For many of us,
when we think of herbs, we think that they are simply substitutes or
alternative substances for drugs. We have been programmed to think, here is the
disease or problem and here is the drug for that problem. We also think, here
is the disease or problem and here is the “herb” for that problem. When we
think of herbs only in this “allopathic” way, we are missing the boat because
we are missing the true miracle of herbs—the miracle of healing!
Plants are foods.
When we use plants in their whole natural form, directly from the earth, we
begin to realize that they are truly the real super foods we have been
searching for. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, free radical
scavengers, and antioxidants, and all of these nutrients are completely
absorbable because they are living organisms. Plants are alive and everything
that is alive has a spirit. The spirit of these plants came in this form with
the intention of healing us; that is their purpose and their gift. They know
what to do.
understanding, let’s look at something as simple as dandelion. Look at the
nutrients in this simple “weed” from the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by James Balch, M.D. Dandelion
is rich in bioflavonoids; biotin; calcium; choline; fats; folic acid; inositol;
inulin; iron; magnesium; niacin; phosphorus; proteins; zinc; and vitamins A,
N1, B2, B6, B12, C and E. It cleanses the bloodstream and liver; increases bile
production; reduces serum cholesterol and uric acid; improves function of the kidneys,
pancreas, spleen and stomach; and the list goes on.
Now, what happens
when you combine four, five, six or more of these nutrient-rich herbs/foods
together and make a tea? You get a huge hit of totally absorbable nutrients
that is virtually impossible to obtain anywhere else.
Let’s switch to
the subject of sleep: Sleep disorders are rampant in our society, and many turn
to drugs to help them sleep. How can herbs help? Herbs look for and heal the
core reason for why one is not able to sleep. If you come to an herbalist
asking the question, “What have you got for sleep?” the first question the
herbalist will probably ask is, “Why aren’t you sleeping?” If you have pain
that is keeping you awake, then the herbalist might suggest something like
chamomile for its anti-inflammatory properties or valerian root for its muscle-relaxing
properties. If your mind becomes overactive when you are trying to sleep, you might
want to consider herbs like skullcap or hops to help quiet your mind.
miracle is that in addition to helping the imbalance (in this case, helping you
to sleep), these herbs are so nutrient rich that they also help to strengthen
and balance the overall body. Some of the “side effects” of using whole plant
herbs is that over time your sleep is better, your energy improves, your
hair/skin/nails get stronger, and your digestion is better.
Here are a few
ideas of how you can incorporate herbs in your food for overall good health or
for a good night’s sleep.
Pesto is a
favorite in most households, so why not herb it up a bit! Instead of basil or
parsley leaf, try using dandelion leaf. This is available in most grocery
stores and is quite affordable. Simply substitute your leafy greens in your
favorite family recipe with dandelion greens and see how delicious they can be.
When making up a
big pot of oatmeal in the morning, substitute delicious chai tea for your
liquid. Simply make a pot of tea a bit ahead of time (or even the night before),
strain and use this in your recipe. Chai teas are chock-full of flavor,
nutrients and health benefits. You don’t have to add any cinnamon or anything
else because your liquid (tea) contains them all. Most traditional chai teas
include cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, cloves and star anise, which have benefits
for the heart and digestion, help control blood sugar, and much more.
Let’s talk about
chamomile. There are so many options with this herb. Brew some tea, steep for
30 minutes, strain it, and add it to your favorite cupcake/bar recipe as your
liquid. It adds a yummy sweet flavor. Sprinkle a few beautiful chamomile flowers
on top, with a dusting of powdered sugar and no one will be able to resist. This
is great for upset tummies and for inflammation. Try adding it to your favorite
ice cream recipe for a gentle sweetness and a mild floral tone. Make a simple
syrup with it and infuse it into your favorite vodka/adult beverage for a
delicious sweet botanical martini. And for the kiddos and the summer heat, make
a special treat of chamomile honey popsicles. Add a ¼ cup of chamomile flowers to
2 to 3 cups of boiling water and cover. Take off the heat and let sit for about
30 minutes, and then strain. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of honey (to taste). Fill
popsicle molds and freeze overnight, or at least for four to five hours.
Let your mind go
wild with all the possibilities that herbs/plants can bring to your food! Oh,
and because you might be getting more sleep, imagine your dream world. Think blue
lotus! More on that in the future—stay tuned.
Madalyn Johnson (left) and Kathleen Gould (right)
Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn
Johnson are proprietors of SW Herb Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an
herbalist for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine.
For more information, call 480-694-9931, or visit SWHerb.com or Store.SWHerb.com.