Spice Racks: The New/Old Medicine Cabinet

There was a day, believe it or not, when we people didn’t need to check the nutritional value of everything we ate. In fact, products weren’t even labeled!

There was even a time when we didn’t worry about whether or not what we ate was made in a laboratory rather than grown in a field. Genetically modified grub didn’t exist like it does now. The worst thing they sprayed on the fields was cow poop.

One of the best things about food was the experimentation people did with flavors and spices, creating some amazing and dynamic flavors. Of course there are people who still do that but it’s not the art that it used to be, especially in the average home.

And one other thing that used to be true- the spice cabinet was bigger than the medicine cabinet. Or maybe it’s better to say that the spice cabinet WAS the medicine cabinet!

The riddle of the ancients was not how to make fire (that’s easy, bang the rocks together), it was how to heal ourselves with stuff that we already have in our homes.

Now I realize that people tend to live a little longer today than they did a thousand years ago, but that has more to do with our ability to recognize and isolate maladies than how we treat them. If an ailment that was common to, say… Egypt showed up in Norway the Norse leech had no idea how to treat it. With migrations and general travel information moved from place to place, people wrote it down and next thing you know Northern Europeans could treat schistosomiasis.

The idea that life spans have only been extended in recent years is a bit of a misnomer too, but I’m digressing.

For many, many years the cures for many, many ailments were no further away than the spice cabinet- and this is still true today- with one important caveat: the spices that I mention must be of high quality or they won’t have the effectiveness you want. Don’t cheap out on something as important as health potential or great taste. Many spices are now mass produced and loaded with fillers that don’t get listed on the labels. Spend a little more for better quality- they go a long way!

One of our favorite things to add to most ethnic “styles” of food is GARLIC. It’s natural in Italian, Mexican and Oriental food, adding a gentle heat and full flavor. And you probably already know that it’s a great remedy for darn-near everything. People use it for high and low blood pressure as well as infection. For these reasons, and because it’s delicious, I recommend it.

GINGER is another spice that can serve multiple purposes. It’s great for your stomach (some moms gave ginger snaps for tummy troubles back in the day- I don’t recommend that today), your circulation and even your intestines. If it weren’t for all the sugar I might even recommend some ginger ales. Unfortunately, a good thing CAN be ruined.

Do you know anybody with whooping cough or laryngitis? How about bronchial issues in general? An ounce of THYME a day will be the ticket for them.

Are you looking for something to stimulate your immune system? Try ROSEMARY. It will also increase your circulation and improve your digestion. It will also add a spectacular flavor to many dishes.

Did you know that TURMERIC is a blood purifier? Like rosemary, it will boost your circulation AND can be applied internally and externally to heal wounds. And ladies, that circulatory boost will also help regulate your menstrual cycle and help with those cramps.

CINNAMON is not only a sweet flavor enhancer; it also has many health benefits. It has been used for centuries to treat chronic diarrhea, cramps, lower back and abdominal pains. It is also recommended by many doctors for patients with diabetes.

Another great spice for when you have indigestion and/or gas is CARAWAY. You just soak an ounce of seeds in 2 cups water overnight, then take in two tablespoon doses until you’re feeling better. Or you could add BAY LEAVES to your favorite soups and stews for the same effect.

CARDAMOM is another great spice for diarrhea, colic and headaches.

CUMIN is a spice we seem to use often when making Mexican food (or the Americanized version of it) because it is a wonderful flavor that isn’t hot, but extremely flavor-full. It has been used to prevent and relieve gas. It has an added benefit of increasing breast milk and shrinking the uterus after childbirth.

These are just a few of the medicinal benefits of what you can find in your spice rack. Now you get to experiment with flavors and combinations and feel better in the process.