• Alexa Gioia

SUPERFOODS. The Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Edition!

Updated: Sep 28

Super Greens — Super Mushrooms — Adaptogens, Roots, Spices and Herbs! — WHATS THE DEAL? What makes them so 'stellar' and why is the world buzzing about them?


The Truth is, the world has long been using 'super' plants for millennia. Plants, flowers, herbs, roots, and fungi have been a staple in ancient cultural living and have always been essential to health and longevity. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants —super plants are usually defined by the maximum nutritional benefits offered to the body.


As a studying herbalist, I've discovered the beauty and magic of these super 'high vibe' foods and how they can offer benefits not just to the body — but for the mind and spirit as well! The list below are a grouping of herbs and spice blends I've tested and know myself. I'm excited to share with you what I've gathered!



.:: S U P E R G R E E N S ::.

The color green in our foods has been important to our evolution since the beginning of time. Plants are green from Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is essential in photosynthesis which allows plants to absorb energy from light allowing them to grow and flourish in nature. We, like the plants, absorb energy (from our food) and use it to grow and live a strong, healthy and happy life. This type of energy can be seen as our body's life force energy.


It is important when thinking about nutrients in this way that we see ourselves as one with nature. When our food has the highest vibration, when it soaks up natural sunlight and grows from nutrient rich soil, we too put out that wonderful life force back into the world.


To me, super-green foods consist of the following:

Black Kale & Collard Greens

Tuscan/Lacinato/Dino all are names for generally black kale. This green is tender and doesn't need as much 'massaging' prep before consumption. Its dark color shows me it's deep in nutrients and thats what I love about it! Collards usually tend to have a bit more protein and less calories than kale so I like to use these greens interchangeably in stews, stir-fries, as wraps, salads, or in my smoothies!


Seaweed: Nori, Kombu, and Wakame

To all you mermaids out there, or the ones who want to be — this is your ingredient! If you are what you eat, consider trying seaweed nori snacks throughout your day. Want to dive deeper, add kombu strips into your soups or stews, or even just steam for a snack. The taste is pretty mild but always packs a punch of the ocean. Salty, savory, and light! Medical News Toady put out an article that states seaweed contains vitamins A,B,C,E + Iodine, Iron and fiber! It has proteins and minerals that are also said to support thyroid health, heart health, and support the loss of unhealthy weight in diabetics by regulating insulin levels (Johnson 2018).



Spirulina & Chlorella

Although these can be seen as a type of seaweed, Spirulina and Chlorella are a type of blue and green algae that seriously have super powers. It's said that these algae's have been around since the beginning of time and are technically 'fossils of the earth'. These super greens are mainly harvested from mineral rich lake beds with nearby volcanos. Usually found for sale in a powered form, I like to add mainly to fruit smoothies since this flavor is 100% earth and is nice to have a sweet companion.


Green Tea & Matcha

Camellia sinensis as its know by herbalists and tea lovers alike, is the 'tea plant' to which ALL teas are made. (That's right, black/red tea, white tea, oolong and green are all made from the same plant!) What sets green tea aside from the rest is the beneficial, and simple properties it emits. The green and white teas leaves are usually picked from the younger, smaller leaves that are said to hold more vitality. And for those who do not know, Matcha is a powdered type of green tea, now derived from mainly from Japan vs. its original birthplace of China many centuries ago.


Green tea is a staple of mine and one in which I drink daily with my lemon water within my first hour of waking. I love integrating this tea practice into my morning with meditation and exercise. I prepare a small cup, steep covered, and allow myself to slowly wake up and start the day! Sometimes I like to add Ginseng or fresh herbs like oregano or thyme to my cup for added Qi.




.:: S U P E R H E R B S — R O O T S & S P I C E S ::.


Herbs can be classified as many different plant bodies, flowers, stems and roots. In most, if not all cases, fresh herbs over dried will always provide more nutritional benefits and more qi— or energy— to your foods. Spices are usually classified by herbs that have been dried and are readily accessible for culinary consumption—but this list is reserved for the lesser known, 'stand out' herbs on the market.


Please note that many herbs have wonderful, positive effects on the body and can rarely be 'overdone' when taken in small doses or added to culinary dishes. That being said, herbs are also very powerful plants that should not be ingested in excess or at one time. Please consult with your health provider if you're considering herbs as an alternative to prescribed medicine.


The list below is are some of my favorites for a reason and have a somewhat magical effect on those who take time to learn and consume them. They have each worked wonders on my vitality once I found ways to incorporate into my daily routine:


Tulsi aka Holy Basil

Actually apart of the mint family, this plant is similar to the basil we know in North America but much stronger and with more benefits. Named holy basil from its stellar properties, it is mainly cultivated in India where it is said to be a favorite for locals to grow outside their north/northeast door or window—removing negative energy and blessing the home. This herb is classified as an adaptogenic and has a huge amount of beneficial properties. I use this as a tincture and a tea to help incorporate into my routine. Known as an antidepressant, antiviral, stress reducer, antimicrobial, and antioxidant its advantageous to find creative ways to add to your daily rituals.


