In today’s episode, we’re talking about how to transform everyday herbs and spices into effective healing herbal remedies with registered herbalist, Rosalee de la Forêt. Rosalee dives into the incredible health benefits of herbs and spices, how to match their properties to our needs and practical ways to incorporate them into our diet.
Rosalee is a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and was an herbal clinician for 6 years before dedicating her offerings to herbal education. She is the author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs & co-author of Wild Remedies. In addition to writing books, she teaches many online herbal courses about herbalism and medicine making.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:33] If you’ve ever cooked any of the recipes over on mariamarlowe.com, you know that I absolutely love spices and use them very generously. Not only do they add flavor and color, but they also offer a plethora of health benefits. One of my favorite things to do is learn about the health benefits of different foods. So to help me out today, I’ve invited Rosalee de la Forêt, on the show. She’s a registered herbalist and is an absolute wealth of knowledge around the benefits of culinary herbs.
Maria Marlowe: [00:01:10] So you have a whole medicine cabinet sitting in your kitchen right now. If you have oregano, thyme, rosemary, turmeric, black pepper, all of these things have incredible health benefits, which I feel like we often overlook, or we just don’t even realize how medicinal these herbs, these spices can actually be. So Rosalee is going to help us out today. She’s going to share some of the incredible benefits and how we can incorporate more spices and herbs into our life in a very practical way. Rosalee is the author of the best-selling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transforming Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal, and co-author of Wild Remedies: How to Forge Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:00] This episode is brought to you by the Clear Skin Plan, my 90-day program and meal plan to clear your skin from within, naturally. If you’ve suffered with acne for months, years or even decades, it’s time to look within. Chronic acne is seldom a topical problem, but rather a sign of an internal imbalance and inflammation. Discover your root causes and remedy them with simple dietary and lifestyle changes. Head to mariamarlowe.com/clear-skin-plan to start today.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:38] Rosalee, thanks for coming on the show.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:02:40] Oh, I’m just so happy to be here, Maria. Thanks for having me.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:43] So one thing that I love about your approach to herbs is that you’re very practical with it and really encourage the use of culinary herbs and herbs in our kitchen. In fact, many of us are already cooking with things like rosemary and thyme, and oregano. We don’t even realize that we’re using these herbs. Right? So I would love for you to share what are some of the secrets of these common herbs that we’re already working with and using in our kitchen?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:03:10] Absolutely. I think for most people, they don’t need to look much further beyond their kitchen cabinet and their spices to get really wonderfully healing herbs and spices into their life. And I’m excited today to share some of my favorites and maybe share some things that people don’t know about in terms of how they can be worked with and the best ways to get the benefits from them. Because sometimes it’s different from saying like, oh, turmeric is good for inflammation and then, actually getting results with turmeric. So we can kind of dive into that, in both aspects, today.
Maria Marlowe: [00:03:44] Yes. Because the dose makes a difference for sure. And I’m sure the cooking method. I know some herbs and spices they’re better heated up a little bit. It will extract some more of those active components that we want. So why don’t you share with us your top five favorite herbs, culinary herbs, and what they’re good for?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:04:05] All right. That sounds like a good plan. I’ll start with my top five favorites today because I don’t like to make the other herbs jealous by singling out the five, but there are so many to choose from. And maybe we could start with cinnamon, because I feel like cinnamon is something that’s probably in everybody’s cabinets and it’s easy to love because it tastes so delicious and it’s something that we can’t really imagine pastries without. And cinnamon is just this incredibly healing, wonderful herb with so many different uses. It’s very famous for helping to address blood sugar issues. So, for people who have high blood sugar, it can be used temporarily to reduce high fasting glucose levels. And that is something, it’s not a long-term solution. It’s not healing any underlying cause, but it’s something that can be called upon in the short term to reduce those high fasting blood glucose levels.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:04:56] Lots of interesting studies looking at that and people who are even pre-diabetic with Type two diabetes and how that can help be a part of the regimen for their health journey. But probably the most common way that I recommended cinnamon is for menstrual cramps. And it is a fabulous thing. It doesn’t work for everybody out there, but it works for a lot of people. And how you take it is about three days before your period starts you take anywhere from two to six grams of cinnamon per day. So that’s like four to twelve capsules or so. I always recommend starting low. You never want to just take a whole bunch of something new all of a sudden.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:05:39] So you start low, slowly increase. But you start that days before your period. And for people who get lots of cramping, this can be a way to actually reduce that cramping. And I’ve seen that work for so many people who used to take lots of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs to help mitigate PMS pain. The cinnamon is the trick. So you do have to take it early. It’s not something like, oh, I feel crampy, I’m going to take it right now and then expect it to work. It’s something you have to take early on.
