Although best known as a spice that gives a distinctive flavor and yellow color to curry powder and mustard, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family and has long been used for healing. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, and other traditional medicine systems practiced in India have relied on this pungent spice for centuries, and so it’s not surprising that the Asian subcontinent is where the most intensive research about this herb has been conducted.
A common herb found in kitchens and on party platters from Dresden to Detroit, the bright green parsley plant comes in numerous varieties. Different parsleys are distinguished primarily by the appearance of their leaves: Some are curly, others flat, still others divided or featherlike. Overall, the flat-leafed variety (Petroselinum crispum) is the one most commonly used for medicinal purposes.
Folk healers in the Middle Ages considered melissa (Melissa officinalis) something of a cure-all, relying on it for everything from indigestion to insect bites. Today, this mint-family member–often called lemon balm because of the citrus-y aroma of its leaves–is still used to prepare healing oils, tinctures, compresses, ointments, teas, and other remedies for a variety of complaints.
Digestive enzymes are proteins specially tailored to break down foods into nutrients that your body can then readily digest. The human body produces some 22 different digestive enzymes. Many more are found in the fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and other foods we eat. A number of digestive enzymes, from both plants and animals, are also sold as supplements.
The deserts of southern Africa are home to the peculiar-looking devil’s claw plant (Harpagophytum procumbens), so named because of the distinctively shaped tips of its fruits. For years, people indigenous to the African continent dug up the plant’s large tuberous roots, chopped them up, and let them dry in the sun. From the dried roots, they then prepared healing formulations to treat arthritis, fever, indigestion, and a number of other conditions.
Having a gallstone or two (or even more) is very common: A third of all women (it’s mainly a female condition) will have them by age 60. Fortunately, most people live peaceably with their gallstones without any symptoms whatsoever. It’s when gallstones act up that you need to do something. A painful “gallbladder attack” may occur when a stone decides to move, or simply may follow bouts of indigestion, especially after a meal rich in fatty foods. A double bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a shake should simply be renamed a “Gallbladder Special.”