Tag Archives: herbs and spices

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I started making my own vanilla extract a few years ago, and I am hooked. I even did a taste comparison between my vanilla and a store bought one. As you can probably guess, mine won. My recipe is a tiny bit more complex than some, but it is worth the extra effort. If you start your vanilla in the next month or two, you can give it as gifts during the holiday season.


Homemade Vanilla Extract

2-4 vanilla beans

3 ounces of vodka

1 ounce of bourbon or dark rum

1 Tablespoon glycerin

Cut vanilla beans into about ½ inch pieces. Combine all ingredients in a jar. Let sit in a dark place for 2-4 weeks. Strain and enjoy in your favorite recipes.

I get my vanilla beans from Frontier, which is a cooperative distributor of bulk herbs, spices, and more. I spent the last few days visiting their operations in Iowa and was very impressed by their emphasis on quality and their dedication to improving the lives of the farmers who supply their products.

For instance, vanilla is one of their biggest sellers, especially their Bourbon vanilla beans grown in Madagascar. In general, Frontier makes efforts to ensure fair treatment of farmers and workers, sustainable production, and adherence to food quality and safety standards. Additionally, they really care about the communities where their farmers live. Whenever they visit, they take soccer balls for the local children’s groups. This is hugely popular, but even more important they help provide schools, meals for school children, and more. In a recent initiative, they dug wells in 38 villages in Madagascar that supply their vanilla beans. This provided clean drinking water to over 25,000 people.

Additionally, the farmers use this clean water to wash the vanilla beans. This helps ensure that the vanilla beans and other spices are safe for us to consume. On top of this, Frontier has multiple layers of quality control at their facility to guarantee that all herbs and spices are correctly identified, have the best flavor or medicinal constituent profile, are free of contaminates, and safe for our consumption.

It feels good to support businesses like Frontier who care so much about the herbs that I get and the people who grow them. So enjoy some delicious vanilla and some of the good that is done in the world by companies that care.

Spice Things Up: Warming Spices for Digestion

Now that we are getting some true fall weather, it is a good time of year to enjoy some of my favorite warming spices. I love hot beverages spiced with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger just to name a few. I usually choose a tea that has some of these spices, but for special occasions it is fun to make a mulled cider or wine for your guests.

For instance, here is a delicious mulled cider recipe.

2 quarts unfiltered apple juice (or 1 quart of apple juice and 1 bottle of red wine)

4 cinnamon sticks

1 orange, zested and juiced

8 whole cloves

15 whole allspice berries

½ teaspoon nutmeg, grated

7 cardamom pods

½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns (optional)

1 inch slice of ginger root (optional)

¼ cup honey (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients including the orange zest and juice, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10-20 minutes. Strain and pour into mugs garnished with a cinnamon stick or strip of orange peel and serve.



The spices used in these seasonal beverages tend to be called warming spices because they stimulate blood flow and help us feel cozy on cool fall days. They also increase blood flow to the digestive tract, helping it to work more efficiently. All of the spices in my mulled cider recipe are also medicinal herbs known as carminatives. These are herbs and spices that are rich in volatile oils that help ease digestive discomfort and reduce gas pain. Other examples of carminative herbs are anise, fennel, chamomile, peppermint and turmeric. Many of these spices also have antimicrobial properties so they may help prevent colds. Additionally, cinnamon is well known for helping improve blood sugar. Your guests can just enjoy themselves without even knowing how much you are benefiting their health.

Let me know if you have a favorite way of enjoying these spices.

Medicinal Kitchen Spices: Favorite Spices From Your Favorite Naturopathic Doctors

I love the fact that most of our culinary herbs and spices also have medicinal benefits. Here is a few of the most common ones used by me and my colleagues.

Dr. Laurell’s Favorite,

Thyme- it is anti-microbial and reduces coughing so it is great choice for bronchitis. You can make a tea out of it or better yet add it to a garlic broth. The tea can be used for steam inhalation. Tinctures are also available.

Dr. Laurell Matthews, NDthymus-vulgaris-6

Fayetteville, AR


Dr. Sherri is a Fan of,

Turmeric, hands down one of the most researched medicinal spices.

After sifting through all of the turmeric research earlier this year, I have made a concerted effort to incorporate this healing spice into my food and drinks on a daily basis.

Green Med founder, Sayer Ji, has reviewed over 4,000 abstracts related to turmeric and discovered over 580 researched benefits.


I add turmeric to smoothies, soups, rice and tea. The taste is mild and easily combines with all different flavors—experiment with it. It is best absorbed with some kind of healthy fat.

*I also take curcumin (the active component in supplement form).

Sherri Jacobs ND, CNS

Charleston SC



Dr. Dawson Loves,

Thyme – I love the taste of thyme and have 3 types growing in my garden.  I am fortunate enough to live in a place where the thyme is green and edible all year.  This is an excellent herb for any type of viral infection, but especially coughs and colds.  I chop it up, with garlic and onions and put it over chicken or fish, mix it into soup or sprinkle on pasta or rice for a delicious, healing meal.

Rosemary – a flavorful herb that goes well with chicken, can be made into a flavorful tea, and is also nice just chewed, one sprig at a time.  Rosemary has some antibacterial properties, but it excels as a tonic to lift the spirits and clear the mind.  Try chewing rosemary before a test or exam.  Rosemary improves circulation and was traditionally used to easy headaches.

Dr. Loreen Dawson, ND

Sechelt, BC



Dr. Couvering’s Favorite spice is,

My favorite spice (at the moment) is cayenne – it is such a wonderful topical to relieve pain, itching and achiness.  Rub a little oil on (I prefer castor oil if available, but it’s not necessary), sprinkle some cayenne on (not too much, you can burn your skin) and cover.  It works in minutes.  So far, in the last six months, I’ve recommended it successfully for chiggers, mosquito bites, arthritis, chronic knee pain, residual pain from a broken bone, and low back pain.

Anne Van Couvering, ND



Dr. Keller Recommends,

My favorite kitchen spice is oregano. I use it in a variety of Mexican and Italian dishes and it adds great flavor. I also use it or the essential oil for helping heal up sinus and respiratory infections when used with a steam inhalation. It works well and is in almost everyone’s cupboard.

Dr. Melody Keller, ND

Glendive, MT



Dr. Klassen Uses,

My favorite medicinal kitchen spice is….

Garlic. Ubiquitous, versatile, tasty, antimicrobial, easy to find.  You can use it in almost any recipe and not be obvious.

Dr. Joe Klassen, ND.

Calgary, AB.