Maria Marlowe: [00:06:07] Yeah, that’s so interesting. I’ve actually never heard that. I of course love cinnamon. It is delicious. It has so many benefits, but that’s the first I’m hearing that. So that’s definitely cool to note. Good to know. And just even getting into the habit of using it every day, not even the week before something, but using it in your cereal for breakfast or your tea. Right? Well, what are some of the ways that you recommend incorporating cinnamon into the diet?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:06:34] Well, so having a little bit with food is a great way, because, like you said, it’s best to get it in every day. And the cinnamon, like most herbs, is really high in antioxidants, which helps mitigate chronic inflammation. And so that is a great to add to little bits. When you’re wanting a specific health outcome, you might need more than is really tasty, necessarily. But to answer your question of how to get it into foods, one of my favorite ways, and this is just a simple thing, is to have yogurt and fruit and put cinnamon in that. And that’s just a lovely way to get that cinnamon flavor with all sorts of other yummy things. We often think of cinnamon as something for sweets, but cinnamon is commonly used in savory foods too, so it can be used in sauces, on meats, or vegetables. So that’s another way.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:07:21] Another interesting way that we can invite cinnamon into our life is as a tooth powder. So back in the day before we had toothpastes, powders were actually what was used to kind of brush the teeth with. And so all you need is cinnamon. You can add other stuff like charcoal if you wanted, but you could just take cinnamon and wet your toothbrush, dip your toothbrush in some cinnamon powder and then brush your teeth as normal. And your teeth feel so smooth and there are lots of antimicrobial properties in cinnamon. It’s also slightly astringent, which means it’s tightening and toning to tissue, which is beneficial for the gums, to get those tightened in tone. So lots of benefits for cinnamon. And of course, cinnamon essential oil is often added to lots of products like floss and toothpaste. But I like the whole herb and just getting lots of it where it counts.
Maria Marlowe: [00:08:09] Oh, that’s such a fun idea. Another thing for me to try that sounds cool. All right. So cinnamon, definitely making sure to keep that stocked. What else should we have in our kitchen?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:08:19] Well, probably the most popular spice in the world is one that I think is also just kind of strangely underrated. And that’s black pepper. And I feel black pepper is so common that it’s almost overlooked in some ways. And then we have all sorts of different kinds of black pepper, whether you’re like at a diner and there’s that really old powder that’s gray on the table or you’re in fine dining. And the maître d’ is like, would you like some freshly ground pepper on your salad? There are different ways of enjoying the pepper, but freshly ground pepper is best.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:08:52] And I think that this is one that we need to take a new look at and be inspired to add to all of our meals because black pepper enhances our digestion and makes other foods that it’s consumed with more bioavailable. So it’s like if you’re going to be eating lots of whole foods that are organic, cost lots of money, you might as well get the biggest bang for your buck by adding black pepper to the meal and then getting a lot more nutrients from that meal just because your body is able to better digest those nutrients that you’re already eating.
Maria Marlowe: [00:09:26] Yeah, that’s so interesting. And I think the one that we hear about a lot, we often hear that you should pair turmeric with black pepper for that very reason so that you get the maximum benefit from your turmeric. But yeah, black pepper is great for digestion and helps us digest. So it makes sense that if we’re digesting better, we’re absorbing things better as well.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:09:48] Yeah, it has a nice flavor and it warms up digestion. So it’s just generally beneficial for digestion. And that way it’s seen as a stimulant, a warming stimulant. And so it’s wonderful for people who have cold hands and feet because that’s the way that you can get circulation moving and address that. It’s commonly used for arthritis pain can. It can be used topically or lots internally and also used a lot for colds and flus. A lot of our stimulating, pungent spices like black pepper, ginger, garlic, are often used for colds and flus when we’re feeling kind of cold and stagnant and things are stuck. Those spices get things moving again.
Maria Marlowe: [00:10:29] And so how much pepper do we need? Do we have to make our food black to get enough pepper or how much is it? What’s the right or a good amount?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:10:38] Yeah, well, the good news is we don’t need that much. And I would say always with kitchen medicine, we do it to pleasure. So that can be a varying amount for different people from people who are like, no, I’ll think I’ll pass on black pepper to people I could use a little or people are like, yeah, give it to me. So I would say, go with your comfort level. In studies, looking at how black pepper enhances the bioavailability of curcumin, an extract of turmeric, we’re shown that three percent of black pepper to turmeric was like the golden part there. So that’s not that much. It’s just a little bit. So freshly ground black pepper added to meals. We have a couple of different places in the house where we eat food and I keep a black pepper, fresh black pepper grinder there at every single location. So it’s just natural to add that as a finishing spice.
Maria Marlowe: [00:11:26] And if you are used to buying the ground pepper if you switch to the grinder, I mean, the flavor is completely different. It’s a flavor explosion when you have the fresh ground black pepper. It’s so bright and it really elevates the dish, whereas I feel sometimes I’m lazy. And if you have a recipe where you have to put in half a teaspoon of black pepper or something I don’t want to grind that all so I’ll use the ground but it tastes like nothing.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:11:55] When you grind it up, it just loses its pizzazz so quickly. There are all sorts of fancy pepper grinders now so you can do it super course if you like, like that, or you can grind it really finely. So it’s worth finding one of those, I think so you can get it exactly how you want it or change it for recipes as desired.
