Tuesday 11 May 2010

In sickness and in health..

Call me an old hippy, but when my family get sick, I am more likely to reach into the pantry, than into the medicine cabinet. I am completely secure with Western medicine, hell, I work as a Nurse. And Furry wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for his regimen of cardiac drugs. However, for most home lurgies, I tend to use food as my first line approach. Not only is it about cooking and creating and nurturing, it's also about accessing age-old wisdom that has been pooh-poohed by science until recently.

There is a reason why Grandma's chicken soup was cooked up when we had a cold or a 'flu.

Specifically, it has anti-inflammatory properties that could explain why it soothes sore throats and eases the misery of colds and flu, Dr. Stephen Rennard and colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found.

"Chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Chest.

"My wife was making chicken soup one year for the Jewish holidays and we were talking about its effects on colds," Rennard, a specialist in pulmonary medicine, said.

Congee is the Asian equivalent. And while I couldn't find any online studies about the medicinal benefits, thingsasian.com says:

Congee is not just a dish served any meal; it is also a base for therapeutic treatment. It was prevalent in China as early as pre-Qin period (221-207 B.C.). Congee with asparagus is believed to be a diuretic and was also used to reduce cholesterol. Ginger congee was used to settle the stomach, and reduce nausea and considered a cure for indigestion and diarrhea. For ailments of the respiratory system and fever, one recommended medicine was Pear Congee. Congee with black sesame seeds was used to improve lactation in nursing mothers. Spinach Congee was used as a sedative, while Chicken or Lamb Congees were valued to strengthen a weakened constitution.

I have used congee several times to de-lurgify my household. And it's a staple on the menu when you've got a head cold or a sdore throat. It's easy to digest, gentle on the throat and mouth, is warming and nourishing all in one.

The other absolute staples in my home remedy kit, is tofu and ginger. Usually together. Tofu is chocked full of phytooestrogens (did you know menopause was unheard of in Asian cultures before a more Western diet was introduced?) and ginger is a well known stomach calmative. My fave ginger and tofu recipe is Dòuhuā (Chinese: 豆花) or dòufuhuā (Chinese: 豆腐花), a sweet dish made of slices of tofu in a spicy sweet ginger syrup. I was taught to make it with powdered tofu mix and the syrup with palm sugar and fresh ginger.

So, as the 'flu season descends upon us, I advise that we fill our pantries with some tofu, fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice, chicken stock, garlic, winter veggies and a good quality chook or two and rug up against the cold. Because I can guaratee that any combination of the above ingredients can only be better for you, and taste a WHOLE lot better, than a course of Flagyl.