The longer I’m around food the more I am realising the miracle of natural ingredients. I’m talking about ingredients that haven’t been processed in a clean room, added to and no longer recognisable as their original selves, but real natural foods, grown or reared, that will eventually go off and are still alive inside. Tinned, processed and packaged foods that last forever are the Zombies of the food world. Now there is a place for these foods in certain circumstances, but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of our diets as they tend to. Natural ingredients are both fuel and medicine although we have long since abandoned the idea of the latter. While we may have lost the knowledge it doesn’t mean that the connection isn’t still there.
Now before I annoy anyone let me state clearly that I am forever in awe of the progress and discoveries of modern medicine and medical professionals. Despite the criticisms of Irish health care, my own personal experience has always been good. However I do believe that many of today’s illnesses are diet related and also many minor ailments can be dealt with using a host of natural remedies. If these two areas were removed from the remit of our GP surgeries and hospitals we may not have the overburdening problem that exists currently. Maybe if we all took a little more responsibility for our health and well being the Irish health crisis might become a thing of the past. It seems crazy that we are prepared to fill ourselves with toxic, dead food and expect to be well and healthy. After years of this abuse when we eventually make ourselves ill we then roll into the doctor’s surgery looking for a magic pill to relieve the symptoms and make us better while we continue to feed ourselves lifeless junk! It makes little sense and yet people in their thousands fail to see the link. It is like pouring coca cola into your car and expecting it to work like petrol and when it doesn’t then taking the car to a mechanic and saying you haven’t a clue what is causing the problem.
As humans we were built to eat and our food is all provided for us by nature; meat, vegetables, fruit, grains and dairy along with some great herbs and spices. A good friend of mine has a tremendous story of using natural remedies. She developed a painful condition of a stone in the salivary gland: similar to a gall stone or kidney stone, only near the face. After two unsuccessful surgical operations to remove the stone by going in through the floor of the mouth, the surgeon asked permission to operate from the outside. This would have left a scar and there was also a high risk of cutting nerves to the facial muscles, the tongue and lip muscles. While waiting for this elective surgery she found a good naturopath. His diagnosis was simple. Stones can only occur in an out of balance body, where the PH balance (remember that from science class with the litmus paper?) is too acidic. To restore the balance she had to give up cakes, sweets, biscuits, (general processed foods) and citrus fruits for about 6 weeks. During that time she had to drink a litre of natural apple juice and take apple cider vinegar every day to render the system more alkaline. After 6 weeks she had to start eating fresh lemon slices to get the salivary glands working which would, in theory, work the stone out. It sounded almost fanciful, but armed with a juicer, loads of apples and banning all sweets, biscuits and cakes she held to it diligently and remarkably, within about 7 weeks the stone did indeed come out. It was a rough lump of calcium about the size of an orange pip. I can tell this story because I got it first hand, but it is also a case where time was on the side of the patient. Let’s face it if your life is endangered by gall stones you won’t have six or seven weeks to be messing around with apple juice- you will need a surgical operation. The main point however is if the system wasn’t off in the first place then it wouldn’t have been necessary. This incident set my pal on a path for more information on food and health. Today she knows a whole lot about this area which I was happy to mine for this article.
As well as adding great flavour, fresh garlic is a natural antiseptic and was used in the trenches during the war to stop infection in wounds. It is also good for earache. Heat some olive oil and then crush some garlic into it and let it rest in the oil for about 15 minutes. Strain the liquid and soak some cotton wool in the oil and place it just inside the ear, letting the liquid run into the inner ear. The garlic combats any possible infection. Crushed in warm water, (if you can stomach it) garlic is also great for sore throats, although lemon juice in warm water with honey is more pleasant and very effective. At this time of year insect bites and stings can be the cause of many tears. Mix some honey and baking soda together and rub onto the site of the bite and this should relieve the itching. For wasp stings rub the affected area with cider vinegar or a slice of lemon and stop the irritation in its tracks. If it begins to swell badly, make a poultice with cider vinegar and baking soda and apply it directly. Cabbage leaves also have tremendous anti inflammatory properties. Wrap cabbage leaves around the swollen area and let it do its magic.
While I was gathering information for this article a customer of ours, Kay Fahey from Poulmucka came to me with a recipe for a burn ointment. Again I’m not suggesting you don’t seek medical help in the face of any serious incident, but for small burns or while you are awaiting medical attention it might be handy to have this natural ointment that you make yourself, to hand. The ingredients are: 3oz of lamb kidney suet, 5 laurel leaves, 100 ml extra virgin olive oil, 1 table spoon of honey and 1 table spoon of sulphur. To make: render the fat, chop the leaves and boil in the fat. Strain off the fat from the leaves and add the olive oil and honey. Leave to cool slightly and then stir in the sulphur with a wooden spoon. Leave to set and store in a sterilised jar. I haven’t even scratched the surface of the subject here but needless to say there are thousands of effective natural remedies around that are certainly worth trying as they can’t harm you even if they prove ineffective.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers