Chocolate 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic KitchenAs always, our focus is to learn more about bringing new, fun, and healthy foods into our home kitchens. Today we will take a closer look at a flavorful favorite, chocolate!

Chocolate 101

Though today most people associate chocolate with candy, desserts, and other sweet treats, this was not always the case. For most of its 4000-year history, chocolate was consumed as a beverage, though not sweetened as we think of it today, allowing its natural bitter taste to predominate. Evidence of ancient civilizations’ use of chocolate dates back to at least 1500BC.1 The Mayans made a concoction that was a combination of crushed cocoa beans, chili peppers, and water. The bitter, unsweetened brew was heated and poured multiple times until frothy. In fact, the word “chocolate” is most likely derived from the ancient Mayan phrase for bitter water, which was “xocolatl.” 2 Chocolate also had other uses in society. For both the Mayans and Aztecs, money really did grow on trees, as both civilizations used cocoa beans to barter as a form of currency.2 It is rumored  that the famous Aztec King, Montezuma II, drank as many as 50 cups of chocolate per day!

It wasn’t until the 1500s that chocolate made its way to Europe.3 The exact origins of chocolate in Europe are not clear, but it is generally agreed upon that it first appeared in Spain where it quickly became a favorite of the Spanish court. Soon, other European countries such as France and Italy were importing chocolate. The Europeans began combining chocolate with sugar, spices, and other flavorings, and soon trendy chocolate houses began popping up in major European cities as a place for the wealthy to indulge.

Today, chocolate is enjoyed by people of all socioeconomic levels, mostly as sweet confections rather than in liquid form. Although some famous chocolatiers maintain a commitment to ingredient purity, in most cases, modern chocolate is highly refined and mass produced. A staggering 90% of the world’s cocoa supply is grown on family farms that support themselves by growing and selling cocoa beans.4 The work is hard and they are often paid very little for their efforts. Some estimate that 40% of cocoa is slave grown.5 With demand for cocoa rising and prices of cocoa beans falling, the owners of cocoa farms struggle to meet the demands of production. Some have turned to low-wage and even slave labor, sometimes involving child slaves acquired through human trafficking, as a means of meeting demands and staying competitive. As such, the standards of fair-trade chocolate were developed.

Cocoa products that are “fair trade” bear a label marking them as such. This means that certain criteria such as non-use of GMO plants or harmful agrochemicals, submitting to and passing regular inspections, and guaranteed payment of a fair wage for their products have been met.6 Being paid a fair wage means that farmers can avoid cost cutting practices that undermine the quality of the product and negatively impact the lives of laborers as well as lead to destruction of the environment.

Where does chocolate come from? Where can I find it?

Chocolate is available everywhere, but it is important to seek out chocolate that is produced under fair trade standards. Fair trade cocoa is typically shade grown and organic. Fair trade cocoa products can often be found in traditional supermarkets but health food stores are also an excellent resource.

The contemporary version of chocolate begins with the fruit (beans) of the tree known as Theobroma cacao. Once harvested from their pods, the cocoa beans are fermented, dried, roasted and ground. During the refining process, varying amounts of cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, sugar, and other ingredients are combined to create different forms of chocolate. Chocolate can be purchased in a number of different forms from powder, to solids, to liquid. To be labeled chocolate, the FDA mandates that chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa solids. Lack of regulation surrounding sugar content can blur the lines between the different types. Commercially available chocolate varieties can include:

Baking Chocolate: Baking chocolate is also known as “bitter” or “unsweetened” chocolate. It looks and smells like chocolate but is extremely bitter without any sweeteners. It provides a rich chocolate flavor in baked goods where it’s bitterness can be countered with the addition of sugar.

Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate contains between 30-90% cocoa solids. It is a combination of sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and some type of an emulsifier such as lecithin. Semi-sweet and bittersweet also fall into this category.

Sweet Dark Chocolate: Sweet dark chocolate is technically classified as “dark chocolate” because it does not contain milk solids, but it does have a higher percentage of sugar and in some cases only 20-40% cocoa solids.

Semi-sweet Chocolate: Originally popularized in reference to branded semi-sweet chocolate chips, this form of chocolate is mainly used in America.

Bittersweet Chocolate: Bittersweet chocolate typically contains 50-80% chocolate liquor. It typically has a more intense bitter flavor and is less sweet than sweet dark or semi-sweet.

Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolate is distinguished from other types because it also contains some type of dairy milk in the form of condensed milk or dry milk solids. Milk chocolates are often much sweeter than dark chocolate, lighter in color and have a milder chocolate flavor.

