Cabbage is one of those humble, "plain" vegetables that is very often overlooked, but it is surprisingly versatile and yummy. Lots of people think of dressing-laden coleslaw, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) or steamed cabbage, not a favourite for most – but cabbage can be prepared in so many other ways; from Asian inspired salads, to delicious soup, and did I mention that red cabbage braised with butter, balsamic vinegar, fennel and apples is absolutely sublime! Cabbage also has a tonne of medicinal uses and it definitely deserves a place in the fridge as a multi-purpose home remedy.
Cabbage leaves, both green and red, owes many of its healing properties to sulfur-containing plant compounds which are warming, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, and what we call a "vulnerary"- a plant that generally soothes inflamed tissue and promotes wound healing. Very traditional home remedies include cabbage as a poultice, which is a topical application of macerated food/plant used to treat everything from minor burns to infections, bruises, cuts & scrapes. Cabbage leaves have "drawing" properties, and are also an effective anti-microbial, so the vegetable is particularly useful to treat infections under the skin, ie. Ingrown toenails, boils, mastitis & stubborn chest infections. Cabbage and cabbage juice is a tried and true remedy for stomach ulcers and constipation as well.
Red cabbage is one of the two major varietals of the cabbage plant, which is a famed member of the Brassica vegetable family; now pretty famous for their powerful anti-cancer effects and detoxing capabilities. I prescribe cabbage and brassica veggies in every detox program, and very often recommend regular consumption for women with hormonal imbalances and conditions associated with "estrogen dominance", which manifests as many common gynecological concerns. Brassica or cruciferous foods contain plant compounds that have been studied for their ability to metabolize and detoxify various types of estrogen, and we know that some "types" are less desirable as they are linked to the development of breast and ovarian cancers.
Red cabbage contains a whopping 40-45% of our recommended daily Vitamin C (in a 1 cup serving). Cabbage is such a good source of this nutrient that it was a staple aboard European ships hundreds of years ago to prevent scurvy, which essentially is a plague of severe Vitamin C deficiency. Red cabbage also gets special props for being an awesome source of anthocyanin polyphenols; those amazing purple antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Red cabbage keeps its nutritional benefits in check for about two weeks, but it should be kept refridgerated to preserve vitamin C content.
Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.