I’m not sure exactly how NGI divides up the chef’s training program, but to me it seems like there are three general sections: the “basics,” where you learn knife skills, cooking techniques and food identifications; the “cooking,” where you do a lot of baking and learn to further those basic skills; and the “health” aspect, where you focus on food as it relates to healthy living. This week, my CTP entered into the last stage, so these past few days have included a lot of lectures and tons of new information.
Today’s class was entitled “Kitchen Pharmacy,” and focused on holistic, food-based remedies for common sicknesses. It’s easy to pop an Advil when a headache rolls around, or to kill your congested nose with some Mucinex, but oftentimes that’s just covering up the symptom for a bigger problem. The benefit of these remedies is that they’re totally natural, cheap and usually offer healing properties in addition to temporary relief. For instance:
- For expansive or vascular headaches (brought on by too much alcohol or sugar), balance things out with a contractive, super-salty food like umebosi paste, olives, miso soup or even prosciutto.
- For contractive headaches brought on by too much salt or dehydration, eat plenty of fruit or fresh juice.
- To soothe sore throats, use your grandmother’s remedy or gargling with salt water; if you can handle it, drink ginger tea.
- Ginger tea is also said to be helpful for motion sickness, as is sucking on umeboshi pits.
Though I definitely think all of these remedies have some validity, I have to be honest and say that I don’t believe in Eastern OR Western medicine as a panacea. Like most Americans, I grew up in a home where over-the-counter pills and medication were the norm; I ate more processed foods than kale and quinoa as a kid; and whenever I’ve been treated for an illness it’s been through Western methods. However, I also know firsthand the benefits that healthy, whole foods can have on your health, and there are lots of studies to support non-traditional healing methods. There’s a fine line between using Eastern remedies to your advantage, and adhering to them so strictly that you ignore the benefits of modern medicine; drugs like antibiotics and pain relievers may be over-prescribed, but that doesn’t mean they’re never necessary. And let’s be real: it’s easier to pop an Advil and feel better in half an hour than it is to brew yourself some barley tea and miso soup and wait a day or two. Obviously these are just my opinions and I respect anyone who chooses a strictly Eastern or Western medical path for their own bodies, but the more I think about it, the more I believe in a balance between the two- using holistic remedies if possible, and Western cures when necessary. I’m interested to keep learning about this over the next few weeks to see how my thoughts evolve!
What do you know about Eastern medicine? Have you ever used alternative remedies like food, yoga or acupuncture to cure a sickness?