The Kitchen Herbalist
All of these suggestions are intended to be used only occasionally. Long term administration of some kitchen herbs can be harmful, and none of these should be used as supplements by someone who is pregnant or nursing unless they are researched for safety.
The first use of herbs was probably in cooking. Since some tasted and smelled good, they were naturally eaten, or used to flavor foods. Many of the herbs that have stood the test of time actually had more than just the purpose of seasoning, though.
Traditionally, the Chinese have used garlic and onion to flavor food, just as the Asian Indians have used turmeric and fennel seeds, the Mexicans used hot pepper and garlic, and the Romans used garlic, thyme, oregano, etc. These types of spices were very important in the days before refrigeration.
Spices like garlic and turmeric are effective antibacterials and antiparasitics. They served to ensure that the side of meat that was hanging in the open air marketplace all day would not make one sick when it was bought and consumed. Herbs and spices were also added to preserve meat. Also helpful were carminative herbs which served to calm indigestion and gas after eating this often questionable food from the marketplace. Fennel seed and ginger are very good carminatives.
This tradition of using spices as antibacterials, carminatives, and antiparasitics continues today, yet not many people know it. A prime example is Japanese sushi. When it is served in the traditional manner, wasabi, a strong green horseradish, is always included. Horseradish is antiparasitic, which can be quite important when eating raw fish, even when it is prepared properly. The soup that is usually eaten as an appetizer, miso soup, contains cabbage and seaweed, both antiparasitic. Sake wine (or any alcohol, like beer with raw oysters) is quite effective in preventing bacterial infections caused by consuming contaminated food. Slices of ginger are included with sushi as well, which helps with parasites, bacteria, and quells possible indigestion and nausea. Too bad George Bush, Sr. didn't eat enough ginger the last time he ate sushi. BTW, raw salmon is the best source of EPA oil commonly available.
These types of antiparasitic and antibacterial traditions appeared to have been discovered by the English as well and continues today. Rare meat like prime rib roast, a high risk food due to parasites, is served with horseradish sauce. Sage is used to flavor beef. Rosemary for sausage. Thyme, sage, and oregano for poultry. All of these herbs have antiparasitic and/or antibacterial qualities. But, it is not enough to rub spices into a turkey to do the consumer much good, so it is best to eat something like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and/or cranberries along with it since they are all somewhat antiparasitic.
Other foods, like onions, cabbage, and pineapple, are also antiparasitic and/or antibacterial. Plus they can aid digestion. Thus, the following combinations: ham with cloves and pineapple; fish with cole slaw; corned beef with cabbage; pork with sauerkraut; steak with onions; pork with cumin (in barbeque sauce).
There are many other examples of food and herb combining for reasons other than parasites and bacteria. It is good to eat something like ham, which is preserved with nitrites, with a source of fiber like apples, whose pectin reportedly binds the nitrites and other harmful substances before than can be absorbed. Herbs like rosemary in sausage and garlic in processed meat (like gyro roast) serve as antioxidants and preservatives. In making breads and other bakery items it is always good to add cinnamon (an antifungal, as are garlic and rosemary) to discourage and neutralize possible molds in the flour and the finished product. Any grain food, all of which have the potential to harbor mold, even if it cannot be seen or smelled, benefits from this addition, like oatmeal. Vitamin C also helps neutralize molds in the body. Thus, consuming something like orange juice with cereal or toast is helpful (although pineapple juice should usually be used instead - see "Eat Right for your Type.")
It is not necessary to only use those herbs in the spice rack for flavoring food. Many can be used directly. Don't reach for the antacid for heartburn. Get out the fennel seeds and take a couple of teaspoonfuls. They can also be used for gas and are good to prevent intestinal cramps, as are ginger, cardamon, mint, thyme, anise, and bay leaves.
Spices and herbs can be taken in powder form straight. Some people can fill a quarter to half teaspoon measure (1 capsule worth) with the powdered herb and toss it to the back of their tongue if the taste is objectionable. Then chase with some water or juice to wash it down. This takes practice since the powder can cause coughing and choking, and it takes a few times until one remembers not to inhale until the powder is swallowed. Making teas from them is a more common method of administration if they cannot be eaten.
