Medicine from our food

Presenting an image of a jar of vitamin C capsules and one of dandelion seeds, M.S. Kate Elmer Westdijk asked her captive audience what was wrong with the picture. On a first glance, nothing looked out of the ordinary. Just a couple of jars you can find in any pharmacy or supermarket. Of course, that wasn’t the point. of the image.

Vitamin C can be found in many of the foods that we eat, not only in a jar we find at the pharmacy. We know that kiwi is very rich in it and that eating an orange never hurt anyone. We also see dandelions everywhere, both in the North and in the South. In fact, many gardeners even consider them a weed. In various countries in Europe, though, this plant is used as a diuretic and to treat digestion problems.

So why, when we have vitamins and medicines in the food we eat, do we go to a pharmacy or supermarket to get a processed version of what we need? Those same benefits we can get from our community gardens or through fresh food bought at the farmer’s market or supermarket.

While we processed the idea, Kate went on with more important facts: how food can be preventive medicine for many health issues: diabetes, arteriosclerosis, etc.

Flavonoids, for example, have antioxidant effects and protect our blood vessels. They also increase the sensitivity of our cells to insulin, making it easier for the body to incorporate the sugar into the cells, instead of circulating in our blood. All this from foods that are easy to find in the grocery store or cultivated in our gardens, such as dark chocolate or red, blue, and purple berries.

The fact that eating whole foods and nutrient rich foods is good for us isn’t really news. Over the past decades many nutritionists and health professionals have talked about this topic, yet we still struggle with the notion.

Kate and many others are actively working to bring herbs and whole foods as medicine into our lives, so that we can start taking care of our bodies in a more ecologically sustainable way. By growing our own medicine, the costs of, for example, vitamin supplements in your household would go down, so would the plastic that comes with them. As you walk through your hometown, have you ever wondered how many of the plants you see could replace that jar of vitamins?

Probably many do. If in doubt, sites like Pubmed, although scary for those that don’t work in science, can help you find trustworthy, scientist-reviewed information about the health properties of the plants you find close to you. It just takes a curious and patient mind, and the desire to improve the quality of our lives, from our own backyard.

All this doesn’t mean that conventional medicine isn’t important. It saves millions of lives every day. The point here is that there are some medicines that can also be found in nature, and are also cheaper for the health of our planet. We would be growing more food, producing less plastic waste. We would be greener. In a way, by using more natural medicines when they can be found, we would be taking care not only of ourselves, but of our planet.