Herbs as Food and MedicineJul 01, 2021 01:12PM ● By Joanna Helms
Diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cancer and Crohn’s are just a few of the diseases that have been shown to improve with changes in diet according to the National Institutes of Health These dietary changes can include the addition of herbs as Food and Medicine.
Joanna Helms, registered herbalist in the American Herbalist Guild and owner of Mama Jo's Sunshine Herbals in Indian Harbour Beach, has witnessed people reverse illness and eliminate pharmaceuticals while collaborating with their medical team. She points out, however, that it’s crucial for established conditions to remain adequately controlled. “I help people come off medicines if it’s viable. Herbalism is not a substitution, it’s a process and a transformation to a healthier lifestyle,” says Helms. She advises that people work with a clinical herbalist to set up clear steps over time.
Helms has a dispensary at Mama Jo’s where she runs a private clinical practice formulating hand-made tinctures, ointments and medicinal teas for clients. Personal herbal formulas are made for clients after thorough consultation and incorporating bloodwork, pulse diagnosis and other methods to determine therapeutic specifics. Helms also collaborates with midwives, functional medicine practitioners, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other medical professionals.
“There are many herbs that easily work into the diet for flavor that also have beneficial properties,” says Helms. Indeed, whole books are dedicated to herbalism and herbs as food. Here is a small list.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) leaves are an aromatic carminative herb that adds flavor and improves digestion.
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) is similar to oregano, yet more gentle in culinary dishes. It offers antiseptic properties that prove beneficial in mouth sores and sore throats. It may also improve fevers when made into tea.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a stronger aromatic mint family member, that has long been used as a digestive aid. A warm infusion releases volatile oils that calm spasms and fight infection.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) leaves provide a well-rounded flavor in spice blends and contain high levels of vitamin C and minerals. It reduces gassiness in colic pains and is an effective diuretic when the body holds too much water.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a good choice for slight nausea, although it calms muscle tension it may potentiate acid reflux. It is uplifting as a nervine and may ease headaches.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) releases psychological tension, improves moods and clears gut disturbances.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) shines in legume recipes and is an excellent anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic and expectorant herb.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves cleaned, cut and blanched are the beginning to a fantastic cold salad that is full of nutrients and high in potassium. They have diuretic properties to relieve the body of excess water.
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) flower brings diversity in healing, used in culinary, cosmetic, and herbalism. It improves melancholy, headaches, and nervous tension. “I enjoy baking lavender almond biscotti for a special treat,” says Helms.
Elder flower (Sambucus nigra) recently popular for its’ beautiful dark berries, the flowers contain rutin and quercetin, which provide anti-inflammatory effect for upper respiratory, sinus relief during cold and flu season. The flowers may be picked fresh and added to a favorite muffin recipe.
Burdock root (Arctium lappa) makes a wonderfully wild side dish that restores the body’s function and vitality. Clean the root, cut into small slices, place in a baking dish and cover with a small amount of water, a drizzle of honey, a smidge of cinnamon and ginger. Place in the oven, covered, until soft.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root may be made into a decoction tea and drank to support liver health and improve the digestive system. It can also be made into a coffee substitute.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizome related to ginger, although not as spicy. It is used liberally in curry recipes and has anti-inflammatory properties, protects the liver cells, nourishes mucus membranes and promotes clarity of thought.