There is an old quote attributed to Hippocrates that you might have heard:
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
As we mentioned a couple weeks ago, there is a fine line between herbal medicine and good nutrition. Our culture is becoming smart to this with our renewed focus on quality growth and preparation of our food, and ensuring that our diets are filled with foods containing a variety of healthy compounds. The next step beyond this is gaining an understanding of which kinds of foods are best for a given health problem. We’re still working on getting this sorted out, and herbal medicine can help shed a lot of light.
Let’s take ginger as an example of how we can use food as medicine. In thinking of ginger we will most often think of gingerbread men, gingersnaps, or perhaps ginger beer. What we don’t often think of is that ginger has been used as a medicinal herb in China for many hundreds of years. In China, sheng jiang (ginger) is an herb that is considered warm & pungent. It is principally used to quell nausea or vomiting accompanied with a feeling of cold in the stomach, or for nausea brought on along with a common cold. This is of great value for people who have nausea with no apparent cause, or are prone to upset stomachs (but not heartburn or GERD). Candied ginger is sold in many supermarkets, and it can be easily and quickly used as a remedy for this problem.
Ginger’s strong flavor & aroma has also been used to clear congestion and phlegm out of the lungs during colds. Having ginger tea during times when you’re ill can help speed up your recovery should you be prone to protracted coughs or trapped mucus in the chest.
Ginger is also used as an antidote for seafood poisoning, for back when our ability to store and keep meat wasn’t as well developed as today. This simple fact has influenced sushi culture down to the present day. It’s one of the reasons why pickled ginger is often sold along with sushi.
So as we can see, ginger has many more uses than just as a flavoring in baked goods. This same principle also applies to our other foods, whether it be garlic, curry, peppers, or even just rice. An appropriate selection of foods can help any person become and stay healthy, not just because of the nutritional content of a variety of food, but because their choice of ingredients was intentionally made to maximize their health.
These are the kinds of things that an herbalist can help an interested patient sort through. If you have been wanting to get better control of your health through your diet, consider finding a good herbalist to help you out.