Maria Marlowe: [00:12:14] Yes, I’m a huge fan of the fresh black pepper grinder. Okay, what else? What else should we have or know about spices?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:12:22] We can’t overlook turmeric which we’ve mentioned and I know turmeric is the most studied, probably one of the most popular herbs that isn’t underrated, the same way that black pepper might be. And of course, one of its most biggest claims to fame is to modulate inflammation. And with inflammation being such a big part of many chronic illnesses, turmeric has just been looked at in all sorts of avenues, whether it’s for heart health, digestive health, supporting the liver, cognitive health, and on and on and on.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:12:55] I mean, there’s pretty much… You can go to PubMed, which is a research database, and type in turmeric and whatever body system you want and I guarantee you there’s been some study on it. It is just amazing how much people love to study this herb. And so because we know that it works, we know it works well, we know it modulates information, maybe I could share some things that are maybe lesser known about turmeric. One, I would like to say the turmeric is not for everyone. It gets kind of touted as the herb for inflammation and it certainly is very impressive. But some people don’t play well with turmeric. And sometimes I think that all the attention turmeric gets, then someone, they find out turmeric isn’t their herb, it can be kind of disheartening.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:13:36] But there are so many herbs out there that modulate chronic inflammation. So if you take turmeric and it upsets your belly or you just somehow it’s not for you, that’s not the end of the world. Another thing about turmeric is kind of like how we talked about cinnamon. With cinnamon, you can have a little bit in your meals every day and there are so many benefits. Getting all those vital nutrients, all those antioxidants, that’s a wonderful health practice. The same thing goes for turmeric. Probably I couldn’t tell you the last time I didn’t have turmeric in a day. It’s something that’s always a part of my life.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:14:09] But if you are wanting to work with turmeric for different results, specific results… I’ve seen turmeric work wonders, for example, for arthritis, I’ve seen people who could barely move their hands due to arthritis and work with turmeric, regain function and have less pain just in their everyday life. But to do that, you really have to up the dosage for turmeric as much as 10 grams a day, which just to give you an estimate, that’s twenty capsules. That’s a lot of turmeric. The issue that happens when you get taking that much turmeric is you get some adverse effects sometimes, and that is really dryness. Tumeric is super drying.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:14:52] So what that means is people who may already have dryness in their cells, then they might notice that exacerbated. So they might wake up with a really dry mouth and then they’ll drink water throughout the day. The water doesn’t help. They just have a dry mouth. Or they might notice their hair becomes really dry or their skin is dry. Dry eyes is a big one, too. The eyes can get dried out really quickly and so that can be another one. And I’ll have people come to me and just tell me that, oh, I just put eye drops in my eyes all day long and they’re just still so dry. And it turns out they’re taking five grams of turmeric every day, which is helping with their arthritis but causing these other situations, so that’s something to look out for.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:15:32] For some people who are already super dry, turmeric might not be the best choice or you can formulate to kind of offset that drying quality. One of the ways that’s done is that turmeric is often used, heated, as you mentioned. Some herbs are done well when they’re heated. Turmeric is one of them and heating that with an oil and then having that with other moistening foods… So a traditional way to enjoy turmeric is as golden milk and golden milk is turmeric and other spices, black pepper, cardamom sometimes, that can be sauteed in oil, and then that made into a paste. And that paste can be added to a milk of your choice, so that’s like dairy milk or some other kind of oat milk, almond milk. Your choice. And so that is this wonderfully moistening formula that offsets that dryness a bit.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:16:23] Another way is, we can even just look at our whole day of are we eating moistening foods. Some people who already have dryness might benefit from eating more okra or eggplant or things that are moistening or just something simple like getting enough healthy fats? Am I getting enough hydration, that sort of thing. So it’s just something to think about with turmeric. Sometimes more is better, but sometimes when we get more, there are a few problems there. So we just want to offset that. The thing about side effects with herbs is that they often are pretty minor. There can be some cases where there is a big problem, but it’s so rare that there are big problems. It’s probably kind of like, oh, I feel some dryness, I’ll do something to fix that dryness. But it’s good to be aware of it just so we can fix it.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:06] Yeah, definitely. And that’s why it also can be so useful to work with an herbalist who can tell you that because, for example, I didn’t know that. I had no idea that too much turmeric could be drying. So I would never pick up on that. But someone like you who knows these herbs in and out, you’d be able to say, oh, yeah, you’re eating five grams of turmeric. Let’s try this instead. This is why this is happening. Make sure you’re having moist foods, whatever. I have to say with the turmeric milk. I know that was so trendy. I mean, it’s still trendy, but even just a couple of years ago, I feel it became trendy. I cannot have warm milk. I think it just repulses me so much.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:47] So I love to… I cook with it all the time. So I will add it to, I mean I add it to pretty much everything I cook. Whenever I’m stir-frying something, I’ll add it. I love it with cumin also and black pepper of course. I’ll do it in curries or Thai curries or just garlic and oil. And I just feel when I put it in that you can see it, but I don’t feel it has a very strong flavor. So as long as you have other flavors in there, it just tastes like whatever else you’re making it with.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:18:17] Yeah, absolutely. You reminded me that I am actually am not a super big fan of warm milk either. But in the wintertime sometimes, I like golden milk a bit. But one of my favorite things with a golden milk preparation is my husband makes a coconut milk-based ice cream and then he uses the golden milk paste to flavor that and sweetens it with a little bit of honey. And that is really yummy. And it’s pretty too because it has that bright orange color from the turmeric.
