Ancient Healing Treatments

Publish date:
Updated on

Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, East Indians, South Americans, Russians, Scandinavians and Native Americans dabbled in healing treatments that still prove effective today -- and in some cases, science actually backs them up. Many call for organic foods that you'll easily find in your pantry.

For run-of-the-mill nausea, for example, nothing beats ginger -- a remedy I've used over the last two decades. Try any of the following methods to alleviate symptoms:

  • Brew a cup of organic ginger tea, allowing a slice of fresh ginger to steep in the cup. Sip slowly until nausea passes.
  • Add a few drops of consumable organic ginger essential oil to a teaspoon of organic honey. Allow the honey to melt in your mouth.
  • Buy a bottle of organic ginger capsules, which can be taken with the liquid of your choice.
  • If you're prone to motion sickness, Buchman recommends taking one or two 200-mg ginger capsules before you travel.

For diarrhea, a simple solution from the ancient Greeks and Romans is only a Bugs Bunny cartoon away: organic carrots. According to Buchman, these civilizations first used the vegetable to calm the colon. Later, the British recommended carrot juice or carrot soup to resolve diarrhea in adults. Buchman recommends the following:

  • Drink two glasses of carrot juice.
  • Sip about a pint of carrot soup.

For constipation, early Native Americans turned to psyllium seeds from the plantain plant, the fiber found in many over-the-counter preparations like Metamucil, according to Porter Shimer, former executive editor of Men's Health Newsletter and author of Healing Secrets of the Native Americans. Follow his directions for a natural psyllium laxative: "Add a teaspoon of plantain seeds to a cup of boiling water, allow to cool, then drink, seeds and all, once or twice a day. Be sure to drink a lot of water when using psyllium because it removes a lot of water from the body." You can also try organic flaxseeds, another substance used by Native Americans. Just be aware that they will not dissolve when added to liquid. Instead, add them to your daily bowl of organic cereal or recipes for bread and muffins.

For bloating or intestinal gas, spices like coriander, fennel, ginger and turmeric have proved helpful. Their use is "a longstanding part of the culture of countries that eat vegetables and beans abundantly," says Karen Collins, a registered dietitian in private practice and nutrition adviser to the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, DC. "In addition, animal and laboratory studies of particular components of these spices tend to back up the cultural wisdom."

Ginger, she notes, contains "potent phytochemicals [natural plant compounds] called gingerols, which soothe the digestive tract. It can be added to stir-fries, sprinkled on rice, added to salad dressings and made into a tea by simply adding it to hot water or tea. For milder flavor, add it at the beginning of cooking; for a spicier 'zing,' add it closer to the end."

In India, citizens have for centuries chewed on fennel after meals.

"It is sort of like an after-dinner mint, leaving a pleasant taste in the mouth after lots of spice and curry, but it also will fight gassiness," Collins says. "In addition to simply chewing the spices, it can be added in cooking and is particularly popular in rice and vegetable dishes."

Coriander also contains phytochemicals, most of which are concentrated in the seeds, Collins says. She recommends adding it to tea, soups, stews and poaching water when you prepare fish.

Finally, turmeric contains a phytochemical called curcumin, also effective in reducing gas. It is "already part of the combination of spices known as curry powder," Collins says. "Additional amounts of turmeric can be added for further flavor, color and gas-fighting. It is terrific in rice, bean or lentil dishes and any kind of chicken or vegetable curries." (Check out Chef David Lawrence's delicious recipe for Spiced Lemon Rice, which contains turmeric and curry powder.)

 Talk to Us!

Want more ancient healing treatments?
Email us at if you'd like us to publish more columns on this topic.

Related Stories