Winter Herbal Kitchen

In this winter season when we don’t have the fresh herbs handy, like our foremothers, we rely on herbs that we have preserved for the winter. I drink nettle infusion almost every day, covering a cup of the dried herb with a quart of boiling water in the evenings, to steep overnight and heat up the next day for my warm mugs of infusion.

This week, I’ve also been enjoying brewing three other dried herbs, each in her own water-based form of extraction–depending on which method optimizes the medicinal properties of that particular herb.

I was delighted to find local reishi mushroom at the food coop last week. I am adding a handful of the dried slices to each pot of bone broth, for the adaptogenic and deep immune support that reishi offers.

Reishi mushroom broth

Similar to making stock, a long slow simmering is the most potent way to extract the medicinal properties of reishi, which adds a rich, deeper flavor to the bone broth. As the name suggests, adaptogens support our bodies and hormonal systems to adapt to a wide range of circumstances and changes, both physically and emotionally.

I am also making cold infusions of marshmallow root. Now, we’re not talking about sugary puffs that you roast over the campfire! . . . Although the marshmallow plant was originally an ingredient in the candy, contributing mucilaginous properties.

Marshmallow (aka marshmallow) belongs to a family of plants known as the Mallow family (Malvaceae). The edible low-growing common mallow (Malva sylvestris) grows as a weed in many gardens, and I have enjoyed cultivating the much taller marshmallow (Althaea Officinalis) in my garden as well.

Marshmallow infusionThe mucilaginous properties of marshmallow offer beneficial support for the mucous membranes which line all of our systems that are open to the world–including the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems. As a winter ally, marshmallow has a long history of nourishing the lungs and easing coughs.

Because some of marsh mallow’s mucilaginous and delicate medicinal properties degrade with heat, this is one of the few herbal infusions that I actually prefer to prepare with cold water rather than with boiling water. I put a half cup of dried herb into a pint jar, cover it with cold water and leave it on the counter overnight. The slippery infusion can be strained in the morning to drink, or refrigerated to extend the life for a day or two.

Tulsi herb to be infusedThe third herbal preparation I’ve been enjoying, is, ah, tulsi, also known as sacred basil, an adaptogen as well. Those of you who know tulsi may breathe a sigh just hearing her name!

I savored her in my garden all of the last summers, and then just before the fall frosts, we harvested the remaining flowering stalks to dry.

It is such a treat in the winter to add a small bundle, tied up in cheesecloth, into a steaming bath. Or you can simply boil a small pot of water and inhale the steam (with a towel over your head to keep the steam concentrated) to relieve dry sinuses and skin. The pleasurable fragrance reduces stress, nourishes the skin, and opens up the lungs.

I know I’m not alone in this year round love affair with the plants! And that even through the winter, as wise woman herbalists, many of you continue to weave with the herbs in your day to day lives, from broths and infusions to steams and baths.

Keep using your kitchen creativity to dream up your own medicinal, fun, delicious, tonifying concoctions to nourish and soothe you through these dark days of winter.

February blessings!~

Citrus Spiced Dandelion Bitters

Bitters aren’t just for fancy cocktails. They’re also an incredible digestive aid perfect for any holiday season.* We too enjoy mulled wines, grandma’s cinnamon raisin bread and those amazing miniature hors d’oeuvres (that we ate a dozen of) at last week’s holiday party. But sometimes, our bodies have trouble processing all these bizarre combinations of foods. It’s at these times we turn to our bitter allies, like our lovely Citrus Spiced Dandelion Bitters.

Traditionally, all cultures enjoyed bitter foods during their mealtime rituals. Many of these bitter plants were collected from the wild or found in the garden, but farming has actually changed the taste of many of our bitter greens. Our cultivated vegetables have been bred to appeal to our preference for sweet foods, and the consequence is we’re now missing out on the incredible wellness benefits of these bitter plant allies. The bitter taste actually activates the liver and digestive juices to prepare the body to effectively process foods, which is especially helpful when digesting all the rich and fatty foods that we tend to enjoy more of during the holiday season.*

In Western Herbalism, we often create bitters as tinctures, which make it easy to incorporate bitters on the go. Tinctures are plant extracts (usually alcohol based) that can easily be taken from a dosage bottle. Taking bitters can be helpful anytime, but we suggest a teaspoon about 30 minutes before eating to give the plants enough time to activate our bodies’ natural digestive processes.

