Tea as a diuretic; Ginkgo leaves for alertness; Aloe Vera for tending wounds- healing properties have been found in common, everyday substances for as long as we can remember. Cigarette smokers who want to kick the habit, for example, could try chewing on a certain type of bark to help alleviate the urge to smoke. But before we head into the back yard and start eyeing up the foliage, keep reading.
Got trees and bushes? Lilacs are hands down some of the best-smelling flowers ever, (and could very well elevate one’s mood), but the bark is useless to humans. That red oak is majestic and lying under it is soothing, but it is best used for bird and squirrel housing, flooring and furniture.
The chewable bark with the medicinal qualities is cinnamon. Pick up one of those sweet-smelling, powdery, dark brown sticks or quills available in the baking aisle at any supermarket or spice store. Take a closer look. That seasonal stand in stir stick for hot chocolate is the bark from a cinnamon tree.
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, many household spices and substances possess rejuvenating, healthful capabilities. Take a look:
- Turmeric – From the root of the Curcuma Longa plant, turmeric is used as a “powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause damage to healthy cells and cell membranes.” Turmeric is said to help with: arthritis, flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, toothaches, bruises, chest pain, and colic, among others. TIP: Sprinkle it in soups, over roasted vegetables (delicious with cauliflower, potatoes), even on pizza!
- Ginger - Native to southeastern Asia, fresh ginger holds more healing properties than powdered. Purchase firm, smooth pieces. Uses include reliving gastrointestinal distress. It is also helpful for, “motion sickness, especially seasickness. In fact, in one study, ginger was shown to be far superior to a commonly used over-the-counter and prescription drug for motion sickness. Ginger reduces symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.” TIP: Peel an inch or so with the tip of a teaspoon. Mince and cook in olive oil over low heat with minced garlic and add one cup chopped red potato, kale, spinach for a delightful lunch, before heading out on the lake!
- Cayenne Pepper – Some people avoid this hot shot spice altogether because of the heat factor. The hotness comes from a high concentration of a substance called capsaicin, however, “capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects, its cardiovascular benefits, and its ability to help prevent ulcers. Capsaicin also effectively opens and drains congested nasal passages.” Capsaicin, according to WHF, is “being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. When animals injected with a substance that causes inflammatory arthritis were fed a diet that contained capsaicin, they had delayed onset of arthritis, and also significantly reduced paw inflammation. So, sprinkle it in your chili, sloppy Joes, potatoes and grilled foods. Live a little!
- Licorice – Did you know this flavor comes a root? (We didn’t either!). From Wikipedia: “The liquorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas) that is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is called "Mulaithi" in Northern India. It is not related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are the sources of similar-tasting flavoring compounds. Liquorice may be useful in conventional and naturopathic medicine for both mouth ulcers and peptic ulcers. It is also a mild laxative and may be used as a topical antiviral agent for shingles, ophthalmic, oral or genital herpes.” Childhood memory: Using the long, red licorice as straws for vanilla milkshakes. (Try it, its fun!).
- Cinnamon – It is so much more than a delicious ingredient in buns. Seasoning a high carb food with cinnamon can “help lesson its impact on blood sugar levels. Cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating. It is an “anti-inflammatory” and possesses “anti-clotting” factors. Some studies suggest cinnamon boosts brain function, is an excellent source of manganese, dietary fiber and calcium. Pass the cinnamon (whole wheat) toast!