Colleen Gerson is an Herbalist, Functional Medicine Health Coach, educator and botanical formulator in the Foria Heartquarters. She shares that these are not “her” recipes, but imprints passed down from herbalists and kitchen witches alike, and distilled into what may be most healing and accessible in these times.
Folk or Traditional herbalism is “the people’s medicine” – the free or cheap, easily accessible medicinal and life-giving properties of plant allies, healing food, and reconnecting with our nature. When our ancestors didn’t have modern medicine and pharma, herbs and foods were what healed and strengthened them. Without that knowledge, we wouldn’t be here.
Connecting with herbs and infusing them into our foods, drinks, and home remedies is a potent and enriching method of self sovereignty over our health, using the affordable and accessible resources within our reach. Exploring the potential of plants, and their nutritive and medicinal uses, reconnects us with our ancestors and the methods they used for resilience through hard times.
Here are some herbal recipes from Foria’s IGTV series In The Kitchen, where we share some simple, delicious and accessible herbal concoctions, inviting you to weave potent plant allies into your lives in more ways.
Ginger is a key herb in Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Traditional herbal medicine, because it’s so versatile, safe, and supportive. With antiviral and antimicrobial properties, ginger assists in healthy internal balance, soothing nausea, morning sickness, and indigestion. As a diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, and pain reducer, ginger shows special benefit for joint pain and particularly menstrual pain. (You can see why she’s also in our Awaken arousal oil!) Furthermore, ginger enlivens solar plexus energy, balanced internal fire, self-worth and healthy boundaries, joy and playfulness.
Uses: Try a couple of spoonfuls in the morning solo, or you can add to lemon and water or fire cider. Add to hot water for instant fresh ginger tea. Add to smoothies, soups, salad dressings, etc. for a sweet, spicy boost.
Blender or masticating juicer (if you don’t have one, you can use a Microplane or the smaller holes on a cheese grater)
A palm-sized piece of fresh ginger root
Roughly chop ginger (you don’t need to peel it) and put it in the blender with 8 oz filtered water. Blend on low, then up to high, for a minute to blend well. If you’re using a grater, mix the grated ginger well with the water before proceeding.
Place strainer over bowl and line with cheesecloth. Pour ginger juice and pulp into strainer, and press on solids with a spoon to get all the juice out. Pour juice into a jar with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 5-7 days. You can compost the pulp or toss it in the bath with you for a warming, anti-inflammatory good time.
Warming, stimulating, anti-microbial herbs steeped in vinegar are ancient folk medicine. Fire Cider, named by well-loved herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, is similar to an oxymel (herbal vinegar + honey) and goes back at least to ancient Greece. It may be a variation of Four Thieves vinegar, which was said to help protect against the bubonic plague. This fiery herbal vinegar is food medicine, and a simple, potent staple to have in our kitchens to use all year long and particularly during cold and flu seasons. It’s a very forgiving introductory formula, and, as a digestive aid, also helps to connect us with our gut and intuition.
Uses: Improves sluggish digestion, thins mucus, opens sinus congestion, boosts energy, helps stomach pain or indigestion, stimulates bile flow from the gallbladder to the liver, improves digestion of fats and proteins, and supports liver detox and elimination. This is the beauty in bitter foods, which help stimulate bile production, supporting digestion and liver detoxification, and teach us the necessity of bitterness, to digest and alchemize in our body and in life.
Listen to your body. Take a daily shot to ward off cold/flu season, increase circulation, fend off viral/bacterial/fungal infections, open up congestion, support digestion, etc. I like to add 3 spoonfuls of Fire Cider and 2 spoonfuls fresh ginger juice to warm water and drink first thing in the morning.
Bowl and wooden spoon
Clean jar with a lid
Cheesecloth, fine strainer or nut milk bag
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
Onion (antibacterial, prebiotic, promotes heart/cardiovascular health)
Garlic (“the poor man’s penicillin”, antibacterial and antiviral, blood-warming, fights infections, promotes heart/cardiovascular health)
One or more of the following herbs:
- Horseradish: aids digestion of fatty heavy food, opens and clears sinus infections, supports circulation of energy and blood
- Ginger: antibacterial, antiviral, immune supportive, stimulates digestion, soothes nausea, supports circulation, warming, eases pain
- Dandelion greens, beets and greens: provides antioxidants and B vitamins, stimulates bile flow for digestion.
