Recipes from the Herbalist's Kitchen

Delicious, Nourishing Food for Lifelong Health and Well-Being


By Brittany Wood Nickerson

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Author and herbalist Brittany Wood Nickerson understands that food is our most powerful medicine. In Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen she reveals how the kitchen can be a place of true awakening for the senses and spirit, as well as deep nourishment for the body. With in-depth profiles of favorite culinary herbs such as dill, sage, basil, and mint, Nickerson offers fascinating insights into the healing properties of each herb and then shares 110 original recipes for scrumptious snacks, entrées, drinks, and desserts that are specially designed to meet the body’s needs for comfort, nourishment, energy, and support through seasonal changes.

Foreword INDIES Gold Award Winner
IACP Cookbook Awards Finalist


For Grams


Introduction: Empower A New Story in the Kitchen

1. Awaken The Healing Power of Food

2. Nourish Support for Mind, Body, and Spirit

Baked Eggs with Parsley Pesto

Grandma's Chicken Soup

Roasted Red Lentil Dhal

Greens with Garlic, Ginger, and Turmeric

Deep-Sea Purple Kraut


Shiitake Mushrooms in Tarragon Cream Sauce

Braised Beef Shanks with Gremolata


Oven-Poached Salmon with Crème Fraîche and Caper Dressing

Burgers with Sweet Pepper and Mint Salsa

Chicken Liver Pâté

Lavender Fizz

Lavender After-Dinner Tea

3. Invirogate Recipes to Enliven and Energize

Spinach and Grapefruit Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Composed Salad with Marjoram Vinaigrette

