Do you smell that?! Your senses get insulted with the aromas of the holiday season and what's cooking in the kitchen. Ever wonder what all those fresh herbs and spices are good for medicinally? Your kitchen is full of remedies the have so many wonderful health benefits. Of course, eating them for one meal a year isn't going to miraculously change your overall well being, but perhaps these herbs are something to consider in the future should you need them. I've broken down some common herbs and spices with a small summary of what they are most used for.
What's interesting to me is that all these herbs have an antimicrobial and digestive property to them. They seem to have this affinity for sore throats and respiratory infections. It's curious that we gravitate to such useful remedies during the height of cold and flu season as the herb of choice on the Thanksgiving table. It's almost as if that were intentional.
You will find Thyme essential oils because it is rich in volatile oils. It's really great for indigestion and a sluggish bowel. Did you know that it's actually anti-septic and anti-viral? You can apply it externally to infected wounds! I would bind it with a lotion first and then apply. Did you Thyme has an affinity to the lungs as well. It's wonderful for Upper Respiratory infections and digestive infections. You can make a tea and gargle it for sore throats, laryngitis, or even drink the tea for any kind of cough; whooping cough, asthma, or bronchitis.
This is another great herb that is rich in volatile oils. That's why it's so aromatic. I absolutely love growing rosemary in the garden. It loves the sun and heat and really flourishes in dessert-ish soils. When I think of rosemary, I think CIRCULATION. It's also a nervine, an herb that can calm nervous tension. If you get a stomach ache because of anxiety, think of rosemary. If you have Rosemary essential oil, you might think of this to apply topically to muscle pain or areas where your nerves are screaming at you. aka. sciatica, neuralgia, M.S. Are you struggling with hair loss?? You can actually apply Rosemary essential oil to areas where you want more hair to grow! That's because it improves circulation and bringing blood flow to an area, can promote healing and bring nutrients to maybe an otherwise depleted area. Before exams, I would actually go to the garden, pick fresh rosemary, and smell it through the exam. The volatile oils through the nose, aka olfactory nerve, stimulates blood flow to the brain, thus improving brain functions and keeps you awake after a long night of studying.
Those volatile oils again! Are you catching on? Those extremely smelly plants have a lot of volatile oils.
Another really great herb for inflammation and the immune system!
Red Sage is extremely soothing to mucous membranes and is excellent for any inflammatory condition in the mouth or throat: mouth ulcers, sore throats, tonsilitis, gingivitis, etc. Sage also has a cooling affect and can be really useful for hot flashes or excessive sweating.
***DO NOT TAKE RED SAGE IF PREGNANT OR NURSING. It can lower breast milk production and stimulate uterine contractions.
This is a warming spice, no surprise there at all, especially as we pull it out during the cold, dark months of winter. Cinnamon is great for digestion, people with a low vitality, and is an astringent- which means it's great for diarrhea. Have you seen people try an swallow 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon without much success? **please don't try this at home. They can't do it because the cinnamon drys up the mouth rather quickly. This drying is the astringent property of the spice which is great if you need to bind up the stool to stop diarrhea but not so great for people with dry mouth. The astringent properties are also great for bleeding. Did you know you can make a cinnamon lozenge for Candida or oral thrush?? Cinnamon is not only antibacterial BUT also anti-fungal.
**DO NOT USE IN PREGNANCY
The latin name even has the word "aroma" in it! If you are an essential oil guru, Young Living's Thieves contains clove. Thieves is the "go-to" essential oil for infections and boosting the immune system. In fact, it's whats diffusing in my office right now! Clove is a wonderful spice with many potential uses. Clove oil is great of tooth aches, abscesses, mouth ulcers, and any oral inflammation/infection. Taken internally it's rich in antioxidants, has an anti-bacterial affect, and actually contains a flavone, apigenin, which is extremely useful in boosting your immune system. Another interesting fact about apigenin, is that it can help with estrogen dominance, particularly in men as it will up-regulate the aromatse enzyme- shifting away from estrogen to make more testosterone. So, does that mean clove can be helpful for low testosterone? Absolutely. *Again this is dose dependent so simply eating it for one meal isn't going to have a huge impact.
"Fragrans" - as in fragrant, as in another wonderful essential oil? Nutmeg essential oil is an anti-inflammatory and when applied topically, can be really useful for arthritic and other joins pains. There are carminitive properties to this spice that can soothe the GI lining, reduce inflammation internally, and help with flatulence. Basically, carminitives promote healthy digestion and anything to do with the GI, nutmeg can certainly be of use.
**Caution in pregnancy
There are of course many other spices and herbs used at the Thanksgiving dinner table but the above are ones I'm certainly adding to my dishes. Happy and healthy holidays. May you find your medicine in the comfort of your kitchen.
Medical Herbalism, The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG. Healting Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont. Copyright 2003.
Clinical Botanical Medicine, Second Edition. Eric Yarnell, N.D., Kathy Abascal, B.S., J.D., Robert Rountree, M.D. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Copyright 2009.
Herbal Medicine, From the Heart of the Earth. Sharol Tilgner, N.D. Wise Acres Press, Inc. Copyright, 1999.