Food as Medicine
Herbal medicine can be viewed as a way to use food as medicine. In many cultures the line between food and medicine has never been drawn. Using medicinal plants that have disease preventing effects in food is one of the best ways to take advantage of their healing power. I love incorporating herbs into my recipes. I find it is the best way to consistently get in enough of these amazing plants. Some of my favorite herbs to cook with regularly are stinging nettle, ginger, burdock root or gobo, milk thistle seed, turmeric, yellow dock leaf, Siberian ginseng or eleuthero, elderberry and my lovely sea vegetables. Many of these are wild edible plants that grow by the wayside in our neighborhoods or wash up on our local sandy shores.
Herbal Recipes and Nutritional Information
Basic Cabbage Kraut
One head of green or red cabbage
Caraway seed (optional)
Quart or half gallon mason jars
Sanitize all jars and utensils, Wash and finely chop cabbage, saving the large outer leaves intact. Put all chopped cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle 1 Tbls sea salt over the top. If it is a really large cabbage use 1 ½ Tbls. Mix salt into cabbage thoroughly and begin to massage cabbage until juices are released and the cabbage begins to wilt. Fill clean mason jars with cabbage leaving about an inch head space. Prepare brine: 1 quart of filtered water to 1 ½ Tbls. sea salt, make sure salt is completely dissolved. Pour brine into jars until cabbage is covered and use a large cabbage leaf to place over the top and keep the kraut submerged. Cover jar with cheese cloth and a rubber band or loosely screw on lid. Allow to ferment for 3-7 days in a warm part of your kitchen (70-75 degrees), tasting periodically for desired sourness, may take up to a week or so to be ready.
2 pounds (or more) of bones from a healthy source
2 chicken feet for extra gelatin (optional)
2 stalks of celery
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
Optional: 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon or more of sea salt, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, additional herbs or spices to taste. I also add 2 cloves of garlic for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
You’ll also need a large stock pot to cook the broth in and a strainer to remove the pieces when it is done.
The first step in preparing to make broth is to gather high quality bones. You can find them from your local health food store, butcher or save them when you cook.
Chicken for Bone Broth /How to Make Bone Broth
Aim for 2 pounds of bones per gallon of water. This usually works out to 2-3 full chicken carcasses for a large batch. If possible add 2 chicken feet per gallon of water (completely optional!).
You’ll also need some organic vegetables for flavor. These are actually optional but add extra flavor and nutrition. Add (per gallon of water and 2 pounds of bones):
2 large carrots (if from an organic source, you can rough chop and don’t need to peel)
2 celery stalks, rough chopped
Bone broth vegetables:
Add, per batch, a bunch of parsley from the garden.
If you are using raw bones, especially beef bones, it improves flavor to roast them in the oven first. Place them in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes at 350.
Then, place the bones in a large stock pot (3-5 gallon pot). Pour (filtered) water over the bones and add the vinegar. Let sit for 20-30 minutes in the cool water. The acid helps make the nutrients in the bones more available.
Rough chop and add the vegetables (except the parsley and garlic, if using) to the pot. Add any salt, pepper, spices, or herbs, if using.
Now, bring the broth to a boil. Once it has reached a vigorous boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer until done. These are the suggested times...
Beef broth/stock: 48 hours
Chicken or poultry broth/stock: 24 hours
Fish broth: 8 hours
During the first few hours of simmering, you’ll need to remove the impurities that float to the surface. A frothy/foamy layer will form and it can be easily scooped off with a big spoon. Throw this part away. Check it every 20 minutes for the first 2 hours to remove this. Grass-fed and healthy animals will produce much less of this than conventional animals.
During the last 30 minutes, add the garlic and parsley, if using.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Strain using a fine metal strainer to remove all the bits of bone and vegetable. When cool enough, store in a gallon size glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for later use.
How to Use Bone Broth:
Homemade Broth/Stock can be used as the liquid in making soups, stews, gravies, sauces, and reductions. It can also be used to saute or roast vegetables.
Especially in the fall and winter, try to drink at least 1 cup per person per day as a health boost.
In times of illness, drink bone broth until you start feeling better as it supports the body but is very easy to digest so the body’s energy can go to healing. In cases of stomach bugs or vomiting, bone broth often calms the stomach very quickly and helps shorten the duration of the illness.
Fermented Winter Greens
Any and all available fresh winter greens (collards, kale, bock choy, dandelion, tree collards, etc.)
Sanitize all utensils and bowls. Estimate approximately the amount of greens that would equal a head of cabbage. For this amount of greens you will use 1 Tbls of sea salt. Wash and chop greens finely, then add to a large bowl with the sea salt mixing thoroughly. Mix salt into greens and begin to massage until juices are released and the greens begin to wilt. Fill clean mason jars with greens leaving about an inch head space. Prepare brine: 1 quart of filtered water to 1 ½ Tbls. sea salt, make sure salt is completely dissolved. Pour brine into jars until greens are covered and use a large collard or kale leaf to place over the top and keep the kraut submerged. Cover jar with cheese cloth and a rubber band or loosely screw on lid. Allow to ferment for 2-3 days in a warm part of your kitchen, tasting periodically for desired sourness, may take up to a week or so to be ready. Once fermented move to refigerator.