Thyme and Jalapeño Pickled Carrots

Mint and Feta Bruschetta with Chive Blossoms

Cucumber Raita with Dill and Black Mustard Seeds

Vital Roots Kimchi

Vegetable Curry with Thai Basil

Steak with a Lavender–Black Pepper Crust

Lentils, Prosciutto, and Boiled Eggs with Salsa Verde

Apricot-Cashew Bars with Coconut and Rosemary

Sage Honey

Cilantro Lemonade

Mint Hydrosol

4. Comfort Demystifying the Body's Cravings

Roasted Onions with Sage Butter

Cheddar and Dill Crackers

Naan with Ghee, Garlic, and Cilantro

Baked Ricotta

Crispy Sage and Roasted Garlic Risotto

Braised Chicken with Shallots and Figs

Garlic-Stuffed Roast Pork

Cannellini Beans and Potatoes with Dandelion Greens and Parsley

Spanakopita with Fresh Herbs and Wild Greens

Sweet Potato Rice

Creamy Feta and Herb Dressing

Centered and Focused Tea

Lavender and Rose Tapioca

5. Challenge Satisfying Our Survival Instincts

Oregano Pesto

Cilantro Pesto

Pickled Daikon with Cilantro and Lime Zest

Watermelon Radish Salad with Feta and Fresh Mint

Wilted Dandelion Greens with Garlic Confit

Dandelion Greens with Garlic-Mustard Vinaigrette

Apple and Parsley Salad

Fresh Herb Dolmas

Roasted Eggplant with Chickpeas, Spicy Peppers, and Mint Oil

Basil Bitters

Turmeric Fire Cider

Tarragon-Infused Vinegar

Hazelnut Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Honey

6. Transform The Magic of Cooking

Parsley and Tomato Steamed Eggs

Almond-Wasabi Pesto

Lactofermented Dilly Beans

Red Pepper and Feta Amuse-Bouche

Herbed Flax Crackers

Thyme-Infused Polenta with Parmesan

Bone Broth

Coconut Fish Chowder

Homemade Sausage

Oregano-Crusted Chicken

Poached Peaches with Tarragon

Sage and Orange Peel Throat Soother Tea

Mint Tisane

Rose-merry-berry Syrup

7. Adapt Living with Seasons

Poached Eggs with Béarnaise

Wild Herb and Green Garlic Soup

Pea Greens and Radish Salad with Yogurt Mint Dressing

Lemon Roasted Asparagus with Baked Goat Cheese

Red Quinoa Salad with Radish and Carrot

Lavender and Dandelion Flower Muffins

Roasted Tomatoes with Basil and Olive Oil

Garlic Scapes in White Wine

Miso Peanut Sauce

Spicy Black Bean Salad

Herbes de Provence

Herbal Balsamic Vinaigrette

Garden Tea

Sautéed Blueberries with Lavender Essence and Whipped Cream

Breakfast for Champions

Baked Sweet Potato with Sesame-Peanut Aioli

Leek and Gorgonzola Custard

White Fish with Herb Butter

Chicories with Warm Vinaigrette

Root Vegetable Pie

Roast Carrots with Dijon and Parsley

Hot and Sour Soup with Tarragon Vinegar

Herb Salad

Shepherd's Pie

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Lemon-Thyme Roast Chicken

Herbal Masala Chai

Elderberry-Thyme Syrup

8. Share The Sustenance of Giving

Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates with Sage

White Bean Spread with Rosemary and Mellowed Garlic

Black Olive and Parsley Tapenade

Basil Oil

Warm Potato Salad with Cilantro and Soft-Boiled Egg

Red Grape Chimichurri with Dill and Oregano

Butternut Squash Stuffed with French Lentils and Walnuts

Beet Hearts

Seared Duck with Bacon, Toasted Pecans, and Frisée and Endive Salad

Garlicky Braised Lamb

Herbed Pizza Dough

Rosemary–Olive Oil Tea Cake

Elderflower and Mint Mojito

Basil-Lavender Tea

Metric Conversion Charts



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A New Story in the Kitchen

Every great story has a hero, that awe-inspiring figure who overcomes all manner of obstacles to meet a challenge head-on and triumph over it. In our current medical system the hero is the doctor, the scientist, the surgeon, the specialist, the expert who rushes in to diagnose the problem and tell us how to fix it. In the culinary world the hero is the food writer, the celebrity chef, the fitness trainer, the health guru, the expert who tells us exactly what to eat and how to prepare it. In fact, as a general principle we have developed a cultural habit of outsourcing heroism, finding it anywhere but inside ourselves. That mind-set — that habit of depending on outside experts to "save" us by telling us how to live well — may be one of the biggest factors holding us back from true, deep, vibrant well-being.

It's as if society is selling us a dream, a fantastical story in which our happiness and contentment are guaranteed if only we follow the advice of the right experts, eat the right foods, exercise the right amount, have the right stuff in our homes, live the right way. But does this expert "prescription" for a good life really feel good to us? Or is it actually an obstacle between us and an open, intimate, authentic experience of our world?

Empowerment through Herbalism

Herbal medicine is a time-tested system of healing, practiced around the world for thousands of years, and modern science has now confirmed its efficacy for a wide range of health concerns. However, herbalism doesn't just put forth a prescription of what herbs to take to be healthy. When applied holistically, herbalism offers us an opportunity not just to feel well but to live well — to engage intimately and authentically with our own health and our world in ways that feel fulfilling and meaningful.

At its most basic level, the work of making and using herbal medicine at home connects us to our individual needs: what sort of ailments we tend to experience, and which remedies work best for us. On a broader scale, home herbalism teaches us that each of us has different needs, that self-care requires self-knowledge, and that balance is the root of wellness. It asks us to walk the path of empowerment and self-discovery, and in this way, it positions us as the heroes of our own story.

Herbalism offers us an opportunity not just to feel well but to live well.

Awakening to Connections

I have always loved both cooking and plants, and as a kid, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, in the woods, and in the garden, soaking up everything I could. I began formally studying herbal medicine when I was in college in northern California. At the same time I started cooking, privately and professionally, all over the Bay Area. Eventually I started a business, Thyme Herbal, teaching cooking classes that emphasized the use of herbs and simple, good food prepared in ways that maximized their benefit to the body.

When I first started teaching classes, I realized that my students were looking at me as the expert. They wanted me to tell them what they needed to know and do to live well. I felt uncomfortable, and a little perplexed. Who was I to decide what was best for others? After all, each of us is a unique organism, and what makes us healthy is as diverse as our taste in clothing and our preferences in books and music. Being healthy is just that: a state of being, a subjective experience that varies from person to person.

This awareness helps us recognize that health and healing are acts of connection. To be healthy requires us to connect with our body — its processes and inclinations — and also with our families, our communities, our home and work environments, our food systems, and the natural world. Every aspect of our lives contributes to our physical and emotional nourishment. We all possess the inherent wisdom to nurture and heal ourselves by getting to know our own rhythms, embedded as they are in the larger picture of our lives and the patterns of the earth. We simply need to learn to listen to and connect with ourselves.

