In my last post on sourdough starter, Old-Fashioned Sourdough: The Backbone of Our Kitchen, we talked about all of the benefits to beginning and caring for your own sourdough starter, which can be used over and over again to bake many different goods – from loaves of breads to sweet pastries.
In this post, you’ll learn how to begin your own sourdough starter, how to take care of it by feeding and discarding it, and how to put some of that discard to use in many different ways.
Remember, a sourdough starter is “an active colony of wild yeast and good bacteria cultivated by combining flour and water and allowing it to ferment.” Your environment is crucial to the success (and flavor) of your starter. Once you begin your starter, you’re basically taking part in an ongoing science experiment that will never end unless you choose to do so. Temperature and humidity are obviously different depending on where you’re located, and you’ll have to pay attention to these details.
Sourdough ferments most successfully in warmer conditions. The colder the environment, the slower your starter will grow. If you keep your home cooler than 68 degrees Fahrenheit, I suggest finding a smaller, warmer spot to keep your starter. Conditions can vary so widely that it can take up to three or four weeks for your starter to be ready for baking.
Another thing that you need to note is that the key to a successful starter is to watch for a consistently dramatic rise in volume – doubling between 1 and 4 hours after feeding. This could be just 7 days or less, depending on how often you feed it.
This may seem strange, but each time you feed your starter, you’ll be “discarding” up to half of it. Thankfully there are plenty of recipes out there to put that discard to good use, so if you invest in a few glass tupperware containers, you can easily store it in the fridge for future uses. Don’t forget to label each one with the date it was stored on, so you don’t lose track of how old it is. I’ve seen many starter recipes calling for half of the starter to be discarded each time but personally I’ve discarded a little less, like 2 cups per feeding, and have had the same success. You’ll just have to experiment to see what works best in your environment.
Why do we have to discard some of it every time? I know it seems wasteful, especially if you don’t feel like baking with the discard all of the time. The technique that’s worked consistently for me is to feed my starter twice a day, but I only discard some before the first feeding. I’ll let her double for about 4 to 6 hours, and then I’ll feed her again without discarding any.
That being said, if you don’t discard some of your starter at some point, you’ll eventually end up with a very large amount of it. Keeping the volume down offers the yeast more “food” to eat each time you feed it. You might consider gifting some of your discard to a friend as a beginner starter for them. By the end of this post, you’ll be able to explain to them how to care for and use it!
Since you’ll be feeding your starter a simple combination of flour and water, you’ll want to keep fresh spring water on hand and choose a higher quality flour than your average white all-purpose flour. My favorite flour brand is King Arthur and I keep their whole wheat,organic rye, and all-purpose bread flour in my pantry at all times.
There are many different sourdough starter kits on Amazon that make the process a little more convenient to follow and observe, but my favorite is the Sourdough Starter Jar Kit from Oscar’s Bakery. It’s got the most perfect wide mouth for easy access, comes with chalkboard labels and an attachable thermometer to keep track of the temperature. It also comes with an app to make the process even easier.
I began my sourdough starter with whole wheat flour in a large Anchor Hocking Batter Bowl before I had a fancy jar, so feel free to do the same. I used whole wheat because the wild yeast that offers sourdough starter its life is more likely to exist in the environment of whole-grain flour rather than in all-purpose flour.
I’ve broken this recipe down according to each day leading up to 14 days, which is generally how long it takes for the perfect fermentation in your starter.
Make sure your jar is clean and dry. In your jar, add 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons of flour and 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of spring water. Stir until a paste forms, then cover loosely with a lid or clean kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in your home. (Mine does just fine tucked away on the counter.) You’ve just begun your starter!
Day Two – Seven
Feed your starter once a day. Remove half of the starter from the jar and discard. Replace it with 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of flour and 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons of water. Stir well and store in a warm spot in your home.
By Day Seven, you should see some sign of activity in the form of bubbling, smelling fermented (slightly sweet, sour, or alcoholic), and even doubling in volume after feeding (generally within 4 to 6 hours).
If you notice any mold, strange coloring, or no activity at all by this point, do not continue feeding. Discard all of the starter, clean the jar well, and start over with Day One.
Day Eight – Fourteen
Feed your starter twice a day. In the morning and then in the evening, remover half of the starter and replace it with 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of flour and 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons of water. Stir well and store in a warm place. By Day Fourteen, your starter should be ready to bake with!
You can bake a variety of goods with the discard from your starter, as long as it doesn’t smell of alcohol. Pinterest is filled with amazing sourdough discard recipes – muffins, pretzels, crackers, loaf cakes, biscuits, pancakes, and much more.
Some starters are ready to bake with by Day Seven. For a powerful starter that’s ready for all baking projects, add an extra seven days of double feedings.
Don’t forget that sourdough is just as unique as we are and results may vary.
If you haven’t begun your own starter yet, I hope this post gives you the courage to try. Creating and nurturing your sourdough can bring so much magic into your kitchen, as well as many health and wellness benefits to you and your loved ones.
Find us on Instagram @FryedHouse and share your own sourdough journey with us! Thank you for reading.
Hello all! Our next post was supposed to be all about sourdough starter and how to begin your own, but we’ve been incredibly busy the last few weeks teaching cooking classes at our favorite local spice shop – The International Pantry. (Don’t fret, that post is still coming!)
If you’re a Norman or Oklahoma City native, you’ve probably heard of this amazing little shop that carries something special for every type of food lover out there – whether you’re just cooking at home for your family or are a seasoned chef or baker. Any tea lovers out there? They’ve got like three aisles filled with every tea you can imagine, and some that you’d never know you need.
The menu for last night’s class was delicious: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Garlic Herb-Crusted Pork Loin with a side of Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Hash, and fluffy Ricotta Jam Thumbprint cookies for dessert. (The cookies were originally supposed to be made with Mascarpone, but you learn to work with what you’ve got.)
The day before the class, I decided that we needed a bread to go with the soup and figured it’d be a good time to use my favorite bread recipe thus far: French and Italian-Style Continental Bread loaves. These loaves are similar to French baguettes except slightly thicker, with just as much crunchy crust on the outside. They take about five hours of prep time but are very minimal when it comes to “kneading”. Most of that time is spent on proofing and letting the loaves rise, which is a combined three to four hours minimum.
I had no idea the bread would be so popular during our class. Two of our guests literally argued over the last slice, and I thought, “That’s how you know it’s good.” When the class was over, I had a line of guests wanting the recipe for the bread. I was happy to share it with them, but the only copy that I have is on a yellowed page, secured in a rusted three-ring binder from 1955 bearing the title – The Illustrated Treasury of Cooking. We found this vintage gem of a cookbook in an antique shop in Sulphur Springs, Oklahoma during an overnight trip to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary.
How magical it is to bring this dormant recipe back to life and share it with our friends and community. Like many things that age well, this recipe is consistent and infallible, as long as you hold onto your patience. If you start trying to rush the process, your bread won’t turn out the way you want it. Make sure that you have all of the time you need before you begin and follow each step carefully. You will not be disappointed.
Continental Bread Recipe
(Preparation Time: 5 Hours – 2 Loaves) Ingredients: – 1 1/2 cups milk, scalded – 1 package dry active yeast (or 2 teaspoons) – 1/4 cup lukewarm water (no hotter than 100 degrees) – 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, margarine, or shortening (room temp) – 1 tablespoon sugar – 4 cups sifted white flour (or bread flour) – 2 teaspoons salt – 1/2 tablespoon sugar For egg wash: – 1 egg white – 1 tablespoon water
Instructions: 1. Using a small saucepan on the stove, bring the milk to a simmer then turn off heat and transfer milk to a glass bowl and allow it to cool to no more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (Any hotter than that could kill your yeast so give it the time it needs to cool and check its temperature before using.)
2. In a small bowl, soften yeast in the lukewarm water (Remember, no hotter than 100 degrees.) Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and mix thoroughly. Give the mixture a few minutes to become frothy, then add your butter or shortening and cooled milk and mix well.
3. Sift into a large mixing bowl the flour, salt, and sugar. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the yeast mixture and stir thoroughly.
(Side note: The recipe doesn’t specify whether to use an electric mixer or not, but I didn’t have any success using one and wouldn’t suggest it. I began mixing the dough with a wooden spoon until it was shaggy, then used my hands to gently knead the rest of the dry bits in. You don’t want to over knead it, so it takes less than five minutes to fully combine everything.)
4. Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and set it in a warm, not hot, place to rise for about 2 hours. Your dough should double in size.
5. Sprinkle your counter or bread board lightly with flour. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil or rub with shortening.
6. Punch down the dough. Turn it out onto the board and cut the dough into two equal parts. Form and roll each piece into a long loaf. Cut diagonal slits across the top of each loaf, about 1/2 to 1″ apart. Place the pan in a warm, not hot place and let the loaves rise to slightly more than double in bulk.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a shallow pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.
8. Bake the loaves 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking 30 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the oven 5 minutes before the bread is finished baking and brush the loaves with the egg wash (1 egg white and 1 tablespoon of water beaten together). Return the pan to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer.
9. Allow loaves to cool for 10 minutes or more before slicing. (Allow them to cool completely before wrapping or storing them.)
I hope you find success with this recipe and wish you all of the patience to follow through with it. The results are more than worth it, especially with a really good butter. If you’ve been a part of any of our past cooking classes, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We’ve truly enjoyed working with, and feeding, every one of you.
Follow us on Instagram @FryedHouse and tag us in your baking and cooking endeavors! We’d love to see what you’re creating.
The entire time I’ve been married to my husband, (who is a trained chef), and since we were dating, he’s told me that he hates baking and it’s “not his thing”. This has always been ironically funny to me, as he’s baked plenty of dishes and desserts that have plucked at the heart strings of my stomach many times.
When COVID hit and everyone was learning how to bake bread at home, I invested in a sewing machine and taught myself how to embroider and sew. It was such a wonderful challenge and once I’d learned everything I needed to, I thought, what’s next?
Cooking at home has been a vital skill, with and without the interference of illness, because I’m home almost all of the time with three children, and they eat a lot and quite often. Even though my husband is a chef, he works full-time to support us, and I actually do a majority of the cooking at home.
I’m completely fine with that though. I’ve come pretty far in the culinary world in the last eight years just from constantly searching for new recipes to feed our family. The only thing that I hadn’t really learned was basic bread. We buy at least two loaves of sandwich bread a week. When I stand in the bread aisle at the store, my stomach feels sick at the thought of all of the waste. Shelves of bread that will simply be thrown out because they weren’t purchased in time.
Why hadn’t I thought about baking my own? I’ve had a love affair with every freshly baked bread I’ve ever encountered, so why was I intimidated by the thought of baking my own? My husband and I share a love for sourdough, and I decided to start there.
I learned how to create my first sourdough starter on August 31st. Because it’s technically a living thing that eats flour and water, and because the book that I learned from referred to this starter as “the mother”, I named her Aughra after the magical crone character from The Dark Crystal. What can I say, we’re a family of nerds.
I’ve spent the last month learning how to care for and use this sourdough starter and it’s become more than just a hobby. I wish that I had taken on the challenge of baking bread a long time ago. It’s such an all-consuming, tedious process that feels like a direct connection to Earth herself.
I was overly confident when I first started and thought I could get around the 4-week mark that all of the books were saying was the point of actual sourdough “tanginess”. I was definitely wrong. Aughra finally reached her true form of sourdough just two days ago, exactly a month to the day.
Every time you feed your starter, you’re supposed to discard half of it before you feed it. If she’s healthy and well, she’ll double in size within four to six hours of each feeding, which results in quite a bit of excess dough that can be used for everything from crackers to biscuits and bread. This led to my discovery of a wide variety of goodies to bake.
In the last month, I’ve made a Glazed Sourdough Lemon Loaf Cake that was to die for. I’ve made golden brown Sourdough Brioche Rolls that were delicious as chicken salad sandwiches as well as basic ham and cheese. I’ve baked multiple Sourdough Discard Sandwich Loaves which were incredible toasted as grilled cheese with homemade tomato soup. One of my all-time favorites was the Sourdough Chocolate Cream Rolls, dark and milk chocolates spread and rolled into whole wheat dough and baked in a bath of heavy cream inside of a cast iron pan. They. Were. Incredible.
Each new baked good that I’ve taken on has brought me a different, joyful experience shared with all of the people in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the isolation of quarantine had become so normal that I hadn’t even known I was isolating myself long after was necessary. I still wonder how many of us became deeply introverted hermits during that time. I know my own kids are struggling with leaving that life behind.
Baking brought me back to the community, and in a sense, back to myself. Not only has it been a way for me to nourish my family, lower grocery costs, help where I can with commercial waste, and connect with the Earth again, but it’s offered me a bridge back to the person I was before global quarantine numbed me to society.
And, it turns out, there are some surprising health benefits that come with baking and eating your own sourdough bread. Here are just a few benefits:
Sourdough bread functions as a “prebiotic”, which means that the fiber in the bread helps feed the “good” bacteria in your intestines. These bacteria are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Sourdough is also lower in gluten than other forms of bread.
Sourdough is packed with nutrients, healthy carbs, protein, fiber and vitamins such as folate and iron. Not only can it improve digestion, but it can also lower chronic disease risk and promote healthy aging.
As you can see, there are an enormous number of benefits that come with caring for your own sourdough starter – emotionally, physically, and financially – and it’s surprisingly easy to start your own.
Our next post will cover everything you need to know to begin your own, so stay tuned!
(Please note: I am not a doctor or a physician. I cannot diagnose or treat any medical conditions or illnesses. I am an herbal alchemist and intuitive healer and the information that I provide you with is a blend of historical and modern sources, from folklore and personal experience. This post is purely meant to provide assistance in the form of herbal remedies and information. It is not intending to replace the professional advice and care of a qualified herbal or medical practitioner. Please do not attempt to self-diagnose or self-prescribe for serious long-term problems without first consulting a qualified professional. Heed the caution given, and if already taking prescribed medicines, seek professional advice before using herbal remedies. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you.)
It was because of my babies that I began my path to herbalism – looking for any way to cope, to heal. I had the hardest time with breastfeeding and happened to come across an article in 2017 about a fenugreek tea that helped new moms with their milk supply. That was my first experience with herbalism and I haven’t looked back since.
Since then, I have logged over 1,600 hours of herbal training and work, learning how to better my own life and that of my family through herbal remedies. I have learned how to naturally balance my hormones with herbal extracts, how to cure coughs, congestion, upset tummies, and emotional turmoil in myself and my babies, how to alleviate the terrible PMS I’ve experienced since having babies, how to boost our immune systems and improve digestion and remedy cuts and bruises. But I think the most important thing I’ve learned so far is how to listen to my body (and those of my children) and know what can help it, instead of reaching for a prescription or OTC pill.
There are two books that changed my life as an herbalist and I still use them as references to this day. Combining the information found in these two books completely shifted my life of herbalism, from cooking to finding remedies for my family to brewing my own teas for support that I needed as a mama. I try very hard not to have regrets, but I wish I’d known about some of these remedies much sooner.
The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride
The Woman’s Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell
Although my time as a “new mom” has passed, I am passionate and driven to learn about (and pass on) anything that may help a struggling mama, because I am still one as well. If you know anyone that could benefit from this information, please pass it along so that we can heal together.
30 Herbal Remedies
(Most of these herbs can be consumed as a tea or added to food and beverages. There are also tinctures (liquid form) and plant extracts that come in capsules and make it easier to take daily that can be found in most natural grocery stores and online. Please do your research and consult your physician before consuming.)
AlfalfaLeaf – If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you probably know how important it is to include plenty of vitamins and minerals in your diet, even after you’ve given birth. Alfalfa is great for mineral deficiencies and can easily be added to smoothies or cooked meals. It has an alkalizing effect on the body and combats the overly acidic nature of the digestive tract, which can relieve indigestion and heartburn. It can also relieve generalized fatigue, which we all know affects every mama even after delivery.
For wilted alfalfa greens, pick, wash, and chop two cups of the fresh plant and place in a frying pan. Pour two teaspoons of vegetable oil or bacon grease into the pan and add salt if desired. Heat and stir until the leaves have wilted, then eat immediately. Add the delicious and healthy sprouts to sandwiches, soups, toast, and salads.
Allspice – Building your immune system is vital during and after pregnancy. We forget how important the after pregnancy part of that is, when our immunities are even lower due to lack of sleep and hormonal imbalance. Adding allspice to your drinks and food helps combat cold and flu, enhances the delivery of nutrients throughout the body, and is a digestive aid.
Sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and allspice on your toast. Add a little to any flour mix for pancakes, muffins, cookies/biscuits, bread, or hot chocolate. Sprinkle in a foot bath for cold and achy feet.
Angelica – This herb is known as a superior women’s reproductive tonic, as it gently warms the pelvis, relieving pelvic congestion and providing circulation to the uterus. It also treats menstrual headaches and PMS digestive upset, which can worsen after childbirth, and balances the menstrual cycle.
The leaves of the angelica plant can be used to flavor fish, poultry, cooked fruits, soups, or stews, while its stems can be cut and prepared like asparagus, chopped and stewed with rhubarb and apples, minced in preserves and marmalade, or candied and cut up to serve as decorations on cakes.
Anise Seed – An herb of many uses, anise seed increases milk production in breastfeeding moms and soothes digestion and gas. Anise seed oil can be used to relieve menstrual cramping and/or tender breasts. A few teaspoon drops of anise seed tea can be given to babies that suffer from colic. It’s also known to dispel abdominal cramping, constipation, indigestion, and headaches, plus hinder the flu and keep your lungs clear of mucus.
Add to teas and soups. A single star can flavor a whole stew.
Ashwagandha – You will more than likely experience intense emotional highs and lows through pregnancy and for a while after birth. Herbs like ashwagandha that calm the central nervous system are incredibly useful during this time. This herb can also be used to treat both types of anemia, balance the natural sleep cycle, improve brain function, decrease overall fatigue, and can calm excitable states.
Simmer your choice of milk in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Whisk in cinnamon, turmeric, ashwagandha, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg. Season with pepper. Add a little coconut oil and reduce heat to low, continuing to cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Let it cool down, then drink.
Astragalus – Another immune booster, astragalus reduces stress, increases resilience and stamina, invigorates vital force, and restores energy levels. It finds imbalance in the body and corrects it, which is exceptionally helpful after delivery, and counteracts the ravages of stress on the body.
“Autumn is a good time to consume it as it builds the immune system before cold and flu season and strengthens the body’s resistance to sickness by inhibiting viral growth and increasing natural killer cells and the overall ability of the body to scavenge pathogenic bacteria”, according to Kami McBride, author of The Herbal Kitchen.
Bring about 1 quart of water to a boil in a medium-sized cooking pot. Add 3 to 5 tablespoons of dried astragalus root or 4 ounces of fresh astragalus root. Let boil for about 3 to 4 minutes, then pour through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and drink.
Basil – You might already enjoy this herb in pasta dishes and as pesto, but did you know that it calms the nervous system and clears the mind? It also helps to fight colds, flu, and allergies and a tea made of basil works on almost any digestive complaint, such as constipation, cramping, and gas.
Add a little honey to your basil tea. Dry some basil during the summer for winter sauces and dressings. Eating more basil in the late summer and early fall helps fend off sinus and bronchial congestionduring winter.
Black Cohosh – Hormonal imbalances during and after childbirth can wreak havoc on not only the lives of mamas, but also those who care about depend on those mamas. Black cohosh works to balance the hormones, reduce pain and discomfort such as cramping or ovarian pain. It also quiets the womb (unless it’s time for birth), reduces muscle tension caused by stress and anxiety, and relieves pelvic congestion.
Teas may not be as effective in treating menopausal symptoms but two capsules should provide the recommended daily dose.
To make a black cohosh drink, pour 20 grams of dried root in 34 ounces of water. Boil and then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until it is reduced by a third.
Blessed Thistle – Known as a “corrective” for reproductive systems, this herb regulates the menstrual cycle, increases breast milk supply, and helps those experiencing emotional fluctuations. Its ability to gently cleanse the blood also makes it helpful for troublesome skin conditions such as acne, which some moms suffer from due to hormones.
Generally prepared as a tea.
Blue Cohosh – Traditionally, blue cohosh is prepared with black cohosh and served as a tea in the final week of pregnancy as it prepares the uterus and body for labor. It can also provide relief when labor has persisted for too long by supporting an exhausted uterus in regular and strong contractions, which could help you avoid using Pitocin or another medical intervention.
Burdock Root – As I mentioned before, your immunities are likely to drop during and even after pregnancy, but this underrated super herb can be used throughout pregnancy to prevent illness and to stay vital and well. Saturated with minerals, burdock can be eaten or consumed as a tea and is high in calcium, phosphorous, iron, chromium, and magnesium. Burdock also has nutritive and demulcent properties that give it a restorative quality that nourishes the body and soothes the skin, which can prevent the acne that accompanies hormonal changes.
To cook with burdock root, wash the roots well to remove dirt and grit, then slice into one inch rounds. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them out onto a sheet pan, cut sides down. Roast for 15 minutes or until golden on one side, then flip.
Calendula – This glowing yellow flower has more benefits than I can list here. It’s known to be a gentle normalizer for the reproductive system, reduce menstrual cramping, reduce bleeding and pelvic congestion, and encourage healthy flow of the lymph. It can be consumed as a tea or used topically to heal cuts and wounds. If you suffer from inflammation or “tearing” during birth, make a poultice out of calendula petals and gently hold it to the affected area multiple times a day. You can also put the petals in a warm bath with Epsom salt and soak in that instead.
Add calendula petals to any tea. The blossoms can also be added to soups or cream cheese, sauces, tarts, preserves, pickles, fritters, and soft cheeses.
Celery Seed – * Should not be used during pregnancy * This is one of those “mom secrets” I wish I would’ve known earlier: the magic of celery seed. Scientists aren’t sure why, but it seems to soothe panic and stress in women and moms in particular, or those who are easily worried or triggered. You can make a tincture out of it to take daily or consume it as a tea. It’s also a decongestant, it activates digestion, alleviates fluid retention (or water weight), plus it alleviates a broad range of ailments including anxiety, arthritis, bronchitis, colds and flu, colic, coughs, gas, constipation, heartburn, indigestion, etc.
Use in dishes that benefit from its warm, bitter flavor, such as soup stocks, boiling liquid for shellfish, mayonnaise dressings, or meatloaf.
Chamomile – Great for mom and baby, you can never go wrong with chamomile. I’ve used it to treat anxiety in myself and my children. It makes a delicious iced tea with honey that helps ease children’s tummies and calms them down a little. It’s known as a digestive that relaxes the nervous system and eases insomnia, restlessness, and irritability, plus it balances hormones. Try some of these herbal chamomile combinations for yourself:
Chamomile-fennel tea settles an upset stomach caused by stress or anxiety.
