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Curative Foods

by Becca Hensley

Across the globe, since time eternal, various cultures have turned local ingredients into curative elixirs, teas and tinctures based on traditional plant medicine. Today, this rich heritage remains, now backed by modern science. Ready to ameliorate a tummy ache with ginger or sleeplessness with chamomile? Bottoms up! We’ve got your concoction here.

Tumeric in Bali

Immune-boosting, inflammation-reducing turmeric, a staple of Ayurvedic cuisine, has been used in South Asian and Indonesian preparations for centuries—if not millennia. In Bali, spicy, earthy turmeric-based elixir called Jamu, makes a daily appearance on tables across the island.

Made by everyone from village grandmothers to urbanites, the turmeric-rich libation includes the golden root, plus ginger, honey and lime juice as its staple recipe. Try a glass in the garden at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, an all-villa, luxury beach resort, which overlooks peaceful waters. Recently renovated, the retreat indulges guests with walled outdoor gardens, carved Balinese doors and furnishings and at the Healing Village Spa, an outstanding tropical hideaway. Besides Jamu, expect breakfast trays that float in the pool, energy-aligning treatments, the songs of Balinese healers and jaw dropping sunsets.

Chamomile in England

Thanks to plant savvy medicine-making Medieval monks, England has a long history of remedies that hail from the garden. The holy men excelled in the study of herbal and floral-created therapies, deriving botanicals from their yield, as well as trading with apothecary merchants and vessels that ferried other ingredients on the River Thames.

Today, their curative legacy brings the healing powers of plants to the forefront at places like Sea Containers London. With a design that recalls a 1920s transatlantic cruise liner, this hotel rises from the shores of the Thames in the historic Sea Containers building on the South Bank. Its chic Spa Aqua puts a contemporary twist on the monk’s heirloom alchemy with signature house-made “Hedgerow by Aqua,” products. This sustainable line takes advantage of herbs, such as chamomile—a sleep-inducing, flavonoid-rich, blood sugar-lowering plant, often sipped as tea.

Nopal in Mexico

Long before green juice was a worldwide health craze, Mexican curanderos and caring abuelas blended jugo verde in their kitchens, plucking plants from their own backyard gardens.

Composed with an array of vitamin-packed green vegetables (cucumber, cilantro, celery, parsley, spinach), and fruit (lime, orange, apples, pineapple), the juice’s salubrious superpower was the thorny nopal, its betalain and tryptophan-brimming paddles also known as prickly pear. Sometimes aloe, a free-radical warrior, was also added.

Still made today in the traditional version, jugo verde is said to improve lung, eye and blood health, revitalize hangover sufferers, regulate blood sugar, support depression and increase stamina and regularity. Each Mexican resort offers its own version. Ask for yours with nopal at Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, poised on one of Los Cabos’ few swimmable beaches, and featuring eforea Spa, with regional rituals and treatments awash with local ingredients on the menu.

Ginger in Thailand

Sweet, peppery, pungent ginger, renowned for its disease-fighting, anti-inflammatory properties, appeals to all the senses. All over Asia, and especially Thailand, it appears as a ubiquitous base ingredient in steamed snacks, noodles, stir fries, and soups. (The Thai also use citrusy galangal, another healing member of the antioxidant-rich rhizome family, with a slightly different flavor.)

Partake of ginger’s wellness bounty at Capella Bangkok, a riverside, five-star sanctuary, where its sleek Auriga Spa serves a pre and post treatment tea, chock full of healthy, gingery goodness.

Noni in Bora Bora

A small, fruit-bearing evergreen tree that grows amongst the lava flows in the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia, noni has been used for thousands of years in Polynesian traditional medicine and as a food source. Touted to boost health, treat skin irritations and lacerations and improve gastrointestinal issues, among other ailments, noni has been recognized by scientists for its benefits. At St Regis Bora Bora, renowned for opulent tropical grounds and lofty overwater bungalows, the Iridium Spa takes vitamin and mineral-rich noni and healing papaya from the resort’s garden to prepare a signature massage oil, used for various massages, including Polynesian Taurumi massage. Note: noni is sometimes called cheese fruit for its distinctive odor

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