In this tincture, we have chosen to include herbs that are simple to find in the produce section, spice aisle or perhaps growing in your front yard! One of our favorite ingredients here is dandelion, and while some might consider this plant a pesky weed, the dandelion is incredibly supportive of both our digestive system and our bodies’ natural detoxification process by helping the body break down fats and carry away waste.* If you can’t find any fresh dandelion root, we would suggest using an organic Dandelion Leaf and Root Tea for this recipe.

When you taste your homemade bitters, you’ll notice a rich orange flavor, followed by cinnamon spice and a mild touch of bitter at the end.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup white rum

4 tsp of fresh orange peel

2 tbs dried dandelion root and leaf (or 6 tbsp fresh, chopped finely)

2 tsp fresh ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

6 cardamom pods

 

Materials:

12 oz Mason jar

6-8 amber dropper bottles (1 oz)

Instructions:

tradmed_bp_december_embed02_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebPlace all herbs into a mason jar, and fill to the top of the jar.

tradmed_bp_december_embed03_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebLabel your jar with the name, plants used, alcohol used and alcohol strength. Include the date on the label.

tradmed_bp_december_embed05_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebShake daily for two weeks, and then strain out the herbs with muslin or cheese cloth. Be sure to squeeze out any remaining liquid from the herbs.

You should have enough extract to fill about six (or more) one-ounce dropper bottles.

You can save all this plant power for yourself, or share the bounty as gifts with friends and families. We would like to add that we would not recommend using bitters if you have kidney stones, gallbladder disease, acid reflux, hiatal hernia, gastritis, peptic ulcers, severe menstrual cramping, or if you are pregnant.

Winter Self-Care

When you feel those dreaded flu symptoms coming on, you want to take something you know will stop sickness in its tracks. According to a recent study, your options now include herbs. A new study shows a combination of echinacea and elderberry is as effective as the conventional antiviral medicine Tamiflu in the early treatment of influenza. In the study, 473 patients with flu symptoms for less than 48 hours were randomly given either a syrup containing echinacea herb and root supplemented with elderberry for ten days or Tamiflu for five days followed by a placebo for five days. Observing the two groups at one, five, and ten days of treatment to see who had mild or no symptoms, researchers found a similar number of patients had recovered in both groups. Researchers even noted a small trend towards a higher percentage of recovered patients after ten days of treatment with the herbal syrup. Early intervention is key with any flu treatment, so consider keeping a bottle of echinacea/elderberry extract on hand just in case.

Dandy Tummy Bitters Recipe

These homemade bitters with fennel seeds and dandelion root should be taken before or after a meal to help stimulate digestion.

Take a drop or two of these dandelion bitters before or after a meal to help with digestion.

Is your digestive system ready for a big feast? Just a drop or two of any bitter herb on the tongue will help stimulate healthy digestion before or after a meal. In addition to dandelion’s bitterness, the aromatics from the fennel, ginger, and orange will help with uncomfortable post-dessert bloat.

Learn more about bitter plants, and which ones you can plant in your home garden, in the article Health Benefits Of Bitters.

Ingredients:

• 2 parts dandelion root
• 1 part fennel seed
• 1/2 part ginger root
• 1/2 part orange peel
• 1 glass jar with lid
• Enough 100-proof vodka to fill your glass jar
• Cheesecloth

Instructions:

1. If using fresh plants, harvest and clean your herbs before chopping and grinding them.
2. Fill a clean glass jar halfway with the fresh, ground herbs. If tincturing dried herbs, only fill the glass jar one-third of the way because dried roots will expand.
3. Pour the vodka over the herbs until the jar is full, and be sure your herb mixture is completely covered.
4. Label your jar with the name of the herbs, date, alcohol strength, and plant parts used.
5. Allow the tincture to sit for 6 to 8 weeks, shaking the jar often to keep all the plant material submerged.
6. Strain the finished tincture through cheesecloth to separate the herbs from the liquid, bottle the liquid in amber dropper bottles, and label.

