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Super Healers from Mother Nature's Cupboard
You might be amazed by how beneficial some of the foods that we keep in our kitchens or waltz right by at the grocery store or farmers’ market are for our health — both inner and outer.
Many of us have long recognized the healing properties of certain foods and have incorporated more fruits and veggies into our diets, swapped out vegetable oil for olive oil, and replaced high-fructose corn syrup beverages with natural juices, teas and water. The heavily packaged, highly processed foods that were once coveted as time-savers may now enjoy a longer life on grocery and drug store shelves. People are turning to nature for their food, for their health and to live a life of simple radiance.
Whether you’re seasoned in using natural foods to improve your well-being or are new to incorporating real, non-processed foods into your diet, beauty and preventative health routines, here are three real foods that have been used historically to prevent and treat many of the ailments that affect us today — taken right from Mother Nature’s cupboard to yours.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Long hailed as one of the healthiest cooking oils, virgin coconut oil can do more than enhance your cooking — it can brighten your skin, soften your hair and improve your health.
Why go virgin?
While there is no industry standard for virgin coconut oil, as there is with other oils such as olive, virgin coconut oil can only be produced by using fresh coconut meat (the non-copra). Unlike commercial-grade coconut oils, it is not refined, bleached or deodorized. The absence of heavy processing allows the oils to maintain the highest levels of antimicrobial properties, which have been demonstrated to stave off and treat infections.
Virgin coconut oil for skin … and more
Dr. Bruce Fife, N.D., the director for the Coconut Research Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., explains that the most documented and studied health aspect associated with coconut oil is its antimicrobial properties. According to Fife, the fatty acids that make up coconut oil are fairly unique and can combat disease-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Topically, Fife says coconut oil is great for treating skin ailments, like fungal infections, ring worm and athlete’s foot.
It can also be applied to skin to prevent wrinkles and to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Used in massage, coconut oil can be applied to aid in stress reduction and to promote overall healthy skin. It’s also an effective remedy for treating dry scalp and hair.
Dry scalp treatment
- Massage coconut oil into scalp and hair.
- Leave in overnight.
- Rinse in the morning with lukewarm water. Avoid hot water, as it tends to dry out hair and scalp.
- Repeat as needed for soft and shiny hair.
Virgin coconut oil for health
Regular ingestion of virgin coconut oil can protect you from the flu and aid in digestion. Unlike a broad-spectrum antibiotic, Dr. Fife explains that the antimicrobials found in virgin coconut oil selectively kill off only “bad,” infectious microorganisms, while leaving gut-friendly bacteria untouched. Furthermore, he says that taken regularly, coconut oil can actually act as a vaccine for the seasonal flu as well as the bird and swine flu.
Virgin coconut oil can boost immunity, as it has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It can aid in weight loss due to its ability to enhance the body’s metabolism and can be used to help treat hypothyroidism. It is also known to stimulate the production of insulin and has been used to regulate diabetes.
For what he calls a “maintenance dosage,” Dr. Fife suggests ingesting 1-3 tablespoons of coconut oil daily. He recommends replacing vegetable oil, margarine, shortening or butter with coconut oil. According to Dr. Fife, coconut oil is ideal for cooking because it is extremely heat-tolerant and retains its nutritional and healing properties, making it the superior cooking oil.
Raw honey can do more than sweeten your morning tea. It has been used as both a food and a medicine since ancient times, and is still widely used today to treat skin problems, allergies and various other ailments.
Why go raw?
Eighty-five percent of the honey that Americans ingest is pasteurized, filtered honey. This honey loses a high percentage of its nutritional and healing benefits during processing, and many brands now add corn syrup to their honey, a process known as honey dumping.
Honey for skin
“I think that honey is incredible for your skin,” says Laura Tyler of Backyard Bees, a Boulder, Colo., honeybee farm. “And, once you see what honey does for your skin, you’ll want to eat it too because you think, ‘Oh my gosh, if that’s what it does on the outside, what could it do on the inside?!’”
To start, Tyler suggests using raw honey for at-home facials. She explains that it’s the easiest and most effective facial you can give yourself, and three days is all it takes to see dramatic results.
Raw honey facial
- Pull hair back and apply raw honey to face. Tyler explains that it’s best when fresh, but older honey can be used and softened if needed by warming it slightly. Tyler also suggests applying the honey before showering, as it can sometimes get lodged in loose hairs.
