“Doctor of the poor” and “a gift from heaven” are eulogies from the days when the cabbage was recognised as a panacea for all ills. High in fibre, low in calories, rich in vitamin C and a good source of bio flavonoids, potassium, folic acid and the B vitamins, this vegetable has a wonderful ability to detoxify the body, cleanse the skin, renew energy and promote feelings of wellbeing. 

Strange as it may seem, the ancient Egyptians built a temple to honour the cabbage. The Greeks went one step further and passed a law that made stealing cabbages a crime punishable by death. Pythagoras apparently promoted the practice of eating raw cabbages every day, particularly to cure nervous or mental disorders. Ancient cultures were also quick to discover the cabbage’s welcome power to combat the debilitating effects of headaches and hangovers. 

Juices or soups are the best way to sample the healing properties of cabbages, whether they are the green, white, red, Savoy or Chinese variety. Raw cabbage blended into a juice is very beneficial, particularly for peptic ulcers. The juice can generate intestinal gas, however, causing bloating or flatulence. Red cabbage has the most vitamin C, while Savoy is a richer source of beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. Cabbage contains sulphur, a contributor to its characteristic smell during cooking. When putting cabbages into a soup, drop a piece of stale bread into the water to eliminate the smell. Add some lemon juice and an aromatic spice, such as cumin, to complement the cabbage flavour.
Only buy cabbages that look fresh with crisp leaves, firm heads and a good colour. Avoid any that have wilted leaves, cracked heads or that seem to have signs of insect damage. 


“Last evening you were drinking deep
So now your head aches: go to sleep
Take some boiled cabbage when you awake
There’s an end of your headache.” 

Tsar Alexis of Russia (1629-70) 


  • Cabbage stimulates the immune system and the production of antibodies, and is an excellent remedy for fighting bacterial and viral infections, such as colds and flu. 
  • The sulphur content of cabbage is probably responsible for its antiseptic, antibiotic and disinfectant actions, particularly in the respiratory system.
  • Raw cabbage juice promotes the healing of ulcers, both internally and externally. Mucilaginous substances protect the lining of the digestive tract from irritants, and an amino acid, methionine, promotes healing. 
  • Bio flavonoids and antioxidant vitamins A, C and E afford some protection against tissue damage, degenerative disease and premature aging from free radicals. 
  • Cabbage juice makes a soothing, antiseptic gargle for sore throats and a mouthwash for mouth ulcers. 

Anne McIntyre runs a one year course in experiential herbalism at Trill Farm, using the herb gardens and hedgerows to teach the practical side of using herbs.