With many of us turning to antibiotics and flu remedies at the merest hint of a sneeze, we could be exposing our bodies to all sorts of side-effects as well as building immunity to their beneficial effects. Luckily, there are many ways to heal your body without hitting the medicine cupboard. While many conditions do require traditional medicine, to help treat minor conditions or supplement ongoing treatment, check out our top 10 medicinal foods.
The antibiotic: garlic
Garlic has long had a reputation as a natural antibiotic. In fact, one study by researchers from the University of East London found that the allicin present in garlic was effective against the most antibiotic-resistant strains of "superbug" MRSA. While it is inadvisable to ditch the antibiotics without seeking professional advice, for minor conditions such as acne where long-term antibiotic use is required, it may be worth considering garlic as a natural alternative.
Manuka honey is packed with antioxidants and is also renowned for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. This powerful honey can be used to help treat many conditions including ulcers, acne and digestive problems, and it is also a good treatment for the flu and common cold. The honey is not only a great immune-booster, but its antiviral properties help protect against cold and flu symptoms while its antibacterial properties can tackle the bacteria that can lead to a sore throat.
The digestive aid: peppermint tea
If you're suffering from nausea, flatulence or IBS, a cup of peppermint tea may help sort you out. Peppermint has a mildly anesthetic effect on the stomach lining, which can help reduce nausea. In addition to this, it is also an antispasmodic, meaning that it can help relieve muscle spasms along the digestive tract, helping with the painful symptoms of IBS.
The antacid: bananas
If you regularly suffer from heartburn or indigestion, it may be worth adding more bananas to your diet. Bananas are renowned for their antacid properties, which can soothe painful heartburn as well as protecting against stomach ulcers. As an added bonus, bananas can also decrease risk of stroke and lower blood pressure, making them an extremely healthy alternative to antacid medication.
The anti-depressant: chocolate
Chocolate is known to be high in mood-boosting chemicals, and findings published in the scientific journal Nutritional Neuroscience have suggested that the food can help reduce the symptoms of depression. The popular treat is not only high in magnesium, which can aid relaxation, but it contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter which can help regulate mood, and phenylethylamine, which raises endorphin levels. However, the mood-boosting food should still be eaten in moderation!
The sleep aid: oats
If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep, try eating a small bowl of porridge before bedtime to help you drift off. Oats are a good natural source of melatonin, which is often taken as a sleep aid due to its ability to help regulate the body's internal clock. On top of this, they are also a rich source of tryptophan, which helps the brain to produce more melatonin as well as the relaxing chemical serotonin.
The painkiller: oily fish
As well as being good for your brain and eyesight, the fats in oily fish can act as natural painkillers for many conditions due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have suggested that regularly eating oily fish can help reduce the pain of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, while separate research has indicated that fish oil can help treat lower back and neck pain. Also - good news for the girls - researchers have found that fish oil can help reduce menstrual pain and cramps.
The antihistamine: capers
Capers may not be a typical store cupboard essential, however they could prove very beneficial to those suffering from allergies. Capers are rich in the bioflavonoids rutin and quercetin (also found in apples, red onion and tea), both of which have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin is particularly effective as an anti-allergy remedy when taken with bromelain; an enzyme found naturally in pineapple.
The stop smoking aid: milk
While quitting smoking is never easy and requires a huge amount of dedication, there are certain foods you can add to your diet to make it a bit easier to quit. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center conducted research into foods that may help smokers break the habit and discovered that smokers found drinking milk before lighting up worsened the taste of their cigarette. Although this approach won't work by itself, next time you crave a cigarette try drinking a glass of milk before to make the experience a little less pleasurable.
The travel sickness remedy: ginger
Ginger is an all round good health food, being high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. However, ginger's most reputed benefit is its effectiveness at treating all types of nausea, making it a great alternative to motion sickness tablets when travelling. To help ease the nausea associated with travel sickness, try eating crystallised ginger or ginger biscuits, or drink some ginger tea or ginger ale.