White Chocolate: White chocolate contains only cocoa butter with no chocolate liquor or any other cocoa products. By law it must contain at least 20% cocoa butter as well as at least 14% milk solids, and no more than 55% sugar. It does not have any characteristic chocolate flavor. There are products available that use vegetable fat instead of cocoa butter. These products are technically not “white chocolate” at all and should be avoided.

How does chocolate help my health?

Although highly processed chocolate used in the average candy bar is not considered healthy, dark chocolate has been shown to be abundant in heart-healthy antioxidants.7 A number of experimental and clinical studies suggest that chocolate has protective properties against oxidative stress, inflammation, can support blood vessel health, and may prevent the development of plaque in the arteries.7 Chocolate intake is associated with improved cardiovascular health blood sugar control, and may reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Consuming chocolate in moderation (six servings or less per week) may help prevent these health conditions.8

What medical conditions/symptoms is chocolate good for?

When should chocolate be avoided?

Aside from an outright allergy to chocolate, chocolate can be enjoyed in moderation by everyone- except your dog. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine that is highly toxic to dogs because their physiologic mechanisms for breaking down theobromine are not as efficient as humans, resulting in a toxic accumulation of this compound in their systems. Theobromine toxicity can result in muscle tremors, seizures, irregular heart rate, internal bleeding and heart attacks. Among the initial symptoms is severe hyperactivity.

Let’s try out chocolate with these delicious and nutritious recipes!

Charred Cauliflower and Peppers with Picada Sauce

INGREDIENTS

1 head organic cauliflower, trimmed, halved, and cut into 1 1⁄2″ wedges
2 T plus 3/4 c olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 c olive oil, for frying
12 shishito or anaheim peppers
1⁄2 c whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 c plus 1 T roughly chopped parsley
1 T finely grated dark chocolate
2 t sherry

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oven broiler.
  2. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Brush both sides with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper; broil, flipping once, until charred and tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil and the garlic in a 12″ skillet over medium. Cook until garlic is golden, 4–6 minutes; transfer to a bowl and let cool.
  5. Wipe skillet clean and heat olive oil over medium-high; fry peppers until blistered and slightly crisp, 4–6 minutes.
  6. Transfer peppers to paper towels to drain; season with salt.
  7. Stir almonds, 1 cup parsley, the chocolate, sherry, salt, and pepper into reserved garlic oil; spread onto a serving platter. Top with cauliflower; garnish with fried peppers and remaining parsley.

A special thank you to Saveur.com for the amazing recipe!

Double Chocolate Avocado Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1 ripe organic avocado, pitted and peeled
1 large organic egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 c coconut sugar
1/4 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 c organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c fair trade cocoa powder
1/4 c fair trade mini chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine the avocado, egg, vanilla, and sugar. Blend until the avocado chunks are smooth.
  3. Stir in the salt, baking soda, flour, and cocoa.
  4. Add in the mini chocolate chips.
  5. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and drop rounded tablespoons of cookie dough onto the sheet. They won’t spread much so you don’t need much room in between.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan.

Thank you to IHeartVegetables for this wonderful recipe!

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Milk 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

You’re probably familiar with famous tagline, “Got Milk?” along with images of celebrities sporting milk mustaches and espousing the health benefits of cow’s milk. Today, however, milk alternatives are increasing in popularity as cow’s milk has been linked to negative health effects in portions of the population.1 Many people develop a deficiency of the enzyme lactase that is needed to digest sugars found in cow’s dairy. Without the ability to properly digest cow’s dairy, they experience uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea and persistent abdominal pain. The pasteurization process further destroys important digestive enzymes needed to properly digest milk. For these reasons, cow’s dairy is a prominent food sensitivity for many people, even if they do not experience a true allergenic response.

As a result, a considerable number of non-dairy milk alternatives have emerged on the market. Milk alternatives are made from a variety of plant sources such as nuts, seeds and grains and each variety has a unique nutritional profile, flavor, color, and texture as well as other properties such as its ability to combine with other liquids or be used in baking. People who wish to stop using dairy milk may substitute from a range of plant-based options as well as milk from other animals such as goats.