Chamomile-cinnamon tea relaxes the uterus and alleviates painful menstrual cramps.
Chamomile-ginger tea reduces stress-induced inflammation that creates headaches, heartburn, gastritis, and stomach irritations.
Chickweed – After having my second child, I encountered mastitis for the first time. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, and back then I wish I’d known more about how to alleviate it instead of walking around crying with cabbage leaves stuffed in my bra. Not only does chickweed balance the hormones, but it cools the liver and relieves hot flashes, and it can be applied topically as a poultice for mastitis.
For buttered chickweed, wash chickweed thoroughly then place in boiling salted water. Cook for only two or three minutes, drain well and add butter to taste. Reserve the liquid to make a tea or use to make rice.
Cinnamon – I was floored when I learned how useful cinnamon actually is medicinally. I always assumed it simply added flavor to drinks and food and smelled good when it was burned, but it turns out that it actually benefits uterine fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), relieves cough and congestion, relieves painful menstrual cramping and headaches, and moves stagnated energy and blood from the reproductive system, which is known to cause discomfort, bloating, and irritability.
Add a cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon to tea and steep until it is strong, then drink to relieve PMS or menstrual symptoms.
Coriander/Cilantro – As an herbalist, my favorite herbs to highlight for moms are the ones that help with anxiety and digestion. Everything feels so out of whack from the time that you learn you’re pregnant to… well, my oldest is almost six and I still feel out of whack. It seemed like it took forever to get daily functions like my appetite and digestive system back to normal. Coriander seed and fresh Cilantro can actually help with that. As a digestive, it relieves intestinal cramps and spasms, it helps with anxiety and nervous tension, it has an anti-inflammatory effect, and it happens to be rich in potassium and other nutrients.
Add coriander seed or dried cilantro to tea or smoothies for benefitsor garnish food with fresh Cilantro leaves.
Corn Silk – My family loves corn on the cob. Sometimes it’s our one reason to get the grill going outside. But when I learned what the silky strands wrapped around the kernels could do, I really fell in love. Those annoying strands that you probably throw out to compost actually contain easily assimilated nutrients. It’s a tonic to the prostate and urinary tract that soothes and relaxes the lining of the urinary tract and bladder, relieving irritation and improving urine flow and elimination. It’s a great remedy for anyone experiencing incontinence or any type of urinary discomfort, which is common after childbirth.
Brew the silk as a tea or use as a topping on salads, minced into tiny pieces. Two cups of the tea a day for several weeks can help with cystitis, urethritis, and prostatitis. You can also dry and save it for later.
Dandelion Leaf/Root – Here’s a surprisingly nutritive tonic that enhances overall wellness, and it just might be in your backyard. Dandelion contains insulin, which nourishes the beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and enhances digestion. It also supports healthy liver and gallbladder function and stimulates the flow of bile, which breaks down cholesterol and fat.
The bitter flavor helps maintain healthy digestive function and premium nutrient absorption into the later years of life. Dandelion also nurtures the liver in its assimilation and storage of vitamins, minerals, and sugars and improves blood filtration to remove old cells and harmful bacteria while maintaining healthy hormone balance.
Combine in a tea fresh or dry with Burdock Root for a safe and gentle detox.You can also add the fresh Dandelion leaves to salads, sandwiches, and soups.
Fennel Seed – This herb will be useful beyond the “new mom” stage, and that goes for your baby too. Children usually enjoy the licorice-like flavor of fennel seed and it helps them with stomachaches, constipation, coughs, and excess mucus. It’s also a reliable antispasmodic and great for relieving abdominal cramping associated with poor digestion.
Surprisingly, fennel seed is also known to improve vision, enhance mental clarity, and has an overall restorative and calming effect. Its aromatic, carminative properties help with nausea, belching, and bloating caused by indigestion.
Steep fennel seeds, chamomile, and ginger in apple cider vinegar to make your own gripe water for digestive complaints.Fennel seed tea can also stop a chronic cough.
Fenugreek – My first introduction to fenugreek was in a tea meant to help establish my supply of breast milk once it came in, and I have to admit I was reluctant. I’d struggled through the trenches of breastfeeding twice before, only to make it about four miserable months before I gave up and accepted that the bottle was okay too.
I was completely wrong, however. Within about 48 hours, my dwindling milk supply was transformed into a constantly leaking boob fountain, and I was grateful. I can’t recommend fenugreek enough to new mamas. It’s a nourishing tonic made up of nutrients that revitalize and restore the body. It’s also known to help with inflammation in the sinus, mouth, throat, lungs, and colon, plus relieves sinusitis, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and hemorrhoids.
