With the weather these days, I can’t believe that some people still
doubt global warming. But the strange thing is that even though it’s
still relatively warm, so many people are still getting colds and flu.
Is there any way to prevent them? First of all, experts say, wash your
hands very often. Not with anti-bacterial soaps, but with plain soap and
Without realizing it, we pick up and pass on germs that lurk on door
handles, handrails, copy machines, etc. and even by using a friend’s
Second – stock up on herbs and spices. Believe it or not, there are
certain herbs and spices that have antiseptic qualities, others that
contain anti-inflammatories, and all are a source of vitamins and
In the herb department, I always keep sage and white savory on hand to make tea.
Both are antiseptic and sage is also helpful in relieving stomachaches.
Have a cough? Drink an infusion of fresh or dried thyme with honey. The
active ingredient in thyme – thymol – is found in most cough syrups.
To strengthen the immune system, try astragalus (not recommended for
those taking blood thinners), or elderberry flowers – both sold dried in
health food stores. Drink them as you would a tea.
And when it comes to spices, you’ll find almost all of them at my house.
Simple turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory, and Ayurvedic
practitioners recommend it mixed with an equal amount of honey and a
teaspoon of the mixture swallowed several times a day at the onset of a
sore throat or flu symptoms.
(Don’t worry, you can’t overdose.) My family and I have used it for
years, and it really works! Another way to use turmeric is by heating a
tablespoon or two in a dry frying pan until it smokes. If you breathe in
the vapors for a few minutes, it will clear a stuffy nose. But don’t
wait to be sick to add turmeric to your diet. Consuming turmeric with
black pepper (delicious together in soups, vegetable stews, etc.) helps
its absorption, and helps prevent illness.
Incidentally, renowned American Dr. Andrew Weill suggests that if you
don’t eat turmeric and ginger every day, you should take them in capsule
form. He believes that these spices can help lower C-reactive protein,
or CRP. CRP indicates that something in your body is inflamed, which
might be an early warning sign of heart disease.
To get your daily quota of ginger, you can add it to tea or food and
even sprinkle it on buttered bread with a little honey (I use homemade
ghee rather than butter) – the original “gingerbread” of the Middle
Powdered ginger, fresh ginger, dried ginger and candied ginger are all effective.
For sore throats, some people swear by a concoction of chopped onion
soaked overnight in honey. It may work, but it tastes lousy. Other
alternatives are lemon juice and honey, licorice tea, or gargling with
hot water and salt.
Make sure to also have cloves in your pantry. In a study done several
years ago at the University of Kansas, ground meat was injected with
E-coli bacteria, and then with various spices. Cloves were the only
spice to kill 99% of the bacteria.
Add a few whole cloves to tea, rice dishes, winter beverages and even
vegetables. For nausea, simply place a whole clove in your mouth for a
And finally, don’t forget the vitamin C – preferably from natural
sources like fresh peppers, papaya, guava, kiwi, parsley and dill – and
the entire range of citrus fruit.
THREE-SPICE LENTIL SOUP
The spices in this lentil soup also help to make it more digestible. Add any vegetable you like or thin noodles.
Makes 8 servings
✔ 2 cups brown or green lentils
✔ 8 cups water
✔ 2-3 tsp. salt
✔ 2 large onions
✔ 1⁄3 cup olive oil
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. each turmeric cumin, ground coriander seed
✔ 3 large garlic cloves
✔ Black pepper to taste
✔ Fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish
Rinse and drain lentils and place in a large pot with the water. Bring
to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered until lentils are almost
tender, about 45-60 minutes.
In the meantime heat the olive oil and cook the onion till softened. Add
the turmeric, cumin and coriander and cook an additional 2 minutes,
Add to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook an additional 10
minutes. Add the crushed garlic cloves just before serving. Thin with
boiling water if necessary.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.
Makes 4 servings
✔ 1 cinnamon stick
✔ 2.5 cm. ginger, peeled and sliced into 4 pieces
✔ 12 cardamom pods, preferably green
✔ 8 allspice berries
✔ 8 cloves
✔ 1 tsp. coriander seeds
✔ 4 tsp. black tea leaves
✔ 1 cup milk or almond milk
✔ Honey to taste.
Mix all the ingredients, except for the tea and milk, in a saucepan over
medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20
minutes. Add tea and milk and simmer for 3 more minutes. Sweeten with
honey, then strain through a fine sieve and serve.
Adapted from Adriana’s Spice Caravan, Storey Publishing.