dr. orna recommends: spice apothecary by bevin clare

Food is medicine. You’ve heard me say that a lot.

This week I got a new book that takes the concept to the next level: Spice Apothecary by Bevin Clare.

Bevin is an herbalist, herbal educator and president of the American Herbalists Guild. She’s deeply committed to broadening the reach of herbal medicine and keeping it accessible to everyone.

What better way to do that than by leveraging what many folks already have in their kitchens? Better still, this helps people access medicine that makes food more delicious!

Spice Apothecary covers 19 commonly available kitchen medicines, including black pepper, cinnamon, lavender, mustard seed, thyme and turmeric. She includes health benefits, daily dosages and many recipes. (Parsley pistachio pesto!)

The book itself is physically beautiful, filled with gorgeous photographs and clear charts that simplify spicing up your life.

I’m calling this an inspiring addition to any herbalist or foodie’s bookcase. But keep it in or near the kitchen — you’ll want to use it.

Buy the book from the author here.
Buy the book online from Bookshop here.

—Dr. Orna 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

eat your flowers! here are my 5 favorites

My med-school bestie is starting her first(ish) garden this year. She’s mostly growing veggies in pots, mostly on the porch of her Seattle apartment. She’s found gardening to be a positive thing in her current pandemic reality, soothing and exciting and rewarding.

We’ve been talking about plants a lot, and as you might expect, I am overwhelming her with ideas.

During our call last night, we talked about flower power: specifically, which are edible and delicious and easy to grow. I promised her a short list, which I’m sharing now with you.

1. Roses:

My front-yard roses always look ragged because I take a nibble whenever I walk past. Some varieties are tastier than others, but the best can taste much like they smell. Rose petals give a great mood boost, with a fair bit of astringency to tighten and tone tissues. Just make sure you eat only unsprayed roses; those you’ve grown yourself are best. Preserve your harvest with rose petal honey, one of my favorite rites of spring. (Catch the video here.) 

2. Daylilies :

These are super hardy perennial plants with prolific, if short-lived blooms. They don’t have a ton of flavor in my experience, but they’re great for a solid, floral texture. You can eat these raw, but they hold up to cooking. Pick flowers or buds and add to soups for a spot of color and joy. If you plant them, they will spread — so you can share bulbs with your neighbors and lift up your neighborhood. (Pictured above.)

3. Calendula:

It’s hard to imagine any herbalist would leave Calendula off a top-plants list. This sunny plant is incredibly easy to grow, self seeds prolifically (but is easy to remove if, for some reason, you want to), shines in the garden for much of the year and offers great medicine for acute and chronic conditions. Its mild flavor makes for easy garnish on salads, or a sunny wintertime tea. Medicinally it’s used to heal wounds externally and internally, and helps keep the lymphatic system moving as it’s supposed to. (That’s important for immunity!) 

4. Lavender:

If you’ve been watching my (mostly) daily plant walks on Facebook and Instagram live, you know that lavender is my plant of the year for 2020. Look for an in-depth post about why coming soon. The short version: Lavender leaves and flowers are mood elevating, calm inducing, digestion enhancing and overall microbe busting. A perfect plant for these times. 

5. Nasturtiums:

Unlike many edible flowers with unremarkable flavors, Nasturtiums carry considerable kick. All part of the plant are significantly peppery. Add flowers to spice up salads or garnish other dishes. Toss in some leaves where you’d otherwise add mustard greens — a close cousin. Pickle the green seeds (shaped like little brains) for a homemade alternative to capers. The flowers and leaves are high in Vitamin C and offer antimicrobial benefits as well.

 Honorable mention: Violets were my 2019 plant of the year, and they deserve a spot on these kinds of lists. The only reason I’m leaving them off the list is that they’re mostly done flowering for the year. Note that there are many kinds of Viola going by different names: pansies and Johnny Jump Ups are different species of the same plant.
If you’re able to get outside this weekend (or better still, get into a garden), I hope you’ll look at the flowers around you with slightly different eyes. Remember, it’s not cool to take other folks’ plants without permission. But if you’ve got a pot or a plot with some flowers in it, consider whether they’d make an edible addition to your weekend meal plans.
This is just a quick list, and is by no means an exhaustive one. Did I miss your favorites? Shoot me an email and let me know.
—Dr. Orna
P.S. I’m still doing my online plant walks most weekdays. I generally go out on Facebook at 3pm PDT and jump over to Instagram at 3:30pm. This changes sometimes based on my patient schedule, and I note the times on both platforms each morning. The walks are recorded if you can’t make it live, but it’s more fun if you join!
P.P.S. If you’d like to talk about how plants and I can help you with your personal health questions, just drop me a line. If you’re in Oregon, click here to book your appointment.

rose petal honey: a favorite rite of spring

Dear *|FNAME|* —

Honey is one of nature’s great preservatives. And it’s a delicious way to extend access to one of my favorite garden medicines: rose petals.

Roses are the flowers of love for good reason. Their fragrance is uplifting not only because of our mental associations with it, but also physiologically.

The aromatic compounds in roses have been shown to lower blood pressure, subdue stress, alleviate anxiety, palliate pain, support sexual function in men and women on antidepressant drugs, and more.

Rose petals, leaves, twigs and bark are excellent astringents, tightening and toning lax tissues. This can help with skin scrapes, diarrhea and even staunch bleeding.

Don’t let the pretty face food you. Roses are real medicine.

Making rose-petal honey is one of my favorite rites of spring. It’s super simple to do, as I demonstrate in this quick video.

Just chop the rose petals and stir into honey. That’s it.

All you need are some roses (make sure they’re not sprayed with pesticides), honey, and a jar. Chopsticks are the stirring tool of choice. And don’t forget to label your completed concoction!

This technique works for herbs both fresh and dried. Just pay attention to the water content of any herbs you add to honey, as this will affect the product’s longevity.

Rose-petal honey is medicine that heals you at least twice, both when you make it and when you take it.

Pulling off the petals and then having them in your hands while you chop is both physically sensuous and an olfactory delight.

And you’ll be rewarded again every time you open your jar. There’s no need to buy rose essential oil — one of the most expensive in the world — when you can preserve your own at home.

Just don’t do what I did and wait too long to eat it. Water in the fresh petals dilutes the honey’s sugars, and it will start to mold after several months.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy rose season — and extend it deliciously.

— Dr. Orna