From my latest book: Food Is Medicine: 101 Prescriptions from the Garden

From my latest book: Food Is Medicine: 101 Prescriptions from the Garden

For some reason, we and our modern medical practitioners have forgotten the value of food, not only in creating our general health, but in actually correcting health problem. Yes, my friends, food is medicine. And yes, you can find healing in ordinary foods you can grow in your garden or buy at your local farmers market.

food is medicine kathleen barnesHere’s an entry from my latest book. You’ll find 100 more food cures right here.


Arthritis is divided into osteoarthritis, an inflammatory condition, and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease. These two most common types of the disease have very different causes.


Your Garden RX: hot peppers, cantaloupe, broccoli, strawberries, bell peppers, grapes

Often called “wear and tear” arthritis, this type of joint pain results from the deterioration of the cartilage, which acts as a cushion in the joints. This can be the result of aging—ironically, it’s more prevalent among those who have been very active as runners, tennis players, or athletes of almost any type—and it can also be caused by injury and the gravitational effects of obesity. Osteoarthritis affects as many as 10 percent of Americans. It most commonly occurs in the hips and knees, although it can also be a problem in the neck, spine, elbows, wrists, hands, ankles, and feet—virtually any major joint. The deterioration of cushioning between joints leads to stiffness, pain and inflammation. The pain and inflammation cycle can be controlled naturally without the dangerous prescription and over-the-counter drugs, which can have serious side effects. Some foods may actually help re-build damaged cartilage.

Your Garden to the Rescue

Hot peppers can offer fast pain relief because they are loaded with salicylates, anti-inflammatories that act like aspirin, and capsaicin, the actual “heat” of the peppers, which blocks the chemical in nerves that transmits pain. You can get the same effect from eating hot sauces made from peppers and cayenne pepper. Topical poultices made from hot peppers can also be helpful, if you can take the heat!

Vitamin C–rich foods like cantaloupe, broccoli, strawberries, grapes and bell peppers can also help keep the remaining cartilage strong by reducing inflammation and enhancing production of collagen, which strengthens soft tissue.

Red grapes are an excellent source of resveratrol, quercetin and saponins, all highly effective anti-inflammatories.

RX from Outside Your Garden

Ginger and turmeric are exceptionally powerful anti-inflammatories that you’re unlikely to grow in your garden, but will be helpful in relieving the pain caused by inflammation.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Your Garden RX: Green grapes, green beans, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, butternut squash, peas, dried beans

This form of arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s defense system attacks its own cartilage as though it is a foreign invader. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be crippling and it is immensely painful. The symptoms of both kinds of arthritis are similar, and the treatments for osteoarthritis sufferers will also be of benefit to those with the immune type. In addition, there is some evidence that rheumatoid arthritis may be aggravated by certain foods. Many people with the disease have been able to determine which foods are their individual “triggers” and eliminate them from their diets. Most commonly, these trigger foods are milk products and gluten.

Your Garden to the Rescue

Green grapes, green beans, celery, cucumbers, lettuce and butternut squash are excellent sources of a pigment called beta-cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables that lowers the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

In general, it’s a good idea to increase your intake of all types anti-inflammatory foods, including berries, pumpkin seeds and flavonoid rich grapes and broccoli if you have been diagnosed with RA.

The zinc found in all kinds of peas and dried beans may also help restore immune system health, helping bring an overactive immune system back into balance.

RX from Outside Your Garden

Going a little afield here, I’m guessing that most of my readers aren’t fish farmers or olive grove owners, so you won’t literally be growing these foods in your garden, but among the most effective treatments for both major types of arthritis is the regular consumption of inflammation-fighting foods like olive oil and salmon and tuna, part of the traditional Mediterranean diet.

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