Milk
How is it Made?ProsCons
SoyProduced from soaking and grinding soybeans, boiling the mixture and filtering the remaining particlesBecoming widely available, thickest of the alternative milks, longer shelf-life than dairy milk, can be stored at room temperature for monthsOften contains gums, fillers, and added sugar. If not organic, it is likely a GMO and contains pesticides
AlmondProduced from blending almonds in water and passing through a filterGood alternative to dairy and soy milks, lower calorie (unless sweetened), high in vitamin EOften contains gums, fillers, and added sugars. Typically contains the non-active form of vitamin D (D2). Made from skinless almonds with most fiber and antioxidants removed
CowMilked and bottled directly from cowsMost versatile, can be processed into many different types of dairy products that have a long track record of use. Highest in natural micronutrient and good quality fats (when grass-fed)High incidence of allergy or lactose intolerance. May contain added hormones and other xenobiotics that the cow ingested
GoatMilked and bottled directly from goatsEasier to digest and less allergenic than cow dairy. Nutrients and minerals are more bioavailable than cow dairyHas a strong flavor and smell that may be unpleasant to some
CashewRaw cashews are soaked in water, blended, and filteredGood flavor and often thicker than other alternative milks. Contains significant amounts of tryptophan which may increase serotonin.Often contains gums, fillers, and often added sugars. Typically contains the non-active form of vitamin D (D2). Has a higher rate of intolerance or allergy than other alternative milks
CoconutGrated pulp is soaked in hot water, squeezed, and filteredHigh in healthy fats and medium chain triglycerides. Higher in vitamins and minerals than other alternative milks. Improves digestion and aids in constipationOften contains gums, fillers, and often added sugars. Typically contains the non-active form of vitamin D (D2). Canned varieties may contain BPA (an industrial chemical used to make plastic)
RiceBlend cooked rice with water and strainLess allergenic than cow dairy, easy and inexpensive to make at home, low in fat and cholesterol free, good source of B vitamins, manganese, and seleniumHigher in sugar and carbohydrates than other milk alternatives, may contain high levels of arsenic, may contain additives like gums, thickeners, as well as added sugar
HempHemp seeds are blended with water, salt, and sweetener then strainedIs a complete protein and contains healthy fats including omega 3. It is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin D, and B vitamins among others. Will not cause the “high” associated with marijuana (THC)Does not mix well and can separate in drinks like coffee; can be challenging to find
OatOats are soaked, drained, blended with water and salt, then strainedCreamy flavor, rich consistency, blends well with other beverages (i.e. coffee), Good source of iron, heart-healthy, lowers cholesterolCommercial varieties may be full of additives, preservatives, and sugar. Often cross-contaminated with gluten via processing facilities. Not as nutrient-dense as other milk alternatives

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Black Cherry 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome to The Naturopathic Kitchen where each week we discuss the health impact of everyday foods. Whether you’re new to cooking and healthy living, or have been experimenting with natural foods for years, we’re sure you’ll find something new that you can incorporate into your lifestyle. This week is all about black cherry.

Black Cherry 101

Black cherries are among the sweeter varieties of cherries. Despite the name, they can range in color from black to a deep red. While much research has addressed tart cherries, black cherries are very closely related and carry many of the same benefits. All cherries have high levels of anthocyanins, which are a class of molecules that have powerful antioxidant activity. The black cherry tree is also one of the most sought-after woods in carpentry. With a reddish color that darkens over time, this aromatic wood is commonly used in cabinetry, flooring, and furniture.

Where do black cherries come from? Where can I find them?

Black cherry trees can be found growing in the wild throughout eastern North America. The cherries and the bark from the tree were commonly used by Native Americans to treat common colds, coughs, headaches, and bronchitis. In fact, cherry extract is still used in cough syrup formulas. Cherries are freshly available in the summer months as they are harvested from May through August. They can be found refrigerated or in the regular produce sections. Frozen cherries are a smoothie-ready, cost-effective alternative to consuming them fresh. Juice is another way they can be enjoyed year-round.

How do black cherries help my health?

Black and sweet cherry varieties have higher anthocyanin content while their tart counterparts contain higher levels of phenols. Both classes of compounds are powerful antioxidants, so the benefits are similar. Studies have shown that the vitamin C in cherries works synergistically with anthocyanins producing improved free radical scavenging activity. Because of this, black cherries may be beneficial for many inflammatory chronic diseases such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.1 Black cherries also contain tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin and studies have shown that a small glass of cherry juice before bed can improve sleep quality.2

What medical conditions/symptoms are black cherries good for?

Can black cherry be used as an essential oil?

While there is technically not an essential oil for black cherries, it is possible to get black cherry extract from either the fruit or the bark. The bark is more common and is typically used for cough and respiratory conditions. While drinking cherry juice has a similar effect, the research is limited on whether cherry works for more serious respiratory conditions other than cough.

When should black cherries be avoided?

Black cherries are generally regarded as safe but should be avoided in cases such as an allergy to cherries. Large amounts of cherry bark extract can be dangerous and even fatal. The black cherry fruit can also be slightly sedating if overindulged!

Let’s try out cherries with delicious and nutritious recipes!

Dark Cherry Superfood Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

1 c organic cherries
2 ripe frozen bananas
1 c organic greens of your choice
1/2 t turmeric powder
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t freshly grated ginger
1 T pre-soaked chia seeds
1 c coconut water
 

INSTRUCTIONS

Blend & Enjoy!

Thank you to Raw Edibles for this recipe!

Black Cherry and Cinnamon Sorbet

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs organic, ripe cherries, rinsed and pitted
1 c honey
3/4 c water
1/2 cinnamon stick
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

Chop one cup of cherries and place in a small pan with the cinnamon stick and about 1/4 c honey. Heat for about two minutes, or until the honey is dissolved and the cherries begin to cook slightly, creating a syrup. Take them off the heat and set aside to cool. Blend the rest of the cherries in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Place the blended cherries, the water and the rest of the honey in a saucepan and, stirring often, let the mixture come to the boil. Add the cinnamon stick and allow the mixture to boil for two minutes. Take off the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and let cool, stir through the stewed cherries, then chill mixture completely in refrigerator. If you have an ice cream maker, you can place the cherry mixture into the ice cream maker until done. Without an ice cream maker, simply place the mixture into a container with a lid in the freezer.

Thank you to Food52 for this recipe!

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Lavender 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Lavender 101 - The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome to The Naturopathic Kitchen where we explore food as medicine. You can be empowered to take control of your health when armed with knowledge of what is healthy. It may be intimidating to try new things especially when you don’t know what it is good for or how to prepare/cook it. Let’s learn together! Today, our focus is on the beautiful herb lavender.

Lavender 101

Many of us know lavender from its use in cleaning products and air fresheners. But, did you know the scent of lavender essential oil comes packed with health benefits? Lavender oil comes from the purple flowering plant Lavandula angustifolia which is native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean and has been used for over 2,500 years! Today it is grown all over the world.

Where does lavender come from? Where can I find it?

Lavender has a long therapeutic history dating back to ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia. Its historical uses ranged from adding flowers to bathwater to help wash the skin, to sprinkling flowers throughout castle floors to help as a natural disinfectant and deodorant. Lavender actually gets its name from the Latin word lavare which means “to wash.”

Though not as readily available as other edible herbs, lavender is easily found growing in plant nurseries or even the garden section of your local home improvement store. It can also be found in health food stores sold as culinary lavender buds.

How does lavender help my health?

Lavender’s best action is its calming effect which, amazingly, is best appreciated by smelling it! There is lots of research backing up the anxiety-reducing effects of lavender which are thought to be serotonergic in nature rather than GABA-ergic (which is how most calming agents work).1 This discovery may explain why some research points to it being supportive in depression as well.2 Other traditional uses of lavender are as an antibacterial, antifungal, smooth muscle relaxant, and it has been shown to be effective for burns and insect bites though the evidence for these traditional uses are not as strong.3

What medical conditions/symptoms are lavender good for?

Sleep and fatigue during pregnancy and postpartum
• Symptoms of menopause
Burns, bug bites, and other swelling injuries
• Certain cancer cell lines
Fatigue in hemodialysis patients
Arthritis
• Anxiety and depression

Can lavender be used as an essential oil?

Many of the studies on lavender use its essential oil due to increased potency. Lavender has many great uses when mixed with a carrier oil such as olive oil for uses in burns, bites and arthritis. Since many of lavender’s positive effects come from smelling it, some great uses of the oil include putting a few drops on the corners of pillows to help with sleep or putting it into a diffuser for the same effect. However, since ingesting pure lavender oil is toxic, care must be taken when using lavender essential oil and it should be used under the guidance of a naturopathic physician. Click here to find an ND near you in the US and Canada.

When should lavender be avoided?

Lavender skin care products and supplements should be avoided by children, especially young boys. Lavender oil may lead to hormone imbalance and abnormal breast growth in pre-pubescent males.4 Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should also avoid lavender, as there is insufficient research demonstrating safety. Additionally it is recommended to discontinue lavender two weeks prior to surgery as its relaxing effects may be enhanced by anesthesia and surgically related medications, resulting in central nervous system suppression.4

Let’s try it out with a delicious and nutritious recipe!

lavender lemonade with honey

Lavender Lemonade with Honey

INGREDIENTS

1 c raw, local honey
5 c purified water
1 T dried, organic culinary lavender (or 1/4 c fresh lavender blossoms, crushed)
1 c fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Ice cubes
2-3 sprigs lavender (for garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS

Bring 2 1/2 cups purified water to boil in a medium pan. Remove from heat and add honey, stir to dissolve. Add the lavender to the honey water, cover, and let steep at least 20 minutes or up to several hours, to taste. You can put the lavender into a tea infuser or reusable tea bag for easier clean up. Strain mixture and compost/discard lavender. Pour infusion into a glass pitcher. Add lemon juice and approximately another 2 1/2 cups of cold water, to taste. Stir well. Refrigerate until ready to use, or pour into tall glasses half-filled with ice, then garnish with lavender sprigs.

NOTE: Do not use lavender essential oil in this recipe. Essential oil must be used with care as toxicity is very possible. Always use essential oils under the care of a licensed doctor.

Special thank you to Small Footprint Family for this great recipe.

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Oats 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to your weekly dose of healthy kitchen tips! Each week we explore a new herb and its health benefits. Today we’ll discuss one of the most common grains that you’ll be sure to come across in almost any kitchen—oats. Let’s get started!

Oats 101

Sometimes referred to as Avena (from the Latin name, Avena Sativa), oats are one of the most popular breakfast foods. Walk into almost any breakfast restaurant and you’ll likely see some variation of oatmeal on the menu. To be clear though, the kind of oats that you eat are important, as the glycemic index (how quickly a food gets converted to glucose by your body) can vary depending on how much they are processed and how they are prepared. In general, steel-cut oats have the lowest impact on blood sugar while instant or quick oats have the highest. Also, since grains are less nutrient-dense than other whole vegetables, it’s best to eat them in moderation.

Medicinally, the health benefits can vary depending on the part of the oat plant in use.

Oatmeal (made from the hulled kernel) is the breakfast food we’ve discussed so far. Oatmeal can also be used in an herbal bath for eczema or hives.

Oatstraw refers to the entire plant (both the tops and the stems). It also can be used as a food and may provide calming effects to the nervous system, with uses in both stress and insomnia.

Milky oats or milky green oats refer to the oat tops, and are picked fresh at the height of the season.

Where do oats come from? Where can I find them?

Despite their popularity today, oats were actually one of the last of the major grains to be domesticated—roughly 3000 years ago in Europe. This is likely due to the fact that they have a higher amount of natural fats and fat dissolving enzymes that make them go rancid quickly. It is these fats that give oats some of their health boosting effects.

Walk down the cereal aisle of any grocery store and you’ll likely find a container of oatmeal. When shopping for oats, choose steel-cut or rolled oats instead of the instant variety. A frequent question that comes up is whether oats are gluten-free. Oats themselves are completely gluten-free, however the machines that process oats are often used for processing wheat as well. Unless the container specifically says “gluten free” the oats may contain trace amounts of wheat.

How do oats help my health?

Oats are an excellent source of fiber. Because of this, they can help keep you regular while adding protection for the colon.1 They’ve also been shown to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and even regulate the immune system. 2,3,4

What medical conditions/symptoms are oats good for?

Let’s try it out with two delicious and nutritious recipes!

 

 

Overnight Oats

INGREDIENTS

½ c oats
1 t cinnamon
1 T honey
1 T almond butter
1 c almond milk
Fruit of your choice (berries and bananas are great additions)

PREPARATION

Combine oats, cinnamon, honey, almond butter and almond milk in a bowl and stir. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Add fresh fruit as desired.

Banana Oat Energy Bites

INGREDIENTS

2 ripe bananas
2 c rolled oats
¼ c almond butter
¼ c honey
2 T cocoa
½ t cinnamon

PREPARATION

Mash bananas in a large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients. Roll mixture into one-inch balls and place on a tray. Keep refrigerated.

Thank you to TipHero for the recipe!

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Chamomile 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic KitchenYour kitchen is a mainstay in supporting a healthy lifestyle. This week, we will highlight the popular herb, chamomile. Among the best-known herbs, chamomile is good for more than just a cup of tea. Together, we will learn where it comes from, how it benefits our body and share a couple of great chamomile recipes for you to try!

Chamomile 101

Herbs have played an integral role in human health for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence of the use of medicinal plants dates back approximately 77,000 years.1 Chamomile is one herb that is fairly familiar to most people for its use as a sedative tea. However it’s interesting to note the history of chamomile goes much deeper than a simple cup of tea.

