Because of all the recent interest in herbs for medicinal purposes, many of us forget that “herbs and spices” were first thought of as a cooking term. But it is especially wonderful at this time of year to stop and think about how the herbs and spices that we use in our holiday treats make them special for us. An exhaustive treatment of this subject would require books, but here I’ll present a few of my favorites. Much of the information is from a couple of my favorite books on the subject: Dr. Jack Ritchason’s Little Herb Encyclopedia and Hanna Kroeger’s Spices to the Rescue.
A friend from Puerto Rico gave me the recipe for my favorite way to fix a turkey for Thanksgiving. And therefore we just call it “Puerto Rican turkey”. It is spicy and the skin is “hot” and zesty. Finely chop several cloves of garlic. Add them to one-fourth cup of each of the following: black pepper, oregano, and basil. Add to this mixture one-cup of vinegar and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. This will form a paste when can be rubbed all over the turkey including the inside cavity. Then bake the turkey as you normally would. Your kitchen will smell like heaven and your taste buds will certainly be prepared for the feast to follow.
Why are we attracted to the wonderful taste of these spices? I think it is just one of the ways that God has of drawing us to some nutrients that are really beneficial to us. Look at the health benefits from just the ingredients in this one recipe.
Black pepper cures and prevents many diseases. “It is a digestive aid, relieving gas, and has been used as a tea for running bowels. It is good for constipation, nausea, vertigo, and arthritis. It is a diuretic and a stimulant. Black pepper is loaded with chromium which is needed for proper functioning of the pancreas and heart.” You can also sprinkle a bit of it on some honey and eat it to help alleviate infected sinuses.
Oregano was named by the Greeks and means “joy of the mountain”. Technically it is wild marjoram. While its aromatic influence is to strengthen the feeling of security, it has anti-viral qualities. It may aid the body in balancing metabolism and is useful as a tea for coughs, stomach and gallbladder problems, and menstrual pains. “Oregano has also been used for nervous headaches, irritability, exhaustion, and as a sedative. It is thought to prevent seasickness. It can be applied externally for swelling, rheumatism, and a stiff neck. Chewing on an oregano leaf provides temporary relief for a toothache.”
Basil was said to have been found growing around Christ’s tomb after the resurrection, and some churches use basil to prepare holy water while others set it around their altars. The Indians swore their oaths upon this herb. Its aromatic influence is reported by many to help one have an open mind. “Basil is food for the brain. When you feel victimized or criticized, eat some basil.” Basil also works as an antidepressant, is helpful for nervous exhaustion and mental fatigue is anti-viral in its use against the flu and helps to relieve itching and ringworm. It may also be used for indigestion, kidney and bladder problems, headaches, cramps, and constipation. And in Africa, it is used to expel parasitic worms.
We could write books (and some have!) about the health benefits of garlic. Helping both the physical and mental bodies, “garlic has been prized by healers for more than 5,000 years. Pyramid builders and Roman soldiers on long marches were given a daily ration of garlic. Garlic is so strong an antibiotic that the English purchased tons of it during World War I for use on wounds. Journals of that period state that, when garlic was used on wounds, there were no cases of sepsis. It is a world-renowned cure-all and home remedy in practically every culture. Today even orthodox medicine accepts it healing powers.”
And if we follow the advice of Dr. Paul C. Bragg, perhaps the best-known advocate of daily use of apple cider vinegar, we’ll use vinegar in many tonics several times each day. He espouses its benefits to the digestive and circulatory systems, the bowel, and certainly the mind.
These are only a few of the spices we may find in our pantries and cupboards. We use them to prepare special dishes all the time. But we probably take for granted the wonderful health benefits they give to us. Perhaps, like my family, you may enjoy a Puerto Rican turkey this Thanksgiving. Enjoy good health and God’s richest blessings. Gen.1:29.
– Randy Lee, ND, Owner, The Health Patch, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC 73130, phone/fax: 736-1030, e-mail: [email protected]