September 5, 2013

Medicinal Culinary Spices

Health is a changing state of balance. Illness, pain and food cravings are signals of the body’s disharmony. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a centuries-old healing modality that persists today with doctors, naturopaths, and acupuncturists, explains that food is medicine. To satisfy the whole being, TCM encourages including five flavors in each meal: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter.

The five flavors correspond to five elements: Earth is sweet, Metal is pungent, Water is salty, Wood is sour, and Fire is bitter. Each element maintains balance with a moderate amount of its corresponding flavor, but illness occurs when a flavor is used in excess.

Each flavor also corresponds with a time of year. See how you can incorporate foods to match the season. Spring is sour. Summer is bitter. Late summer is sweet. . Fall is pungent. Winter is salty. The sour flavor and the wood element influence the liver and gall bladder.

Try cooking with these herbs and spices to support the transition into fall:

Garlic: high in Vitamin C and pungent sulfurous compounds, which reduce inflammation in the body; nature’s strongest anti-biotic; contains polysulfides, which trigger blood vessel dilation to reduce blood pressure; anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, controls overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the small intestine thus helping to reduce heartburn and eventual ulcers.
Ginger -  warming, anti-inflammatory, soothes stomach cramps, reduces flatulence, alleviates common cold and flu symptoms.

Parsley – Rich in Vitamin C to decrease inflammation, beta carotene to help prevent infection and strengthen immunity, and folic acid (B vitamin) to support cardiovascular health. Contains volatile oils that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens as well as ease the burn of insect bites and stings.

Rosemary – antiseptic herb that contains rosmarinic acid, which stimulates the immune system, increases circulation, and improves digestion and concentration. Anti-inflammatory, digestive, and aromatic, the potent herb both aids in digesting fats and decreases the risk of infection from contaminated foods.

Sage –Improves memory by decreasing the growth of neurovascular plaque in the brain. Soothes the digestive tract, dries excess mucus from all membranes, and provides crucial phytonutrients which counteract the effects of oxidation, not only in human blood but also in cooking oils and nuts.
Thyme –Contains thymol and other volatile oils, which have antimicrobial activity against bacteria. Helps preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination. Thymol helps increase the percentage of healthy fats, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes.


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