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Judi's Herb Garden
How to Look at Food as Medicine

By Judi Wagner

March 2000

Happy spring and welcome to Judi's Herb Garden. I trust that you have survived the flu season with minimal distress and are ready to embrace an emerging sense of health and well being, for spring is a time of new beginnings.

From my outpost in the pharmacy where I dispense a plethora of drugs, it has occurred to me on more than one occasion that we have become a bit myopic in our quest for health. We have become a pop-the-pill culture which begins in infancy, if not before. Granted, modern medicine is a miracle that often saves our lives; however, now is the perfect time to broaden our horizons and call upon the gifts of mother nature to bring us renewed health.

When considering food as medicine, I'm not just talking about eating burdock or dandelion roots or downing high doses of chamomile or slippery elm tea (although that is also a great idea when applicable). Let's think about dining as a therapeutic modality.

Tolstoy, as well as Grandma, touted the benefits of chicken soup and indeed there is actually more there than meets the eye. According to the Chinese -- for whom I have the utmost respect when it comes to healing -- chicken, when combined with vegetables and certain herbs, acts to strengthen our system and nourish our circulation. Make sure to have Granny throw in lots of fresh veggies, and if you want to be really daring, pick up a pack of Chinese herbal chicken soup mix from the health food store and throw that in the pot. You'll be in for a real treat. You may even levitate.

Along with the veggies which provide an endless variety of vitamins, minerals and healthful compounds like lycopenes, carotenoids, polysaccharides and other nutrient-rich compounds to promote health and vitality, don't forget to throw in several cloves of garlic. For indeed, garlic -- allium sativum -- is truly the queen of plants. It is the most powerful natural antibiotic, antiviral and antiparasitic available in the plant kingdom. It is wonderful for all problems with the lung and respiratory system as well as the digestive system. It is wonderful for regulating blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as treating arthritis conditions, yeast infections and menstrual disorders. A clove of raw garlic, peeled, chopped and thrown into the back of the throat and swallowed with water on a daily basis, is better than an apple for keeping the doctor away. If you do it at night before you go to bed, your friends will be a lot happier. Feel free to use it liberally in cooking with everything, and spread it on toast with olive oil and a little butter. Your body will thank you.

Finally, there was method to Mom's madness when she made you eat oatmeal every morning. Avena sativa is a wonderful way to calm down and "feed the nervous system". Oats, cooked whole or rolled, are considered a nervine tonic and an antidepressant. If any of you have used Aveno Bath, it is actually a colloidal form of oatmeal and is used to calm down the itch of chicken pox and other rashes of the skin. Eat it liberally when you're feeling a bit anxious and remember Mom (or not).

The next time you sit down to dine, try something new and colorful. Select fresh fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors to give you a wide variety of nutrients, eat lots of garlic, breathe deeply, chew well, and consider this a conscious, therapeutic, life-affirming experience. Bon appetit.




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