Let food be they medicine, said Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Foods can be wonderful tonics, supporting health through the seasons and also through detoxification and periods of sickness. I grabbed some honey off the shelf the other morning after slightly overindulging in some delicious wine the night before, knowing that the enzymes and minerals and healing power of honey can help a hangover. Here are some of my favorite food and herbal tonics.
*Honey – one of my faves.
Honey has been used for centuries, and it’s been said that Cleopatra bathed in milk and honey to keep her skin soft and youthful. Honey is great because it can be used internally and externally. I’ve used it as a face mask, on burns and cuts (it’s said to be a wonderful antiseptic and skin healer), and as a moisturizer. Taken internally, it’s said to help reduce allergies, boost the immune system, facilitate recovery after athletic activity, help a hangover, suppress a cough better than cough syrup, help relive constipation, and boost overall antioxidant levels if taken daily. ALWAYS choose raw, unheated, unpasteurized honey (not the stuff that comes in the plastic bear). Heating destroys all the benefits and kills the enzymes. Buy local honey if possible, and try to get it with the cappings that contain pollen and propolis, both of which have incredible health benefits and are known to boost immunity and reduce allergies.
Honeybees are in danger. If you stop and think for a moment: life would not be possible without bees. It has been said that if honeybees died off, mankind would follow in 4 years. While this has not been determined, bees are responsible for the continuation of our food supply: No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. Praise the honeybee!
*Sea Veggies – these gifts from the sea pack a nutritional punch, rich in trace minerals so lacking in an industrialized diet, especially the antioxidants zinc and selenium.
Hijiki, kelp, sea palm fronds, wakame, nori…. all are rich in enzymes, amino acids, and especially iron and iodine (helps boost thyroid function). Sea veggies are truly a superfood. Some have a stronger flavor than others. I buy them from the farmers’ market here in California. They have been wild harvested from the Pacific up in Mendocino. I’ll add them to salads and soups or rehydrate them and all a little sesame oil and sesame seeds for a seaweed salad. Add a chunk to broths or brown rice to infuse dishes with nutrients. Or, you can find them in shakers to sprinkle atop salads, rice bowls, or other dishes.
*Ginger – sea veggies make me think about ginger!
The two complement each other so well. Ginger is one of my favorite herbs – it relieves nausea and is excellent (and safe!) for pregnant women in the first and second trimesters; its warming properties can boost circulation; it’s said to have cholesterol-reducing benefits; it is cleansing, stimulating, and improves digestion by boosting stomach acid before meals, helping your body more efficiently digest and utilize food; and it relives gas and bloating better than most herbs I’ve found. I add grated ginger to asian dishes when I cook, or I’ll grate it into a mug and pour hot water over it and let it steep. Add lemon water for extra cleansing. Lemon water helps stimulate digestion, so used together with ginger first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, this tonic can relieve constipation and “get things moving.”
*Green tea – I’ve written an entire post on the benefits of green tea. Aside from everything else you’ve heard, my recent trip to the dentist (only one cavity my whole life) reminded me that green tea can protect your mouth from overgrowth of plaque and bacteria. I love matcha and the ritual around making this rich, foamy green tea. Its bright color tells you it’s rich in antioxidants. Choose organic, fair trade green teas.
*Miracle Immune Tonic – I have been making this tonic for those about to get sick or who are already sick (works best for colds and flu), and it is nothing short of miraculous, even for non-believers. I combine a spoonful of dried elderberries, yarrow, and peppermint leaves into a pot, cover with water and simmer lightly for about 20 minutes until it’s thick and strong. Add a little honey. Drink first thing before bed and again in the AM. Works like magic. Elderberries are very high in vitamin C, yarrow expels mucous from the lungs, and peppermint soothes coughs. Honey soothes coughing and boosts immune system.
*Broths – “A good broth can resurrect the dead,” they say. Broths are incredibly rejuvenative and an easy way to get minerals and nutrition for those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery. I make a big batch of Mineral Broth to sip at night during a cleanse. A bone broth, made from beef and chicken bones, can be sipped throughout the day to help recovery from illness, or use as a base for soups and stews. The bones and cartilage have amazing healing and strengthening properties. Also add egg shells for calcium. Try this mineral broth, for starters:
1 c winter squash (I use butternut, skin on)
2 medium potatoes (can use yams)
1 c zucchini
1 c purple cabbage
2 c celery
1 c collards or chard
1 c kale
1 c onion
1 c green beans
¼ c parsley
3 cloves garlic
½ c flaxseeds
6 slices ginger
Scrub all veggies and cut into chunks. Place everything in dutch oven and fill with filtered water to level of veggies. Add sea veggies as desired. Bring to boil, simmer lightly 4 hours or more. Add curry for zest if desired.
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