Cabbage: The Winter Medicine of the Poor

Simple, used daily, the raw ingredients on our plate can make big changes to your health. One of the most common vegetables of the deep winter in Greece is cabbage. All Greek farmers’ markets now sell the sweetest and most tasty cabbage of the year. Because “if there is no cold, cabbage won’t be at its best,” as farmers say.

There is no disease for which cabbage has not been used by folk medicine. It is truly the “medicine of the poor,” according to tradition. From October to March using cabbage in all forms can protect during the winter. Other months, it cannot be found fresh in Greece because it is not easy and cost effective to preserve it in good condition.

According to the USDA, cabbage contains great amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamin C and A, folate (important for pregnant women) and carotene – and many more substances in smaller amounts. The low calories (only 25 in 100 gr) in combination with the high nutrient content wins this humble food high ratings among herbs for medicinal and culinary uses.

Greek traditional medicine uses medium hot cabbage juice with honey for the sore throats or asthma. Hot leaves in the oven are said to help with rheumatism, arthritis, and external wounds. Also, large amounts of raw cabbage are said to help with insomnia and stress. Externally, it helps with burns, cuts, and ulcers. And insect bites can be healed by compresses of boiled cabbage leaves. The same goes for internal problems like stomach ulcers, by drinking cabbage juice before each meal. Raw or boiled cabbage can clean our blood and kidneys. And it may help get over hangovers

Of course, cabbage is high in fibers, and its antioxidant activity can help with hemorrhoids and constipation.

In Greek cuisine, the famous ‘cabbage dishes’ are cabbage with pork in casserole, cabbage with rice (and of course feta cheese) and ‘laxanodolmades’, a mix of rice with minced meat wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves.

For raw cabbage, try ‘politiki’ salad: chopped cabbage, carrot, dill, and celery. Mix the vegetables and add salt, olive oil, and good vinegar. You can contain it in our fridge for a week and at any time you can have a ready-to-eat salad with any dish.

Cabbage ‘teaches’ us one more time that “nature knows.” It offers a great variety of nutrients in winter, when we need something to boost our immune system to protect us from colds and other illnesses. Even in low temperatures, nature thrives under extreme conditions offer us its best.

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD in Agricultural Economics, Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.


While the winter may seem like a tough time for seasonal fruits and vegetables, there are still leafy greens available to enjoy in a variety of dishes.

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