There are many other uses of kitchen herbs and common foods. A great supplement for many ills is turmeric and fennel seeds, and the uses of these appears throughout "Topics in Modern Naturopathy."
Other kitchen herbs and foods are sometimes not the best remedy for a condition, but they are likely to be found in any well-stocked spice cabinet or refrigerator and might provide some relief until the proper items can be obtained. These include the following:
thyme for internal parasites, congestion, bacterial infections, with other antiparasitics for asthma, and made as a strong tea for external parasites, like mites and lice
ginger for motion sickness, arthritis, headaches, nausea, vomiting, colds and flu, menstrual cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and as an antiinflammatory;
raw carrots and raw sweet potatoes for intestinal parasites;
basil for cramps and vomiting;
caraway seeds for gas, cramps, and parasites;
coriander for diabetes (not nearly as important as fenugreek seeds for it), diarrhea, and as an antiinflammatory;
dill for upset stomach, calming nerves, stopping hiccups (a better remedy for hiccups is to take a spoonful of honey or sugar and hold in the mouth), and for gas and cramps caused by laxatives;
fenugreek seeds for intestinal lubrication, pain reduction, body odor, diabetes, and made into a tea and gargled for sore throats and congestion;
mustard seed with flour as a poultice for respiratory ailments;
parsley for freshening breath and as a diuretic;
rosemary as an antioxidant supplement (turmeric, fennel and celery seeds, and rosemary together make an excellent antioxidant supplement) plus to freshen breath, headaches, congestion and used as a tea to gargle and drink for a sore throat, rubbed in for scalp problems, or taken as a cheap substitute for gingko biloba;
sage as a decongestant and mild antibacterial / antiparasitic, and taken internally or rubbed externally to discourage excessive sweating;
black pepper as an antiseptic/antiparasitic, chromium source, and digestive aid (especially for fatty foods such as eggs) although any but the smallest amounts can cause digestive problems for some people;
green (esp French) beans, juiced and drunk twice daily is especially beneficial for diabetes and many report becoming asymptomatic using this alone.
For small children, thyme tea is used as an antiparasitic in many cultures. Fennel seed and anise tea are also used for infants and children to alleviate gas and cholic, and these also will treat some internal parasites.
Other items from the spice rack can be used for mineral supplementation. Poppy and celery seeds are both excellent sources of magnesium and calcium. Fennel seeds are a good source, too. Sesame seeds are a good source of calcium and have some EFAs. All of these may help prevent and reduce kidney deposits and celery seeds especially are good to take for gout, arthritis, and backache. Take one tablespoon twice per day with lots of water. Chew any seeds well to release their active components on digestion.
Onions are very useful. Some say that eating an entire onion can cure many flu or colds in the early stages and they are probably the best food to eat to avoid colds and flu. They have many of the same properties of garlic in a milder tasting form. They are a very good antiseptic, which means that it is effective against most pathogens, bacterial, viral, and fungal, as well as parasites.
Onions excel as an effective, if smelly, poultice for old sores and boils. Merely place a slice or grate over the affected area and tape down. Less smelly poultices for this condition include raw carrots, potatoes, sage, and ginger. A basil, cayenne pepper, and/or marjoram poultice can be used for insect stings. A yeast, cornmeal, and ginger one can be used for skin ulcers.
Garlic contains even more active ingredients than onions and is the most useful medicinal in the kitchen. Since most people can not eat nearly as much garlic as they can onions, the onions may provide more of some active ingredients like sulfur compounds per serving.
Garlic is antiparasitic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It enhances the immune system and helps prevent cancer, and supposedly helps remove some types of toxins from the body. It is one of the few food sources of germanium, and also contains selenium. Both of these minerals are important nutrients for the immune system.
Garlic is great to take for many acute illnesses. It is also a decent antiinflammatory and a necessary supplement for atherosclerosis since it keeps serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels down and prevents arterial plaque from forming as well as lowers blood pressure, inhibits platelet aggression, and is an antioxidant for blood lipids.
