We all know how important spices have been over the centuries in improving the taste of food.
Equally important, perhaps, is the role of spices and herbs in folk medicine. Before chemicals were used in curing and healing, folk medicine was the sole source of curing people’s ills.
One imagines that, by accident or by design, herbs and spices have been used in medicine for several thousands years, the most famous of which is the culture of Chinese folk medicine. Although doctors in China are known for their expertise, the use of folk medicine still is prevalent there. I would say that, there are few places in the world where folk medicine has been abandoned as a cure.
In fact, many ancient remedies have been the basis for the modern medicine that is used today. In many societies, when a person goes to a medical doctor and is prescribed a medication for his or her ailment, that person after having the doctor’s prescription filled at a pharmacy quite often stops at an herb medicine shop as a way of hedging the bet, to make certain that one or the other cure will work.
During research for my book Secrets of Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine, I stopped at a spice market in Damascus and spoke with the owner of the shop. He asked me if I was married. When I told him that I was, he launched into a lecture about how to make my husband forever faithful to me. He advised that I buy his mixture of four spices and have my husband drink form the mixture. He guaranteed that my husband would see me as the most beautiful woman in the world and that all other women would be ugly to him. One supposes that this kind of fold medicine is why some will not take it seriously.
Here is a recipe for mint pesto that makes a great spread with grilled cheese and boiled or roasted potatoes.
Makes 1 cup
1 cup chopped fresh mint
One clove garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process for one minute or until a smooth paste.