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Herbs—More Than Just Medicine!

Jun 30, 2022 06:35AM ● By Kathleen Gould and Madalyn Johnson
A clear glass of tea on a saucer with dandelions next to it.


Our amazing bodies are made up of more than 30 trillion cells (holy cow!), and they all have specific purposes. Once that purpose is accomplished, the cell dies, and then the body removes it and replaces it with a new one. This miracle happens all day every day, and is influenced by the food and herbs we ingest.
Most of us understand that we need a balance of healthy proteins (e.g., seeds, beans, chicken and eggs); healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, fish, nuts and avocados); and, of course, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. But another great way to “feed our cells” is with the abundance of medicinal plants that abound on our beautiful Mother Earth.
We often think of plants like we do drugs. We say, “Here is the problem, and here is the drug” or “Here is the problem, and here is the herb.” However, that could not be more wrong. These medicinal plants are living beings and are rich in vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, nutrients, antioxidants and free-radical scavengers. Because of this, they not only can be used as medicine, they can also be incorporated into our daily diets as a proactive step to maintaining our health. As an example, dandelion has completely absorbable vitamins A, B, C, E and K; folate; iron; calcium; magnesium; potassium; and more. And when we mix four, five, six or more herbs together in a healthy tea blend, think of the vast number of nutrients your body receives!
A cup of dandelion tea is a great way to receive these nutrients, but using fresh dandelion leaves in foods is another fun and delicious way to reap their benefits. One of our favorite ways is to use the leaves in a pesto sauce, which can be utilized for many things. Fresh dandelion leaves are available at most grocery stores and almost always at your local farmers markets. Here is a nice, simple recipe for dandelion pesto:
2 cups dandelion leaves, washed and dried
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted lightly (or pine nuts)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
3 large garlic cloves
½ tsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp paprika powder
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice and all of the zest of 1 lemon
Place the dandelion leaves in the bottom of a food processor, add the remaining ingredients, and blend and mix well, usually on high for 2 to 3 minutes. That’s it! This makes a nice spread on a sandwich, a sauce for freshly cooked pasta, or stuffing for a couple of chicken breasts. Mix a teaspoon in with your scrambled egg, use as a topper for your favorite fish (especially salmon), put a teaspoon in your potato salad, and the list goes on.
Another dish that is typically made with dandelion leaves or greens, as many prefer to call them, is sautéed greens with garlic and onions. Here is the recipe:
1 pound dandelion leaves, washed and dried
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped (or more to flavor)
½ cup chopped onion
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Cut leaves into small bite-size pieces. Put in a saucepan with a cup or so of water and a bit of salt. Cook, uncovered, for about 12 minutes. Drain. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and onions for 6 to 7 minutes. Add the dandelion leaves and season with salt and pepper. Shave some parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!
One reason some of us don’t think about using dandelion leaves in cooking is due to their bitter flavor. But if you are eating something rich and heavy, like a big, thick steak or maybe a beef roast, sautéed greens make the perfect side dish to counterbalance that heaviness.
So remember, herbs are not only a potential alternative to conventional drugs, they can also provide our cells with the nourishment they require to keep us healthy.

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 or