Written by Meghan De Jong
Today in the world of health there is so much hype around incorporating special herbs, plants, powders, and supplements into our diets in order to receive maximal health benefits. Things such as Maca and Ashwaganda Powder grown in the Andes, Spirulina often extracted from lakes in Mexico, every Coconut product imaginable usually harvested from South East Asia, and so on, are all the rage amongst health advocates.
When I was first gaining interest in health and nutrition I was super stoked on taking the products I listed above and pretty well any other trending supplement that I heard had health benefits to the human body. However, after doing tons of research and study on our food system and different types of diets, I have slowly come to the realization that maybe the best secret to long lasting health isn’t using exotic herbs and plants grown across the globe. Instead I have come to the conclusion that true sustainable health for ourselves and the planet best comes from consuming more of the healing plants and foods grown locally to where we live.
Here are some of the top reasons why I think it is important to start focusing on LOCAL herbs and supplements as opposed to ones grown in places far away from where we live.
- As humans, our bodies are innately programmed to attune with our local environment. We have evolved to adapt and thrive off the plants and foods grown locally and in season with where we live
- All plants are sacred! Many of the plants that have become mainstream within the Western world of health are extremely important to the Indigenous peoples of where these plants grow. There are a lot of supplement companies who are extracting these plants from their local habitat often with very little respect. In harvesting without the up most respect for the plant we often jeopardize the plants healing powers.
- We have SO many amazing healing plants and herbs in our own backyard– no matter where we live! By focusing on consuming more local plants we are cutting down our carbon emissions and mitigating our exploitation toward foreign countries
- By being connected with what is growing in our region we will feel more connected to the land we live on and more inspired to care for it
- Our soil needs healing – instead of breaking our bank accounts on exotic herbs and supplements (I’ve been there), we could put our money towards buying higher quality and more nutrient dense foods (like ones from farmers markets) or even growing our own food and harvesting our own herbs. In buying the highest quality and organic foods available to us from small scale farmers we will show large corporations that there is a demand for an improved standard of agricultural practices. Our food (and therefore our health) is a product of the conditions it was grown in – in my experience if we eat food grown in more nutritious soil, that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals, and is hand grown with love and care – there is not such a need to look to so many exotic plants to supplement or heal our bodies!
To be honest, I often find myself still inclined to use my “further away favourites” that I have become so accustomed to such as cacao powder, medjool dates, fresh avocados, and Yerba Mate. I am continuously working on further localizing my diet and it can definitely feel like a challenge especially because we have access to so many amazing foreign plants and products! I also want to mention that I am definitely not trying to suggest that we should feel guilty for enjoying some of the beautiful plants and herbs that can’t grow where we live – just as long as they were harvested in a sustainable and respectful way. My biggest take home message is that I think we can try to do a much better job at looking to our backyard for the healing power from plants before we run out and buy all the exotic super foods on the market.
Listed below are some of the many amazing healing herbs and plants that grow here in the PNW and many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere:
- Birch Sap: an incredible replacement for coconut water as it’s full of electrolytes, minerals, and enzymes.
- Dandelion: often thought of as an irritating weed but it is actually insanely detoxify for the liver, full of micro nutrients, and has an anti-inflammatory action on the body. You can consume the leaves like you would spinach or kale, the roots ground up as a caffeine free coffee substitute, and the flower petals in baked goods or salads.
- PNW Kelp/ Seaweed: one of the most nutrient dense things to add to your diet! It’s full of micronutrients, healthy fats, and and a great alternative to the currently popular but often non local Spirulina or Chlorella powders (however there are a few Canadian companies that sell locally harvested of these)
- Nettle: this plant is so full of goodness. It is super high in iron, anti inflammatory, can help with blood sugar control, and can even lower blood pressure. It’s a great thing to harvest on your own in the Spring Time. I love drying it for tea or eating it sautéed.
- Medicinal Mushrooms: I could write a whole separate post on these (and will soon). But there are tons of medicinal mushrooms growing all around us that can help reduce stress levels, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation. The company “Harmonic Arts” has tons of awesome products to check out.
- WILD Fish: fish are an amazing source of protein, omega 3 fatty acids (the fats we need the most of), and tons of other nutrients. One of the best additions to any diet if you can get local and wild. Click here to see my post on eating wild salmon and the easiest way to cook it.
- Local Organic Farm Fresh Foods: this is a given – but just had to throw it in here as a reminder that local organic foods are amazing for our bodies and we need to focus on consuming them as much as possible above all else!
Hope you are all inspired to try out some new super foods grown in your own backyard soon.