Winter Health Benefits Of Echinacea And Sage

Beautiful Echinacea and earthy sage both have extensive historical uses. They’re easy to grow, and — in the case of Echinacea — you’re helping to cultivate and restore an endangered plant if you grow certain cultivars. The health benefits of Echinacea and sage are particularly helpful in winter, as both plants can be used for respiratory ailments and to ease sore throats.

Health Benefits of Echinacea

Members of the genus Echinacea have been used most effectively as an internal application against the common cold, fatigue, upper respiratory infection. Practitioners often recommend Echinacea for a sore throat, strep throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis, flu symptoms, canker and cold sores, swollen lymphatics, septic conditions, and gangrene. Externally, as an ointment or poultice, it’s been used for boils, eczema, bee stings, and snakebites.

Echinacea is not, contrary to popular belief, useful to take day in and day out as a preventative. The compounds within this plant marshal our white blood cells to move efficiently toward a place where our body is losing a battle with infection.

Contraindications: Echinacea may be detrimental to those with autoimmune diseases. People who have allergies to chamomile, marigold, yarrow, ragweed, chrysanthemum, or daisy, or people who have asthma, might develop allergic reactions to Echinacea.

Growing: Three species of Echinacea are most commonly grown and used medicinally: Echinacea purpurea, E. pallida, and E. Angustifolia. Newer hybrid cultivars grown for interesting color may not have the same potent medicinal properties as these three traditional species. The perennial prairie plants are in danger of overharvesting and loss of habitat, so source Echinacea responsibly or grow it yourself — it’s easy to do.

Echinacea seeds germinate best when given a period of stratification (cold conditioning). Either store the seeds in your refrigerator before planting, or direct-sow untreated Echinacea seeds four to six weeks before your average last frost. Sow seeds in full sun or partial shade, and keep the soil well-drained. Echinacea will thrive almost anywhere and will require very little tending, as long as it’s not overwatered.

Harvest notes: All parts of the plant are useful; however, it is the root that has primarily been used in traditional applications. Harvest leaves just as the flower is developing; harvest flowers just as they’re unfurling, and dig the roots either in spring or fall after they’ve had three or four years to become established.

Health Benefits of Sage

One of the most prized herbs on our farm, the health benefits of sage far exceeds its culinary flavoring. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is high in volatile oils, which makes it especially good for ailments in the digestive system, for bleeding gums and tongue inflammation, sore throat, laryngitis, tonsillitis, gas, chronic diarrhea, ulcer, and excessive salivation.

This wonderful plant is also well known for its work on the reproductive system. It has been talked about and researched for some time in regard to menopausal hot flashes. It does indeed cool the experience of a hot flash while also providing a tonic to the underlying endocrine imbalance in the adrenal glands.

Sage is also useful for missed cycles and a lack of sufficient bleeding in them, for morning sickness, preventing yeast infections, and for cysts in the breasts. Because of its ability to decrease fluids in our bodies, sage is often used to decrease the flow of breast milk while weaning a child to solid foods.

Sage behaves differently depending on the temperature at which it’s served. A warm sage tea will encourage secretions in the body, stimulating sweating to reduce a fever. A room temperature tea will allow the antibacterial qualities of sage to shine — this is how you want to serve your sore throat tea (see the sage tea recipe below). A cold tea will decrease the flow of secretions and cause tissues to dry.

In the nervous system, sage has applications for canker sores, memory improvement for Alzheimer’s patients, treating symptoms of arthritis, headache, and insomnia. For the circulatory and lymphatic systems, sage has benefits for lipoma, hair loss, dandruff, excessively dry skin, and blood stagnation. In the urinary tract, it can help with cystitis and stones.

