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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Herbal Kitchen: An Interview with Kami McBride

Kami McBride is an herbalist and inspiring teacher who has helped thousands of people learn to use herbal medicine in their daily lives in ways that are healthy, safe and fun. She founded the Living Awareness Institute and serves as an instructor of herbal medicine at Solano Community College, Napa Valley Junior College and College of Marin. Her work is centered in sustainable wellness practices, creating self-reliance and revitalizing our relationship with the plant world.

Kami’s extensive knowledge of healing plants is infused into her specialty of herbal cooking for preventive health. She empowers people in understanding how to use herbs in the home setting for prevention and every day common ailments. For instance, did you know that adding ginger to a fish meal kills pathogens found specifically in fish and sprinkling fennel into your meat marinades helps you to more easily digest the fat in the meat. I didn’t, until I spoke to Kami and learned all about her new book, The Herbal Kitchen (which may even inspire me to cook).

The Herbal Kitchen helps readers recognize the extraordinary pharmacy that already exists in their own kitchen – one that will boost immunity, heal sickness, enhance energy, and ensure overall health and vitality, all without the need for fancy equipment or specialty products. In thirteen informative chapters, Kami gives us a detailed guide to the most common herbs, their medicinal benefits and the tips and tricks to using them for a healthier life. I was really excited to learn more about this from Kami.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about The Herbal Kitchen.

Kami McBride: Did you know that stuffing your turkey with sage helps to keep away the colds that begin circulating around Thanksgiving? The Herbal Kitchen discusses many herbs and spices that you already have in your kitchen. I hope that this book encourages people to think of their spice rack as more than a source of flavor. It is also a medicine chest, full of healing remedies that can help you to keep your family well.

Shelly Rachanow: People may not realize that many culinary herbs are medicinal. What herbs do you work with that people are already familiar with?

Kami McBride: The Herbal Kitchen helps people become more intimate with their spice cabinet. Using medicinal herbs doesn’t have to be foreign and difficult or take a year of college to understand. We can begin with what we have on hand and already have a relationship with. Most of the herbs in The Herbal Kitchen are common household items; you don’t even have to buy anything.

Let’s take cinnamon for example; most everyone has cinnamon and has used it to liven up their oatmeal or pumpkin pie mix. Cinnamon is a highly medicinal herb with hundreds of health and kitchen medicine applications. It is a first-rate cold and flu prevention agent and remedy. Cinnamon offers relief from menstrual cramps, allergy symptoms, coughs, and much more. The same thing holds true for all the common spices: oregano, garlic, sage, cloves, and pepper all contain healing attributes that inspire good food and good health.

Shelly Rachanow: How can people use herbs in their food to help prevent seasonal illness? What are some of the physical ailments that you address with herbs prepared into foods?

Kami McBride: In The Herbal Kitchen there are more than 200 recipes for how to use herbs in your food more effectively. Consciously knowing that fennel helps you to digest fat and having the awareness that oregano fights colds and flu is the first step to knowing when to use them in your food. Herbal cooking can be very therapeutic. The wise spice-wielding cook can ward off colds and flu, stomach aches, headaches and allergies. Turmeric helps with arthritis, cumin helps with indigestion and sage helps with coughs. If you have that basic knowledge, then your cooking just naturally becomes a medicinal endeavor.

Shelly Rachanow: You write about medicinal foods being an important part of our ability to heal the environment and connect with the natural world. How can using herbs in our food impact healing and the environment?

Kami McBride: One of the best things about using herbs is that they help to reduce our reliance on over the counter medications. Many medications are not being effectively removed from our water supply and end up in the environment. Also, growing your own herbs can provide beneficial habitat for butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

Shelly Rachanow: It all seems so simple, why isn’t this knowledge just part of what we grow up with?

Kami McBride: We are dealing with several generations throwing out their grandmothers’ herbal remedies and falling in love with pharmaceutical solutions to common ailments. The drug companies have very powerful advertising campaigns that people fall for. I am not saying that we should never take over the counter drugs, but for many things there are natural solutions and I suggest trying those first.

I teach courses that train people how to use herbs in the home. For those families, herbs are becoming again just part of what we grow up with!

Shelly Rachanow: Will kids eat any of the foods or drinks in your book? In your experience, what recipes do kids like the most?

Kami McBride: My son loves herbs. He is six years old and drinks my teas, sprinkles herbs on his food at meal times and picks his own herbs for teas. So the answer is yes, your kids will use herbs, you have to provide the foundation for having lots of herbs as part of your kitchen culture. Kids especially love to have herbal sprinkle combinations at the table to choose from for putting on their food.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Kami McBride: I would stop the wars and spend the money on solutions that help people set up systems to live sustainably.

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