As an herbalist and healer, my role is to empower people, rather than telling them what to do. I want to help people cultivate their own skills and tune in to their own intuitive wisdom. This view of health operates outside the experts' paradigm of "right answers" and "cures." It allows for the possibility that we can know ourselves, and it recognizes that the process of self-knowing in itself is a large part of our well-being. It requires us to appreciate that health can be different things for different people, that each person's healing path is unique, and that our desire to be well and to live in balance with our body and our world is our most powerful, important medicine. These concepts have become the cornerstones of my philosophies about health and healing.

There is a unique energy — a nexus of power — in the intersection of food and medicine.

Kitchen Medicine

There is a unique energy — a nexus of power — in the intersection of food and medicine. We are taught that each has its own place: food nourishes the body; medicine cures the body. But what if we recognized that food and medicine can be one and the same? When we learn to make use of the power of food and herbs to heal and support the body we celebrate and utilize the potent medicine found in some of our most basic ingredients.

Take herbs as an example. Our traditional culinary herbs and spices, like basil, black pepper, cilantro, and parsley, have formidable medicinal abilities. They support everything from digestion and metabolism to immune function, circulation, and the nervous system. If you've ever used herbs and spices in your cooking — and most of us have — you've been practicing herbal medicine. Right at home. With no help from the "experts."

Herbs are not miracle cures. They don't work like heroic medicine: instead of curing a problem for you, they almost always help you better heal yourself. A spoonful of sage honey boosts the immune system and helps the body fight off a cold. A cup of hot peppermint tea encourages the body to sweat and helps break a fever. Offer someone a cup of basil tea, and you help them relax so they can sort through their anxiety with greater ease. Put a dollop of herb pesto alongside a heavy meal, and you help the body digest fats and ease indigestion. The list goes on and on.

We can think of food in general, as well as the very act of cooking, in a similar vein. Good, fresh, wholesome ingredients have tremendous capacity to support the body and all its systems. Preparing those foods in ways that bring out their best — that make them more nourishing for the body and a feast for the senses — is a powerful form of medicine that cultivates the health of the body, mind, and spirit.

Cooking and eating are sensual and evocative experiences. Reconnecting with these aspects of food has nothing to do with experts — it is about an intimacy of experience that is born through relationship. The kitchen is a place where we can develop this relationship and unleash our own power by unlocking all of our senses. In preparing food and medicine, we can experience beauty, get our hands dirty, savor smells, appreciate flavors, connect with ourselves and others, and nourish our physical, spiritual, and emotional world. This deep intimacy of experience is the medicine of our future. It is also the medicine of the kitchen.

The Herbalist's Kitchen

In my vision for the world, we all practice home herbalism, and our kitchens are places of meaningful ritual. The medicine and food we make are alike infused with intention and love, nourished by human hands, the use of herbs, and prepared in accord with age-old wisdom passed down from our ancestors. When you begin to use herbal medicine at home, making and concocting home remedies becomes an extension of other kitchen work. Making a tincture or infusing herbs into honey comes as naturally as frying an egg, and putting oregano in spaghetti sauce or basil with mozzarella is as instinctual as hunger. The line between our food and our medicine becomes blurry, as does the line between the healing power of food and medicine and the healing that is inherently wrapped up in our experience of the world. In the herbalist's kitchen, how we live — our participation and awareness — is as important, if not more so, as any recipe we follow or any ingredients we use.

As you move through the pages of this book, you will learn why, over the vast span of culinary history, we have come to cook with herbs the way we do — why we use certain herbs (and spices) in certain dishes, and why we pair certain flavors with others. Our food traditions have evolved to optimize flavor, nutrition, and digestion. When you come to understand the concepts behind these traditions, then you will be able to cook like an herbalist: you will be able to look at the ingredients you have and pick the right herbs for the season, the situation, and the ingredients. Learning skills and tools that cultivate intuition builds a deep, satisfying sense of empowerment.

It is my hope that this book can help guide you in finding your own deep, meaningful, intimate relationship with herbs, cooking, medicine, and health. There are simple principles that underpin this work. True to the tenets of holistic herbalism, they are embedded in larger life processes, they are flexible and adaptable, and they encourage empowerment.

These guiding principles for the herbalist's kitchen are as follows:

  • To revitalize rituals around homemade food and medicine, including cooking and eating together
  • To cultivate and nourish herbal medicine as an empowering, intrinsic component of home health care
  • To make cooking and eating nutritionally dense foods a daily practice
  • To slow down and enjoy the process of growing, preparing, and eating and to embrace food as our sustenance
  • To realize that, as individuals, we are the stewards of our own health, and we must learn the patterns and nature of our own body to heal

Food provides an invitation to connect and reconnect, to nourish and be nourished, to invigorate and challenge, to adapt and transform, to comfort and share. May your healing herbal kitchen embody these principles in a truly unique and empowered way. And as the story of your herbal kitchen unfolds and becomes, may you be the hero.