Contraindications: Sage should not be taken long term or in excessive doses during pregnancy. Except for in small amounts in food, it should be avoided during lactation. Avoid internal use of essential oil or alcoholic extracts during this time as well; the thujone in sage stimulates blood flow to the pelvic area, thus promoting menstruation and possibly causing miscarriage.

Growing: Sage grows well in full sun and cooler climates, so plant in partial shade (if you have hot summers) and in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Prune plants to 4 to 6 inches as soon as they begin to grow the first year, and pinch back stem-tips two or three times during the first summer to encourage branching.

Plants become woody and less productive after three or four years, so you can replace them or root a few stem cuttings each year.

Harvest notes: The leaves are used for medicine, and the flowers are a delicious edible. Collect leaves on a dry day just before or just as the plant is beginning to flower. You can harvest leaves during the first year after the plants become established.

Hang small bunches of sage upside down to dry in a well-ventilated area out of sunlight or dehydrate leaves in a 150-degree-Fahrenheit oven. Store your sage in airtight containers.

Keep your dried sage on hand for a hot or room-temperature tea or to use as a garnish or flavoring in a variety of warming winter dishes.

Sage Herbal Tea for Sore Throat

For sore throats, my absolute favorite remedy is sage herbal tea served lukewarmly. Remember that temperature does matter when it comes to this plant, and lukewarm is where it’s at its best in fending off bacteria. In our house, if someone has a mild sore throat, we make a strong sage tea with honey and lemon, and the throat heals very quickly. When a sore throat is a little more serious, we use sage herbal tea as a gargle and combine it with a pinch of salt and cayenne. The gargle is used every couple of hours and is also effective.

Sage Tea Recipe: To brew an infusion of our own sage herbal tea at home is not just as easy as throwing a tea bag in some hot water. To obtain the most medicinal benefit from your herbs, consider different methods depending on the part of the plant that’s being brewed.

When using leaves, fruits, flowers, and roots high in volatile oils (such as sage), heat water in a tea kettle and then pour over the herbs. (On the farm, we use a mason jar and brew teas by the quart for simplicity.) Cover and let steep for at least 10 to 20 minutes. Then, strain, (let cool to lukewarm for sage) and drink, or store in the refrigerator for one to two days.

Looking for more ways to use Echinacea?

We often use Echinacea for a sore throat. If we need to be away from the house while one of us is suffering from a sore throat, I will often make an Echinacea spray. The best part about this throat spray is that it can fight the infection while providing a soothing, numbing sensation.

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons Echinacea tincture
• 2 tablespoons raw honey
• 1 tablespoon warm water
• 2 drops essential oil of your choice (peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree are great options)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a small spray bottle (preferably glass).

Store the bottle in the refrigerator, and it should keep for a couple months.

Always shake before spraying. Use as needed.

Soothing Burdock Soup

Burdock Root is indispensable for soothing hot, itchy, or inflamed skin. It is an excellent remedy to use when the skin feels fiery, such as during episodes of eczema, psoriasis, or rashes and is, therefore, an herbal ally for stress-reactive and environment-reactive skin personalities.
1 cup chopped Onion
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh Burdock Root
1 cup peeled and sliced Carrots
1 pound Potatoes (russet or wax)
½ cup fresh Dandelion Leaves (optional)
6 cups Vegetable Stock or water
3 tablespoons dry White Wine or Sherry
3 tablespoons chopped Parsley
Salt
Combine vegetables and stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, reduce heat, and cover, simmering for 1 hour. Remove 2 cups of soup, puree in a blender, and return to pot. Stir in Sherry and Parsley and simmer for 20 more minutes.