Powdered fenugreek can be added to baking flourfor pancakes and savory muffins or put in a tea for a sore throat gargle. The tea is also a good skin wash for topical inflammation including minor cuts, scrapes, and bug bites. Try taking fenugreek baths if you suffer from irritated and itchy skin.
GingerRoot – For my whole life, my mom has pushed ginger at me for everything from stomachaches to bloating an menstrual cramps, but I could never get passed the pungency of it. I’ve finally developed more of a palette as an adult but to this day, I use very little Ginger at a time, and usually in a hot tea with honey.
The benefits of Ginger Root are just as hard to ignore as the taste. It increases circulation, gets rid of mucus congestion, settles an upset stomach, dispels gas, relieves aches and pain, reduces inflammation and menstrual cramps, supports the pancreas, and stimulates digestion.
Another benefit of Ginger Root that many people don’t know about is that it works to lower blood levels of triglycerides that are common in diabetes. Including more Ginger in your diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Make a ginger-star anise honey and take it by the teaspoonful when you feel a cold coming on. The ginger will help you perspire and sweat out the illness.
Juniper Berry – Something that I didn’t expect after having babies was the physical healing that my entire body had to go through. Adding Juniper to your diet can alleviate and heal an array of ailments, from strained muscles and achy backs to arthritic pains and strengthening the connective tissue in arteries and veins.
USE SPARINGLY OR AVOID ALTOGETHER IF YOU HAVE KIDNEY DISEASE. Chew on a few berries for a sore throat or to enhance circulation and lymph drainage. Add to seasonings for fish, wild meats, and fermenting vegetables. Mix powdered Juniper Berry into pancake batter, warm breakfast grains, and cookie dough. Make an oil and use it to rub on sore muscles or spice up a marinade.
Lavender – It’s possible you’ve already been using Lavender Oil for aromatherapy, but have you tried cooking with it yet? I just discovered how useful and lovely it is with food, plus the anti-anxiety benefits carry over when it’s consumed.
Lavender has antibacterial properties that make it exceptionally useful to cook with during cold and flu season. Master of nerve tonics, lavender can help you respond to the stressors of life in a less stressful way as it’s a strengthening tonic to the nervous system, helps with irritability and restlessness, calms anger and agitation, and invokes an uplifted feeling of well-being.
It’s also an amazing topic skin healer and helpful in easing pestilent skin conditions such as rashes and eczema.
Use lavender in pestos, soups, stir-fries, sauces, and marinades. Let it permeate meats in the form of a vinegar added to drinks, dipping sauces, and salad dressings. Rub meats with lavender-rosemary salt and make lavender-lemonade in the summer. A lavender bath can relieve headaches, muscle strain, tension, and general aches and pains. Take a rosemary and lavender bath frequently if prone to headaches. Disinfect your home by boiling lavender in a large pot with the lid off. The aromatic oils fill the air, sanitizing and energetically cleansing the environment.
Lemon Balm – There are very few herbs that I can get my own children to interact with outside of smelling a flower, and lemon balm is one of them. I make it as a cold tea with honey for them and it works to keep away snotty noses, plus it can calm an upset child. This is “the herbal companion of choice in the face of anxiety and emotional unrest and intervenes when emotional states take over your life”, according to Kami McBride, author of The Herbal Kitchen.
Lemon Balm also has a palliative effect on excessive mental activity and it can moderate the intensity of mood swings and mild depression, while helping with sleep disorders.
Drink itas a tea, garnish lemonades with it, put fresh leaves in a hot bath before soaking, or chop the leaves and add them to cream dips and fruit salads.
Nutmeg – More than just a baking spice, nutmeg is a carminative and a super digestive aid. Traditionally, it’s been used to treat diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and digestive problems including gastroenteritis and malabsorption. It’s great for consuming as the weather gets colder as it promotes digestion and nutrient absorption.
Nutmeg can be used to relax the muscles and calm the nervous system when mixed with warm milk, and also mediates the effects of rich food, too many desserts, overeating, and late-night eating.
If you have trouble sleeping at night, stir 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg into very warm raw milk and let it sit for a few minutes. Drink 30 minutes before going to bed to relax muscles and tension. Nutmeg and cardamom added to warm almond milk can make a rejuvenating drink for depletion and exhaustion.
Oatstraw – Full of minerals and trace minerals, plus vitamins A and B, Oatstraw also makes a pleasant, mildly sweet tea that can help counteract the effects of a stressful lifestyle. It doesn’t necessarily take the place of sleep but it can help with irritability, anxiety, nervousness, and exhaustion associated with stress.