Maria Marlowe: [00:18:46] That sounds good. That I would try. Cool. Okay, so what else? What else is in our spice cabinet?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:18:55] What else? Well, we’re talking about antioxidants a lot so we could talk about rosemary. I feel so many people love rosemary on their own. You know, it’s just such an easy herb to love. If you can grow, rosemary, you can sometimes create this big hedge. It has these beautiful purple flowers on it that pollinators love. My husband’s family is from France, and so we visit France a fair bit. And the first time we went to southern France together and I saw rosemary growing a weed out of cracks in the sidewalks or between stones. That was just so impressive. I was like, wow. This is a cool thing to see, you know rosemary. And it’s made off the habitat of the Mediterranean.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:19:37] So sometimes rosemary is called the queen of antioxidants because it’s so full of antioxidants and because of it, it’s used in some interesting ways. They’ve created extracts of rosemary that they use as a preservative in a lot of foods. So that’s kind of fascinating to me. It’s like this massive use of rosemary beyond the grassroots, beyond your potatoes kind of thing. And let’s see, one of my favorite applications for rosemary is actually to protect the skin from UV damage. And it can work in a couple of ways for that. You can use it topically as just protection from the skin on that. Infuse it into oils, use it as a face cream, and then also simply by using it internally too.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:20:25] So much of the health of our skin and even UV protection comes from the inside out and so having rosemary frequently in our lives is a wonderful way to do that as well. And of course, it’s famous for potatoes and adding a little bit here and there. It is a spice you want to add just enough of to foods because you can overdo it and can have it too perfumey or too bitter of a taste to it. So you’ve just got to figure out what’s a good amount for you. But I do recommend if you already cook with rosemary, add your normal amount and then add a little bit more and see how that goes. And over time, add a little bit more. I’m always into what’s the maximum amount you can use. But it still tastes good. I’m not talking about destroying a meal for you or your family, but word is that it still tastes good.
Maria Marlowe: [00:21:12] I feel with herbs, personally, I always feel the more the merrier. I’m sure there’s definitely a… There’s a ledge there somewhere, but I’m just like, bring it on. But that brings up a question. Even with turmeric, what about using the fresh herb versus the dried in terms of potency and all of this stuff. So maybe just starting with rosemary because we’re on rosemary, does it make a difference if we’re using the fresh rosemary versus the dried rosemary?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:21:38] Mm-hmm. Good question. With most herbs, I say use all of it. Every which way you can. So if you only have access to dried, use the dried but generally dried and fresh have different gifts. And so getting both of them into your life is a great way to do that. And with the fresh rosemary, you know, the fresh Rosemary just has this bright, fresh flavor that I think is so fun to work with. And I love making pastes with fresh rosemary. I love adding it by making tapenade recipes, which are olives and anchovies and rosemary and thyme and olive oil. You mix that up. And the fresh rosemary is really, a consistency thing there. Fresh rosemary is great.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:22:23] With dried herbs, interestingly, is that when you dry an herb, it helps break down the cell wall, which means that it makes them more bioavailable. So if we’re going to make a tea out of them, for example, or add them to meals, we can have more nutrients from them if we dry them first. And I could also say just different because, again, the drying process will change things a bit. I would say overall you want to have the freshest spices and herbs possible. So for anyone listening to this and you’re thinking oh, yeah, I really want to up my game on herbs and spices. And if you have a bunch of herbs and spices that you haven’t really looked at and they might be a couple of years old, you’re not alone. That happens.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:23:05] But my recommendation is to go to your spice cabinet, give everything a smell. If something doesn’t wow you and the color might be off. If it’s not bright green the way it should be or vibrant smell. Put that in the compost and go get some fresh herbs and spices. And just like Maria was saying with the black pepper, fresh whole black pepper grounded, that just makes such a huge difference. So, however, if you want to use them dried, make sure that they’ve been harvested and dried recently and they’re not a couple of years old.
Maria Marlowe: [00:23:36] Yeah, that’s a great tip because it does make such a difference in the flavor. And of course, I’m sure their benefits as well. And when you see spices that have that vibrant bright color, like the cayenne pepper or the paprika that are that bright, deep, dark red versus the ones that are like a dusty brown. There’s a huge, huge difference.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:23:58] Yeah, there really is.
Maria Marlowe: [00:24:00] And what about oregano? Because this is another one I feel most of us have and we use it a lot of Italian cooking. So tell us a little bit about oregano.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:24:09] Yes, oregano. So oregano is highly antimicrobial and it’s become kind of famous as an essential oil or oil oregano. And people use that both topically and internally as an antimicrobial. But I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of that because it’s so intense. I mean, if you put that in the sensitive area, it will burn. And I’ve worked with several people who were taking it internally and overdid it. And it just kind of disrupted their gut flora because they ended up with diarrhea for long term. So with that one, I’m kind of like, caution on the oil of oregano. No doubt that it’s potent. But I think the whole herb itself is super potent.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:24:49] If you taste a fresh oregano leaf. If you ever have the opportunity to find a fresh oregano plant, taste the leaf, put that on your tongue. It’s hot. It’s very hot. Like a chili pepper is hot. It’s very potent. And so I like working with the whole herb on that and because of that antimicrobial process, there’s a lot of different ways we can work with it. One of my favorites is as a mouthwash and that can be you can be used as a tea, as a mouthwash, or you can make it is an alcohol extract, a tincture which then is preserved. You can add that to a bit of water and swish with it. So it’s a wonderful way just to maintain oral health or if you want to address something going on in the mouth. So, that’s a fabulous way to do that.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:25:35] Also, I feel like a broken record – very high in antioxidants, which is great for modulating inflammation. But it really is. So oregano is actually another one that touts being one of the highest antioxidant herbs. So getting even a little bit of that into meals all the time is a wonderful way to get more antioxidants in. And it’s because of that warming, pretty significantly warming, it’s really great for digestion. And it’s kind of great for a lot of things and for digestion it’s antimicrobial, but it doesn’t kill healthy gut flora. But that warming flavor stimulates digestion. It’s pleasing for us so we get to enjoy our digestive medicine as well. So, yes, it’s some ways to use oregano. And we’ve already been talking about using a little. Increase a little bit. And increase a little bit and see how it goes.
