Redwood Naturopathic Medicine
Herbs and Their Medicinal Properties: Part 1
"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,"
It is pretty easy to think of medicine as a prescription pad, pills, gross liquids, or injections. But did you know that the herbs grown in the backyard have potent medicinal qualities and can be used to support some of the same conditions we take prescriptions for every day?
The human body was made to coexist with nature, so herbal medicine is one of the oldest methods for humans to maintain/improve their overall health and quality of life. Humans have been using herbs in the food culture and medicinal culture for millennia to boost vitality by employing medicinal herbs and plants that naturally function synergistically with our bodies. Herbs contain phytonutrients, which combine to create the diverse flavors and colors we experience with each herb. Many of these nutrients are isolated to just herbs and are not found in any other plants. Adding herbs to your meals is a delicious tool for disease prevention. When consumed in larger quantities, herbs can be used to relieve acute symptoms such as headache, stomach upset, and nausea.
Herbs can be easily sourced from your local grocery store or grown in your backyard! Organic fresh herbs offer the most potent medicinal benefits, but dried herbs are a great option if you are limited with space and time.
There are many herbs out there, so if you are struggling with where to begin, start by incorporating the following three herbs daily! These three herbs are readily available at any grocery store and are extremely powerful healers.
Turmeric is known best for its' anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties due to the component curcumin. Curcumin, the active component and yellow pigment of turmeric, has been shown to rival the anti-inflammatory effects of some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents, such as Motrin (Murray, 2005.) These OTC agents are often accompanied by adverse side effects, while turmeric produces no toxicity. Turmeric has also been found to ease symptoms of Arthritis. Curcumin's potent antioxidant properties protect the body's cells from cancer-causing free radicals. Current experimental studies have found curcumin effective at fighting tumors of 'prostate, breast, skin, colon, stomach, and liver cancer's" (Murray, 2005.) Adding turmeric into your daily routine will boost your overall wellness and increase longevity.
Turmeric can be used in various ways; with its subtle flavor, turmeric is an excellent addition to any dish. When using turmeric in cooking, add a pinch of pepper as well. The active component of pepper, piperine, increases the bioavailability of curcumin.
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini
3 tbsps ACV
1/4 cup EVOO
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Blend all ingredients together in blender or food processor and enjoy with crackers or veggies!
Peppermint has been used for centuries to treat digestive concerns. Peppermint can reduce symptoms of gas, indigestion, nausea, and bloating. The medicinal component here is menthol, which has a relaxing effect on the tissue lining the digestive tract. Many women use ginger to help reduce morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy. When applied topically, peppermint oil can be used to help reduce headaches and relieve body aches. But if applying topically, always dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or avocado oil to prevent skin irritation.
Peppermint works well in tea form and can be consumed after meals to promote healthy digestion. Peppermint is also found in oil form when using on the skin dilute with a carrier oil. Here is a delicious and refreshing mint water recipe, great for summertime afternoons!
Watermelon Mint Cooler
4 cups watermelon
1/2 cup water
24 mint leaves
1. Add watermelon and water to blender and blend until smooth.
2. Chop the mint leaves and divide into 4
3. Add the watermelon/water mixture and mint to glasses
4. Add ice and top with lime
Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a fragrant herb used in almost every cuisine worldwide. Cilantro packs a nutritious punch with its high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients. Cilantro also is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, K, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. This herb is known for its ability to bind to heavy metals and toxins in the body and flush them out. Cilantro is also known as the 'anti-diabetic herb, as it can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar. This plant also helps support healthy liver function, which will support heavy metal detoxification and reduce insulin resistance.
If you are a little stuck trying to figure out how to use cilantro, try adding it on top of avocado toast, sneak it into a smoothie, or garnish any of your dishes! Here is a delicious cilantro chimichurri recipe!
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup cilantro (stems removed)
1/4 cup fresh oregano
4 cloves garlic
1/2 c EVOO
1 tsp sea salt
1. Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth. Occasionally scrape down the sides as needed.
2. Transfer to storage container and enjoy as condiment or marinade!
Murray, M. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. Atria Books.