Ashwagandha Root Extract Improves Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Patients Taking Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae)

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), characterized by stressful, repetitive, and intrusive thoughts or obsessions followed by actions or compulsions, is thought to be linked to a defect in the serotonergic system. A common treatment is the use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but they are considered only mildly effective, with 40-60% of patients failing to respond. In Ayurvedic herbal medicine, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae) is considered to be a rejuvenating and revitalizing herb. Its roots, which are used to enhance mental and physical health, have anxiolytic and antidepressant properties due to the presence of bioactive glycowithanolides, and the alkaloids withanine and somniferine are used for nervous disorders. Animal studies also have shown it to enhance serotonergic transmission. The goal of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was to verify the efficacy of ashwagandha root extract as an adjunct therapy to treat the symptoms of OCD.

Ashwagandha roots were collected from Saravan in the “Sistan Va Baluchestan” Province in Iran in August 2013. The extract was prepared at the pharmacy lab at the Faculty of Pharmacy at Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Iran. The roots were dried and powdered and then percolated with 70% ethanol. The resulting extract was then evaporated under pressure and freeze-dried to yield a fine powder and 250-mg capsules were filled with a mixture of powdered extract (30 mg) and lactose for the treatment group or lactose only for the placebo group.

The study was conducted between March 2015 and September 2015 at the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences. Thirty patients met the following inclusion criteria and were enrolled in the study: diagnosis of OCD according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, and adequate treatment with SSRIs. Patients were randomly assigned to the treatment (n=15; 1 male and 14 females) or placebo (n=15; 2 males and 13 females) group. The treatment regimen was 4 capsules daily; however, to avoid adverse gastrointestinal effects, the patients were instructed to take 1 capsule daily and to then increase the dosage by 1 capsule every 4 days. At the end of 6 weeks, the treatment was decreased in the same manner.

The severity of OCD symptoms was assessed in all patients using the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) symptom checklist, a 10-item scale ranging from 0 (no symptoms) to 40 (extreme symptoms), and was completed for each patient at baseline and after 6 weeks of study intervention.

From baseline to the end of the study at 6 weeks, the median Y-BOCS score decreased from 26 to 14 in the treatment group and from 18 to 16 in the placebo group, a significant between-group difference (P<0.001). At baseline, 7 patients in the treatment group and 5 in the placebo group suffered from comorbid anxiety disorders. The patients in each group were divided into those with comorbid anxiety disorders and those without, and the reduction of Y-BOCS scores was compared between those subgroups. In both groups, the reduction of Y-BOCS scores in patients with comorbid anxiety disorders was not significantly different from patients without anxiety disorders. No adverse effects were reported during the study.

According to the authors, this study is the first attempt to investigate the effect of ashwagandha root extract in patients with OCD. Acknowledged limitations include the study’s short duration and the lack of a phytochemical analysis of the extract, which could have helped identify the active ingredients responsible for the observed beneficial effects. In addition, because only a single dose of the extract was used, they were unable to determine if the observed anti-obsessive effects were dose-dependent.

The authors conclude that “W. somnifera extract may be beneficial as a safe and effective adjunct to SSRIs in the treatment of OCD.”

Jahanbakhsh SP, Manteghi AA, Emami SA, et al. Evaluation of the efficacy of Withania somnifera(ashwagandha) root extract in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2016;27:25-29.

Boost Your Juice With Herbs

Have you ever cracked open a fresh aloe plant and watched it ooze a clear, sticky gel? This is one of the earth’s natural juices that can be scraped from the inner plant and used externally to soothe inflamed skin.* Humans have been juicing plants for hundreds of years, traditionally by mashing them or with simple tools like a mortar and pestle.

In the last hundred years, juicing has evolved from human hands to high-powered machines. We understand why juicing is so popular, as it is a quick and tasty way to get an abundance of nourishing fruits and veggies in daily. However, we don’t always agree with the new jargon surrounding this age-old practice. Often, juicing is touted as a way to “cleanse” the body and rid it of toxins. We believe in the many benefits of juicing, and we believe that our bodies are intelligent— not inherently flawed. Each of us has effective and complex systems to rid the body of waste, and the plants support our body’s natural instincts to heal.