Maria Marlowe: [00:26:29] I feel I go through my spices so quickly. I love my spices. They’re the pride and joy of my kitchen. Actually, do you want to share a little bit on storing your spices because I feel sometimes they come in these really pretty bottles and we want to leave them on the counter? But it’s probably not the best idea.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:26:46] Yeah. Or the worst actually is when you store them right above your stove or right next to your stove. That’s bad too. So with spices, they can actually keep their potency for a good amount of time if they’re stored well. So ideal storage for spices are in a dark location, in a cool location, dry. So if you live in a humid place and you want to have them in a tightly sealed container. So for example, I love the beautiful jars with the corks on them. So pretty. And like you said, you want those on your cabinet. But no, that’s not really a good way to go unless you’re going through that in two days maybe. But for all intents and purposes, cool dark place, they really are better in the cabinet rather than out and about.
Maria Marlowe: [00:27:36] I know that’s so sad, but yes, I keep all my spices in a dark closed cabinet but I like to take them out when I’m cooking. I enjoy them then and just put them back.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:27:46] Yeah.
Maria Marlowe: [00:27:48] Is there anything you wish people knew about spices that you think people don’t know or any maybe misconceptions or just anything that you want people to know about spices?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:28:00] Sure. Well, one thing we’ve been talking about is the difference of or just the benefits of getting spices and herbs in your life every day and then therapeutic doses. But I don’t think we can really accentuate how beneficial it is to get them in your everyday life. And one way of thinking about that is discussing the phytonutrients. So herbs and spices have so many phytonutrients. And what I mean by that word is, we think about what’s in the things we eat. We know that there are micronutrients and macronutrients. So things like protein and fiber, things like vitamins and minerals. And when I grew up, that was kind of what we learned about. And nutrition was those things. So, these macro and micronutrients.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:28:45] Phytonutrients and the awareness of those has really grown in the past couple of decades and just how important it is to have the wide abundance of phytonutrients in our lives. So we’re often told, when we eat vegetables and fruits, get the color of the rainbow and eat many different kinds, which is wonderful wonderful advice. But we’re kind of limited. When you go to the grocery store, it’s not like there are 50 different vegetables to choose from. If you’re in a nice place with a good growing season, maybe there’s 20. I don’t know, I’m making that up. But there’s going to be a limited amount.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:29:21] Our ancestors especially, think back ten thousand years ago, in some places, it’s estimated they’re eating 800 different kinds of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. And there’s no way that we’re getting even close to that today because we have our staples, the potatoes, tomatoes, salads, etc. So a wonderful way to increase the diversity of phytonutrients into our lives is by using lots of herbs and spices. And there are so many of them that we can choose from. And so what basically what that means is that when you’re eating, it’s kind of like if you imagine eating roasted vegetables that have potatoes and carrots and beets, wonderful stuff. Awesome. And there are phytonutrients in those roasted vegetables, then we could add rosemary, and all of a sudden we just dramatically increased the phytonutrient profile.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:30:16] We could add black pepper to that oregano and thyme would fit in well in there and all of a sudden we just exponentially increase the phytonutrient. What that’s doing is that diversity in our digestive system and our whole body is so good because it’s opening up different metabolic pathways and it’s just kind of waking up our body and stimulating our body in different ways. Because the interesting thing about herbs it’s not like we eat herbs and then they heal us. What happens actually is we take in herbs into our body and our bodies react to those herbs in a way. And it’s that dance between the two that creates all of these beneficial reactions. So the more diversity we have, the more different ways our bodies are interacting with all of those herbs and spices, the more health benefits there are. And you just can’t replace that in any way.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:31:05] You know, in the herbalist’s world, people love tinctures and alcohol extracts and certainly those have a time and place. But when I think about our meals, holding up a handful, we have a handful of herbs that go into each meal, and then there are two or three meals a day. So that’s so much every single day that you just can’t replace with a couple of squirts of an alcohol tincture. Plus it’s a lot more fun to eat all of those herbs and spices. So I guess I just can’t accentuate enough how important it is to look at each meal and even beverages as the opportunity to get lots of different herbs and spices in.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:31:49] We do a lot of Indian food here in my home and a kind of a running joke is, my husband does a lot of that cooking. And I’ll ask him, this is so good, what spices are in here? And he just looks and goes, all of them. Another thing that we do is we play how many sources of phytonutrients are in this meal. And that’s something that I encourage people to do. So again, it’s kind of like, if you have roasted potatoes and beets and carrots, we’re just talking sources because we can’t count all those phytonutrients right? There might be hundreds within them, but there are three there. And it’s like how many herbs and spices can you add? And we know that we’re doing a good job when each when our meal, our entire meal, including the beverage and everything, when we get over 20 different sources of phytonutrients. And it’s fun to play that and just see, oh, right now I get seven. Great. Get to ten, get to twelve and see how it goes, all while enjoying it, of course.
