Your medicine cabinet is a terrific first stop for natural healing solutions. Then again, your kitchen might be an equally important resource. A well-stocked kitchen offers up foods that do double duty as disease fighters. “My pharmacy could essentially be a spice rack,” says Jamey Wallace, ND, clinical medical director of Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, Wash. “All herbs and whole foods have medicinal properties; it’s just a matter of knowing how to use them.”
A lot of items you commonly stock — such as honey, olive oil, lemon, apple cider vinegar, teas and salt — are great remedies for various ailments. If you’re not sure where to begin boosting the healthy quotient of your kitchen, consider adding the following three items:
Ginger is a proven remedy for nausea, indigestion and morning sickness. The herb works by quieting contractions of muscles that surround the stomach and gut.
To use: Slice off a 1/3-inch hunk of fresh ginger. Place it in a mug, fill to the brim with boiling-hot water and let steep for five minutes. Drink as a tea.
Thanks to its intense array of phytonutrients (plus sulfur), garlic is a powerful immune booster, antioxidant and detoxifier. It also protects the heart against three of its biggest enemies: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and inflammation. Although garlic’s protective mechanism is still largely a mystery, researchers suspect it has something to do with a compound called allicin, an enzymatic byproduct created when garlic is cut or crushed.
To use: If you can handle eating garlic raw, grab a clove or two and chomp away. Otherwise, when you start to cook, dice, mince or press fresh garlic first. Then, let it sit for 15 minutes while you get the other ingredients together. This allows the protective enzymes to form. “The more often you cook with garlic, the better,” says Wallace. “Try to eat a dish with real, fresh garlic every day.”
A relative of ginger, turmeric is a favorite panacea of both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, and is increasingly being researched by Western scientists as a potential treatment for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. One of turmeric’s most active compounds, curcumin, is believed to be a potent anti-inflammatory. It is also known to increase the body’s flow of bile, which aids in the digestion of fats. (Unless prescribed by a qualified practitioner, however, large doses of supplemental turmeric should not be used in people diagnosed with gallstones or bile-passage obstructions, or during pregnancy.)
To use: Squeeze more turmeric into your diet by cooking more Indian cuisine. Traditional Indian dishes often rely heavily on turmeric (a key ingredient in virtually all curries) for its pungent aroma and slightly astringent taste.