Healing with Herbs and Spices, Part 1

Svetlana Kogan, M.D.

In this day and age of sophisticated prescription medications, many holistically oriented folks are turning more and more to home remedies, utilizing common herbs and spices to heal a particular condition. And with good reason: thousands of years of experience with folk remedies should be noted and revered. So, here is a glimpse of what some of these wonderful kitchen companions can do for your health:

Rosemary:
Contains carnosol as one of its important active compounds. Carnosol boosts the activity of the liver enzyme which helps to detoxify a person from fatigue-causing toxins. Carnosol will also help to convert fat into energy. As a result, using rosemary in your cooking can boost your energy levels and provide a health detoxifying effect. Try adding chopped rosemary as a seasoning for soups, stews, salads, and casseroles. It goes really well with any meat or fish, and pretty much any grains and vegetables. The supplement industry has long known about the benefits of rosemary and it has become an ingredient in hundreds of over the counter supplement formulas for hair growth, memory enhancement, and indigestion to mention a few.

However, I would recommend using this wholesome herb as a delicious cooking ingredient rather than in a supplement form. When using it is a cooking herb, you will savor its aroma in your meal. This aroma can help amp up alertness, focus, and mental stamina if you are feeling foggy and sleepy. You will also safely enjoy rosemary’s benefits and avoid an overdose or interaction with your medications.

Turmeric:
Has had a special place in my war chest of medicinal herbs and spices for a long time. One of its most potent ingredients – curcumin- switches on the liver gene which keeps blood sugar levels in check. It also helps to slow down carbohydrate absorption after heavy meals and improves the ability of the
pancreas to manufacture insulin when sugar levels creep up.

Turmeric is an essential ingredient in most curry powders and goes really well with any cooked vegetables and meats. An additional benefit one will enjoy from adding curcumin-loaded curry to various recipes is the dramatic healing effect it has on achy joints, in both osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal aches and pains. The latter improvement in pain happens due to inhibition of the body’s production of prostaglandin E2 , an inflammatory compound which sensitizes nerve endings,
Curcumin can blunt joint and muscle pain as effectively as prescription meds.

Using 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric or curry powder in your daily cooking routine is a safe way to enjoy
curcumin benefits without incurring any unwanted side effects and interactions with medications. Do not confuse curcumin with cumin – a different smoky tasting spice, which is rich in iron and may be contraindicated in hemochromatosis or other iron accumulating conditions.

Thyme:
I call it a “happy herb”. Its important ingredients are bioflavonoids which support the production of dopamine and serotonin – brain’s “happy” chemicals. Thyme can be added to breads, and as a seasoning for chicken, fish, yogurt, or dessert, to mention a few. Thyme is also an amazing natural cough and sore throat remedy, which I like to use as an herbal tea for upper respiratory infections and colds. Vaporized thyme can help to decongest a stuffed nose and soothe the sinuses.

Thyme also has decent immune-boosting properties, partially thanks to its content of Vitamins C and A, which can be especially helpful in the winter. I like to sauté my zucchini and squash with thyme and sprinkle it on my roasted chicken and baked apples and pears.

Garlic:
Contains allicin, a powerful antimicrobial agent which stimulates immune cells to perform better. Many studies have shown that people who used some garlic daily in their diets, recovered from colds up to three days sooner than those who did not consume the bulb. I regularly recommend garlic to people with elevated blood pressure and elevated cholesterol because it has significant beneficial effects on both. There are literally thousands of recipes with garlic that will suit anyone’s palate and cooking with one small clove of fresh garlic daily is a great preventive measure.

For those of you who are absolutely intolerant of the garlicky odor – there is an odor-free version available as supplement powder. Garlic also has blood-thinning properties and should be avoided before surgical or dental procedures.

For thousands of years, humanity relied on herbs and spices to heal itself of most ailments and now we are seeing a renaissance in medicine in using foods for healing. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series in our next issue of Life in Naples.

Dr.Kogan is a Concierge Holistic Internal Medicine Doctor in Naples. Her website is CustomLongevity.com

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