What do pepper sauce, oatmeal, kimchee, chicken soup, and parsley and thyme grown on your balcony have in common? Besides being tasty and nutritious foods, they can all be considered kitchen medicine.
I think of kitchen medicine as the ancient, global tradition of using foods, herbs and spices as our medicine, or preparing foods in particular ways to affect our health and wellness. Kitchen medicine is practiced in all cultures, all regions in the world, and in all ages throughout history. It can include:
- Everyday foods (using vegetables and spices as preventative medicine)
- Special dishes taken at certain times (i.e., Chicken soup for cold/flu, special meals to be taken after childbirth)
- Food preparation techniques, like canning and fermenting
Kitchen medicine is ACCESSIBLE, because it is:
- Affordable. Kitchen medicine is inexpensive and gives a good bang for your buck. Cayenne is a good example of this, as it is used in such small but potent doses.
- Easy to locate. Even in food deserts (where there may only be bodegas, 7-11, or or dollar stores), at least some of these remedies are easily available.
- Simple to grow in small spaces. Many herbs and spices can be grown in a sunny window or balcony.
- Available to all. Kitchen medicine doesn’t require any specialized knowledge of skill; it is easy for many ages and abilities to prepare.
Kitchen Medicine is FAMILIAR, because it is:
- Easy to prepare. Kitchen medicine relies on ingredients that we can recognize pretty easily when we shop for them in our neighborhood stores.The best kitchen medicines are simply prepared and easily stored ones.
- Culturally familiar. Often, these foods are ones that are used as spices in our cultures of origin. (And a perk of practicing kitchen medicine can help you expand your cultural understandings, as you can incorporate ingredients found in neighborhood “ethnic” markets.
- "Real" food. Kitchen medicine is more food than medicine. Rather than using capsules of herbs, such as thyme or garlic (or supplementing with isolated constituents like capsaicin, or curcumin), ingredients in kitchen medicine are incorporated into meals as spices, flavorings, preservatives, pickling agents, etc.
- Enables anyone to provide self-, family- and community care.
- Reclaims power from “experts” and pharmaceutical companies.
- Connects people and cultures to one another, and to our ancestry and natural healing birthrights. (80% of the world uses herbal medicine as its primary form of health care!