Medicinal Foods

Hippocrates offered the advice, “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine shall be thy food,” in 400 BC. Today in the modern capitalist world, it seems that these wise words may have been forgotten. Fortunately with the revival of small scale farms and the creation of community supported agriculture, people are once again gaining a powerful connection to food. When one holds this connection close to them, the healing properties of everyday foods become apparent.

As the season changes, some of you have already tasted the beginning of the winter splendor soon to come. Who needs to visit the drug store I ask you, when we have so many delicious types of winter squash? Winter squash, such as the acorn squash or snack jack pumpkins that you received recently in your share, are known in Ayurvedic medicine to be warming foods that keep one healthy during the colder seasons. Additionally, the high levels of phytonutrients in these foods have been shown to have anti-carcinogenic effects. Beta-cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene are responsible for the rich orange colors of winter squash in addition to their roles as antioxidants that lower the risk of cancer; particularly those of the pancreas and stomach. Beta-carotene also helps to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that can clog blood vessels and result in heart attack or stroke.

Besides for these important factors, the flesh of winter squash acts as an anti-inflammatory that can soothe many conditions ranging from burns to asthma to arthritis. If you burn yourself baking pie this Thanksgiving, save some of the pumpkin flesh to use as a poultice. Place the pumpkin flesh on the burn to ease your pain and facilitate healing. Mashed squash can also be used topically as a face mask to moisturize skin.

When using the flesh of winter squash, be sure to not forget the seeds. Squash seeds act as a diuretic that can alleviate fluid retention and help alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. The seeds also serve as a vermifuge; or an agent to expel parasitic worms from one’s body. When utilized with proper recommendation for dosing from your naturopath or family doctor, squash seeds can operate as strong medicine.

One cannot utter the phrase “medicinal foods” without mentioning the omnipotent garlic. Garlic has for centuries been touted as powerful medicine by many cultures across the globe. The antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, antiparasitic, and antifungal properties of garlic make this food an easy introduction to nutritional healing. Raw garlic is best because cooking the garlic changes the physical composition of molecules; thus reducing some of the medicinal strength. Garlic can be consumed prophylactically when one starts to feel that they may become ill. At the first signs of weariness before cold or flu symptoms begin, increase your intake of raw garlic to prevent sickness. Garlic is suitable for many types of infections, including some types of internal viruses. Topically garlic can help heal skin infections and even earaches. For a simple earache preparation, slice a clove of garlic and heat briefly in olive oil. Let the oil cool, then strain it and use a drop or two in the infected ear.

While pharmaceutical medicines can be derived from the plants we use as food, it is always important to follow the advice of a professional healer such as a doctor or naturopath before deciding to use medicinal foods or herbs as treatment. There is a great wealth of knowledge available on the subject, however, and below is a list for further reading on the subject of medicinal foods:

“Healing with Whole Foods”

“Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention”

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine: 265 Scientific Studies Showing the Physical, Mental, and Environmental Benefits of Whole Foods”