Use Powdered Medicinal Herbs in the Kitchen

Learn how to select, grind, store, and portion your powdered herbs and explore recipes that incorporate these herbs into healthy dishes.

| July / August 2018

  • Keep an eye on your stored powdered herbs and use them in a timely manner, as they'll gradually lose their potency.
    Photo by Stocksy/Nadine Greeff
  • Blending powdered herbs into carriers, such as nut butters, helps disguise their flavors while still providing medicinal benefits.
    Photo by Stocksy/Cameron Whitman
  • Instead of a mortar and pestle, you can grind your herbs using a coffee grinder to make the process quicker and easier.
    Photo by Dreamstime/Anton Starikov

Herbal teas, supplements, and liquid extracts are all convenient, popular ways to get a daily dose of healthful herbs, but another wonderfully simple option is often overlooked: powders. Some powdered herbs, such as garlic, basil, rosemary, and thyme, are already well-known and beloved kitchen spices that are commonly purchased and used in powdered form. However, unusual medicinal herbs, including eleuthero, rhodiola, and schisandra, can be used in the same way.

Though many of these herbs have traditional uses outside of the kitchen, they contain valuable antioxidants, so a sprinkle of powdered herbs is a perfect way to enliven a dish with both health and flavor. Some medicinal herbs may not be palatable on their own but are desirable from a health perspective. If an herb has a bland or unappealing flavor, mix it into food to help disguise its taste.

Whether you highlight them in dishes or slip them in unnoticed, powdered herbs have the potential to be a simple yet effective way to enhance your meals.

Grinding Your Own Herbal Powders

Grinding herbal powders at home is a very simple process. While using a traditional mortar and pestle to make an herbal powder can be difficult and time-consuming, a spice mill or coffee grinder makes the task much easier. A coffee grinder with a removable cup makes cleanup less of a chore, but any quality grinder will do the job.

Grind only 1 tablespoon at a time of herbal roots, barks, leaves, berries, or flowers so the coffee grinder’s motor doesn’t overheat. After the herbs are evenly ground, they’ll be ready for use!

Storing Powdered Herbs

Like powdered spices, the key to keeping powdered herbs fresh is to store them in airtight containers in a cool place, away from direct light and humidity. Herbs are full of active principles, and these compounds quickly degrade and become inert when exposed to light, moisture, or a high-temperature environment

It’s easy to see when an herbal powder is past its prime, because the color and characteristic scent of the herb will fade over time. Thus, powdered herbs should be used within three months of when they’re ground for best results. However, outdated herbs can still be beneficial — if not for you, then for your garden. Just add them to your compost as you would fruit and vegetable scraps. 

Portioning Powdered Herbs

When herbs are used as spices or flavorings to garnish a recipe, they should not necessarily be added in the same quantity as in an herbal recipe designed to highlight the herb’s benefits. Although variables such as a person’s size and metabolism can come into play when deciding how much of a powdered herb to use, 1/4 to 1 teaspoon per serving is generally a safe range.

Starting with 1/4 teaspoon can be appropriate for smaller or more sensitive people, or for herbs that are specific or targeted in their actions. It’s also a good idea to use only 1/4 teaspoon the first time you introduce an herb to your diet to make sure it’s well-tolerated in your body.

On the other hand, 1 to 2 teaspoons works well for tonic or adaptogenic herbs, such as rhodiola and eleuthero. Nutritive, mild-tasting herbs, such as nettle leaf and burdock root, can even be used 2 or 3 teaspoons at a time.

Just remember, more is not necessarily better when it comes to using medicinal herbs. Research dose ranges and consult an experienced herbalist before increasing beyond these suggestions. Consult a health care practitioner before incorporating any new herbs into your diet, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ways to Use Powdered Herbs

For cooking, you can use powdered herbs in two ways: Slip the herbs into a recipe so their taste is diluted or disguised, or utilize the herbs’ flavors as part of the recipe. Nut butters, yogurt, and hummus are great carriers that can help disguise the taste of powdered herbs. Using powdered herbs in smoothies is another way to make sure the end result is palatable, and then you can customize your daily herbs without needing to worry about finding a new, compatible recipe each time.

However, there’s something to be said for using powdered herbs, especially adaptogens and nutritive herbs, in a wide range of recipes that bring out their flavors. The four recipes in this article showcase their respective herbs in a way that’s not overpowering, while also supporting health in myriad ways. From them, you’ll see how experimenting with powdered herbs not typically used as kitchen spices can add a whole new dimension to herbal cooking.

More on powdered medicinal herbs:

Kale Salad with Rhodiola and Turmeric Vinaigrette Recipe
Sweet Potato Patties with Burdock and Nettle Recipe
Eleuthero Spiced Carrots with Maple Syrup Recipe
Schisandra and Strawberry Salad Topping Recipe

7/20/2018 7:58:48 PM

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