“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
—Hippocrates, Greek physician often called the father of Western medicine,
b 460 BCE, d.370 BCE, aged 90
A new virus has taken over the news, shaken world economies, and made many of us change our habits and our plans. But we have always had viruses. Our species started to live in agricultural communities about 12,000 years ago, and with the advantages of living in these social/survival groups came viruses. As our species and farming increased, so did viruses, especially potato viruses and cattle viruses. Smallpox and measles followed not too long afterwards. We are here today because not everyone died of the viruses.
The ancient people treated these diseases with a variety of herbal remedies, which they paired with ritualistic and spiritualistic practices, Many plants that are still commonly used today contain antibacterial compounds, and they certainly had some therapeutic benefit. The branch of science that is dedicated to the study of ancient medicine is called ethnopharmacology, and it studies the benefits of opium from poppies, quinine from cinchona trees and many other beneficial plants that we rarely think of. During these uncertain virus times, it might be helpful to add more herbs to our diet or teas. It certainly can’t hurt. There are so many herbs that we can grow in our garden or buy in supermarket pots, so why shouldn’t we use then as condiments or spices to keep ourselves just a little farther from the 2019-2020 Coronavirus outbreak? Here are the most important herbs that the ancient people used.
Fresh oregano is delicious and attractive in food because the leaves are so small. But what is best about oregano is its medicinal qualities. Oregano has a compound called carvacrol, that is an antiviral property. Oregano also has antibacterial properties. Adding fresh oregano to your diet may not cure you of anything, but it might very well help you avoid viruses. Add fresh oregano to your pasta, soup and chicken dishes.
Sage is not only for seasoning gnocchi or turkey stuffing. It is loaded with antioxidants which fortify your body’s defenses and fight human immunodeficiency. It has been used since ancient times to treat viral infections. Make some gnocchi today, or just fry some fresh sage to use as a crisp garnish! Sage is also good in omelettes or with roast chicken.
Most types of basil are said to help to increase immunity. Basil has strong anti-inflammatory properties and helps to lower the risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions. But at this time in the history of viruses, the best thing about basil is that it fights viral infections. Add fresh basil to your leafy green salads, seafood pasta and make garlic-basil butter!
Garlic was used as a medicine throughout ancient history, but is also used in modern history. Raw garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties and can prevent infections inside or outside the body. Hippocrates prescribed garlic for treating respiratory problems, so why shouldn’t we use more garlic during this Covid 19 crises? I love roasted garlic, but if you want the benefits of raw garlic, add it to a guacamole or a vinegar salad dressing.
Rosemary used to be the favorite herb of witches, and scientists haven’t stopped studying the herb since those days. Today it is being studied as a potential antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory prosperities and beneficial for those with neurological deficits. During the virus outbreak, it can’t hurt to add it to meat, chicken, soup, potatoes and focaccia.
If you are social distancing or in quarantine, plant a herb garden!
FYI is an acronym, and an acronym is a word formed by combining the first letters of each word of a name, such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) that is frequently seen in the news. Another one you probably know is AIDS, which is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Sometimes acronyms are pronounced as a word as in NATO and AIDS, and sometimes the letters are pronounced individually, such as FYI (for your information). And most of the time they are not even pronounced, as they are used mostly in social media, business communication and Internet. But we do hear CNN (Cable News Network) reporters saying ASAP frequently, which means As Soon As Possible and is hard to pronounce.
Sometimes acronyms become words, such as the word scuba. Everybody knows that word, but few know it started out as an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Another acronym that became a word is laser, which began as the acronym Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Most of us are very pleased that these two words became acronyms.
For now, try to incorporate FYI and ASAP into your daily communications, and don’t spend too much time remembering what AIDS and LASER and SCUBA really mean. But you should be able to recognize NATO as it has become a big issue in North America and Europe.
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