Understanding the Dietary
and Medicinal Values of Herbs and Vegetables
By Apolinario Villalobos
I cannot understand how herbal medicine can be viewed as an “alternative”, when in fact, such has been thriving even before the so called civilization made life comfortable for man.
Herbal medicine has been part of the early earthlings’ way of life long before drug laboratories came into being. In other words, the herbal medicine should be considered as the “original” medicine, and the laboratory-processed ones as the “alternative”, and not the other way around. The laboratory-processed medicines with attributes cloned from the plants are understandably with longer shelf-life and more convenient to use as they are in the transportable forms such as tablet, capsule or in small bottles as syrup and infused with preservatives. For the sake of fairness then, the word “alternative” should be taken out of the drug dictionary, and we just stick to “herbal”.
The pampered attitude of man should be blamed on why the use of herbal medicine had a lull in the past. Fortunately, today, the practice is picking up again because the civilized world has realized that most laboratory-processed drugs are not safe enough to be taken without proper supervision or strictly followed prescription. Modern medical practitioners blame “overdose”, “underdose”, and even “abuse” for any untoward result from the “misuse” of laboratory-processed medicines.
The only problem with the herbal medicine is that, it requires patience as regards its preparation which is akin to a ritual. A realistic example is how I do it: first, I have to have a dedicated kettle that I can use in boiling leaves, barks, and spices, and then I have to look for those that I need to boil. I have to do the concocting when I wake up, as I also use the concoction to dilute my coffee. I have to do that every morning! Compare that with just gulping down tablets or capsules with a glass of water.
Sacrifice is the keyword if one has to be serious in making herbal medicine part of his life to prevent the onset of diseases. In my case, however, it is a must because my blood has cancer cells, as the disease is the scourge of our family.
I employ resourcefulness in my effort to gather what I need by bringing with me plastic bags every time I go out to do my rounds of random sharing. During the season of mangosteen, I would hand out plastic bags to people eating the said fruit, so that I can gather the rinds which I dry at home. Also, I would buy the blemished fruits, considered as rejects, though fresh, as they come cheap. With those, I am able to dry rinds that can last me for many months. It saves me substantial amount of money, as compared to buying the laboratory-prepared MX3 capsules and preparations with coffee.
When I found out that watermelon can prevent rapid enlargement of the prostate, during its season, I would ask watermelon rinds from vendors who sell the fruit by the slice. I would bring home a grocery bagful of them to be pickled in brine or cooked in brown sugar and cinnamon powder. During the corn season, I would also ask for the “hair” from the vendors who just throw them away. At home, I boil it as the concoction helps eliminate gall and kidney stones.
Another problem with the medicinal herbs is that they must be eaten, too, as vegetables. This is an unfortunate requirement which those who have no heart in acquiring the taste, will really find difficult. Every time I share with others how I cook unpeeled squash and green papaya, I would notice eye brows rising. Eye brows would rise higher, if I mention how I would prepare my own “arroz caldo” with vegetables instead of chicken. Then I would notice some holding on to their throat if I mention about cooking alogbate or chinese spinach, saluyot and okra in plenty of tomatoes and onions. They cannot just imagine the slimy broth that would result!
If I begin mentioning to my friends about rarely- heard names of herbs and spices and their uses, I would see blank stares, as if they cannot believe what I have said. If I tell them about star anise as being effective in preventing the onset of allergies, or softening the phlegm, the more that they become stupefied. And, when I mention about cloves as part of my concoction, they would wonder aloud “what the hell is that”. With the climax of my share which is telling them that always part of what I cook as food are turmeric and powdered chili – plenty of them as in spoonful, I would see many listeners shudder, especially, if I tell them that I also include them in my coffee.
So, those are the difficulties of having herbs as part of diet, or as medicine. Some people cannot imagine them to possibly become part of a healthy diet. They would rather play dumb to the saying that prevention is better than cure, and instead, prefer the convenient though expensive tablets, capsules, and visits to the physician, at the onset of a disease, later on.