What if we recognized that food and medicine can be one and the same?

chapter 1


The Healing Power of Food

Most of us live disembodied lives  — that is, we are out of touch with our body. We are not taught how to listen to our body or how to decipher and make meaning of how we feel when our body is trying to speak to us. Awakening to that communication — to how our body speaks to us — is an essential step in the journey to health.

Herbs, whether traditionally used in culinary or medicinal preparations, have tremendous power to influence the body and its systems. We can use herbs (and all food) to support our health and well-being, but before we can truly benefit from them, we have to learn how our body reacts to them. The interplay between herbs, the body, and healing has its own language. Learn to speak that language and you will be able to communicate, problem-solve, and create better harmony within your body. Just memorizing a list of herbs and their uses is like memorizing vocabulary words: it will give you tools to use while speaking, but it won't help you learn how to communicate. We learn to speak a language when it becomes embedded in us, natural, a part of our senses and our understandings, when we really feel comfortable in it and begin to live it. When it comes to learning the language of the body and how we can nourish and comfort it with food, medicine, experiences, relationships, and all the other factors that contribute to our well-being, personal experience is the most powerful teacher. This means that collecting ingredients, dreaming up what we want to eat, poring over recipe books, chopping, smelling, tasting, and enjoying are all experiences that help us learn to communicate and build a deep and intimate relationship with our own bodies. Personal connection to our body and our own experience is foundational for health and well-being.

Taste as Medicine

For thousands of years, medical systems from around the world — traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Native American healing practices, and other folk and herbal traditions — have focused on the body's response to taste as a means of understanding and applying herbal therapeutics and the ways in which diet supports health. Modern science has come to support this time-tested wisdom, providing evidence of two important points: first, that the taste of an herb can serve as an indicator of its constituents, and second, that stimulation of the taste buds by the different flavors initiates specific physiological responses. In other words, the taste of an herb both indicates and initiates an effect on the body.

Our sense of taste, then, can allow us to build a more empowered relationship with food, plant medicine, and our own body. Once you understand the medicinal actions that the different tastes have on physiology, you can begin to build a new relationship with your palate and with the herbs, foods, and drinks that you ingest. Rather than memorizing the benefits of a food or herb, you can learn to let your taste buds reveal information about its applications. You can learn to trust yourself in determining whether a particular food or herb is helpful for your particular needs. You can also begin to understand more generally which situations and contexts call for which flavors and draw conclusions about foods and herbs that may be useful.

In general, tastes can be broken down into five categories: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, and bitter. Every meal you eat should include all five flavors. You don't need a lot; in some cases a condiment-size portion is fine. (And you'll find lots of condiment recipes in this book, because having them made up in advance makes it easier to balance your plate!) Another important thing to remember is that herbs and foods can have more than one taste. A carrot, for example, might be mostly sweet, but with a hint of bitterness. A green apple might taste both sour and sweet. And produce can vary depending on the variety, the time of year, the crop, or the part of the plant used.

As you gain experience with using taste as a guide, you will begin to trust your instincts; you will learn to better understand the language of your body. Your experience will help you learn to balance your diet in a very direct and personal manner, rather than simply trying to get on your plate everything that you have heard is "good for you." This awakening of your sense of taste can help guide you in the kitchen and at the table, allowing you to enjoy your meals and make food choices with a more empowered appreciation for the ways in which they nourish you.

Note: Every healing system that uses tastes and flavors as indicators of medicinal action on the body is unique, and in many cases there are large differences between how they are understood and their applications. The descriptions that follow are informed by my study of traditional healing systems and my own experience as a practicing herbalist. You will find that they do not stand in perfect alignment with any one traditional system of medicine. I am grateful to all of these systems for their knowledge and wisdom.


The sweet taste is the most nourishing. We think of sweet as being sugary, but as a category, sweet also includes bland foods. Most of the world's staple foods, including starches and animal-based proteins, fall into this category. Most of our common culinary herbs, however, are not categorized as sweet. In fact we most often use culinary herbs to counterbalance the sweet taste of our staple nourishing foods and bring balance to the flavors of a dish.