In Western herbalism, medicinal juices are often preserved with a touch of alcohol and are referred to as a succus. The British Pharmacopoeia has specific instructions on how to make medicinal juices, like Succus Limonis (lemon succus) and Succus Taraxacum (dandelion succus). These herbal medicines are a wonderful addition to an apothecary and are as quick to affect the body as they are effective.

Many herbs can be juiced, but some are superior to others. Plants that contain a large amount of water are easier to juice, and those that have water soluble medicinal compounds work best. Dandelion, ginger, chickweed, cleavers, and calendula are prime examples.

Creative wellness rituals like juicing remind us how wonderfully diverse the art of medicine-making can be. For instance, once you juice a plant like ginger you can preserve it as a succus by adding at least 25% alcohol to the formula and storing it sealed in the fridge, or add it to a tincture, syrup, or even an herbal cocktail! Below are some of our favorite herbal enhancements, or “boosts,” for juicing.

Nettle – While this plant may sting you in nature, once juiced, it makes a beautiful, green and pain-free beverage. Europeans have used this plant as herbal medicine for over 2,000 years to support joint health, and a tonic to promote overall wellness.* The earthy taste pairs well with sweet apples, cucumbers, and mineral rich spinach. We recommend blanching the nettle greens prior to juicing to avoid its signature sting.

Dandelion – Traditionally this plant is used to support liver function and promotes the flushing of the kidneys.* It’s rich, green juice is quite bitter, making it a wonderful digestive aid* that works best when its leaves are added to a blend with more neutral- or sweet-tasting plants like romaine, fennel bulb, lemon, and cucumber. These days, you can find dandelion leaves in many health foods stores.

Turmeric– This rich, golden rhizome is a time-tested Ayurvedic remedy that aids the digestive system and promotes a healthy response to inflammation associated with exercise.* Try a small thumb of turmeric in a citrus-based juice to highlight the plant’s natural golden glow, or mix it in with cold nut milk for a refreshing midday treat.

Ginger – Most cultures around the world have acquired fond feelings for ginger, both for its taste and its soothing properties. This rhizome will warm and soothe an upset stomach* and can spice up any juice recipe. Try it with a pinch of cayenne to add a serious kick.

Whether you’re juicing plants straight from your garden or buying them from the local market, we suggest sticking with clean produce that is organic.

By answering our body’s call for a rich diet full of vegetables, fruits, and medicinal herbs, we are fueling healthy bodies and nourishing deep-rooted connection to plants.

Please note: Not all herbs are right for everyone. Please be sure to research which herbs might be best for you.

Down To The Roots: Burdock And Chicory

For centuries, burdock and chicory have been considered important remedies to help the liver. They have also been used to help rid the body of uric acid, to treat rheumatism and to eliminate skin conditions. By helping the liver, they also improve hormonal imbalances. The Chinese eat burdock to relieve constipation. Chicory is an effective digestive tonic, and can be used as a coffee substitute – chicory coffee does not contain caffeine, but it does taste somewhat like coffee. Chicory increases bile production, moderates a rapid heart rate, lowers cholesterol and destroys bacteria.

Burdock and chicory roots are versatile. Burdock can be used much like a carrot – it can be grated, sliced or blended. My favorite introductory-level burdock dish is a gravy. Thanksgiving, I made the dressing and gravy from burdock. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the guests when I told them that it was made from burdock. Of course, I waited until after they had told me how delicious it was! Even after I told them it was burdock, no one refused seconds.

effortless-gravyBurdock Gravy

1 cup chopped burdock root {1 medium-size root}

1/2 cup yogurt, sour cream or soy milk

1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon honey

Blend ingredients until smooth. Heat mixture over low heat, stirring until it thickens, about 4 minutes.

Fresh burdock and chicory roots are not hard to find. Many natural food stores carry them, at least in the fall and into the spring. Japanese groceries sell burdock as gobo. Even some regular grocery stores sell these roots, especially in Hawaii. You can also grow your own – look for them in the vegetable seed section of a nursery or seed catalog.

