The FDA’s recent report on "Pathogens and Filth in Spices" finding salmonella in imported spices, especially from India and Mexico, has raised questions of how to prevent or treat food poisoning generally. Ironically, many of the herbs such as coriander seed, which is supposed to be effective in the treatment of salmonella, are among those that have been shown to particularly carry the pathogen.
Quite simply, herbs are a dirty business fraught with the same sanitary dangers as any organic product harvested and stored on a large commercial scale. A New York Times article illustrates how contamination can occur: "Not so long ago, pepper farmers almost universally dried the seeds on bamboo mats or dirt floors and then gathered them for manual threshing. Dirt, dung and salmonella were simply part of the harvest, so much so that in 1987, the F.D.A. blocked shipments of black pepper from India. The ban was lifted two years later, after the Indian government began a testing program." Along with bacterial contamination other articles cite insect, human hair and rat feces.
You may wonder how salmonella found on the surface of herbs and spices specifically used to treat food poisoning, such as coriander, stands a chance at making a consumer ill. The problem is, salmonella is a particularly virulent strain of bacteria, and these spices are usually not taken in a sufficient therapeutic amount to offset the effects of the pathogens they carry.
Herbs and formulas to counteract food poisoning
(Note: Food poisoning can be a matter of serious concern. Any suggestions I might offer in such a brief article as this should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care.)
Homeopathic Nux Vomica 30 X taken hourly has been known to provide fast and effective relief for many who suffer from food poisoning and other gastric disturbances.
Chinese Curing Pills (Planetary Herbals reformulation in the product Digestive Comfort) is specifically intended for the treatment of all gastrointestinal diseases including food poisoning. It consists of the classic formula Bao He Wan which traditionally is carried by Chinese people for the sorts of gastrointestinal disorders than can be accrued as a result of traveling. This includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and such named conditions as dysentery and food poisoning.
Ever wonder why those tasty slices of pickled ginger are served with sushi? What about the small clumps of shiso leaves (perilla) also served in Japanese cuisine? Traditionally, these were added to prevent food poisoning, and indeed both ginger and perilla leaf are excellent herbs to consider for treatment.
Another nearly universal ‘anti-poison’ herb is licorice. Licorice has properties similar to cortisone but with far less concern for any of the drug’s well-known side effects.
Another herb that can be considered is garlic, which is known to possess antibiotic properties.
A strong tea made from two heaping tablespoonsful of chamomile and several slices of fresh ginger steeped in a covered cup of boiling water is also an effective treatment.
Ayurveda typically recommends Triphala and chewing of fennel seeds as a treatment for diarrhea or dysentery. I might add that the three fruits found in Triphala, a formula that I first introduced into and widely sold by many companies as a treatment for gastrointestinal diseases, were often harvested off the ground as they fall from tall forested trees. There has been, to my knowledge, absolutely no implication of food poisoning even from these primitively harvested fruits such as the famous Vitamin C- and nutrient-dense Amla fruit (Myrobalan emblica). Planetary Formulas has specialized in the sale and distribution of Triphala ever since I first introduced it to the Western herb market over 25 years ago. In recent years, Triphala Gold has become available, which is harvested under the strict safe handling guidelines that provides extra insurance from any pathogenic transmission due to mishandling.
One of the standard ‘go to’ TCM formulas is called Shao Yao Tang, which regulates and harmonizes Qi and blood, clears Heat, and detoxifies. It contains the following:
- Bai Shao Yao (radix Paeoniae lactiflorae)…15-20g* [regulate Blood and Ying]
- Dang Gui (radix Angelicae sinensis)…6-9g** [regulate Blood and Ying]
- Gan Cao (radix Glycyrrhizae uralensis)…4.5g** [moderates spasm]
- Mu Xiang (radix Aucklandiae lappae)…4.5g** [move Qi]
- Bing Lang (semen Arecae catechu)…4.5g** [move Qi]
- Huang Lian (rhizoma Coptidis)…6-9g*** [clear Damp & Heat]
- Huang Qin (radix Scutellariae)…9-12g*** [clear Damp & Heat]
- Da Huang (radix and rhizoma Rhei)…6-9g*** [purge Heat]
- Rou Gui (cortex Cinnamomi cassiae)…1.5-3g*** [move Blood, oppose cold bitter of other herbs]
Indications: Damp-heat in the intestines causing stagnation. Quite often may be food poisoning or epidemic febrile disease that produces stagnation leading to diarrhea, pain, and tenesmus (always wanting to defecate but not producing significant amounts of stool). This can cause difficulty with bowel movements, pus and blood in the stool, burning anus, Damp-Heat in the low Jiao causes scanty dark urine. T- greasy yellow coat, P- rapid (soft or slippery).
When treating an acute condition, one should immediately resort to a bland diet with no refined foods, drinks or sugar. Any of the above-mentioned herbs should be taken regularly every waking half or full hour, tapering off as symptoms subside. This can be in the form of tea, capsules, pills, or tincture, but it is important to load up on these initially and then continue on a much reduced dose for three days after all symptoms have subsided.