Eating your Herbs: Infusions in our Lives

A lot of herbalists talk of using herbal infusions to support your body during and illness or perhaps as an alternative to a nutritional supplement in the form of a nourishing infusion.

They are quite useful; I have been making herbal preparations, for years now,  with good results.

You don’t hear many of them mentioning  spaghetti sauce as an decoction although the acidic base of tomato sauce is wonderful for drawing minerals out of foods. You also don’t hear hot sauce  tossed around as an herbal preparation but these are both excellent examples of ways you can incorporate more herbs into your diet. I think I might have been making hot sauce when it occurred to me that we had lost touch with the reasons that many ingredients are in our foods.  Grandma’s Chili Sauce recipe also reminded me that people use to have a better grasp on cooking to sustain health than we do now.
Keep in mind I am not talking about the watered-down, additive-laden prepared foodstuff you buy at the the megamarket.   I am talking of preparations you make yourself.
I don’t remember exactly when it occurred to me that soups and broths are really just giant pots of herbal goodness.    It was probably  have been shortly after Darian became a vegetarian and I made my first batch of homemade vegetable broth.  I know I definitely had a handle on it by the time I was making garlic broth to use in soups. There is nothing quite so satisfying as a healing soup simmering away slowly on the stovetop, while the flavors and properties of the herbs flow gently into the food.
If you look at the dates on some of the recipes, you will see that this idea evolved over the years.  I didn’t really find one book that sent this message clearly, although I am sure they are out there.  It has been more like a giant experiment for me.    I am always thinking  of new ways to incorporate herbs into my food.  Just the other day it occurred to me to toss a couple of astragalus sticks into the rice pot.  I am sure I am not the only one to do this but it never really occurred to me before, despite the fact that I have been throwing it in soups for years.

I realized that I don’t know that I ever have put our spaghetti sauce recipe on the blog, so I though I would use it here as an example of the herb to food ratio that is health-producing.

Our Marinara Sauce

1 large onion (chopped)

3-5 cloves garlic

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms (sliced)

1/4 cup fresh basil

1/4 cup fresh oregano

1/4 cup fresh rosemary

1 quart tomato sauce  (I can my own sauce and it is not as thick as you buy at the store but it is thicker than juice; you might need to experiment with mixing sauce and juice.)

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan.  Saute onions and garlic until they are translucent.  Add the mushroom and herbs and saute for a few more minutes.  Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil.  Turn heat very low, cover and simmer for at least forty minutes.

You can see I am not talking about putting two teaspoons of  store-bought italian seasonings in a can of tomato sauce.  I am using lots of herbs; fresh whenever possible and really cooking the sauce long enough to extract the constituents of the herbs.  You can substitute quality dried herbs but by quality I mean herb shop quality not those little containers at the supermarket.
Beverages don’t have to be the boring preparations many people think of as medicinal infusions, either. Almond-Oatmeal Milk may be a bit thick for drinking but it is great for baking and making smoothies.   Herbal ChaiCreamy Carob Drink, homemade lemonade, vitamin C drink and ginger lemonade are fun drinks which  incorporate herbs and hopefully will be more appealing to the children in your lives.

There is an added benefit of incorporating these beverages into your daily diet.  I have experimented with many different ways to get little ones to eat their herbs. It is much easier to get herbal preparations into children when they are sick, if they are accustomed to them.  As a side note,  Lemon balm is an antiviral could easily be added to any of the last three drinks without noticeably changing the flavor of the drink.  “wink, wink”

2 Responses to “Eating your Herbs: Infusions in our Lives”

  1. kris Says:

    Thanks Stephanie- nice post. I just started the NAIHM beginner herbal course and it is a very exciting new chapter for me.

  2. Reagan Says:

    Yummy–inspiring article.

    Of course I always think as food itself as healing, and I love to use a lot of fresh herbs in everything– but never made the connection that this is just every day ‘herbal medicine’. Chili sauce, really And wow, I did not know that about the properties of tomatoes.

    Speaking of drinks, something I have really gotten into lately is to brew chilled herbal teas in a great big jar– of various combinations. I have a nice raspberry leaf/rosehip/ chamomile one that is very tasty with a squeeze of lemon. Or, a spiced carob “chai” lightly sweetened and with added almond milk. Green tea and mint.
    Mmmm, ginger lemonade. Must try that one.

    Who needs sugary store bought “juices” etc? Most are highly synthetic and overly acidic.

    Three cheers to food/drink as medicine.

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