In the North American colonies, in the early days of colonization, coffee was cut with chicory so that supplies of the expensive bean would last longer. Later, chicory coffee became a Louisiana specialty. Roasting gives chicory a bitter-sweet flavor. To roast chicory, chop fresh roots, place a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a 325 F degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Roasted chicory roots can easily be made into a tea – just grind them in a coffee grinder and steep.

Millet Loaf

This dish can be cooked as a millet pilaf or a millet loaf of “bread” that is nutty tasting and satisfying for a holiday main meal.

Overnight Preparation Time

You may want to start soaking the millet the night before you want to make this dish (soak for 8 – 12 hours). The recipe itself takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 15 – 20 minutes to simmer on the stovetop.

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups presoaked millet
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons dried burdock root or fresh burdock root, diced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons astragalus powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  • In a saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  • Once water is boiling, add soaked millet and reduce heat to simmer.
  • Add spices, sea salt, astragalus root powder and burdock root.
  • Simmer until millet is completely cooked and the grains are translucent and fluffy.
  • Add coconut oil and stir thoroughly. If you are eating this as a millet pilaf, it is now ready to serve with your favorite vegetable side dish.
  • If you are making millet loaf, let the cooked millet pilaf sit for 15 minutes to cool. Once cooked, transfer into a greased bread loaf pan and cook in a pre-heated oven at 300°F for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool.
  • Slice of bread, spread with some coconut oil, raw butter or ghee if you like and serve with salad and cultured vegetables or with a vegetable soup

 

Lemon Balm

Learn the medicinal and culinary uses of lemon balm, how to grow it, and how to make your own traditional Carmelite water.

To get the best flavor out of lemon balm, shear it with scissors, cutting it down by half or more, at least once a month. You can safely harvest three-quarters of the plant every three to four weeks and not harm it.

Often when someone asks me what my most favorite herb would be, I enjoy the surprise on their face when they hear my answer: Lemon balm, I say, without any hesitation.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) isn’t at the top of most people’s favorites list. Basil, parsley, and lavender are the most popular herbs in America, but lemon balm isn’t even on the top 10 list. But it is deserving of considerably more recognition.

Lemon balm is a perennial herb from the mint family (Lamiaceae). The plant, originally from the Mediterranean, is reliably hardy in nearly all parts of the United States. The mildly lemon-scented leaves are the parts used for tea, cookies, cakes, and medicines. One of my garden interns even made a lemon balm pie last year!

Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, lemon balm has been cultivated as a valuable culinary and medicinal herb. It was once traditional to rub lemon balm leaves around the openings of beehives to encourage the bees to produce more honey. For at least 2,000 years, lemon balm has been planted and encouraged in gardens and orchards to entice more bees for pollination.

Medicinal Use

This important herb is used for relieving upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas, vomiting, colic, and menstrual cramps. It’s valued for its calming effects in soothing restlessness, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Besides those uses, it can be applied as a poultice directly onto insect bites to remove the pain and swelling. According to the website WebMD (webmd.com), “Taking a standardized extract of lemon balm by mouth daily for four months seems to reduce agitation and improve symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.”

The 17th century Carmelite nuns (or monks, depending on what source you check) became famous for their “Carmelite Water,” which was a combination of lemon balm, the peels of lemons, nutmeg, coriander, and angelica. The nuns used this tea or decoction (strong tea) in treating nervous headaches, upset stomach, depression and digestive problems.

Lemon balm in the form of cream or tincture has shown positive effects when treating cold sores (herpes labialis). Simply applying a lip balm with as little as 1 percent lemon balm extract reduces symptoms and speeds up healing time. The herb itself is known for being an anti-viral, therefore good for relieving colds and fevers. Dr. James Duke suggests that regular doses of lemon balm tea can help with chronic fatigue syndrome and the symptoms of shingles because of the herb’s antiviral actions.

