Medicinal foods from across the world to use in your cooking

The blueberry was one of the first foods to be given the title “superfood”. Picture: Pexels/wendyaffieplaas

The blueberry was one of the first foods to be given the title “superfood”. Picture: Pexels/wendyaffieplaas

Published May 28, 2024


The concept of food as medicine has been around for many years. In traditional cultures, food and medicine were strongly intertwined. Many special foods were known and treasured due to their use in treating or preventing disease.

The knowledge of the special foods was carefully passed down from generation to generation.

While scientists today are investigating what exactly makes certain foods so successful in the world of medicine, several studies have proved their effectiveness.

The next time you are feeling a bit under the weather or suffering from a minor injury, pain or skin condition, consider skipping the medicine cabinet and heading to the pantry instead.

Some of the common foods that have medicinal properties and how you can use them in your cooking:

Peppermint leaves can be used either fresh or dried. Picture: Pexels/Shameel Mukkath


From sweet treats and hot and fluffy muffins to minty hot cocoa, it is the season to experience the power of peppermint.

Although it is best not to overdo it when it comes to sugary treats, do not forgo it entirely; the aromatic plant has several health benefits. We are all familiar with the use of peppermint in candy, but peppermint flavour is also featured in the cuisines of many countries, in sweet and savoury dishes.

In Middle Eastern food, mint is often added to dishes like tabbouleh and fattoush, alongside other herbs like parsley. Peppermint is also used in Turkish and Greek cooking as a flavourful addition to kebabs and sauces.

In India, peppermint can sometimes be found as an ingredient in chutneys, and in classic English cooking, mint is often served as a jelly to accompany a holiday feast.

Peppermint leaves can be used either fresh or dried to prepare a delicious hot tea that is thought to help soothe the stomach.


Moringa is a superfood that has been mostly grown in African and Asian countries for centuries. Moringa goes way back to ancient times and has been used in phytomedicine and ayurvedic healing for centuries.

It has many important vitamins and minerals. According to health experts, the leaves have about as much potassium as a banana, and about the same amount of vitamin C as an orange.

It also has calcium, protein, iron and amino acids, which help your body heal and build muscle.

Some of the ways you could cook with moringa leaves is to finely blend fresh leaves and mix them with some store-bought pesto, or blend them with basil leaves when making fresh pesto.

If you are making chicken noodle soup, you can throw in a handful of fresh moringa leaves in the pot before you finish cooking, or mix some fresh leaves into savoury rice porridge, curry or salads.

Moringa can also be added to a variety of snacks and beverages, too.

The blueberry was one of the first foods to be give the title “superfood”. Picture: Pexels/Lucas Guizo


The blueberry was one of the first foods to be give the title “superfood”, and there are many varieties growing in different regions of the world.

Blueberries are packed with nutrients, such as fibre, vitamin C and manganese, and also contain special antioxidants that may ward off disease.

Sprinkled over breakfast dishes, turned into a sauce for dinner or baked into dessert, there are many incredible things you can make with blueberries. You can make blueberry pie, blueberry sauce or even blueberry muffins.

Kadha concoction

Kadha is a soothing and immunity-boosting hot ayurvedic drink popular in India. Made with a few basic pantry spices, this simple yet versatile herbal drink can be made with ingredients you have on hand and is a must, especially during winter.

An easy recipe is a ginger and turmeric kadha. Simmer grated ginger, turmeric, black pepper and a cinnamon stick in water for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add a dash of honey and a squeeze of lemon before straining and drinking. The beverage helps fights colds, aids digestion and reduces inflammation.


If you are a fan of sushi, you might have tried wasabi, which is not really a horseradish but a paste that has similar effects. You might also have noticed that it goes right up your nose to your sinuses.

Horseradish, a medicinal food with a kick, does the same thing, hinting at its virtue in healing sinus infections and colds. Like all condiments, horseradish is versatile.

It is used to add a kick of heat to everything from bloody Marys to deviled eggs and is also great as an accompaniment to rich dishes, like beef tenderloin and potato gratin.

Oddly enough, horseradish is also used to add flavour to other condiments, such as mayonnaise, cocktail sauce, mustard, and ketchup.

If you got a salad dressing that needs a flavour boost, try adding half a teaspoon of horseradish to the mix.