Many garlic supplements are available. Some are odorless capsules or tablets. What I think are better are liquid garlic oil capsules that include parsley oil, which helps prevent bad breath from eating garlic (as does eating a handful of fresh parsley).
Best is to use fresh raw garlic. A good dose for acute severe problems is up to six cloves per day short term.
This can be done by crushing a couple of cloves and putting in the mouth with 5T of water, letting it remain in the mouth for 60 seconds, then chewing and swallowing. A large amount can also be consumed by getting a crusty bread, dipping in olive oil, and eating with a clove of garlic and a thin slice of fresh parmesan cheese all at once. Eating too much garlic for long periods can give one anemia, however, since it binds iron. Taking one clove per day for supplementation, or more short term to fight illness, is okay unless one is sensitive to the sulfur compounds. It can also burn mouths and throat if it is too hot and consumed without oil raw.
Garlic can serve as a part of many excellent combinations for many illnesses. For a cold, for example, crush a medium clove of garlic with a similarly sized piece of ginger, add the juice of one lemon, and mix in warm water to disperse, and drink three cups per day until the cold is gone. This is also a good treatment for any viral or bacterial illness. Add thyme (1t 3x day) to this concoction (or take separately) for congestion.
Garlic can also be used as a disinfectant externally, and is good for maladies such as ear infections, mixing the fresh juice with olive oil and applying a drop or two into the ear and letting it remain for a few minutes (if it is too strong, it will burn). Garlic juice or oil can be put on a bandaid to aid in healing an infected cut. Eating cloves of garlic is all that is sometimes necessary to cure fever caused by overgrowth of harmful intestinal bacteria, a common cause of "fever of unknown origin" (add turmeric (1/2-1t) and fennel seeds (1t) to make this much more effective.) A classic fever treatment is a garlic enema, and is also a good way to expel intestinal parasites, especially pinworms. Garlic can be used to treat acne or warts by rubbing a fresh piece on the area a few times daily, or by taping a tiny piece over the site for a few hours at a time (check often and remove if skin irritation occurs).
Red Pepper (capsicum or cayenne) is a most beneficial spice and has a multitude of uses. It too is useful for heart and circulation problems due to its vasodilating effect and its content of vitamin C. It is a good supplement to take when one feels a headache approaching, or as a preventative for chronic ones. It will help treat conditions of intestinal bacteria overgrowth and fever (not nearly as well as turmeric.) A teaspoon or so can be sprinkled on a salad and covered with an oily dressing since oil mitigates the heat. It will still be hot, and one should enjoy eating hot foods before this is attempted, but the oil will keep it from being too searing.
One food uses the three previous suggested foods in combination.... Salsa. This can be a beneficial food because of the combination of raw onion, garlic, hot pepper and/or chiles, tomato, and spices. This is a good thing to eat to help detoxify potentially moldy corn tortilla chips, although tomatoes are not recommended for most people (see "Eat Right For Your Type.").
There are a number of decent antiparasitic combinations that can be made with supermarket herbs and foods. In the Parasite cleanse section, directions are given to use a three day regimen consuming only raw onions and fennel seed tea. It also details the "heavy duty" regimen in which clove spice buds are ground fresh or chewed whole as one supplement. Combinations can be made of the antiparasitic herbs mentioned above if money or availability is limited. A good program for many types of intestinal parasites would be to use the following two or three times per day for three weeks - 20 clove spice buds, 1 clove garlic, a garlic-clove sized piece of fresh ginger, and 1t thyme leaves. Add one or more of the following for more effect - 1/2t sage, 1/2t cinnamon, 1t rosemary, 1/2t turmeric, 1/2-1t fennel seeds, 1/4-1/2t cayenne, 1/4t black pepper. Brewer's yeast is available in some markets, is an excellent B vitamin source plus contains some selenium, and is also effective against some parasites.
Anyone can be a budding herbalist practicing with items currently in the kitchen.
Folk Remedies and Holistic Cures is an excellent website with a compilation of mostly low cost remedies and cures for many home remedies.