did you have for supper last night?-- possibly a mixed greens salad dressed with an oil, vinegar and garlic, a vegetable of asparagus or beets or a stir fry dish with lots of ginger, or some sweet well-ripened fruit and berry compote? Or, what of the parsley twig on your plate at the restaurant?-- did you at least wave it between your teeth? These are only a few of mother nature's most powerful and best medicines-- foods.

In most cultures, including ours, as little as a few generations back, herbal medicines weren't taken as they often are today-- as remedies to curtail acute ailments. Instead, in harmony with the seasons, healing roots, leaves, berries and flowers were incorporated into daily meals to promote general wellness. Grown and gathered in the wild, plants were boiled in soups, tossed in fresh salads or used as a spice. As the weather changed, mother nature provided different foods and herbs to prevent illnesses associated with each season.

Dandelions, abundant in the spring, and then blooming some again in the fall, are wonderful to treat the symptoms of allergy that come with warmer spring and the cooler fall weather. They cleanse the liver and the blood of its accumulations of heavier foods eaten over the winter months and will help provide energy for the physical demands we will be placing on our body during the warmer season to come. Dandelion greens are once again commonly found in mixed green salads-- along with its cleansing cousin the beet green. Beet greens are also good for the liver, sugar imbalances and for treating iron deficiency that gives that tired spring fever feeling.

The garlic bulb, a root, is good any time of the year-- especially in the food-toxic environment in which we live. It is especially good in soups, pastas, with beans or baked dishes and casseroles-- the heavier foods required for warmth in the colder weather. Garlic works as a natural antibiotic, a flu and cold fighter and is more common in the cold weather. Another natural antibiotic, the purple cone flower, although not a food, has roots that mature in the fall, standing ready to help us fight the oncoming season of cold and flu.

Natural apple cider vinegar and locally grown honey mixed one tablespoon each in an eight ounce glass of water 30 minutes before meals, helps fire the digestion, settle the nerves, relieves joint aching, and helps with allergy symptoms. That's a tall glass of water! Vinegar made from apples contains a healthy dose of malic acid and magnesium. These two coupled together are now prescribed to patients suffering with the aches and pains of fibromyalgia. Magnesium, one of the three most-missing minerals in today's diet, plays a major role in the body's ability to utilize calcium. The honey from local bees works to relieve the symptoms of hay fever and allergies. Honey and vinegar are foods that can be harvested and used year round.

Ginger, another root, is well known among herbalists to relieve most gastrointestinal symptoms from nausea and indigestion to diarrhea and heartburn. Grate some ginger and make a tea you'll be pleasantly surprised. Ginger stores well in the refrigerator for long periods of time.

And let's not forget that little parsley twig on your plate. A biennial herb indigenous to this area is the third most powerful food on the face of the planet. A bite into that little twig gives your body a sublingual dose of most of the B vitamins as well as the antioxidant vitamins A,C and E. Parsley will continue to grow well into the colder weather if just given a little bit of protection with a layer of leaves.

Mother nature in all her wisdom intends for us to be well year round and provides all that we need to do so. We, as humans, evolved over eons of time eating with the seasons. It naturally strengthens the body and the immune system. It is only up to us to use these wonderfully healing foods as they were intended.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online October 5, 1999

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