- Citrus: vitamin C, antioxidants
- Hibiscus: vitamin C, antioxidants, heart tonic
- Calendula: anti-inflammatory, wound healing, mildly antimicrobial, digestive support, bitter/liver support
Tune In. Place your hands on your belly and connect to your gut, your intuition: what is it your inner fire needs? Which plants call to you? Set your intention: who/what is this medicine for?
Wash, chop, or grate onion and garlic; this will be the bulk of the recipe. Mix them together in a bowl.
Add your other ingredients. Working intuitively, what plants are calling you? What quantity? Use your gut/intuitive sense.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, using clean hands or a wooden spoon. Send your intention into the mixture. Ask for the plants’ wisdom and healing, and give gratitude.
Loosely fill the jar with all of the chopped mixture. Pour apple cider vinegar over the plant material until submerged by at least an inch.
Use a plastic lid, or if it’s metal, place some parchment paper under the lid, so the vinegar doesn’t touch a metal surface.
Label the jar with Fire Cider and your list of ingredients, and the date it was made. Place in a dark cool space away from direct sunlight, and shake it every day if possible.
After at least 2 weeks, and ideally 4-6 weeks, strain into a cheesecloth, strainer, or nut milk bag. Compost the plant material. Add some raw honey to taste if you like.
Herbal infused honeys are a simple, delicious, and wonderful way to deliver the medicinal compounds and energy of plants – in a medium that most everyone loves. Honey is one of the many incredible gifts from our pollinator bee friends, who are absolutely vital to our existence. This golden nectar is one of the oldest traditional medicines used, for wounds care, infection prevention, and preservation.
Honey is also an incredible medium to preserve the flavor, aroma, and medicinal properties of herbs, and it doesn’t go bad due to its potent antimicrobial abilities. It’s also incredible for coughs or sore throats. Infused with medicinal herbs and flowers, it becomes a further medicinal treat and a delightful instant tea.
A clean dry jar
Dried organic herbs of choice (ex: rose petals, jasmine, ginger root, chamomile, tulsi)
Honey, ideally raw and local. (Make friends with ethical bee stewards for truly trustworthy sourcing.)
Fill about ⅓ of the jar with your dried herbs, then pour your honey to the top.
Seal and label with ingredients and date. I like to keep on a windowsill to get the warmth of the sun to help infuse, and then turn it periodically. It will be ready in a week or so.
You can either strain out the herbs and make tea with them before you compost/toss them, or they can be left in the honey.
These days we could all use some support for our nervous systems, deeper sleep, and more pleasure, so this delicious, deeply calming and sensual elixir may be just the ticket.
Adaptogens nourish the adrenal glands, help us adapt to stress, and support the immune system, inflammatory, and nervous systems. Nervines help to soothe anxiety, improve our stress response, and can even support deeper more restorative sleep. Our beloved Kava Kava is a nervine, adaptogen and aphrodisiac, and can also bring more restorative sleep. It’s antispasmodic (reduces pain) and an incredible muscle relaxant (tension in the body just melts), and it helps to move you out of the mind and into the body and heart space. Kava is also beautifully heart opening, incredible for trauma or grief, and as a mover of blood and fluids, she’s also quite the aphrodisiac (hello Awaken!) and also a mild euphoriant.
Kava is from the Pacific Islands, particularly Vanuatu, and it’s a key part of the culture, life, and ceremonies to come to agreements and connect. It’s important to source from organic cultivators, which are very hard to find. Similar to cannabis, there are over 100 varieties of Kava; only use Noble Kava strains from a reputable, tested, and organic source, like our friends Kalm With Kava.
Important note – you may notice a tingling in the tongue/mouth. It’s not an allergic reaction, it’s just anesthetic/nervine properties at work.
