Plants are an amazing source of vital nutrition. Look to herbs high in nutrients to supply important minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium as well as protein and many vitamins.
Often herbs frequently used in herbal medicine are more nutritious than many of the healthiest foods. It’s getting more and more difficult to get the proper amount of nutrients from our food. Healthy foods are being grown in depleted soils and are being bred for prolonged freshness and visual appeal rather than for nutritional value.
Plants growing in the wild still have full access to nature’s nutrition sources. Many of these plants are so common, you can find them growing in your yard, your neighborhood and worldwide. In fact, many of these plants were brought with people as they migrated around the world because of their medicinal and nutritional importance. Learn how to properly identify them in the wild or purchase them from your local food co-op or online.
Make tea from herbs high in nutrients frequently and find ways to get them into your diet. While each of the herbs below has multiple medicinal virtues, let’s look specifically at their nutritional worth.
Making a tea from herbs high in nutrients
For best results, drink two cups of nutrient-rich tea per day. To extract nutrients from plants, it’s important to either decoct them or infuse them for an extended time. To decoct, boil two heaping Tablespoons of herb per two cups of water for 40 minutes, then strain. You can make two days worth at a time and store the second day’s tea in the refrigerator.
To infuse for an extended time, place four heaping Tablespoons in a quart-sized jar and fill to the top with hot water. Cover the jar tightly and let infuse for at least 4 hours up to 8 hours (overnight). Strain, and store half in the refrigerator for the following day.
Nettles – Urtica dioica
Most people know nettles as the plant the causes irritation and sting upon touching. However this plant is a nutrition powerhourse! It is one of the top herbs high in nutrients.
Use nettles as a replacement for spinach in any recipe such as lasagna, spanakopita, pesto, soup, quiche or simply steamed topped with olive oil and lemon. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure to cook nettles before consuming.
- Minerals include iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, manganese, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus, silica, cobalt, chromium
- Vitamins include A, C, D, K
Dandelion Greens – Taraxacum officinale
Dandelion greens are another nutrient-dense plant. It’s truly amazing that dandelions are aggressively removed from many lawns. They offer great value in terms of both medicine and healthy nutrients.
Dandelion greens can be steamed as a side dish or used raw in salads. The best time to consume them is in the spring. They can be eaten later in the season but will be more bitter.
- Minerals include iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, Phosphorus, Copper
- Vitamins include A, B complex, C, E, K
Chickweed – Stellaria media
Chickweed is a delicate little plant that prefers to flourish in the cooler spring and autumn months. You can usually find it in open lawns under the cover of a tree.
The best way to eat chickweed is raw in salads, sandwiches or topping for soups. Because of its delicate nature, it cooks down too much and would require a large amount for a small serving. Eaten fresh it tastes like corn.
- Minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus
- Vitamins include A B complex, C
Raspberry – Rubus idaeus and related wild species
There are many different species of raspberry, any of which can be used for high nutrition. Both the leaves and the berries are important sources and minerals and vitamins.
The leaf is best as a tea. Raspberry fruits can be eaten as is or made into smoothies or frozen desserts. Try replacing blueberries with raspberries in this easy, delicious granita recipe.
- Minerals include calcium, iron, potassium
- Vitamins include A, C, E
- Minerals include iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper
- Vitamins include B complex, C, E, K
Oats and oatstraw – Avena sativa
Oats and oatstraw are more difficult to find growing in the wild. They are often found near old farm fields. You can easily purchase them at food co-ops and online.
These oats are not the same as the ones processed to make oatmeal. The unprocessed oats are the milky tops and stems of the plant. They make a highly nutritional tea.
- Minerals include calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, chromium, selenium, manganese, zinc
- Vitamins include A, B complex, C, E, K
Red clover – Trifolium pratense
While there are at least five edible clover species, red clove is the most common species for medicine and nutrition. Red clover is most often thought of as food for horses and livestock, however, it is just as valuable for us humans. The flowers taste good and make a pretty addition to salads.
Red clover is a phytoestrogen which means that it acts like an estrogen in the body. While many women are looking for more estrogen, red clover should not be consumed by those with excess estrogen and estrogen positive cancers. Also, since red clover can thin the blood slightly, it should not be taken in conjunction with pharmaceutical blood thinners.
- Minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, copper, chromium
- Vitamins including B complex, C
Alfalfa – Medicago sativa
Alfalfa is another one of those under-utilized plants thought to be only for animals. It has long tap roots that pick up minerals from deep in the soil making a valuable nutrient source. Alfalfa is best taken as a tea.
Alfalfa is closely related to red clover and also is a phytoestrogen. This means consumption should be avoided for those with excess estrogen and estrogen positive cancers.
- Minerals include calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, chromium, copper
- Vitamins include A, B complex, C, D, E, K
Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. If you would like to learn more about herbal medicine, check out the Home Herb School at www.homeherbschool.com