- After about 10 minutes, your face will begin to feel slightly itchy. This indicates that it’s time to rinse.
- Enjoy a delicious, light exfoliation.
Repeat for three consecutive days to see a dramatic difference in skin tone and softness. Then use the raw honey facial once a week to maintain results.
Tyler notes that raw honey can be applied to other parts of the body, like the chest and hands, and that it works wonders on sun-damaged skin.
Raw honey has also been used traditionally to treat wounds — it was regularly and effectively used before the advent of topical modern creams and salves. It contains antibacterial properties and should be applied to wounds that need to be kept moist, but that also need to breathe and need an antiseptic. Tyler says that honey can be used in lieu of conventional products like Neosporin.
Honey for health
Although there have been no peer-reviewed journal articles that have conclusively proven that raw honey helps to mitigate seasonal allergies, many of the 36 million Americans (estimated by the Food and Drug Administration) who suffer from allergies disagree.
Tyler says that raw honey has long been used in lieu of over-the-counter antihistamines and that many of her customers swear by raw honey for allergy prevention. She explains that local honey contains traces of pollen from all local plants, and that a tablespoon a day during allergy season will help to desensitize allergy symptoms.
Traditionally, raw honey has been used internally to improve more than allergies. Due to its antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, raw honey is a powerful immune system booster. It can help aid in digestion and help stave off disease. It has also been cited to: assist in relieving morning sickness; to soothe sore throats, including laryngitis and pharyngitis; to alleviate bladder infections, arthritis, upset stomachs and bad breath when mixed with cinnamon (another gem from Mother Nature); and to ease stomachaches, constipation and even migraines when mixed with apple cider vinegar.
Honey for stamina
Raw honey is a natural source of carbohydrates and natural sugars, which are known to boost performance and energy levels and to reduce muscle fatigue. The two natural sugars found in honey are glucose and fructose. Glucose is absorbed quickly by the body, resulting in an immediate boost of energy, whereas fructose is absorbed more slowly, providing sustained energy throughout exercise.
Accordingly, many athletes have traded their Power Bars and energy drinks for raw honey to fuel their workouts.
To up your energy, spread raw honey on a piece of toast before a workout, or take a straight spoonful to fuel that extra mile.
Take as needed to ease seasonal and other discomforts.
* Please note that many doctors advise against giving any type of honey to children under the age of 18 months. Please consult your doctor before feeding honey to an infant.
Turmeric most likely originated in India and has been cultivated by the Indian people for at least 2,500 years for its use as a dye and a spice. For centuries, turmeric has been used as a powerful medicine in India and China.
Why spice it up?
Turmeric is the spice used in curry that gives it its vibrant yellow color. It contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has very potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Fife references turmeric as one of nature’s best anti-inflammatories.
Turmeric for skin
Because turmeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, it’s effective in disinfecting cuts and burns. It may also speed up the healing of wounds and assists in the repairing of damaged skin. Turmeric paste can also be used as a home remedy to treat sunburns.
- Mix turmeric with the pulp (gel) of fresh aloe vera.
- Apply the mixture to sunburned skin and cover the infected area with gauze.
- Reapply three times a day and store the gel in a glass jar in the fridge.
Turmeric for health
Dr. Fife explains that inflammation is a major health problem and one associated with nearly every type of disease condition, whether it is degenerative or infectious, and that chronic inflammation is associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and certain cancers. Turmeric, because it is a natural anti-inflammatory, can be used to reduce the level of inflammation in the body, and many studies indicate that turmeric, when taken regularly, may lessen the risk of developing diseases.
As an anti-inflammatory, turmeric can be used as a natural pain reliever. Traditionally, it has been used as a natural liver detoxifier; it may aid in regulating fat metabolism and weight management, and has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.
There are many uncertainties concerning how much turmeric should be ingested. Some medical practitioners believe that in order to receive optimal benefits, a high dosage should be ingested daily. Others disagree, citing that high doses may lead to unwanted side effects such as upset stomach. Most, however, agree that a recommended daily intake that does not exceed 50-100 mg is safe.
My advice: Consult your doctor or naturopath to determine a dosage that is appropriate for you. Until then, indulge in Indian curry!