Medicine in Food we eat

Borage from Project Gutenberg EBook of Culinar...Image via Wikipedia

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‘Let our foods be medicines and our medicines be food’ – the old aphorism first coined by Hippocrates is coming back into vogue. In an age where medicine has become a multi-billion dollar industry and the market is flooded with thousands of ever new permutations of various synthetic compounds that make it impossible to keep track, it may well be a good idea to simplify matters a bit. Even the natural remedy department is seeing an explosion of ever more pills and extracts which will do little but confuse the average consumer. Nobody knows what’s what anymore. Confronted with conflicting messages and a glut of magic pills the task of sorting the wheat from the chaff is not an easy one. Thus, it is essential to start with the basics and to educate oneself about health and nutrition.

The word health derives from the Anglo-Saxon root ‘hal’ meaning ‘whole’. Health is a state of wholeness, of balance and harmony between mind, body and soul. Disharmony and imbalance manifests as dis-ease. Thus, the first principle of healing is to restore balance. The three main factors responsible for that balance are: proper nutrition, exercise and relaxation.And he who maintens this balance keeps good health all along.
The average convenience diet barely contains enough nutrients to keep the system running, much less to keep it healthy. Refined carbohydrates, sugars and fats are the main ingredients, supplemented with gene manipulated, processed vegetables and meats, often with artificial flavors and preservatives added to the chemical concoction. Is it really that surprising that so many people suffer from degenerative diseases, allergies, food sensitivities, cancers and immune system deficiencies? To compensate the lack of nutrients in the normal diet many people are now on an expensive regime of vitamin and mineral supplements. Vitamins and minerals are extremely important to keep the body healthy and in general all essential nutrients can and should be obtained from a wholesome, well balanced diet. However, deficiencies can result in various ailments.

A balanced diet should supply all necessary vitamins and minerals, preferably obtained from natural, organic sources. Certain conditions can deplete vitamin and mineral levels in the body and it may become necessary to boost them with nutritional supplements. However, unfortunately vitamin pills don’t always live up to what they promise. If at all possible fresh pressed juices are the best way of obtaining nutrients from organic sources, facilitating easy absorption for the body).

Many foods and vegetables provide far more than essential nutrients, though. In fact, most can be used directly as healing agents. The distinction between staple foods, vegetables, spices, herbs and drugs are often rather arbitrary. Lets take a closer look at this scale of distinction:

Grains, (such as oats, barley, wheat and rice) and starchy root vegetables (such as potatoes, yams or cassavas) are sometimes called ‘the staff of life’. They should form the basis of a balanced diet, as they supply not only energy in the form of complex carbohydrates but also contain a large range of nutrients. They are rich in fiber, too, which is especially important for maintaining a healthy digestive system, vital for the process of eliminating toxins and keeping cholesterol levels low.

Then there are different kinds of vegetables. Some of these are root vegetables, such as carrots,radish and parsnips, others are leafy, such as spinach or cabbage. They supplement the staple foods and ensure a balanced intake of a wide range of nutrients. However, one should not let them dominate the diet completely, as too much of a good thing can be just too much: Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body and can be damaging if built up to excessive amounts. Too much asparagus can damage the kidneys and too much spinach leeches the calcium from teeth and bones.

Next on the scale are the spices, which not only add flavor to a good meal, but also subtly insure that it can be digested comfortably. Most herbs commonly used in the kitchen are rich in volatile oils and thus stimulate the digestive juices. Their action is carminative and soothing. Additionally, many, kill worms and bacteria in the intestinal tract or add nutrients to the diet. In fact, most commonly used kitchen herbs are very useful medicinal herbs.
At the very far end of the scale, beyond these simple herbs and spices are the medicinal herbs, which don’t usually feature in the diet at all, but are generally only used as medicines. Most of these tend to have a tonic and restorative effect on the body. They are not fast acting magic bullets, but over time restore the bodily balance by toning the entire system. Beyond these are the toxic herbs, which, depending on the dosage, can either heal or harm. These are the plants that tend to be favored by the pharmaceutical industry as potential sources for their drugs, as they usually depend on one or more very definitive ‘active principles’, which can be isolated and synthesized with relative ease. In contrast to the gentler herbs, which act as toning restoratives, they tend to provoke a strong re-action from the body in response to the biochemical assault. Only experienced herbalists should attempt to use strong and potentially dangerous herbs in their practice. When such plant drugs are isolated and synthesized into chemical medicines the effect tends to become even stronger and oftentimes downright toxic as the herbs natural buffer substances (thought to be ‘inactive waste materials) are eliminated from the formula.

When faced with a subject as vast as herbal medicine, the number of different remedies available can be quite overwhelming. Thus, the simplest strategy is to start with herbs and spices that one is already well familiar with. There are dozens of simple home remedies that over time have proven to be extremely effective and safe,I therefore, try to include these types of remedies in most of my blogs for common diseases. Although they have almost slipped into the realm of ‘old wife’s tales’ and are forgotten by the general public, who tends to prefer the convenience of ‘modern’ processed chemical medicines, herbal pills or tinctures. This trend is supported by the ferocious advertising campaigns of the herb (and drug) companies, who find it more profitable to hype exotic, (thus expensive) and processed herbal remedies.

The truth is, that one rarely has to look beyond one’s own kitchen garden and spice cupboard to find all the remedies anybody could need to treat most common ailments. For more complicated conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, kidney disease and any other potentially life-threatening diseases one should never attempt to be one’s own doctor, but rather find a practitioner who is open towards integrating herbal remedies and nutritional therapies into his/her overall approach.

Herbal medicines and all home remedies one should always apply to mentain a good health all along one’s life through and this really gives very good result rather than taking modern chemical medicine for a very common day to day ailment and having various side effects which may cause afterwards serious desiases as mentioned above.

Most of the fruits,vegetables,herbs and spices that we eat daily as our food has healing power. Only we are to keep our eyes and ears open and learn a little bit about them and eat as per requrement.
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