Well, I have started the likely to be lifetime journey into herbalism and how we can make our food our medicine. Let's start this off with the concept of healthy eating, which has changed with every diet fad, every new research that makes this or that food amazing or bad and how American culture alternatively shames and reveres food.
We have an entire network devoted to food, yet every other day it's try this new diet that restricts what you eat, you need to count calories, not eat this or that and our food infrastructure from farming, to delivery to packaging to marketing is filled with hidden scary things, catchphrases, shiny promises and the gross over purchasing/production of the "next miracle food" . Meanwhile, people in other countries who share an actually healthy and reverential relationship with their food are looking at us like we're insane, because we are. Americans are the ultimate consumer, we demand whatever shiny new magic product will solve all our ills. Well guess what, there is no shiny new product, no magic bullet. What keeps us healthy is the same exact things that have kept people healthy for millennia, a varied diet composed of real food, exercise and awareness. It's that simple and that complicated because over the last 60-70 years Americans have been trained that all good things come in pill form or pre-processed to make our lives oh so convenient. Of course now we're asking why we're obese, dying of heart disease and diabetes etc, none of which are convenient, unless you make money off diseases or slick marketing campaigns.
So what is medicinal eating? Eating the old school way, with spices, herbs and real ingredients. Yes, that means you have to cook, shop and learn a few things, sorry, good health cannot be found in a bottle or a box, it takes real work. Our bodies are the only things we have with us our entire lives, perhaps we should worry more about what we're putting in them instead of how they look on the outside. Fortunately, the better you treat the inside, the better you look on the outside. Kind of neat how that works :).
Herbs and spices have a multitude of benefits, they can help regulate our appetite, decrease inflammation, increase our immune systems, help our skin and hair, help fight off colds, help us digest food better, help us sleep, benefit every biological system and they, quite often, add tasty zings of flavor to foods. So why does our American range of spices seem to be salt, pepper, onions, peppers, garlic and maybe sage, thyme and rosemary during the holidays? Toss in some nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon for Christmas and call it good. BBQ food adds a few more things but not all that much and Southwest cuisine has cilantro and peppers for added kick. Perhaps it is because for the majority of our history we've been populated by people from Europe. Now, yes French cooking is amazing, but British? Not so much, they hoarded spices to make money off them back in the day but never learned how to use them. German and Irish cuisine is rather bland as well. Don't get me wrong, I love me some kick ass Irish stew or sauerkraut but as we became homogenized cuisine wise we somehow ended up with steak, potatoes and white people versions of ethnic food. Things are changing in more urban places where you can get actual ethnic food but most people don't want to try to cook Vietnamese pho at home, or curry, so all the health benefits we get from those dishes are a rare treat for our bodies. We can do better, and you don't have to spend all day making Pho broth to do it.
I found a recipe book in my boyfriend's stash of cooking books that is all about dressings and marinades. These are easy, look yummy (I haven't tried them yet) and can be used to change up your usual dinner or lunch salad (which I hope you are doing) or your veggies. Here's the first one and you should have most of this in your kitchen already. It also helps to get fairly fresh herbs so they taste better and give you more benefits.
What I am going to do is list the recipe and then some of the benefits of the ingredients so you can see how eating something yummy can make your body happy, not just your taste buds.
Orange Herb Yogurt Dressing : Found in The Book of Dressings and Marinades by Janice Murfitt
1 Tsp finely grated orange peel (it is better to buy organic oranges if you can or clean them very well to get all chemicals off the peel)
2 Tblsp fresh orange juice
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tsps each of the following chopped rosemary, cilantro and parsley
In a small bowl beat orange peel, juice, garlic and sunflower with a spoon until blended. Stir in yogurt cover and refrigerate. Just before using stir in the herbs. Makes 2/3 cup. (You can substitute other citrus juices and peels if you want or even raspberry or strawberry juice)
You serve this over sliced beets, cucumbers or with potatoes or cooked veggies or any curried dish.
Now most of you will probably have most of these ingredients in your house already, but when was the last time you had something either than ranch or vinaigrette dressing for your veggies or salad?
Now what does all these ingredients do for you?
Yogurt gives calcium and protein, not to mention if you get a good greek brand you get probiotics which help you digest your food and keeps your tummy happy and healthy. It also has a nice dose of B-12 and B-6
Orange juice, we all know that one but what about orange peel? Well it strengthens digestive function and helps with gas, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and decreased appetite.
Garlic sure it helps your immune system but that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's also an antibiotic, can help with chest issues, digestive disorders, fungal infections like yeast infections, and has been used for 5,000 years to reduce cholesterol and the risk of further heart attacks in cardiac clients. Garlic also reduces risk of atherosclerosis while somewhat lowering the blood pressure.
Rosemary helps the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems. Rosemary has long been used to increase circulation to the brain, improving focus and memory and can help reduce headaches.
Cilantro has anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties, can be calming and helps with digestion.
Parsley also has anti-inflammatory properties and makes your tummy happy as well.
The herbs listed also provide the following vitamins, Vitamin A and a small amount of vitamin C along with Vitamin K and a few more.
They also provide minerals such as manganese, phosphorous, selenium, folate, iron, fiber, zinc and more. You can google them all for the exact amounts.
So, in this one simple recipe you get a ton of healthy benefits, plus it might make your veggies taste better so you eat more of them. Can't beat that can you?
I hope you try this and maybe explore more herbs and spices over the coming weeks.
Kat is a LMT in AZ with close to a half decade of experience. She likes to talk to ppl about their health, make them feel better and get them to realize they have so much power to control their own health. Snarky yet informative, that's Kat in a nutshell. She's also available for personalized, targeted therapeutic massages, please see the scheduling page if you live in the Phoenix AZ area.