1.5 c of hot (not boiling) water
2 tsp powdered kava, or 1-2 droppers tincture
1 tsp cinnamon
Sprinkle ground cardamom
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger powder or ½ tsp fresh ginger juice
2 tbsp coconut cream (optional – select a brand with no guar gum)
Steep powdered kava in hot water. If you’re using tincture, skip this step.
Combine with remaining ingredients and blend. Kava is lipid-soluble, just like cannabis, so taking it with fats makes it more bioavailable. However, the traditional method uses just water.
Serve for 2, or save some in the fridge to sip all day over ice.
Cacao is antioxidant-rich, boosts dopamine, endorphins and anandamide (the “bliss molecule”), is rich in magnesium and antioxidants – and it’s also heart-opening and a famed aphrodisiac. Cacao is also another great medium to incorporate herbs, spices, or powdered mushrooms into. It’s delicious, and a beautiful treat to whip up and share with loved ones.
The cacao industry is riddled with child slave labor and unequal pay, so please only source from organic AND fair trade cacao suppliers.
A double boiler, or a large saucepan and a heatproof bowl that can sit on top
Silicone candy molds or cookie sheet with parchment paper
Organic, fair-trade cacao powder
Sweetener of choice (maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey, stevia, lakanto)
Vanilla stevia or vanilla extract
Spices of choice (cinnamon, kava, ginger, cardamom, cayenne, etc.)
Toppings (optional – goji berries, bee pollen, coconut flakes, sea salt, flower petals, chili flakes etc.)
Amounts will depend on how much herbal chocolate you want to make. Place 1 part cacao powder, 1 part cacao butter and 1 part coconut oil in the top of a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir gently until melted, then turn heat down or off.
Add sweetener to taste. Maple syrup and honey will give a smoother result than lakanto or coconut sugar.
Add some drops of vanilla stevia or vanilla extract if you like, and sprinkle in some sea salt. Taste and adjust. Use your intuition and senses, and add powdered herbs or spices. Start very small, and taste and build as desired.
Mix quickly and well, and spoon into molds or onto parchment on a cookie sheet. This can be messy.
Sprinkle any desired toppings and allow to cool completely.
This is another example of trusting your intuition and senses to lead you in your nourishment and medicine. It helps to have some guidance and a blueprint, and from there, your gut will know the way.
Infused oils are safer, cheaper, and require much less plant material and waste than essential oils, and you can make them yourself without any fancy equipment! They’re also so simple, beautiful, and fun to make.
Our ancestors used plant oils or rendered animal fats, to preserve and extend usage of plants as well as to create salves, balms, butters, etc. Herb-infused oils can be used topically as face or body oils, in cooking as culinary oils, or used as the base for creams, lip balm, and so on.
A clean and dry jar with lid
Organic olive oil (see Note)
Organic dried herb(s). Ex: lavender, ginger, calendula, chamomile, rose, rosemary.
Note: You can use any nourishing oils – coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba, etc. – depending on what you’d like to use your oil for.
Fill a dry, sterilized container ⅓-½ full with dried herb(s) and pour your oil over, covering the herb(s) by 1 inch. Depending on the herb/roots you’re using and your preference, you can also blend your herbs or the mixture first before jarring.
Seal jar, and label with ingredients and date.
Place the jar in a brown paper bag or wrap it in an opaque cloth, and place it in a sunny window sill or directly in the sunlight for 2 weeks. Every couple of days, roll the jar in your hands to help mix the contents and release the herbal constituents into the oil. You can also do this in a slow cooker over a couple days, or double boiler method for 30-90min on very low heat (be VERY careful not to burn the oil or herbs).When the infusion process is finished, grab a large bowl and cheesecloth or strainer, and strain your oil, squeezing/pressing out all the all. Compost your herbs, or add them to your bath.
Use a funnel and pour into clean, dry bottle.
Label your bottle with masking tape or label, with ingredients and date. Herbal infused oils will keep for a few months to a few years depending on oil type. Keep out of direct sunlight.
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