Maria Marlowe: [00:32:50] I love that game. That sounds so fun. And I think it raises a great point, which is that I do feel we are overall as a society quite disconnected from our food. Because for most of us, we’re not gardening. We’re definitely not foraging for food. We’re going to the grocery store. We’re buying it. We’re putting it together quickly. And something like spices, people may think, oh, they’re just kind of there to flavor the food, not realizing the tremendous potential that these spices have and the tremendous amount of antioxidants that they can provide and phytochemicals, phytonutrients.
Maria Marlowe: [00:33:28] So it’s a great reminder that even in their teeny tiny little amounts, they can make a huge impact. So I love that tip and I love that game that you play to make it a little bit more fun. So speaking of that, I know that you are a proponent of gardening and foraging, even. So, let’s start with gardening. I know you’re an avid gardener. If for someone who is new to gardening or maybe wants to start a garden, what are some of your favorite plants or tips to get started there?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:34:02] Oh, fun to talk about gardening. Right now, most of my life is consumed with gardening, this season. And the great thing about gardening herbs is that you can grow so many of them in pots. So if you don’t have access to a big plot of land or a big garden, you can easily grow lots of herbs in pots. And the other thing is that many herbs thrive on neglect, so they actually get stronger in their health benefits, the less you pamper them.
Maria Marlowe: [00:34:30] So that’s good. Did everyone hear that? I feel everyone talks about how they kill plants all the time because they forget about them. But it’s actually a good thing.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:34:41] Yeah, well, you can’t go too far.
Maria Marlowe: [00:34:42] To an extent.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:34:42] I was talking about rosemary growing in the Mediterranean and so many of my favorite herbs are from the Mediterranean like thyme and oregano and rosemary and lavender. And the soil there in the Mediterranean is just rocks. there’s not actually a lot of soil. So they’re just growing out of these limestone rocks. And it’s these harsh summers and, cool winters. But life is tough there. And because of that, that’s why these plants develop what we call secondary metabolites, which are often those phytonutrients that we then benefit from.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:35:20] So the more a plant struggles, often the more medicinal it can be. And then the more it’s pampered, it doesn’t need to produce that. So it’s kind of like us. If we are sedentary, then our muscles don’t grow but if we do lots of strength training, then we’re challenging our body and our muscles are growing. Kind of similar to that. So, yes, gardening. Well, you know, one of my favorite things to garden, which I’m just so in love with right now is chives. And chives are so beautiful. Right now mine are in full flower so they’re covered in these purple blossoms and the pollinators love them. And so that’s fun to watch.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:35:57] Chives are spicy, they’re pungent. They’re related to garlic and onions. But instead of eating the bulbs with the green leaves and those green leaves are actually higher in antioxidants than garlic and onions. Lots of benefits, there. They’re so easy to use. They’re kind of famous for the sour cream and potatoes. That’s where people most think of as chives. You can add chives to just about everything. And this time of year, we pretty much do. It’s kind of the final topping for almost everything we eat. And those purple flowers are beautiful. They can be eaten as well. I love infusing them into vinegar. Make your own salad dressing. It turns pink.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:36:37] But gardening chives is fun because again it grows in a container. It doesn’t take a lot of work. It’s a perennial. So it comes back year after year. And chives don’t really last a long time. So you don’t buy dried chives. It’s something you want fresh. And I’m increasingly seeing at farmer’s markets or in the fresh herbs section of the grocery store, they just really don’t last that long. So if they’ve been sitting around for a while, you’ll be able to tell. It gets limp and not very appetizing looking. So chives is a really fun one to grow and have fresh access to that. And then, of course, I love all of my oreganos and thymes. Also, perennials also can grow in pots. And those are ones that you don’t want to overwater. They like a lot of sun. But having those fresh is just a really wonderful culinary delight in the summertime, especially as the tomatoes come on, you get your fresh thyme and oregano. So those are lovely as well.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:37:37] And we didn’t talk about sage, but sage is another favorite of mine. Sage, I feel we often just think of it as the Thanksgiving herb. But sage has so many benefits. Wonderful for cognition. There’s an old saying that if sage grows in your garden, you will never die. Might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was so well revered in times past and should not be limited to November and we can have it all year round. One of its most famous uses is actually for hot flashes, mostly during menopause. But that’s a wonderful one to grow. And I was surprised when I first started growing sage, I’ve never really seen it through the seasons. So it has these beautiful purple flowers, these spikes of beautiful purple flowers. Mine are about to go into flower now. And so that’s really fun to have around as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:38:29] And how would you recommend adding more sage into your diet? A tea, or how do you cook with it? Because I feel we just have no idea. I feel fried sage leaves, sometimes those are topping on a soup or something like that. Or again, during Thanksgiving, they’re used in one or two dishes, but otherwise, I really don’t even know what I should be doing with it.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:38:52] Yeah, well you stole my first one, which was fried sage leaves are so yummy and they look fancy. You serve it with cheese and then it’s very fancy. I love sage on chicken and I’ll make a sage butter and then put that in between the skin of the chicken in the chicken and cook that up. You mentioned tea and tea is a wonderful way to enjoy sage. I like it with a little bit of lemon and just a touch of honey. We didn’t talk about rosemary tea, but that’s another one for teas. So those are some great ways. It goes great with lots of meat, lots of veggies, and then of course grains with the stuff in the traditional stuffing. But sage does go well with those as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:39:35] I just love herbs. I’m so excited when I go to the farmer’s market here and there are so many interesting herbs. I just picked up this week, I picked up some blue licorice, which I’ve been making into a tea and lemon balm. And what else? I did get fresh oregano. So surprisingly, I’ve never just eaten a leaf. I put it in my salad sometimes or sometimes I’ll make a tea with the oregano. But I haven’t actually tried eating the leaves, so I’m going to try that afterward.