The Power of Food
One of my favorite things about traveling is all the food. There are so many different types of cuisines and flavors to explore. Not to mention that food plays an essential part in many cultures around the world.
What do we think about when we think of food? The taste, the aroma it gives off when it’s prepared, the feeling we get when savoring it. Food is amazing, and it has a special place in my heart (and my stomach, I wasn’t always this round) but sometimes I’m reminded of the true purpose of food: Food is for fuel.
We consume food to nourish our bodies, though in some cases we may eat it for slightly different purposes. Amazingly enough, food can also be used as medicine to heal or defend our bodies. As Hippocrates said 2,500 years ago,
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Certain foods and plants are believed to contain specific health benefits and have been used as a natural form of medicine for centuries. Some cultures still practice alternative medicine today using traditional methods, incorporating food to heal.
I’d like to share with you some foods and plants that are said to have healing properties. Some were used hundreds of years ago and others are said to be used in traditional medicine today.
Marjoram (Greeks) was used to treat headaches.
Anise (Roman) was used to aid in digestion.
Juniper was consumed for bladder infections.
Parsley was used to cleanse your breath.
Angelica was used to reduce muscular spasms.
Raspberries were used as a diuretic.
Cabbages were used to treat cathartic problems.
It was believed that chicory root could increase bile flow (which helps with detoxifying the digestive system), decrease inflammation and serve as a diuretic and tonic for the liver. Sometimes it was roasted and used as a coffee additive or substitute and it also had a sedative effect on the central nervous system aiding with caffeine jitters.
St. John’s Wort was used as a nerve tonic during the 1900s. It was known to help treat mild to moderate depression, insomnia, anxiety, and emotional disorders. It has an antidepressant effect and helps boost a person’s mood.
Garlic was believed to boost the immune system and help fight off diseases. In tandem with other ingredients, it is said to remedy heart disease, ear infections, tumors and insect bites among other things. It was believed to potentially help lower cholesterol, break down blood clots, and improve circulation.
Fenugreek was known to reduce fevers, aid in digestion, and promote lactation.
Cumin was commonly believed to lower blood pressure and relieve stress.
Dill was consumed to sooth the stomach and relieve indigestion.
Caraway was used to help digestion and prevent nausea.
Sumac helped alleviate an upset stomach.
Poppy seed was used as a painkiller.
Tarragon was known to help with insomnia.
Potatoes are eaten to decrease blood pressure.
Cauliflower is consumed to help reduce stomach and colon cancers.
Tomatoes are believed to improve blood circulation.
Pickled mangoes are used to help treat colds.
Fennel is rumored to bring down fevers and treat nausea due to its sweet spice.
Black pepper is thought to cure colds due to its hot and pungent flavor.
Mace is used to treat stomach pains.
Mustard oil is believed to increase blood flow.
Asafetida is known to relieves gas.
Turmeric is used to treat stomach disorders, obesity and menstrual problems. It is said to increase bile flow, break down dietary fats, treat gallbladder disease and inhibit tumor initiation.
Ginger is known as medicine for the stomach. It has been used to soothe digestion, treat nausea, and improve blood circulation. Ginger ale is said to be a remedy for an upset stomach and can also help lower cholesterol and aid with motion sickness and vomiting. People also add grated ginger with honey to soups or teas to help relieve cough and cold symptoms.
Sarsaparilla was believed to provide energy and relieve coughs.
Sassafras root was used to lower fevers.
Chamomile flowers were known to help treat gingivitis.
Guarana is said to help cure digestive problems, promote alertness and regain strength. Sometimes, the seeds are dry roasted and made into a thick beverage with water and other flavorings. Other cultures make the drink with cassava and allow it to ferment, resulting in a beverage similar to coffee, giving the consumer a slow and prolonged energy release.
Echinacea was used for snakebites and skin wounds. It was believed to help sore throats and stimulate the immune system.
Maca was used to increase libido, fertility, energy, and stamina. It was dried and made into soups and beverages. Plant leaves were brewed for tea and athletes used maca to increase energy and stamina.
Some of the plants mentioned above are seen to an extent in western culture, we see them as dietary supplements when we go to the pharmacy or grocery store. Echinacea is commonly taken to help fight against immune illnesses, turmeric is said to help with inflammation and joint discomfort, and St. John’s Wort is believed to help with mental health and mood.
I feel that natural remedies are becoming more popular here.
There are so many herbs, spices, and foods out there, we are just unaware of their potential health benefits.
Rather than taking medicine that contains ingredients we simply cannot pronounce, is it worth considering an alternative, more earthly avenue to help with the physical and mental issues we experience today?
Now, I’m not saying these foods will help with what they say they do—I’m no doctor—although some of them have been scientifically tested to help with certain health factors. Why not at least learn more about the benefits of the foods and plants that our planet offers?
With alternative medicinal practices around the world, the focus is not only on consuming certain foods. It’s about balancing the body and mind through specific flavors and temperatures alongside meditative practices.
Although alternative medicine is not as common where we live, it may not hurt researching the health benefits of the foods and plants that are available to us to help our overall health. Remember, food can be more than taste, flavor, and feeling. It can be medicine if we want it to.
That’s all for now,
Disclaimer: The information mentioned above is NOT medical advice. Please research food and supplements before consuming them for potential medical benefits and consult your doctor if you have pre-existing health conditions.
Uhl, Susheela. “Healing Foods in Traditional Cultures.” Natural Products INSIDER, Weeks Publishing Co., Sept. 2001, https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/weight-management/healing-foods-traditional-cultures.