The ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Part of the Hippocratic Oath reads, “I will apply dietetic measure for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment. "Hippocrates is also quoted as saying, “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always”.
Growing up I was always taught to use food as medicine to cure, treat and prevent illness. My great-grandmother was the one who passed this knowledge to me. I'm fortunate in that I was able learn by her side for many years, but I also learned so much from my grandmother and my mother. One thing I remember is that their foods were always delicious and very comforting. My g-grandma would always ask, "did that make you feel good?" And it always did make me feel good.
Comfort foods call to mind such dishes as mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, or one of my favorites, green pea soup. Those are indeed very comforting mostly due to the memories that are associated with them. However, the true comfort is in the medicinal foods. Medicinal foods impart such lovely, vibrant fragrances and flavors, such as garlic, onions and ginger. When combined with other medicinal foods, also known as vegetables, they create a comfort and flavor heaven but ultimately the result is a treatment or cure.
Listed below are some foods that are a constant staple in my kitchen and some of their healing effects:
• Apples – anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial. Apples are cooling for the body, ease thirst and reduce fever. Green apples are especially effective for cleansing the liver and gallbladder and softening gallstones. Apples are also a detoxifying fruit, great for constipation and promotes intestinal flora.
• Avocado – helps inhibit certain bacteria in the intestines. It is high in antioxidants, high in potassium and fiber and is a great moisturizer and very beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels. The pit is also edible and is also loaded with fiber and phytonutrients.
• Burdock Root – not very common in American kitchens, but this is a root veggie that I love. Cooked or raw it is a sweet and earthy heaven. Burdock is good for diabetic conditions. It is a powerful agent for restoring the body by cleansing and purifying the blood, supporting digestion and eliminating toxins. It is an excellent source of protein, calcium and potassium. Do not peel as most recipes instruct, simply scrub clean, cut and cook.
• Cabbage – Raw cabbage has the most health benefits. It has excellent antibacterial and antiviral properties, but when cooked treats inflammation substantially. The entire cabbage family contains powerful anti-cancer compounds.
• Garlic – anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-carcinogenic. It stimulates metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar levels, blood pressure and lowers fever. It is also a natural mosquito repellant.
• Ginger – In ayurvedic medicine, ginger is known as a universal medicine. It is warming for the body, stimulates digestion, boost circulation and respiration. Helps to relieve congestion, inflammation, increases metabolism and helps to effect a systemic cleansing. Great for treating colds and fever.
• Onions – anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral agent. Also helps remove parasites and heavy metals from the body. Onions improve kidney function and lowers cholesterol.
The list for me goes on and on, so I'll include more at a later time. My interest in food as medicine began at an early while spending time with my great-grandmother who often spoke of using herbs for healing, so we will definitely have to talk about herbs later as well.
I was also taught to cook with love which included keeping the health and well being of those who would eat my food in mind. My g-grandma said that having loving and compassionate thoughts and feelings while cooking was also part of the medicinal power because your energy goes into the food you prepare and into the person who eats it.
The point here is that the medicinal power of food includes nutritional powerhouses, love and compassion to ensure great food, great health, great love and comfort always.