Immune-Boosting Roots Herb Potage
1-2 fresh burdock roots, chopped
2-3 fresh dandelion roots, chopped
3 handfuls dry nettles, crushed
2 1/2 qts. Non-chlorinated water
8-9 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 grams kelp, crushed
1 cup whole grain basmati or brown rice
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. miso
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
Cook burdock and dandelion roots with water. Cook 15-20 minutes over medium heat or until tender. You can pour off this water to make the soup less bitter, adding 2 1/2 cups fresh water. However, you will be pouring out the nutrients as well, so you might want to retain this nutrient-rich water and enjoy the bitter taste. Add remaining ingredients with the exception of miso and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 hours, Add miso and garlic right before serving. This soup has an exceptional taste that improves with age and is strengthening to the immune system and all our systems and cells. For variety, try adding beans, cabbage, beets and other root vegetables. 8-10 servings.
Liver Tonic Recipe (from Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary)
1 tablespoon Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
1 tablespoon Burdock Root (Arctium lappa)
1 tablespoon Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)
Mix the roots together place in a pot adding 4 cups of cool water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
This formula can be used to help clear liver congestion, aid in digestion, moisten the skin, and rid the body of excess fluids.
Medicinal Uses of Raw Honey
Honey is highly anti-bacterial and can be used on open wounds, as well as, on the cord of the newborn baby to prevent infection and promote healing. Honey has many healing qualities; it is emollient meaning it can be applied to the skin to sooth, soften, and protect and it is a demulcent meaning it relaxes, sooths and protects tissues. Honey is also nutritive and mildly laxative. Honey is beneficial for relieving dryness in the throat and for treating cough and difficulty swallowing. Combining honey with a strong infusion of sage is a classic preparation for relieving hoarseness and respiratory congestion.
There are several techniques one can use to make herbal medicine with honey, one example being herbal medicated honey. The advantage of using honey over herbal syrups is that honey is more nutritious than sugar. Herbal medicated honey is simply a honey infusion, where medicinal herbs are added to the honey and allowed to infuse or sit for 2-4 weeks in a warm sunny place. Vegetable glycerin can be added to prevent granulation and separation of honey into layers. Some people think the glycerin also can be added for better preservation but honey is an excellent preserver on its own. The amount of glycerin to add for a medicated herbal honey would be 5% of the amount of honey. Some examples of herbs to try in a medicated honey are lavender, horehound, sage, yarrow, and thyme.
Another technique is the aromatic honey. Simply adding aromatic oils to a honey/glycerin base will create a lovely result. These will preserve forever and with the addition of glycerin they will not crystalize. Aromatic honey can be a vehicle to deliver essential oil for flavoring tea, coffee, salad dressing, or hot cereal. It can also be used as a digestive aid after a meal. Examples of essential oils to add are cinnamon, angelica, ginger, peppermint, bergamot, geranium, cardamom, rose, orange, and dill. To each cup of honey add 1-2 drops of essential oil.
Oxymels are sweet and sour herbal honeys. An oxymel is a carrier for an herbal infusion which can be used as a gargle for intense herbal aids such as garlic, lobelia, and cayenne. To make an oxymel, mix 1lb. of honey with ½ pint of vinegar and simmer to the consistency of a syrup. To this carrier add your herbal infusion, decoction, concentrate, or tincture, then prepare as a gargle or expectorant.
An electuary is a confection or conserve. These are made by mixing an unpleasant tasting, finely powdered herb with honey then rolled into small balls. Electuaries can be used as cough drops or herbal candies.
Due to the emollient and demulcent properties of honey, it also makes an excellent medium for facials. Mixing a little ground oats with raw honey makes a fine cleansing and moisturizing scrub. References: The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook, A Home Manual, By James Green
Mineral Rich Herbal Vinegar- adapted from Cedar Mountain Herb School
Vinegar extracts the vitamins and minerals from plants as well as the essential oils and flavors. The acidic nature of vinegar releases the iron and calcium and makes them easy for our bodies to take them into our cells. Pregnant mamas, women during menses and menopause, growing teens, those dealing with health issues such as iron deficiencies, arthritis and bone loss are nourished by the liberal use of plant vinegars.
Drizzle your vinegars on: Cold noodle salads, stir fry, fruit, spinach and/or field green salads, cooked greens.
Marinate seafoodchicken, beets and other vegetables. Makes an ideal marinade!
Mix with ketchup, mustard, brown sugar or molasses, chopped onions and garlic for a delicious homemade BBQ sauce.
Combine with olive oil for dipping crusty bread!
Cool a fever or hot flash by dabbing the vinegar on your pulse points, forehead, back of the neck and knees.
To make your herbal vinegar:
Finely chop edible wild and garden plants of your choice. Pack the plant material tightly into a pint jar. Fill completely with apple cider vinegar. Add a piece of parchment paper between the jar and lid (if metal lid) to keep the lid from rusting, or use a plastic lid. Let the mix stand on your counter for 3 weeks to a month. Strain and enjoy!
-Comfrey leaf, peppermint and red clover.
-Garlic, onion, oregano, thyme and parsley.
-Nettles, yellow dock leaf or root, dandelion leaf and root.
-Blueberries and raspberries
-Wild raspberry leaves and wild currant leaves
-Chives, dill, and basil
-Wild or garden violet leaves and flowers, oxeye daisy flowers and leaves, pineapple weed
-Chickweed, lambsquarters and nasturtium flowers
-Motherwort and Mugwort
Nutrient Dense Vegi Broth
In a large pot of filtered water add the following,
-lots of fresh ginger root
-one or two chopped onions
-fresh chopped garlic
-fresh sliced burdock root
-2-4 large strips of kombu seaweed (or any other kind available)
Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours making sure the water level doesn't drop too much; you can always add more water. The stock will become a dark brownish-green color. Strain and store in glass jars in the fridge or pour some in a mug and add a spoonful of miso to enjoy immediately. This broth is very good with lots of vegis, mushrooms and udon added then cooked as a soup!
photo from http://www.npr.org/