Bone broth is nothing new. In fact, it is so far from new that it was part of our hunter-gatherer ancestors’ regular menu. Though it’s been around for a very long time, with its fairly recent surge of popularity (dare I say trendiness) and the claimed (and often disputed) health benefits, it’s hard to resist experimenting with the stuff. What we want to know is, how can we step up our bone broth game?
Herbalist and author Briana Wiles says one way to get more out of your liquid gold is to toss in medicinal herbs, mushrooms, and sea vegetables that add calcium, vitamins, and minerals to the mix. We enlisted her to share some tips about which herbs to use and how to integrate them into bone broth.
Meet Briana Wiles, Herbalist and Author
A: Grindelia, also known as gumplant, gumweed, or tarweed. She explains, “It’s lovely. It’s so sticky from resins of the plant, and it smells of citrus. It’s amazing for the lungs and really great for coughs. I use the flowers and plantain to make a simple syrup cough medicine. It can be used similarly to calendula, so it’s nice for the skin and mucous membranes. At the end of summer the bright yellow grindelia flower blossoms and offers her medicine.”
Based in Gunnison, Colorado, Briana Wiles is the author of the forthcoming book, Mountain States Foraging: wild and flavorful edibles from alpine sorrel to wild hops, and the founder of Rooted Apothecary, where she’s been selling organic and wild-crafted herbal products made in small batches since 2011. Rooted Apothecary sells its wares at farmers markets and fairs, and through an online store. As a working mom of a two-year-old, Briana is focused on growing her business slowly and deliberately, though she does imagine a time in the not-so-distant future when she’ll open an herb school as part of the venture. This school would serve Colorado’s Western Slope, where nothing like it currently exists.
Briana explains, “I want people to obtain knowledge about plants and for it never to be forgotten again; passing it down through generations.” This is what motivates her. While she acknowledges the incredible benefits of western medicine and life-saving technologies, she implores us all to remember that, “The way we know things in the western medical world is not the only way.” She loves what plants have taught her and is concerned that the mainstream has moved so far away from knowing and using plants for healing. And so, she’s working to bring that knowledge back in order to help more people connect with plants for improved physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
The Closer You Get to the Ground, the More You See
Not surprisingly, Briana approaches the practice of herbalism from her deep feeling of connection to plants and the desire to learn from them. She says, “You make your reality, and if your eyes aren’t open, you’re not going to see anything. The closer you get to the ground the more you see.”
Layered on top of that feeling of connection is a trust in her intuition about plants and how to use them. The roots of her knowledge come from deep diving into books like Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, and tapping into the expertise of other herbalists and experienced teachers by learning in practice alongside them. In 2011, she traveled back to her hometown to study with Jim McDonald, a Michigan-based herbalist and teacher. Briana believes a strong community is extremely important for deepening knowledge and she found hers when she discovered the Traditions in Western Herbalism conference in New Mexico. She sees her path as one of endless learning and today, even as she teaches classes and writes books, her own education is far from over.
Four Tips for Making Herbal Bone Broth from Briana Wiles
While some come to bone broth from the culinary perspective, Briana came to it through the herb world and a desire to heal her gut. Her perspective shines through in her broth-making tips below.
If you’re starting from scratch, you may want to read our first bone broth post, which offers step-by-step broth-making instructions and helpful hints from experienced chef, Christine Ruch.
- No need to defrost the bones. When Briana crafts her own broth from beef bones, she starts with frozen bones. She explains, “I take frozen bones and I throw them in the oven on a cookie sheet and broil them until they’re brown and a little crispy. This usually takes 5-10 minutes per side.” She says working with frozen beef bones is not essential; it’s just easier sometimes because it allows you to skip the step of defrosting.
- But … what to do about the stink? Many people are bothered by the smell of bone broth (in fact, I have to make mine in the garage to keep from waking my family from the smell at night) but Briana swears by roasting the bones before cooking them. From her experience, this simple step keeps the house from smelling as “gamey”.
- Grab your veggies and get creative. Briana loves adding a wide array of veggies (and even some fruit) to her broth. She explains that it’s a great way to make use of your potential waste, while adding more nutrients to the broth. Some people may limit their added vegetables to carrots, celery, and onions, but not Briana. She explains, “I do onions, garlic, carrots, celery, celeriac. I’ve thrown in squash that’s starting to go, goji berries, and fresh burdock root from the garden.” Briana adds her veggies at the beginning and allows them to cook the entire time. Instead of composting useable veggie scraps, she freezes them and adds them to her bone broth when it’s time.
- Fry it up. Briana likes to use the fat layer that forms at the top of the jars (in which she stores her broth) the same way she would use butter. She scrapes it off and uses it to fry potatoes. Think of it as a medicinal butter.
