Eat Your Medicine

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Taking your medicine is much more fun when you include herbs as featured stars of your healthy diet. Although it can be difficult to eat enough herbs to reap a medicinal benefit for chronic health conditions, almost all culinary herbs have antioxidant effects (among many other benefits), so it’s nice to know you’ll be fending off disease while enjoying one of these tasty herbal recipes.

We hope these recipes will inspire you to incorporate herbs into your favorite dishes. For example, try oregano-rich tomato sauce on a pizza with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, garlic and basil leaves. Or, if you like things spicy, add an extra sprinkle of cinnamon to your oatmeal, citrus zest to your pancake batter or cayenne powder to a baked potato. In this article, we’ll discuss garlic, ginger, turmeric, shiitake mushrooms and cranberry. Other good, easy-to-use herbal choices include basil, nutmeg, parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary and dill.


Latin name: Allium sativum

Health benefits: Garlic has cholesterol-lowering, anti- fungal and antibacterial properties. It also stimulates the immune system.

How it’s available: Fresh, dried, powdered, capsules and tinctures.

Cautions: Garlic (especially when raw) can cause digestive upset if taken in large doses. Start with a small amount and see how you feel. Don’t use large amounts of raw garlic if you’re breastfeeding.

Serves 4

Roasting garlic mellows the herb’s flavor and makes it easier to digest — some people who have trouble digesting raw garlic have no problem with the roasted variety. For a vegan option, you can omit the Brie from this recipe.

1 head garlic
Olive oil
8 ounces Brie
8 slices whole-wheat Italian bread
Finely minced parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Slice the top from the head of garlic and remove most of the papery outer skin from the head, but do not peel or separate the garlic into cloves.

Place garlic in a small ovenproof dish (or garlic roaster) and drizzle with olive oil. Cover the dish and bake for 1 hour. When garlic has been in the oven for 50 minutes, place Brie (with rind removed) in a shallow baking dish and heat with the garlic for the remaining 10 minutes.

Cut whole-wheat Italian bread diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices and lightly toast. Squeeze softened garlic from each clove and spread onto warmed bread. Spread Brie over garlic and garnish with parsley.

Makes about 1/2 cup

This recipe always wins rave reviews among garlic lovers because it’s simple to make and has a rich, strong flavor. It’s particularly tasty on mixed greens, such as arugula, spinach and radicchio.

6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a small jar and shake well. Sprinkle over salad or vegetables.


Latin name: Zingiber officinale

Health benefits: Ginger can help ease nausea and indigestion, and also has cancer-fighting and pain-relieving properties.

How it’s available: Fresh, dried, candied, powdered, capsules, tinctures and teas.

Cautions: Don’t use ginger if you have gallbladder disease.

Serves 8

This may not be the healthiest ginger recipe, but it sure is delicious. With the addition of pumpkin (which adds beta-carotene), the cake comes out perfectly moist every time. Enjoy a slice with a cup of ginger tea or chai.

11/2 cups whole-wheat unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons ginger powder
1/3 cup fresh-grated gingerroot
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup candied ginger bits
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger powder, fresh ginger, cloves and ginger bits. In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin, eggs and oil. Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until blended. Pour into an 8-inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake is clean.


Latin name: Curcuma longa

Health benefits: Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.

How it’s available: Powdered, tablets, capsules and liquid extracts.

Cautions: Don’t use turmeric if you have a bile duct obstruction or gallstones.

Makes about 1/2 cup

Why buy curry powder when you can make a delicious blend yourself? Keep this recipe on hand for use in your favorite Indian dishes, or try sprinkling it over popcorn.

7 teaspoons turmeric powder
5 teaspoons cumin powder
31/2 teaspoons fenugreek powder
3 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon clove powder

Combine all ingredients and stir. Store in a spice jar and use as needed.

Serves 3 to 4

Beth has perfected this recipe over the years — we can’t even begin to estimate how many times she’s made it. This dish makes a delicious, hearty breakfast, an energizing lunch or a satisfying, light dinner. It’s a good source of protein and also provides several vegetable servings. Serve it with fresh salsa and sliced avocado for a real treat.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
8 to 12 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
8 ounces tofu, diced
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 bunch spinach or chard, washed, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper

Sauté onion, garlic and bell pepper in olive oil for 5 minutes. Stir in celery and shiitakes, and sprinkle with soy sauce. Cook for 5 minutes, then add tofu and turmeric. Cook for another 2 minutes. Gently stir in spinach or chard, cover and let cook until greens are wilted — about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, then add basil. Season with salt and pepper.


Latin name: Lentinula edodes
Health benefits: Shiitake has strong immune-boosting and cancer-fighting properties.
How it’s available: Fresh, dried, powdered and capsules.
Cautions: None

Serves 10

You’ll love this nourishing soup if you have a cold, feel like you’re coming down with one, or just need an immune boost. We serve this regularly in the winter. For a twist, try replacing the sesame oil with the chile-infused variety — it adds a lot of flavor to the soup. If you can’t find soba noodles (Japanese noodles made from buckwheat and wheat flour), just use a package of linguine.

1 teaspoon grated gingerroot
1 teaspoon thinly sliced gingerroot
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 leeks, sliced
1 green pepper, diced
1 zucchini, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
8 to 10 shiitakes, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 bunch kale, chard or mixture, chopped
3 quarts water
3 to 4 tablespoons kelp
1 package soba noodles
2 tablespoons umeboshi or rice vinegar

In a medium frying pan, sauté grated and sliced ginger and garlic in olive oil. Add onions, leeks and green pepper, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add zucchini, turnip, shiitakes and sesame oil, and sauté until almost tender. Add kale or chard and let cook for 4 to 5 minutes.

In a large pot, heat water and kelp. When water boils, add soba noodles and all the vegetables from the other pan. Cook for 20 minutes. Add vinegar and serve.

Serves 6

A healthier twist on regular stuffed mushrooms, you’ll want to try this recipe as an appetizer at your next dinner party or potluck. Fresh shiitakes are now available at most supermarkets year-round.

12 shiitakes
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 to 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Chopped parsley

Cut stems off shiitakes and chop fine. Set aside. Sauté onions, celery and garlic in olive oil. When onions turn transparent, add the shiitake stems, soy sauce, breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Stuff the shiitake caps with the filling, sprinkle with chopped parsley and paprika, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then place under broiler for 1 minute and serve.


Latin name: Vaccinium macrocarpon

Health benefits: Cranberries are rich in potassium and vitamins A and C. They also help prevent mild urinary tract infections.

How it’s available: Whole fruit, juice, fruit concentrate, capsules

Cautions: None

Serves 6

Although this dish is an obvious favorite at the holiday table, it’s great to have at other times of year, too. You can buy cranberries in the fall when they’re fresh, then freeze them for use later on. This lively dish adds color to the table and is a great complement to pancakes or waffles.

1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 orange, with peel, cut into fourths
1/2 cup walnuts
Honey or sugar to taste

Place cranberries, orange and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Empty the mixture into a bowl, add sweetener to taste, stir well and refrigerate. The flavors in the relish get deeper as it sits.

Beth Baugh is a freelance health writer and the course coordinator for Foundations of Herbalism, a distance-learning program created by herbalist Christopher Hobbs (

Amy Mayfield is her daughter and the editor of Herbs for Health.

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