Join Robin Rose Bennett for a book signing and lecture on April 4.
The Gift of Healing Herbs- Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life
by Robin Rose Bennett
One of the most common ways of healing self, family and friends is with homemade herbal medicines called “meals.” As Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”
There is medicine all around us. Our kitchens, including our spice racks, can be an abundant source of effective medicine for us, and safer than what we find in the pharmacy. Open your mind and your senses to the broader possibilities for creating healing feasts in your own kitchen.
Common herbs, foods, and condiments such as basil, garlic, salt, onions, carrots, dark leafy greens, honey, vinegar, and so much more provide remedies for a vast variety of conditions. Mint plants, so rich in antioxidants and helpful for digestion, can help keep us well and in tip-top shape, which is to say, in mint condition! Many healing spice plants are in the mint family, such as basil, sage, rosemary, and lavender.
Some Common Healing Foods
Apples—for digestive health.
Basil—for good fortune, good spirits; helps the system heal in the presence of parasites, fungi, viruses, and/or bacteria.
Cinnamon—styptic, antiseptic; helps circulation, lowers blood sugar.
Garlic—for respiratory, immune, and digestive health.
Ginger—euphoric, stimulant, ant-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory.
Honey—for wounds; rehydrating, anti-allergenic, provides amino acids.
Hot cocoa/dark chocolate—healthy comfort food; antioxidant, endorphin-stimulating.
Lavender—soothing, antiseptic; heals burns.
Lentils—phytoestrogen-rich, nourishing, and protective to female reproductive system.
Marjoram—antibacterial, warming, soothing to joints.
Mushrooms—immune-modulating, cancer-protective, anti-tumor.
Mustard—pungent, breaks up congestion in the respiratory system, brings heat to release pain (though too much mustard can cause pain).
Onions—drawing, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, cough-relieving.
Rosemary—enhances cardiovascular circulation and brain functioning; memory tonic, liver tonic; helps ease headaches including migraines.
Sage—mineral-rich brain and nervous-system tonic for illnesses that cause paralysis; good in foot baths; throat-healing, strong antiseptic.
Salt—for wounds, anemia; protective against bacterial infections.
Seaweeds—rich in antioxidants, carotenes, calcium, and selenium; remove heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from the body.
Slippery elm—demulcent for throat and intestines; nourishing mucilage; helpful for constipation and/or diarrhea.
Thyme—warming, calming; bronchial antispasmodic, antibacterial.
Turmeric—for circulation; warming liver and digestive tonic; anti-inflammatory, immune-supportive.
Vinegar—helpful to acid/alkaline balance in body, restoring proper pH; digestive aid; helps joints remain flexible; menstruum for minerals.
If you’re eating well and feeling gratitude for your food, you’re already taking good medicine. Medicine is anything that heals, including and perhaps especially positive energy that comes from genuine kindness extended to oneself and others.
When our food is prepared with love and care, these foods and spices are among the best medicines in the world. Along with a sense of connection to nature and a community of people, they truly form the foundation of good health.
When you buy local food, it is fresher and more full of vitality than even organic food from a supermarket or big-box store. When plants or animals are raised as if they are “things” being manufactured in a factory, the generous essence of life-feeding-life is lost. The relationship chain is broken. There is something deeply satisfying about knowing where your food comes from, who grew the vegetables or raised the chickens, and how they take care of their land. It brings you into a more direct relationship with Earth, which feeds you. That is a healing revelation, especially to urban and suburban people who have access to twenty-four-hour markets and don’t necessarily think about all the miles that the food they are buying has traveled to reach them, not to mention all the hands, trucks, and warehouses it has passed through.
At one point when I lived in New York City, I was lucky enough to live a couple of blocks from one of the most vibrant farmer’s markets in Manhattan. I learned so much when I began buying my food there. For example, I would ask for a particular vegetable and would be told that it was not in season yet, or that its season had passed. And even though that seems obvious to me now, it wasn’t then. It gave me new insight and information that became important to my health.
It also brings communities together when it is your neighbor who is growing food for you to buy in a local farmers’ market. You know they care about what they are providing for you, because they will also see you in the post office or the bank, and if the food isn’t good they will hear about it! And they are feeding you the same things they feed themselves and their families.
You also develop a deeper understanding about the risks they take to bring you tasty, nourishing food, and more appreciation for the uncontrollable effects of weather and climate change, for example. If you have your own garden, you know how much work it is to build the soil and keep it healthy for the plants, so you eat your food with more gratitude. You come to care more personally about the health of the ecosystem you live in because you understand more personally that its health and your health are inextricably linked.
On a more basic level, when simply looking at locally grown food you can see that the colors are more vibrant. And tasting it, there is no question that a simple food like a fresh tomato can range from bland to divine. Years ago, a friend who had only eaten conventional and processed foods from the supermarket came to visit me in New York. I remember him taking his first bite of freshly baked whole-grain bread. The look on his face was one of pure astonishment. He finished chewing and announced seriously, “I’m learning right now that bread is actually a food, not just something to put around the insides of my sandwich!”
Food is the basic medicine we take every day.