Sweet foods are staples of the human diet for a reason: the sweet (or bland) taste indicates a high nutrient content, with fat, protein, carbohydrates, and often good quantities of vitamins and minerals. In other words, sweet/bland foods are high-calorie foods — they provide short- and long-term energy for the body. They are nutritive and regenerative; they provide all the building blocks for growth and help the body build, repair, and sustain energy. They supply nutrients that strengthen muscles, bones, nerves, and connective tissues and build body fluids including blood, semen, and milk. They are mostly demulcent, emollient, moistening, softening, and soothing, having a gentle and nourishing effect on the system.

Too much sweet food in the diet can cause dampness in the system, leading to sluggish digestion, poor absorption of nutrients, reduced appetite, bloating, stagnant circulation and elimination, increased mucus production, low energy, and difficulty focusing. Refined carbohydrates and foods sweetened with refined sugars are most likely to aggravate the body and cause such symptoms.

When you find yourself craving sugar, turn to high-quality unrefined carbohydrates and naturally sweet foods like fruit, and balance them with protein-rich foods. The combination will satiate the craving, provide the body with sustained energy, and help reduce sugar cravings overall.

In addition to being the most nourishing, sweet foods are the heaviest. You may be able to sense that fact by the list of symptoms that occur when you eat too much; slow and sluggish seems to be the theme. That heaviness also means that sweet foods are grounding and comforting; they help the body relax and are great for people who often feel cold, dry, nervous, and restless. After all, what could be more comforting than feeling nourished?


  • “Nickerson guides us beyond the everyday uses of common herbs in her lavishly photographed book advocating their medicinal benefits... [She] delivers a beautiful guide suitable for all seasons and growing climates, and sure to bring healthy dishes to any table.” — Shelf Awareness for Readers

    “Channel the healing properties of dill, sage, mint, and other herbs with Brittany Wood Nickerson's 100-plus DIY tinctures, teas, syrups, and, of course, healthy eats.” — Modern Farmer

    “Packed with valuable information and tasty ways to put it all to use, this guide offers curious readers herb-based methods for achieving better health and well-being.” — Publishers Weekly

     “[E]ach recipe offers an explanation on herbal combinations that enhance the healing properties of the fresh ingredients. Plus, the mouthwatering photography makes this book as much a feast for your eyes as its recipes will be for your family.” — Clean Eating magazine

    “One of the few cookbooks we've seen that makes us actually want to try all of the dishes in it. Filled with delightful, whole foods-based dishes, she highlights herbs within her recipes in a way that is both complementary to the dish and allows the herbs to shine within it.” — Aroma Culture magazine

    “This book will fill your belly and your soul with deliciousness. Brittany’s wise herbal advice serves as an inspiring tool for living a nourishing, connected lifestyle.” — Rosemary Gladstar, herbal educator, activist, and best-selling author

    “These inspired yet simple and approachable recipes beautifully showcase the remarkable versatility of herbs and how they can bring delight to the plate.” — Jennifer McGruther, author of The Nourished Kitchen

    “What a blessing of a book! Beautiful, informative, inspiring, and full of great recipes, this is so much more than a cookbook; it is a deep encounter with why and how to nourish, heal, and thrive through food and herbs.” — Pam Montgomery, author of Plant Spirit Healing and Partner Earth

    “This gorgeous collection of recipes is a lovely introduction to preparing deeply healing beverages, meals, and condiments for the herb lover, vegetable grower, and home cook.” — Holly Bellebuono, author of The Healing Kitchen

    “Brittany’s is a clear voice for those yearning to reconnect with the joy of eating in balance with nature. She shows how deliciously simple yet sophisticated herbal fare can transform our health, our lives, and the very earth itself.” — Annie B. Kay, MS, RDN, certified yoga therapist, lead nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga Health, and author of Every Bite Is Divine

On Sale
Jun 27, 2017
Page Count
312 pages

Brittany Wood Nickerson

Brittany Wood Nickerson

About the Author

Brittany Wood Nickerson is the author of Recipes from the Herbalist's Kitchen. She has blended her training in herbal medicine into her personal and professional cooking for more than ten years. Nickerson is an herbalist and the owner of Thyme Herbal, where she offers herbal apprenticeship programs, classes in herbal cooking, and private herbal consultations. She is an active guest speaker and teacher at conferences and events throughout the country. She lives in Conway, Massachusetts.

Learn more about this author