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Herbs for the Stock Pot

Around the world, the stock pot has been a place to transform bones and vegetable scraps into easy to digest, mineral rich broths, and to incorporate the healing power of herbs into food. While we often separate food and medicine in our culture, they have historically gone together – food being one of the best vehicles for delivering medicine. Adding nourishing herbs to your stock pot can be one of the best ways to cook medicinally. Below are two excellent herbs to start incorporating into your stocks, soups, stews and whatever else suits your fancy!
GOJI BERRY – Lycium spp
Goji berries have attracted quite a bit of attention in the past ten years as a super health food. You can find goji berries and goji berry juice at many health food stores. While I am not a huge proponent of the consumer culture that has developed in goji’s name, I will say that it is a plant worth all the hype! Goji berries are a nutritive, blood-building tonic full of flavonoids and anti-oxidants. They help to balance and lower blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Goji strengthens the liver and helps to protect it from damage caused by harmful chemicals, environmental toxins and metabolic stress. Because of their beneficial effects on the liver and blood, they are excellent for supporting vision and weaknesses of the eyes. Goji berries are excellent in soups and stews, but they are also lovely in a variety of other dishes and their sweetness lends itself well to deserts.
ASTRAGALUS ROOT – Astragalus membranaceus
Astragalus is a Chinese herb that helps to build deep immunity, improve cardiac blood flow and strengthen the body’s protective energy field. By strengthening the immune system and improving immune system function, astragalus helps to prevent and reduce the severity of sicknesses including colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and mono. If you buy astragalus root at a local herb store or apothecary it will most likely look like little tongue depressors (find the in the picture above). These are called astragalus slices and are the best to use for strengthening the immune system. Astragalus slices can be added to soups, stews or other food with a lot of broth or liquid (like oatmeal or rice). You can also make astragalus root tea by gently simmering the roots in water for 20 minutes or more. Astragalus is very mild tasting and you won’t notice it’s gentle flavor in dishes you cook it with. It remains woody, even after cooking so it is best to remove it before serving or eat around it in your bowl (like a bay leaf!).
While astragalus is great for helping to build immunity during healthy times, it should not be used when someone has an acute infectious illness.

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