For anxiety and mild depression, lemon balm is often combined with other calming herbs including valerian (Valeriana officinalis), chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and hops (Humulus lupulus), and drunk as a tea. A simple cup of hot lemon balm tea, by itself, helps encourage appetite.

But as good as the reported medicinal benefits of lemon balm are, it’s the culinary aspects that impress me. I began making lemon balm cookies and lemon balm cakes to serve to my guests. The flavor of this herb is satisfying to almost everyone, and the herb is so easy to grow that even beginning herb people can grow it with success.

lemon-balm-flowers-img-e1474270692497Growing Lemon Balm

Lemon balm can be started from seed, although the most common way is to grow it from a plant or root division. Being in the larger mint family (Liminacea) it will spread somewhat from the roots, though not aggressively like its mintier cousins. It isn’t picky about soil, though it does require plenty of sunshine. While it will do fairly well in part shade, the more sun you give it, the better it will grow.

There are two important things to note about lemon balm. It can reseed itself somewhat without becoming a pest. That habit is easily prevented by the other important fact, which is, the more you harvest lemon balm leaves, the better the flavor will be. If you neglect this flavorful plant by not harvesting, the leaves will become slightly bitter and “soapy” tasting. To get the best flavor out of lemon balm, shear it with scissors, cutting it down by half or more, at least once a month. You can safely harvest three-quarters of the plant every three or four weeks and not harm it. By harvesting often, you won’t have any problems with it reseeding itself.

Bees and butterflies love this plant, and honey from bees that have fed on lemon balm is heavenly. The herb dries well and can also be used in herb jellies, iced herb teas, and many, many other ways. Few insect pests bother lemon balm and it can be grown in the garden, in patio pots, along fence rows or in the perennial bed where the bright green leaves make everything around it look good.


Make Your Own Traditional Carmelite Water

(Also known as “Eau de Melisse des Carmes”)

This can be made from either dry or fresh herbs; if using fresh, use twice the amount listed.

• 1 1/4 cups vodka (to preserve the mixture)

• 3 tablespoons dried angelica root, or leaves and stalks

• 1/8 cup dried (or 1/4 cup fresh) lemon balm leaves

• 2 tablespoons lemon zest (avoid the pith)

Combine the herbs and vodka in a quart jar. Cover tightly and leave in a warm but dark place (pantry or cupboard) for two weeks. Jiggle or shake the jar slightly every day or two.

After two weeks, add the following:

• 1 tablespoon coriander seed, slightly crushed

• 1 whole nutmeg, cracked in a blender

• 2 tablespoons whole cloves

• 1 4-inch cinnamon stick

Leave for a week, then strain into a sterilized bottle and store in a cool place. Best if used within six months.

lemon-balm-cookiesLemon Balm Cookies Recipe

Enjoy the fresh taste of the lemon balm herb in these easy-to-make lemon balm cookies.

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Yield: 18 cookies

Ingredients:

• About 1/4 cup coarsely chopped lemon balm leaves

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 1 cup butter or margarine

• 2 eggs

• 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 1/2 cups flour

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a food processor, place 1 cup of the sugar and the lemon balm leaves. Pulse until the lemon balm leaves are well chopped.

3. Add the remaining sugar and the butter and process until fluffy, then add remaining ingredients and process until well combined.

4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges just begins to brown.

5. Loosen from cookie sheet while still warm; allow to cool. These cookies freeze well.

Lemon Balm Lemonade Recipe

The lemon balm adds a refreshing twist to this traditional summer beverage.

Ingredients:

• 3 large lemons

• 1/2 cup lemon balm leaves

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1 cup boiling water

• 3 additional cups cold water

• Ice

Instructions:

1. Slice lemons into a bowl and add the fresh lemon balm leaves.

2. Pour boiling water over lemons and leaves. Let steep for 15 minutes. Strain, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add remaining water.

3. Fill two glasses half full with ice, then finish filling the glasses with lemonade.