For millennia, human beings have treated physical ailments with herbs and food cures, long before there were grocery stores stocked with ibuprofen and antacids. While modern medicine certainly has its benefits, sometimes the best solution is a natural one. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
Here’s a look at tried-and-true remedies for common aches and pains. This list provides food cures that target the cause of pain, and heal the body from within.
1. Aching Joints
Pineapple – When joint pain flares up, reach for a fresh pineapple. This fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain, which helps the body process nutrients, reduce inflammation, and support joint function. Dice up a pineapple to make a fruit salad and add a healthy punch to relieve joint pain.
- Rinse apple, strawberries, grapes, and blackberries.
- Mix 2 cups of diced fresh pineapple, 2 diced bananas, 1 diced cored Fuji apple, 1 cup of diced cantaloupe, 1 cup of diced strawberries, 1 cup of seedless grapes, and 1 cup of blueberries. Serve in 1-cup portions.
2. Stomach Aches
Homemade Ginger Mint Tea – Stomachaches caused by motion sickness, nausea, indigestion, and gas can be relieved with ginger. Containing a substance that relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract, ginger allays the symptoms of stomach pain. Mint also relieves stomach cramps and bloating, and the combination of both ginger and mint will settle your stomach quickly.
- Slice 1 inch of peeled ginger into thin medallions
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add slices and 2 mint leaves, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Pour in a cup and add honey and lemon to taste. Serve.
3. Leg Cramps
Spinach White Bean Salad – For any muscle cramps, this salad is packed with essential nutrients to ward off the pain and reinvigorate your muscles with the vitamins they’re lacking: potassium, magnesium, and protein.
- For each serving, slice 1 Roma tomato, 1 hardboiled egg, and 1/8 red onion. Add to 2 cups of washed baby spinach.
- Add 1/2 cup of washed and drained white beans.
- Add desired dressing and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Toss. Serve.
Banana Almond Oatmeal – Heartburn is caused by acid reflux rising and irritating the esophagus, but there are foods to neutralize the acid and relieve the pain. Banana oatmeal cooked with almond milk combines three key ingredients for combatting heartburn: high-fiber oatmeal to absorb the acid, alkaline acidic neutralizer almond milk, and low-acidic bananas that will coat your throat and provide relief.
- Whisk in saucepan 1 cup of almond milk, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of almond extract, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and half of a mashed banana. Bring to a boil.
- Add 1/2 cup of rolled oats and simmer until oats are tender, 5-7 minutes.
- Pour oatmeal in a bowl, and slice up remaining half of banana. Serve.
5. Urinary Tract Infection
Unsweetened Probiotic Yogurt with Blueberries – The compounds in the probiotic yogurt help fight infection and reestablish the healthy bacterial balance. Unsweetened is best, as simple sugars can negate yogurt’s benefits. Mix in blueberries, which are loaded with antioxidants and have been shown to prevent E. Coli bacteria, a frequent cause of UTIs, from adhering to the bladder wall.
- Prepare 1 cup of probiotic yogurt and stir in 1/2 cup blueberries. Serve.
- Eat 2 to 3 times daily until symptoms improve.
6. Muscle Inflammation
Trail Mix – When you’re on the go but need a snack, pack up a trail mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and dark chocolate to relieve aches caused by muscle inflammation. Walnuts lower the body’s C-reactive protein which causes inflammation. Almonds and cashews contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are also anti-inflammatory, while dried fruits and dark chocolate carry anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are packed with vitamins and healthy fats, and add a subtle variety to the mix. This is the perfect post-workout snack when you’re feeling the burn.
- In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of walnuts, 2 cups of cashews, 1 cup of slivered toasted almonds, 1 cup of dried apricots, 1 cup of dried papaya, 1 cup dried pineapple, 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds, and 1 cup of dark chocolate chips.
- Divide into 1/2- to 1-cup servings and store in small Ziploc bags. Serve.
Tart Cherry Smoothie – Headaches can be caused by a number of sources, including but not limited to: vitamin and electrolyte deficiencies, hormonal fluctuations, muscle tension, stress, low blood sugar, and dehydration. One food that can cure your headache pain regardless of cause is the cherry. Packed with melatonin and polyphenol, cherries convert to nitric oxide in the blood and serve to relax muscles and blood vessels, allowing for better blood flow. Blend them into a smoothie with other nutrient-packed ingredients, and you’ll feel healthier, hydrated, and better in no time.
- Blend 2 cups of seedless tart cherries, 1 cup of washed chopped kale, 1 banana, 2 cups of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
- Add ice and water to obtain desired consistency. Serve.
Cooked Salmon – The benefits of salmon and other freshwater fish have been repeatedly reconfirmed by scientists and nutritionists alike. Salmon in particular is rich with omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and enable better joint movement for arthritis patients. Garlic, olive oil, basil, and lemon also have anti-inflammatory properties, and cooking the recipe below on a regular basis can alleviate some of the joint stiffness and allow for more mobility to ease arthritic pain.
- Create a marinade of 2 minced garlic cloves, 6 tablespoons of light olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Marinate 2 6 oz. salmon fillets for at least 1 hour.
- With the oven at 375° F, place marinated fillets in aluminum foil and seal. Set in a glass dish and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until salmon easily flakes. Plate and serve.
9. Sore Throats
Chamomile tea with honey and lemon – For over 5,000 years, the properties of chamomile have been recognized and used to cure the body’s ailments. To heal a sore throat, chamomile helps kill bacteria and serves as an anti-inflammatory to soothe aches or rawness resulting from a cold or cough. Add honey for its healing properties and lemon to inhibit viruses and bacteria.
- Boil 1 cup of water.
- Add 1 slice of lemon and 1 tablespoon of honey.
- For an extra boost, use 2 teabags in your cup for added potency. Serve.
10. Skin Irritation
Basil – For sunburn, insect bites, or pimples, the naturally occurring oils and compounds found in basil can soothe and speed up healing. Basil is naturally antibacterial and disinfecting, and the camphene cools the skin, suppressing any itchiness from bites or irritation. Its cleansing properties clear out pores to cure and prevent pimples, and it boasts an anti-aging property that helps reverse damage caused by free radicals as well.
- Crush 1 cup of fresh basil leaves and add 1 tablespoon of water for sunburns, or lemon juice for bites and pimples
- Apply paste to skin for 30 minutes. Rinse off.
11. Tissue Inflammation
Chips and Guacamole – Avocados, garlic, and cayenne pepper hold properties that fight inflammation and ease pain. Avocados especially carry a concentrated amount of carotenoids, which help to protect and strengthen skin, tissue, and cells for better health and function. Mix them all together with a few other ingredients, and you have a delicious and popular snack.
- In a medium bowl, mash together 3 peeled and pitted mashed avocados, juice of 1 lime, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Mix in 1/2 cup of diced onion, 2 diced Roma plum tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, and 1 pinch of ground cayenne pepper.
- Let meld for an hour. Serve with high-fiber corn chips.
12. General Aches and Pains
Water – Overall lethargy and malaise can often be relieved by simply drinking water. Staying properly hydrated has been shown to diminish the pain associated with migraines, muscle aches, joint stress, constipation, and other ailments. If the human body is a well-oiled machine, then water is its oil.
Featured photo credit: Take Back Your Health Conference 2015 Los Angeles/TakeBackYourHealthConference via flickr.com