Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal
More than 2,000 years ago, the Hippocratic school of medicine proclaimed, “Let food be thy medicine.” This sage advice still holds powerful wisdom for us today. Thankfully, the concept of making food our medicine is becoming more widely adopted. Eating locally grown, organic, and nutrient-rich foods is gaining in popularity. The number of farmer’s markets in the United States has quadrupled since 1994, which means more people are eating locally sourced whole foods.1 But while we have a growing appreciation for nourishing food, I frequently notice that a critical ingredient is still missing from our dinner table—the herbs and spices!
Herbs and spices can transform a bland meal into a decadent and delicious experience. However, the depth of flavor in a well-spiced meal does more than simply excite our taste buds. As you’re about to read in this book, herbs and spices can dramatically revolutionize your health! They can improve your mood, reduce oxidative stress, ensure that you are digesting and absorbing the nutrients from your healthy foods, and prevent many chronic diseases.
I have based this entire book on a very simple premise: You are unique. In our information age, there are “experts” on every corner telling you what foods to eat, what foods to avoid, what miracle drugs can mask your symptoms, and what herbs you and everyone else should be taking. But the truth is that you are the best expert when it comes to what works for your own unique body. So rather than tout the next miracle “superfood,” I am going to show you how you can personally choose the best herbs for your needs and situation, taking your own special qualities under consideration.
While this book is all about herbs, spices, and food, I promise you that it’s not a diet. You don’t have to become a vegan or a vegetarian, nor do you have to start eating meat. You won’t have to take on a second job in order to afford the ingredients, nor do you need to travel to exotic places to find these healing herbs. This book shows you how to harness the power of herbs and spices in your everyday life by giving you practical and easy recipes: beverages and simple herbal remedies as well as breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even desserts. After helping you to develop some simple observational skills, this book will start you on a fun journey of personal and herbal discovery that will empower you and transform your health for a lifetime.
OUR CURRENT SITUATION: THE ONE SOLUTION SYNDROME
Our entire modern construct of health is suffering under what I call the One Solution Syndrome. This is the false belief that there is one solution for everyone: one medicine for a disease, a single way that you should eat, and just one set of practices that keep you healthy. Another common belief is that Western medicine is the infallible pinnacle of medicine and that traditional or natural therapies are outdated. These two philosophies explain our current state of health care, in which suppressing symptoms with drugs is prioritized over finding the root cause of an illness.
An example of this is Western medicine’s approach to eczema. Instead of addressing the factors that may contribute to eczema, such as environment and diet, doctors often prescribe topical steroids to relieve the symptoms. While this can be temporarily effective, long-term use has serious negative consequences while doing nothing to address the underlying cause. Eczema isn’t “cured” by the steroids; the symptoms are simply suppressed while the underlying problems continue.
I do believe that Western medicine has its place. For example, I have no doubt that surgeons can fix an astounding number of serious traumas or acute conditions that would otherwise be life threatening. If I break my arm, my first stop would be the hospital, not my local herbalist’s shop. However, I am dismayed by our current poor state of health. More than half of our population has some type of chronic disease, and 25 percent of the population has two or more chronic diseases.2 The United States also spends the most money on health care worldwide, perhaps because many of these chronic conditions are simply managed by a billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry.3 Something is clearly broken in our society’s quest for health.
While modern medicine has advanced health in some powerful ways, it hasn’t solved many of our chronic health issues. Some people may be fervently hoping for new advances in technology to save our ailing population, but I know we will never transform our health with a pill. Instead, we need to pay more attention to our past.
THE HISTORY OF OUR CONNECTION WITH PLANTS AS MEDICINE
For thousands of years, long before the Internet or even books existed, plants were a major source of healing for people all over the world. The use of medicinal plants, referred to as herbalism, has as many traditions and theories as there are cultures on earth. Among the many traditions that exist, in the United States today the three main herbal theories commonly being taught are Western herbal tradition, Ayurveda, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Up until the 1900s, herbal medicine was commonly practiced in the United States. Not only was folk medicine popular in the home, but there were also college-trained doctors, called the Eclectic physicians, who primarily used plants as medicine. The Eclectic physicians had colleges across the nation, and they wrote important texts based on their extensive experience that are still referenced today. However, in the early 1900s, the American Medical Association (AMA) single-handedly proclaimed what was “science” and what was “quackery.” From this moment on, herbs and other natural healing therapies were routinely dismissed in favor of chemical drugs and invasive interventions. The AMA also decided what could and could not be taught as part of a doctor’s curriculum. As a result, the Eclectic colleges began to shut down.
Once antibiotics were created in the 1930s, people began to turn more readily to “better living through science” and used pharmaceutical pills for their illnesses rather than plants. People were so impressed with antibiotics and isolated chemical constituents, such as acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin, that herbalism quickly fell out of favor. In the decades that followed, herbalism continued to exist in isolated pockets throughout the United States, but it was far from mainstream.
With the back-to-the-earth movement in the 1960s, herbs were revitalized. And it’s here that we see the beginnings of our current herbal resurgence. Flash forward several decades, and herbs have now become a multibillion-dollar industry within the United States. I hope that one day we will have a fully integrated medical model in which preventing disease through healthy living is prioritized. And when someone does get sick, I hope that diet, lifestyle, and herbs are fully explored as options, leaving pharmaceuticals or surgery as the last resort.
But this book isn’t solely about looking back at history, nor is it the One Solution Syndrome dressed up with herbs and supplements. Instead, this book is about making herbs relevant to you in today’s world. This book is an invitation for you to break free from the insanity of the One Solution Syndrome and go on your own journey of personal discovery to uncover what works for you as an individual. I hope that this new path will be full of “aha moments” that lead you to immediate and practical benefits, just as it was for me.
FROM MY OWN HERBAL JOURNEY TO YOURS
|August 12, 2018
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