The Secret to Briana’s Broth
Briana’s real secret sauce is the variety of herbs, fungi, and sea vegetables she adds to the mix. These ingredients may be fresh or dried, depending on what’s available, but Briana includes fresh herbs she’s wild harvested from the land around her, like dandelion, burdock root, and nettle. She adds her medicinal herbs during the last 4-6 hours of her 3-day simmer, and when she does—this is key—she puts the lid on the pot to keep the volatile oils in the broth. She explains, “You don’t want all the steam to come out because the steam is pulling out medicinal properties and you’re losing them.”
Are you ready for the inside scoop? You’ll find it below, where Briana explains a few special ingredients she thinks you might want to include when making broth to keep you healthy and vital in the cold winter months*.
Briana’s information about the health benefits of the herbs, fungi, and sea vegetables is based on research and personal use and is cross-referenced with Modern Herbal Medicine, by Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, and Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, two trusted sources in the world of herbalism.
Ingredients to Add to Bone Broth for Health and Vitality
- Ginger is a popular herb for warming the body, helping blood circulation, aiding and stimulating digestion, and regulating the immune system. Oh yeah, and it tastes pretty amazing. If fresh ginger is available, Briana recommends using that and adding it a bit earlier (for the last 6-12 hours of cooking).
- Oregano is antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antifungal. It has a nice warming action and it treats infections of the respiratory and digestive tracts.
- Rosemary assists with circulation in the brain and has antioxidant properties that help to protect the brain and blood vessels. A calming and toning carminative (which means it aids in sluggish digestion and can help dispel gas), it helps with indigestion and stomach problems. It also helps soothe joint inflammation.
- Thyme, also a carminative, is used to treat digestive and respiratory infections and has antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
- Kelp and sea lettuce are helpful additions to people’s diets. Briana says, “They are high in iodine, chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals.” Other sea veggie options include wakame and kombu. Do not use with hyperthyroid conditions, and use caution with Hashimoto thyroiditis or selenium deficiencies.
- Astragalus is included because, “it helps boost energy and restore and strengthen immunity and adrenal function.” Briana likes to use it as preventative medicine. In Chinese medicine astragalus is revered for helping with fatigue, lung strength, and diarrhea. Don’t use astragalus if you are already sick, nursing, or pregnant.
- Mushrooms are included because Briana is a big fan of fungi. She recommends including shitake, maitake, reishi, or chaga. Chanterelles and porcinis can be included for their immune-boosting properties and earthy flavor as well. Reishi has immune enhancing effects, is full of antioxidants, and is revered as a health tonic. Shiitake can be helpful in lowering cholesterol and fighting infections by stimulating the immune system.
- Alfalfa is full of essential minerals and nutrients, and is high in B vitamins, as well as A, C, D, E and K. Those who have lupus should not use Alfalfa.
- Nettle is full of iron, calcium, magnesium, and protein, along with other essential nutrients. It supports and strengthens the whole body in building healthy blood, bones, and connective tissues.
- Dandelion has a great effect on the microflora of the gut, helping to balance and nourish it, and its bitter properties help to stimulate digestive secretions. Dandelion is tonifying (increasing the availability of energy) to the liver and bladder and is also quite high in potassium.
- Burdock is known to improve skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin (although, Briana cautions that these may also be symptoms of a food allergy that needs to be addressed in other ways). Burdock aids in digestion by stimulating bile secretions. It is also known to purify the blood of toxins.
While we think this is a great starter list, Briana’s list of beneficial ingredients goes on and on. If you’re an adventurous cook, or enjoy foraging, you’ll be excited to hear that “You can put whatever you want in there really, whatever you have on hand, whatever is in your territory.”
As seasons change, so does Briana’s broth. She prefers spicy or warming herbs in the cold months, and in the warmer months she loves dandelion and a saltier, cooling broth. She reiterates that you can add dried berries such as hawthorn, goji, or schizandra, or fruits if you want to make it sweeter, like a chunk of apple or an orange slice. Dried or fresh flowers such as red clovers and calendula can also be added for their medicinal properties.
Briana has seen so much interest in bone broth, she has created a Broth Herb Pack as part of the Rooted Apothecary product line. She hopes this potent package will make it easy for busy people to enhance their broth.
How does Briana make use of her bone broth? She has been known to sip a warm salty and peppery broth from a mug in the morning more often than not. Meanwhile, her 2-year-old is more likely to enjoy it as part of a recipe. For example, when Briana makes rice and sauces, she uses the bone broth as the liquid.
We asked Briana to share her favorite bone-broth brewing technique. Give it a try!
* These are recommendations from Briana, but please be sure to consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns; this is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.
Author: Mara Rose
Editor: Maggie Wells
Photo: Briana Wiles, Shutterstock