Let Food Be Thy Medicine… Healthy Homeostasis for the Holidays
…And Medicine Be Thy Food. How interesting that this quote is by Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician who is considered by some to be the Father of Western Medicine! It seems we are finally paying attention these days to his words of wisdom. More and more of us are realizing the powerful link between food and health.
This clearly is not a new idea. Many cultures do not have the distinct boundary between food and medicine that we have here in the West. In China, nutrition therapy is a part of the traditional health care- TCM- Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM uses herbs, energy medicine and food as a combined approach to wellness and longevity that dates back as early as 2000 BC! In 1500 BC, Ayurveda was being used in India as a form of medicine. Ayurveda also uses herbs, spices and foods to maintain a healthy balance in the body.
Many of us are turning to alternative, wholistic practices to stay healthy and vibrant. This time of year can be particulary challenging to our good health. Cold & flu season is upon us, and we are out and about shopping and attending holiday parties, increasing our chances of exposure to viral and bacterial infection. We may overindulge in unhealthy food and drinks, as everywhere we go we are offered holiday treats. And, if our daily lives are not busy enough already, we are decorating, cooking, planning, running…
Stress disrupts homeostasis– the healthy, balanced stability within our bodies. Stress taxes our immune, adrenal and nervous systems and can lead to hightened vulnerability to microbes. Please note that stress does not always come packaged in negativity! Preparing a meal for an extended family gathering, for example, can be fun and satisfying. But the extra time, money and energy needed to prepare for the gathering, and the disruption of our daily routine can cause stress.
We can draw upon the wisdom of ancient traditional medicinal practices to maintain homeostasis and stay healthy during the holidays. This year the flu has come early- and so many of us are already sick! I would like to offer you some simple, inexpensive ways to protect yourself and your family from viral infection- and keep your holidays healthy.
Food first. Did you know that garlic, ginger and honey are some of our most powerful natural antibiotics? And that mushrooms, especially shiitake and maitake types, stimulate the immune system? And that many of the herbs and spices found in your cabinet have been shown effective against pharmaceutical resistant bacterium? Here is a list of the very best foods, culinary herbs & spices that you can eat to stay healthy this season:
- Mushrooms (esp shiitake & maitake but all mushrooms are heathy!)
Spice it up! Eat extra ginger with your sushi. Choose dishes that have lots of garlic & onions. Use honey & cinnamon in your tea and coffee instead of sugar. Better yet, drink hot chai tea made from REAL spices and use raw honey for sweetening it. Add fresh or dried herbs to every dish you cook. Here is one of my personal favorite recipes for staying healthy- and it tastes GREAT~
Mushroom Immunity Saute
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 dried hot peppers, crumbled OR 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (I use shiitake, maitake & baby bellas. Use your favorites)
- Fresh or dried herbs of choice from the list above. I love Thyme in this recipe, but Sage, Oregano and Rosemary are delicious as well.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil or ghee
- Lemon, butter, cheese (optional)
- Cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta
Warm your pan on medium-high heat and add oil or ghee. Add mushrooms and onions and saute until they begin to brown and carmelize, stirring frequently to avoid burning. You may need to add a tad more oil or ghee if too dry. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2 more minutes, stirring. Add hot pepper and herbs, cook and stir a few more minutes until fragrant. Serve hot over rice or pasta. Top with a squeeze of lemon and fresh organic butter and grated cheese if you eat dairy.
Now the medicinal herbs. I have over 200 herbs in my apothecary, but when it comes to colds & flu, I love these trusted friends:
- Echinacea Purpurea herb & root (our local species)
- Sage leaf (salvia)
- Goldenseal ROOT (hydrastis canadensis)
- Elder berry & flower (sambucus)
Echinacea is without equal for treating strep throat and the early onset of colds and flu. For sore throat or strep, use echinacea tincture. Drop or spray the tincture in the back of the throat, letting it mix with your saliva. Do this about once an hour until throat is no longer inflamed and painful, then several times a day until completely resolved. Please use a high quality brand- or contact me for Echinacea Throat Spray from my apothecary.
Goldenseal is a powerful antimicrobial herb- and works so well it is endangered. You must use the root of this plant- beware of inexpensive capsules that contain only leaves. Goldenseal keeps the mucous membranes in the body healthy. Use it for full blown colds & flu, urinary tract issues, and anytime there is inflammation of the sinus area. Take capsules (1-2 00 size caps up to 4x daily) of the powdered root or a dropperful of tincture 3-4 times daily. Also unequaled for cuts & wounds topically.
The Elder plant is a gift from Nature. The berries can be used to prevent viral infection and to reduce the duration of viral infection. The flowers are used to to relieve inflammation, congestion & infection of the sinuses. Every year I sell GALLONS of Elderberry & Echinacea Antiviral Elixir that I make from organic berries & herbs. Taken as a preventative or at the first sign of infection, Elder is extremely effective. The berries and flowers taste good- use berries as a syrup, tea or tincture once daily during cold and flu season as a preventative; 4-8 times daily at onset. Flowers should be steeped as a tea and sweetened with honey for use as a sinus decongestant.
Sage is an old & wise plant that has been use for millenia in cultures where it grows. Use Sage for cooking, in tea, for burning as an air purifier. Particularly effective for upper respiratory infection accompanied by sore throat and mucous. I make a large bottle of Sage vinegar every year and keep it on hand for my clients. Sage vinegar, mixed with some hot water and sprayed or gargled in the throat relieves sore, inflammed throats. A dropperful of the tincture 6 to 8 times a day will dry up a drippy, wet cold. And Sage tea is the best cold medicine I know. Here is my recipe:
- 2 teaspoons dried Sage (make sure it is recently dried and still potent)
- Juice of 1/2 Lemon
- Pinch of Cayenne powder
- 1-2 tablespoons raw honey
Place Sage in a tea bag or diffuser into a mug. Squeeze lemon into mug and add a pinch or Cayenne. Cover with boiling water, steep. Add honey and sip the tea as hot as you can tolerate it. Dink several times daily for wet, mucous cold & flu.
Happy Homeostasis to You and Yours this Holiday Season! Please email me with questions or if you need any of the herbs or preparations mentioned here.