We’ve all read the ancient words attributed to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. He is often quoted as having said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Which, of course, is a pretty darn powerful statement.
It suggests that the optimum health and functioning of our physical body is reliant on what we eat.
And, as many folk’s great grandmas will tell you, “You are what you eat, sonny!”
Those words of wisdom from the ancient healers and from our elders ring true today and every day.
The food that enters into our digestive systems becomes our body on a cellular level.
That sandwich, salad, meat, or piece of fruit, gets broken down and dissected by various systems, to become the nutrients in our blood, and our blood itself. That blood then feeds all of our organs and supports various bodily processes, and our ability to function.
Something to keep in mind is that one of the greatest healing modalities that Hippocratic physicians often used with their patients was actually eating less food. They would put someone on a “light” diet that included specific herbs and easy to digest foods that removed the stress and burden on the patients’ own self-healing ability.
By physically digesting less food, it freed up the detoxification and elimination organs to be able to do their work more efficiently. This usually caused what was known as a “healing crisis,” as a patient’s body did the work it was designed to do. That healing crisis is uncomfortable as heck, but in the end, the patient found relief.
I see this all the time when someone starts the process of fasting, or they take on a new lighter diet for healing purposes. They’ll often complain of headaches, bodily pain and discomfort, but within a few short weeks, their skin begins to glow anew, which is usually a sign of renewed health and vigor.
The skin is the body’s largest detoxification organ. When it glows, it shows that the system has been cleared of encumbrances.
I’ve also seen the opposite of this renewed health and vigor when people do too much cleansing, and/or too much “light” eating. They’ll often present with diseases of deficiency like osteoporosis, chronic-fatigue, and nutritional deficiencies. Their skin looks pale, dull, lusterless, and they are often cold.
In cases of deficiency its not the time to fast or eat lighter, it’s actually time to build the body, warm it up, and nourish it on a deep level. That means, it’s time to cook and eat the best quality foods that support and build the system energetically.
Figuring out when is the best time to fast, or when is the best time to build the body with food, and how best to prepare those foods (raw or cooked), is a delicate balance.
With our current high rates of disease, it’s wise to learn how to use food as a healing modality, as the ancient healers did.
Specific foods and herbs, or a lack of food, can all promote reactions within the body.
Some examples of those reactions include:
- Diaphoretics – open the pores to make the organism sweat
- Antispasmodic – eases spasms or cramps in the muscles
- Adaptogens – helps the body adapt and moderate the stress response
- Alteratives – alters and improves the body’s metabolic processes, from nutrition to elimination
- Anticatarrhal – eliminates excess mucus
- Anti-microbial – destroys pathogenic organisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses
- Astringent – tightens the tissues
- Carminative – eases discomfort caused by gas
- Demulcent – contains mucilaginous properties that soothe inflamed and irritated tissues
- Diuretic – aids the body in ridding excess fluids
When we understand the various properties of food and herbs, we can best use them to support our body’s physical needs.
And, yes… our food can then become thy medicine.
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Remember, your food really can be your medicine when you know how to use it correctly!
 The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, by Matthew Wood, North Atlantic Books, 2004, pg. 77-78
Andrea Beaman is an internationally renowned Holistic Health Coach, Natural Foods Chef, Speaker and Herbalist. Named one of the top 100 Most Influential Health and Fitness Experts, she is also a recipient of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education and a Health Leadership award from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Since 1999, Andrea has been teaching people how to harness the body’s own preventative and healing powers using food, herbal remedies and alternative medicine.