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:40:07] That’s a fun practice, too, because you’ll find that there are varying degrees of heat with oregano and the hotter they get, you’ll know that’s the more potent leaves that there are. So I’ve done that a lot. And when you get really pampered oregano it won’t be nearly as hot as if it’s kind of had to struggle a bit.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:26] Which brings up a question about hydroponics. A hydroponic, which is grown in a very regulated setting, I would imagine those are not going to be as nutritious as something that is farmed in the actual soil, getting the real sunlight and exposed to a variety of different conditions versus just everything that it needs.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:40:52] Yeah, I would jump on that train probably, too. I can say that I’ve had hydroponic herbs, but a great way to test things is what we call organoleptic, and that’s basically tasting. And so the more… If you taste something for the first time, you don’t have anything to compare it to. So it’s just taking in information like, oh, I’m tasting this leaf and this is how it tastes. But the more you taste, in the more different situations, you’re going to get a sense of all the variability out there. It’s kind of like wine, right? There’s the taste of san Elias with the wine and they can taste the Terah and know the different lands it was from or all these different tastes.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:41:33] The same thing is true for herbs, to taste them and get a sense of the variability in them. So that would be interesting to taste hydroponic herbs and compare them to other herbs and just see what the difference is. That would be the best way to know. Like, oh, and then you can even just say without judgment, oh, this tastes milder and like grass. Wheres, this tastes potent and fragrant. Just let that inform us.
Maria Marlowe: [00:41:57] I love that. I think using our senses to ascertain the quality of something, of course, makes a lot of sense. So I know you’re also a proponent of foraging food and in fact, you have a book, Wild Remedies How to Forage Human Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. So can you share a little bit about that? And for someone who has never done that, where do they begin?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:42:26] So for me, foraging, and sometimes it’s called wildcrafting, there’s medicine in that in so many different forms. There’s the medicine of the things that we collect and bring home and enjoy. There’s also the medicine in nature connection. And for me, foraging and wildcrafting isn’t about simply going out and identifying something and then taking it and putting it in my basket, and heading back home. It’s about getting to know the whole ecosystem, being aware of seasonal cycles, being aware of how those cycles change from year to year, being aware of the whole ecological connection. How do other insects and animals depend on this plant in the way that I depend on this plant? So that to me the greatest joy. And it’s this ever-unfolding mystery of getting a closer and closer connection.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:43:15] And like you said earlier when sometimes we can be removed from our foods or removed from our spices and other things that we buy when we forage our foods, we’re closing that gap and having that direct connection with the plants. And so when I reach for the things that I have either grown in my garden or foraged, I have that experience. And I can remember I remember harvesting this on that summer’s day and what a beautiful experience that was. And that’s the whole package of healing and medicine.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:43:49] It’s a very different experience than walking into Walgreens and pulling something off the shelf and paying seven forty-nine for it and going home. Obviously, sometimes we have to do that. I’m not necessarily bad mouthing that, but I’m just calling attention to that’s a different experience than going out in the sunshine, getting to know a plant, learning to know it more deeply over the years, harvesting it, knowing how best to work with it, with medicine, being able to interact with all of the other creatures that are outside as well. That’s a very different experience and one that I just find to be profoundly healing on so many levels.
Maria Marlowe: [00:44:23] Well, that’s just it. Simply being in nature is healing without even consuming anything. Just simply being there, being in the garden, your feet on the ground, smelling the scent of the trees and the flowers. Just that in and of itself is so beneficial for us.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:44:39] So, yeah. Really, number one. And I guess I didn’t really answer your question, Maria. You asked how to get started. But that would be a great way to get started, is to go outside and just get to know what’s out there. And I often recommend starting with one plant and starting with a weed. There are ways to regeneratively and sustainably harvest native plants. But there are lots more considerations there in terms of wanting to make sure that we bring benefit to those plant populations and not harm them. When we start with weeds, we have a little a lot more leeway. It’s not about bringing less respect to those plants, but knowing that you’re going to be hard-pressed to do damage to a dandelion population. It’s going to be a hard thing to do.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:45:25] And it’s also nice with the weeds because they grow everywhere. And so it’s not about necessarily going off to the wilderness in the hills and finding these rare plants. It’s about saying, oh, what grows around me? What can I have a connection with? What can I get to know? So in getting started, it’s often that’s where we begin is, start with one plant. Get to know that plant. Get to know that plant, on all sorts of different levels. What is this plant as food? What is it as medicine? How to learn to properly idea it? Learn where it might grow. You start to get a sense for things like, oh, I bet… You know, I see this area of the park over there and I see the habitat. So I know the plants that will grow there because I’m getting to be aware of that. Those are some good places to start.