Oatstraw is gentle yet strong, and soothing yet protective. Does that sound like your average mama? Using it over time can help you feel calmer, more grounded and centered, and more capable of adjusting to your environment.
An herbal infusion can be made with Oatstraw and consumed daily to nourish and tonify your nervous system. It also helps build healthy teeth and bones due to its high content of calcium. Therefore, Oatstraw is not only one of the most calming herbs, but it’s also very nutritious.
To make an Oatstraw infusion, gather an ounce of the herb and put in a quart-sized jar with a lid. Fill the jar with boiling hot water and put the lid on. Let it steep for 4 to 6 hours to pull the minerals into the solution. Strain the herbs out and store in the refrigerator.
Parsley – Both types of parlsey (flat and curly leaf) are full of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and magnesium while also being rich in chlorophyll, magnesium, and flavonoids, making it an overall tonic for health and wellness.
In addition, Parsley is an effective remedy for PMS symptoms, allergies or a runny nose, and detoxifying waste from the body when consumed as a tea.
To brew Parsley tea, boil one cup of water in a saucepan. Rinse and chop ¼ cups of fresh Parsley (or two tablespoons of dried Parsley) and add it to the bottom of a mug. Pour hot water over it and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the leaves out and serve.
Rosemary – Rosemary is an evergreen shrub with a woodsy aroma and leaves like needles. Though it’s best known as a seasoning in the culinary world, Rosemary is one of the most popular aromatic and medicinal plants internationally. Rosemary’s essential oil, which contains the plant’s core compounds, is extracted and sold online and in local natural grocers such as Whole Foods.
Rosemary oil has been used for centuries in folk medicine, and with incredible results. In ancient Greece and Rome, Rosemary was thought to strengthen the memory. Studies have shown that it can also treat hair loss by applying diluted Rosemary oil to the scalp twice daily, which has proven to promote an increase in hair thickness.
In folk medicine, Rosemary is used as a mild pain reliever. In fact, research suggests that Rosemary oil may be slightly more effective for pain than acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter pain medication. This oil can also be used as an alternative to chemical products for an insect repellent to naturally kill certain insects in the garden, and has been shown to have the longest repellent effect on mosquitoes.
Rosemary oil can be inhaled or applied topically. Only use a few drops at a time, as the oil is very concentrate. The easiest way to inhale Rosemary oil is to simply open the bottle and breathe it in. You can also add a few drops to a cloth or tissue and hold it close enough to your face to inhale it. An aromatherapy diffuser can also be used to safely distribute the essential oil into the air.
Thyme – This is an herb you’re going to want to sneak into every smoothie due to its wide range of benefits. Thyme improves all problems associated with the lungs and throat, expedites the healing of chronic and acute bronchial infection, coughs, chest colds, sore throats, and sinus problems.
Thyme is also full of minerals and trace minerals including iron. Drinking thyme tea is beneficial during menstruation, menopausal changes, and childbirth. It’s also a very strong antibacterial and antioxidant that keeps pathogenic bacteria from growing in your food, helping to preserve meats and keep oils from going bad. Thyme also stimulates the movement of energy, blood, and oxygen to the digestive track.
Whip thyme and oregano into a room-temperature butter before putting it on Jerusalem artichokes or potatoes as it helps to digest the starch in root vegetables. Swish a thyme tea gargle for sore throats and gum inflammation. Take thyme honey to expel mucus. Cook with thyme oil to support respiratory health in general.
Obviously there are many more herbs out there that can assist with certain areas of healing within your physical and emotional body. Every mama and every baby is different and what works for me, may not work for you. The best part of the herbal journey is discovering what works. As I said before, please heed any caution given before using herbal remedies on yourself or anyone else.
If you’re interested in furthering your herbal journey, we offer multiple educational courses that focus on holistic healing and herbs as natural remedies, including medicinal cannabis. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns at FryedHouse@gmail.com
If you’re reading this, hello and welcome to Fryed House – a family-owned kitchen offering French country provisions and goods. We’re a husband-and-wife team based in Norman, Oklahoma where we’re raising our three children and trying to feed a community more than just food.
Not only do we offer incredible baked homemade goods, but we work with local farms and ranches to incorporate native, Oklahoman ingredients into every pastry and roll.
We also offer cooking classes at multiple locations including The International Pantry here in Norman! If social events aren’t your thing, we’d be happy to bring the class to your home for just you or a small group of people. Ask us about our virtual option for social distancing!
Check out our About Fryed House page for more information about our family and what we do!
If you’d like to book a personal cooking class or learn more about our services, please reach out to us at FryedHouse@gmail.com