Healing with Herbs and Spices
Centuries of old folk wisdom teach us about the benefits of using food as a healing modality for many ailments. In fact, if we look around, we will notice that nature has created numerous plant sources for helping us along on our journey of life. Let’s take a look at some of these pantry must-haves:
Is the most popular in holistic medicine for its effectiveness in treating diabetes and preventing heart disease. Dating back to Ancient Egypt, this legendary spice is derived from the inner layers of certain tree barks. Best used in its powdered form, cinnamon has amazing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It improves the body’s sensitivity to its own insulin, so in patients with insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome) it will help lower blood glucose. Cinnamon may also help to reduce blood pressure and elevate the good cholesterol HDL. For prevention and delicious taste, sprinkle it fresh on granola, oatmeal, hot cocoa, and baked apples and pears. Cinnamon can also be added to almost any kind of smoothie. If you are using cinnamon as medicine, do it under the doctor’s supervision because cinnamon derived from certain species of trees contains coumarin which may be toxic to the liver in large doses. Some supplement brands can also be contaminated with lead.
The seeds of this anise-smelling Mediterranean and Asian herb have well-recognized medicinal properties. One of its common holistic uses is for anti-spasmodic effect in intestinal discomfort common in irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Studies suggest that fennel seeds can soothe chronic belly cramps and bloating in the majority of people who take them. Fennel also has estrogen-like properties on the cellular level, so adding fennel seeds to your diet may help with painful menstruation as well as age-related vaginal dryness symptoms in women. For prevention, you can use ground fennel seeds on grilled fish or meat, or any baked or sautéed vegetables. Check out Indian recipes on the web for the tastiest culinary expression of fennel goodness. If using it as a supplement, do so under physician supervision because an overdose of this anti-spasmodic may boomerang into the development of the “lazy gut.”
Originally hailing from Southeast Asia, ginger is arguably the most popular medicinal spice on the planet. In fact, in India, ginger is used to help with pretty much everything including painful headaches. It is packed with gingerols—plant compounds that amp up the production of pain-numbing endorphins, dampen inflammation and relax scalp muscles to prevent painful spasms. Thanks to the same active ingredient, ginger also treats nausea as effectively as motion sickness medications, so it’s a great help for a hangover, post-chemo nausea, or a pregnancy morning sickness. I love using it in my arthritis patients because due to its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can help quell the pain and swelling in the joints. For prevention, peel, grate and cook with sauces, glazes, and marinades for a mellow flavor. Check out the web for traditional Asian stir-fry chicken, shrimp, or vegan recipes. When using it as a medicine, consult with a physician because an overdose could lead to bleeding and abdominal discomfort.
An easy-to-grow herb that has earned its global appeal for helping with digestive upsets, balancing acid production in the stomach, and alleviating bloating, nausea, and stomach cramps. Peppermint has more than 100 local names in different countries and is a main ingredient for antiviral menthol rubs and muscle pain menthol patches. You can enjoy peppermint’s refreshing vibe by adding it raw to your smoothies, yogurts, or salads. You can also heat it lightly in olive oil before drizzling it over grilled fish or meat. Check out epicurious.com for some cool recipes with mint. If you are using it as a medicine, check out FDGuard – an impressive premeal supplement made from caraway and peppermint oil, a synergistic formula for functional dyspepsia, a common digestive disorder.
Dr. Kogan is a Concierge Holistic Internal Medicine doctor in Naples. For more information, please visit CustomLongevity.com or call 239.676.6883.