Maria Marlowe: [00:46:11] And dandelions. So that is a notorious weed. Right? But it’s also a very beneficial herb. Right?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:46:21] If you twisted my arm and said you can only have access to one weed for the rest of your life, that would probably be the first one off my tongue. It is one of my most favorite plants. It’s just insane to me that it is considered negative ever and even more insane that homeowners literally spend billions, that’s with a B dollars trying to eradicate this plant by putting poisons into the ground to kill it. I mean, it’s just insane. And a lot of those poisons are known to cause cancer. Interestingly, dandelion is being studied in Canada fairly extensively for its use against cancer. So it’s just kind of one of those ironic things there.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:47:02] Dandelion is so incredibly nutritious and beneficial on so many levels. The leaves in the springtime are wonderfully bitter. As it progresses through the year, they can become disastrously bitter in a way that isn’t as much fun. But that tender spring growth is this wonderful bitter. That bitter flavor helps to stimulate our digestion and are beneficial in many different ways. In that regard, the leaves are a wonderful diuretic, which is just a nice cleansing function.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:47:37] In France, dandelion is called pissenlit, which sounds so pretty. It means pee in the bed. So it’s kind of like… The translation there is like oh okay. But it is a very strong diuretic but again, it can be a beneficial thing. I love to make pesto with the leaves. You know, it’s just this bitter pesto. You can mix it with other things to offset that bitter taste. But I like it just straight up with your other pesto ingredients, nuts, and parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon, etc. But that’s a lovely springtime treat.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:48:09] But every part of the dandelion has wonderful gifts. The flowers are really high in lutein. The whole plant is really high on inulin, which is a prebiotic. So it’s a wonderful starch that helps feed our healthy gut flora. So that’s a lovely benefit. The roots are super nutrient-dense and they can be stir-fried and eaten and meals, also wonderful medicine for the liver. We could spend another hour talking about dandelions. Wow, I didn’t realize I was opening up a can of worms.
Maria Marlowe: [00:48:45] This is great. I love learning all these things. And so my question is, again, there’s a disconnect. As a kid growing up, I remember seeing dandelions, the yellow flowers. Right? But now as an adult, I see dandelion leaves in the health food store. Is that the same exact plant? I don’t remember seeing the actual leaves, those big leaves that I see in the health food store. Is this the same or coming from the same place?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:49:11] A lot of times in the health food store, there’s a slightly different variety that’s being sold with a has like a red or garnet stem on it. But it’s a different variety of that same plant. They basically look the same. Wild dandelions will have a white stem and then the red garnet ones will have… Sometimes they’re called Italian dandelion is how they might be called, but they still have that nice bitter flavor. Those ones are easy to harvest from the grocery store and then make pesto out of them or add them to salads. Of course, that’s really yummy too.
Maria Marlowe: [00:49:43] And then there is this very popular or common Lebanese dish that uses the dandelion leaves but they boil and blanch them first, so it’s not as bitter. Of course, bitter flavors are so good for us. But, just curious. I mean, I guess there are still other benefits as well. But if we take out some of that bitter flavor, are we still getting the benefits?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:50:11] Well, sometimes if those dandelions are kind of progressed in the season, taking out a little bitterness might be a good thing, because if you take a bite of dandelion and you’re just making a funny face that is not what you’re going for.
Maria Marlowe: [00:50:28] You’re not going to eat it.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:50:28] Yeah. So that might be a good thing. But dandelion leaves are incredibly high in all sorts of nutrients, notably calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, so super nutrient-dense. So if you take away a little bit of the bitterness but you’re still getting all those nutrients, that’s a good thing.
Maria Marlowe: [00:50:46] Well, this is so fun. I can talk to you for hours. I could just sit with you and do an episode on every plant. Well, one last question that I’d like to ask before you go is if you can leave our listeners with just one piece of advice to live a happier and healthier life. What would that be?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:51:04] What jumped into my mind was choose joy. And I think things are turning around right now, but in the alternative health world in the past, I feel so much of what we were told was almost like punishment. In order to be healthy, you needed to punish yourself, eat rice cakes and exercise for four or five hours or just whatever. It was just these rules that were given. And now I really think choosing joy and whatever that means to us and following that inspiration. So if someone’s inspired after this talk to go explore herbs and spices more and add them to your meals, awesome. Do it with joy. Or to go spend time in nature. Wonderful. Go find the place where you’re safe and comfortable and revel in the sound of birds and sunshine or whatever that is for you. Do it with joy, embrace it, share it with a friend. Also very important. And yeah, I think that’s a good recipe for more health and well-being.
Maria Marlowe: [00:52:07] Well, thank you so much. I couldn’t agree more. If you do want to learn more about herbs, definitely check out Rosalee’s books, Alchemy of Herbs and Wild Remedies, which I will link both of those in the show notes. You can also find her on Instagram or her website and on Instagram it’s just rosaleedelaforet.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:52:26] Yes, the perfect places to find me. And I also want to mention that I have a podcast as well that I just launched.
Maria Marlowe: [00:52:34] Congrats.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:52:35] Thank you.
Maria Marlowe: [00:52:36] What’s it called?
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:52:37] It’s called Herbs With Rosalee, and it’s about looking at herbs as food, as medicine, and through nature connection.
Maria Marlowe: [00:52:45] Awesome! We’ll definitely have to check that out. Thank you again.
Rosalee de la Forêt: [00:52:49] It’s such a pleasure. Thanks for having me, Maria.