The term chamomile is derived from the Greek term, “Chamomaela,” meaning “ground apple.”2 Early scientific texts reference the similarity of the smell of a chamomile flower to an apple blossom, and this is thought to be the source of the name.

The earliest uses of chamomile date back to ancient times. References to chamomile are found in medicinal writings of the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Romans. It was used as a fever remedy during the times of the Egyptian pharaohs.2 The crushed  flowers were also rubbed on the skin as a cosmetic. The Egyptians used the essential oil of chamomile as a main ingredient in the embalming oil used in the mummification of deceased royalty and pharaohs.2 The ancient Greeks used chamomile medicinally as well. The writings of Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Galen contain detailed descriptions of the chamomile plant.3 The Romans used chamomile to flavor drinks and in incense, as well as a medicinal herb.

Moving forward to medieval times, chamomile petals often lined the ground at gatherings. The crushing effect created by people walking over them created a pleasant aroma. Chamomile was also used to flavor beer before hops were put to that use. Contemporary use includes Eastern European countries like Romania, where school children are asked to collect the herb and bring it to school.4

Where does chamomile come from?

Though their appearance is very similar, what is generally called chamomile today is actually two separate plants. One variety is Roman or English chamomile, botanically known as Chamaemelum nobile that is native to Western Europe and North Africa. It is considered “true chamomile.” The second variety, commonly known as German Chamomile, is Matricaria recutita which is native to Europe and Asia. This variety is considered “false chamomile.” Both have been widely cultivated in modern times are often used interchangeably.

Chamomile is an old-world plant that is not native to North America. It made its way here with the colonists and eventually became part of the natural landscape. It can now often be found in yards, fields and gardens across the US. Chamomile can easily be grown at home or wildcrafted from outdoor spaces. Chamomile tea is widely available in nearly all supermarkets and dried whole herbs can be purchased from any number of purveyors of whole herbs.

How does chamomile help my health?

Chamomile is generally known for its sedative properties.5 Chamomile tea is often given to children to help calm them for sleep at night. In addition to its use as a sedative, both the Roman and German forms of the herb have been used medicinally as antispasmodics, anti-inflammatories, as well as for anti-microbial properties.2 Chamomile has uses both internally and externally.6 Externally it has been used to treat skin and mucous membrane inflammation, as well as bacterial skin diseases, including those of the oral cavity and gums.6 Both forms are also used in beauty products because they naturally soften and lighten skin and hair as well as treat acne and other skin problems.7

What medical conditions/symptoms is chamomile used for?

When should chamomile be avoided?

Although chamomile has a long history of safe use and is listed on the Food and Drug Administration’s GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list, allergic reactions are rare but possible. Individuals who have a sensitivity to asters, chrysanthemums, ragweed, and other members of the Asteraceae family may cross-react to chamomile as well.

Let’s try out chamomile with these delicious and nutritious recipes!

 

Strawberry Chamomile Chia Pudding

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c boiling water
4 chamomile tea bags
1 c strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1/2 T ginger, grated
2 T maple syrup
7 T chia seeds
1 c unsweetened cashew milk
1/4 c strawberries, fresh, stemmed, sliced
1/4 c raw pistachios, roughly chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine the boiling water and tea bags and let steep 15 minutes.
  2. Squeeze water out of the tea bags, then discard them. Let tea cool completely.
  3. Combine the chamomile tea concentrate with the strawberries, ginger and maple syrup in a blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, combine the strawberry mixture with the cashew milk and chia seeds.
  5. Stir vigorously until seeds are well combined.
  6. Let sit at room temperature 10 minutes.
  7. Stir vigorously again. Cover and chill in fridge overnight (8 to 12 hours. See Notes.)
  8. When ready to serve, remove from fridge and give one final vigorous stir.
  9. Place pudding in bowls and top with fresh strawberries and roughly chopped pistachios.

Thank you to Mid-Life Croissant for this great recipe!

Raw Chamomile Ginger Lemon Energy Bars

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c cashews
1/2 c walnuts
1 1/4 c dates or dried apricots
2 T whole flax seed
1 T dried chamomile
1 T freshly grated ginger
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 t vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place nuts, dried fruit, and flax seeds into a food processor and blend until chopped up and combined.
  2. Add in rest of ingredients until thoroughly fused.
  3. Form into whatever shapes you prefer.
  4. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Thank you to One Green Planet for this tasty recipe!

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