Friday, March 29th 2019 at 10:15 am
Food has been the medicine of humanity since the dawn of time. Many herbs that we associate only with seasoning our food are, in fact, potent herbal medicines.
The distinction between herbal food and herbal medicine is actually quite subjective. There is a wide area of overlap with the two categories. If you think of all the plants we consume, for whatever purpose, as being on a spectrum, from food on one end, to medicine on the other, you will see what I mean. On the food end would be plants like potatoes and carrots- potentially medicinal, but mild and safe. The other end of the spectrum contains medicine plants like opium poppy and foxglove, the source of digitalis- definitely not food, but clearly serious medicine.
The gray area is in the middle. Take echinacea. None of us would consider sitting down to a delicious bowl of echinacea soup. Yuck. But you could. And it would be safe. How about parsley? In a salad, it’s a food. Used as a juice to treat edema, it’s a medicine.
The truth is, herbal medicines have about the same chemical components as food plants. Herbal medicines are just selected from plants that have greater concentrations of active ingredients, making them more convenient to use.
European herbal medicine, the tradition from which contemporary American herbalism mainly derives, does not see much overlap between food plants and herbal medicines. Foods you eat, spices make the food taste better, and herbal medicine you take in a tincture. Asian medical systems, however, make no distinction between the two. Food is just less concentrated herbal medicine, and every meal is viewed as a chance to get in more healing herbs. In fact, the Chinese word for the medicinal brew that people use daily to maintain their health is “soup.”
The complex cuisines of China and India began, thousands of years ago, as recipes to get healing herbs and foods into people. Gradually, as the process evolved, complicated mixtures of food ingredients, herbal medicines, and flavorings coalesced into a tasty amalgam that warms the soul, heals the body, and pleases the palate.
For example, Indian food typically starts with a combination, a “masala”, of onions, garlic, ginger, and other various spices, selected for their medicinal virtues, and taste. Since many of these herbs can cause gas, additional herbs, such as fennel and coriander seeds, are added to counteract that tendency. Ginger and mustard, for example, speed up the digestive process, so that the meal is efficiently processed and moved through the digestive tract.
Although the list of herbal medicine foods is huge, here is a selection of remedies that are easy to find, and particularly effective.
The carrot and parsley family (Umbelliferae), in particular, is a huge source of edible plants and good tasting medicines. These plants grow all over the world, and are used in a broad range of cultures. This group of plant medicines has unusual chemistry, so they make their way into the kitchens and medicine chests of many native medical systems. The seeds are typically the medicinal part, but various parts are used, depending on the plant. Some well-known members of this family include parsley, coriander (cilantro is coriander greens), fennel, anise, cumin, and dill.
Plants in this family contain compounds that act like calcium channel blockers, benefiting angina. Herbs in this family generally have estrogenic action, especially the seeds. The popular Chinese herb dong quai is in this family. These parsley relatives are prized around the world for treating intestinal gas, a property herbalists call “carminative.”
rest of article linked below. the list of herbs found in your cupboard is really good information to have.