By Sharifa Al Badi
Our ancestors depended on natural remedies for centuries, and many of our elderly still depend on natural ingredients to remain healthy. Here, we examine some natural remedies from around the Gulf region that have been passed on over centuries.
Popular in Khaleeji, Indian and Italian cuisines, this white vegetable is also believed to repel vampires in some cultures. Some research suggests that it has the same effect as some antibiotics for some illnesses, and could help reduce blood pressure, protect the heart, amongst other benefits. According to a study by Washington State University, garlic is 100 times more effective than some medicines in fighting certain types of bacteria that causes intestinal illnesses. Garlic is a popular staple used in many of our dishes, and one of the best types of garlic in the Gulf region is the Omani organic garlic, which can readily be found in food outlets in the region.
This fragrant flower bud is used in some perfumes and beauty products. It is also added to many of our traditional dishes and stews here in the region. Clove has been used for centuries for cooking and as a natural remedy, especially in Chinese and Japanese medicine. Clove oil is said to be effective for oral health, which has been highlighted in a study by the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, as it can help fight plaque and bacteria in the mouth. That is why we see it as a component in many mouthwash products. Clove oil has other benefits as well. Some research suggests that it could help regulate blood sugar levels, could help kill some bacteria, may even protect against certain types of cancer, and is rich in antioxidants. You can add ground clove to your dishes or even brew a handful in hot water for a relaxing tea.
You may have had a sip of this aromatic herb at a gathering or a wedding in the Arab Gulf States. Thyme, also known as ‘za’tar’ in Arabic, is a Mediterranean herb, and a staple in our kitchens. Traditionally, people from the region have used it aa a remedy against sore throats by adding it to warm water, and drinking it. A compound in thyme is effective in killing types of infectious bacteria and has antimicrobial properties. Furthermore, a study carried out in Lisbon, Portugal, has found that mastic thyme may help protect our bodies against colon cancer. In addition, scientists from Leeds Metropolitan University in England have found that thyme tincture could be effective in treating acne, minus the harsh side effects of other chemical washes and creams.
Also known in Arabic as ‘sannoot’, this warm spice is a popular addition to our traditional yogurt drink. Cumin, with its distinct flavour, is a staple in Mexican and Indian kitchens. Cumin seeds are also a rich source of iron. According to a study by researchers from the Central Food Technological Research Institute, cumin is suggested to reduce the damage in our body from free radicals. If you’re interested in exploring this spice, you can start by trying out a little bit of it in your food or add it to your warm or cold beverages!
Other spices and herbs popular in our cooking and that reap many benefits are ginger, turmeric and black pepper. Next time you are feeling bored in your self-isolation, go into your kitchen and check out the different herbs and spices as each has its own reward.
Finally, I wanted to end this piece by sharing a family recipe, something my family members and I use whenever we feel a bit under the weather. Crush a handful of garlic cloves and mix them with warm water, honey and lemon juice. Take a teaspoon at least twice a day as an immunity boosting tonic.
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Sharifa Al Badi is a published writer and author from the magical lands of Oman. She has written for Esquire ME, Khaleejesque and The Culture Trip. She is also the author of “Themis Aella & The Magical Forest” and “50 Things To Know As An Adult.” Sharifa is currently undertaking a course in aromatherapy and naturopath.