We’ve written about Suzy Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services. Suzy is a longtime APPCA member and recently started using essential oils. We’ve long been curious about these oils–what they are and how they’re used in the kitchen so we asked Suzy to give us a primer. If you, too, have been wondering about them, you’ll want to ready Suzy’s post below and enjoy the recipe she’s included that incorporates two essential oils:
I went into my local nutrition store and picked a couple, black pepper and lemon, then started learning more about the healing properties of EOs. What I found out is that while they are rising in popularity today, using plants for healing dates back thousands of years. Many of today’s pharmaceuticals have their origins in plants. And it’s not uncommon today to use lavender oil for calmness or ginger to treat nausea. Using essential oils in cooking, however, requires research because some EOs are only meant to be used topically, as cleaners, or sprays, not ingested, while others that are edible are very strong and could cause problems if they aren’t used correctly. Look for a supplemental facts area on the bottles, which notes the oils are safe to ingest.
Once I felt I understand how essential oils worked, I started teaching a monthly class on their healing properties and how to cook with them.
Here are answers to some of the most basic questions I get about EOs:
What is an essential oil (EO)? EOs are fragrant, dynamic compounds that are extracted through the distillation process from flowers, shrubs, leaves, trees, roots, skins and/or seeds. Funnily enough, EOs do not contain lipids like their fatty vegetable oil siblings, and as a result their distinctive chemistry enables them to permeate every cell and administer healing properties in the body. This structural complexity, created through volatile organic compounds (VOC), enables an EO to perform various functions with a few drops.
What purpose do they serve? EOs can provide a myriad of benefits to the body, mind, spirit…and wallet! EOs are used to treat everything from anxiety to yeast infections. All EOs are adaptogens, a natural substance that promotes a balancing reaction in the body.
EOs work by targeting the cause of the problem rather than simply addressing a symptom(s). In some cases you are likely to experience rapid relief and steady improvement. Many EOs are analgesics, acting directly with the nervous system to subdue pain; anti-inflammatory; antiseptics; promote relaxation and stress relief.
Let me give you two examples of how the two favorites I mentioned above work:
Black Pepper: Spleen strengthening, digestive issues, stress reducer, natural painkiller, stimulates the circulatory system, added to hot water or tea, savory dishes.
Lemon: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, fights (colds, flu, fever, headaches). Add to water, warm or cold for a natural detox. Flavor Enhancer for savory, sweet, cocktails.
How are EOs made? EOs are, as previously touched on, steam distilled from plants. However, there are different types of extractions, including water vapor distillation, pressure extraction, expression, enlfeurage, solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, and synthetic imitation. For example, citrus EOs are cold pressed. One pound of essential oil requires at least 50 pounds of plant material. So, for instance, one pound of rosemary EO requires 66 pounds of fresh rosemary.
Are EOs safe to digest? While contemporary society has accepted that the use of EOs is dangerous, civilizations have been using them for centuries. Today, industries that produce products like toothpaste, skin care, and sodas use them. So, before you run away from fear, keep in mind that these frequently used items have proven safe to ingest.
When you buy essential oils, look for organic, therapeutic-grade EOs. Purchased products should have bottle and company labels that include the following: 100 percent natural, an English plant name, a botanical name, the utilized part of the plant, the production method, the country of origin, and any hazard or allergy notations. And they should state they are safe to ingest.
What is the toxicity of EOs? Certain EOs have irritation potential and can be toxic when ingested in large doses. A little goes a long way. It only takes a few drops of an EO to make an impact. Regardless, if one were to ingest larges doses of an EO, they may experience these possible, short-term complications: burning of the mucus membrane of the oral cavity, throat, and esophagus, the occurrence of reflux by irritating the digestive tract, some symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, interference of certain medications rending the EO useless, possible interference with anesthesia, and elevation of live enzymes. In that same line, if you are allergic to a food then you will be allergic to its EO. The FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS, list has been tested with contemporary technology. Note, per the FDA, there are oils that are NOT recommended for ingestion, and oils that are not recommended for use by folks with particular medical conditions, or who are pregnant or nursing.
How do you cook with EOs? First, look back to Q3 and note that for internal use only use organic, therapeutic-grade oils (these oils are 100 percent pure). Also, keep in mind brand reputation. Choose products from reputable companies and suppliers to ensure you make smart, healthy purchases. From there, lead with this golden rule: 1 to 4 drops of EO per recipe.
Some of my favorite EOs you’ll find in my kitchen include black pepper, cilantro, grapefruit, lemon, all varieties of citrus, and peppermint. Below is my recipe for “Crabby Salad,” which features black pepper and lemon essential oils.
“Crabby” Salad Featuring Black Pepper & Lemon Essential Oils
Recipe by The Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services
- 1, 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1, 15-ounce can whole hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
- 5 cups fresh celery, minced (baby leaves too)
- 1/4 cup shallot, minced
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 bunch chives, minced
- 1/4 cup parsley, minced
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise, vegan or homemade preferred
- Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
- Large pinch Himalayan Salt
- 4 drops black pepper essential oil
- 2 to 4 drops lemon essential oil
In a large mixing bowl add in the chickpeas. Dice the hearts of palm into small pieces, about the size of the garbanzo bean. Mince all the remaining vegetables and add them into the mixing bowl. Toss with the mayo, spices and essential oils. Adjust seasonings as needed.
- Lettuce cups
- Avocado half
- With crackers
- If you mash the garbanzo beans a bit you can even put this salad into a sandwich
Essential Oil Chefs Notes:
- Start with 1 drop of oil then taste.
- Adjust as needed.
- Remember you can always add… you can not remove.
Are you using essential oils for cooking? What are your favorites?
Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.
And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!
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