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Monday, July 19, 2010

Take Two Flowers and Call Me in the Morning

We all know that eating well is one of the best--and easiest--ways to make our bodies healthy.  Much has been written about antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, etc. in all sorts of foods.  Still, millions of people take pills to supplement the nutrients they get from their food.  Many of these are herbal remedies.

In fact, the medicinal herb market brings in more than $3 billion a year with more than 60 million Americans taking these pills.  But why take pills when you can eat the real thing?

In an interesting article in philly.com called Medicinally Delicious, Elisa Ludwig writes about a part of the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative called the Lancaster Farmacy--a CSA for medicinal herbs.  Members pay a fee, just like at other CSAs, and each week get their share of herbs, flowers and other curing plants.

At the Farmacy, they promote using these herbs in cooking--getting the benefits of both the food and the herbs.  Not only do they add the health benefits, but they add flavor and texture to the food.  It's a method that's been used for centuries--and, like many "old-time ways" (sustainable farming, local food) it's a trend coming back into vogue. 

The author describes the Farmacy:
The land was nearly in full bloom on a hot late-June day, with purple, white, and orange flowers exploding in great bunches. Weaver pointed out a banquet of plants and their uses: chamomile (calming, digestive aid), hyssop (expectorant), calendula (stomach and skin soothing), three kinds of bergamot (soothing, sleep aid, lowers fevers), yarrow (known as "nature's stitches"). There were descriptively named herbs like boneset and feverfew, and numbing buds of spilanthes, also known as Szechuan buttons, which can be used in place of novocaine.
Most herbs, even common ones like basil, thyme and oregano, have some properties that help to cure certain ills.  But it's the goal of the Farmacy to make these unusual herbs more common to everyone.  A heck of a lot tastier than swallowing another pill!

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