In many health food stores or online you can find tulsi tea offered in a variety of options. It pairs well with chai, lemon, fennel, sweet rose, turmeric and many others! With a fresh almost lemony taste, it's a great herb to add into your daily habits as much as you can!




Raw Cacao Powder

While this may seem like a common herb today, raw cacao is truly a 'heart opening' healer all on its own. Found by most in its powered form, this wonderfully bitter herb has an abundance of flavanols which make it great for slaying bad cholesterol in the body. This means better circulation, thinner blood, and more flexible arteries keeping your heart healthy and running smooth.


And it doesn't stop there! Cacao's superpowers are also known to nourish and bring blood up and into the gray matter of our brains helping with mental energy and fatigue. Many truth seekers around the world have opened up to the magic of cacao with ceremonial gatherings that revolve around set intentions and positive energy. Many raw cacao drinkers can experience heightened mood and mental clarity for several hours after taking.


Cacao vs. Cocoa—whats the difference? I like to think of this more or less as the about of pure the cacao vs cocoa that also includes sugars and oils. Not to say that all marketed cocoa is bad for you! Check to see that the cacao content within your cocoa is more than 70% present. This means more flavanols and more benefits for your body! I use raw cacao powder as a great baseline for adding adaptogens and spices like cinnamon and cayenne and clove for a Mexican style hot chocolate. I also add to baking and my morning protein smoothies.



He Shou Wo

This root is originally wild-harvested in China where it is said to grow so vastly it can flourish like a weed! Its not the plant or arial parts that we are concerned with here, but more of the root that holds the beneficial energy. He Shou Wo is said to promote the effects of anti-aging, promote hair growth, and overall circulation and regeneration of the cells. Because of this, it's said to naturally strengthen male fertility and aid in overall longevity and immunity.


Mainly purchased in whole slices, I first blend then store in its powdered form. I like to incorporate this root into a lovely blend of cocoa, oat milk, dates, and cinnamon! The cocoa helps to blend the flavors together while making this smoothy a beautiful heart opening elixir wrapped into one! I've found that cinnamon pares great with this root. I'm always looking for new creative ways to incorporate this into my life!


Astragalus

This adaptogen is a great choice for tackling stress and fatigue and overall lack of energy. It is said to enhance your vitality and supports the lungs and digestive system. This subtle but powerful herb is great to add to soups, stews, or curries for added health benefits. It pumps up when soaked and pulls apart nicely to break up into other foods. I like to made a simple miso soup with astragalus, seaweed and some mushrooms for a replenishing and light snack.



Maca root

This root is bulb-like and similar looking to a parsnip when it comes from the ground. It grows in white and red colors and I've noticed a great stride of clean energy when I add this root into my routine. Maca is now commonly found in the United States and is worth the try! Easy to add to a variety of baked goods and raw desserts, this root has given me a wonderful alert demeanor whenever I let it shine. I love adding this simple yet nutty root to my bliss balls and energy bites! Other simple ways to add this into your diet is to add to oatmeal or cereals. Are you a yogurt person? Try adding a 1/2 teaspoon of Maca next time to your bowl to see how it feels for you!




.:: S U P E R M U S H R O O M S ::.


One of my favorite additions to the human diet is the beautiful and mystical mushroom. How wonderful it is to be able to consume some of earths weirdest 'fruits' in the form of fantastic fungi! Mushrooms are very intelligent in a sense that they are interconnected to the earth by an intricate 'electrical' system unseen to the human eye. They are by far in a league of their own when it comes to the superfood world and should be talked more about! I recommend watching Fantastic Fungi to learn more on your own.


Desirable to maybe the adventurous few, super mushrooms are awarded this 'superior' title by truly having a positive effect on whomever is knowledgeable enough to consume them. So let's dive in and get in the know! Many of the mushrooms I have listed below are immune supporting, stress reducing, and overall a positive brain boosting trifecta of health. Many indigenous and native cultures around the world have revere these 'gems' as essential gifts from God and wonderfully complex.


Humans have long used mushrooms as approach to heal our bodies and connect back to earth. The fungus Penicillium from which the antibiotic penicillin is derived, is the most famous medicine of our modern age (Diggen 1999). And while many other mushrooms constitute to the status of 'super mushrooms, these mentioned below are a few of my favorite that I recommend and have used for several years with great lasting effects.


Reishi

Also known as Ganoderma lingzhi, the ten-thousand-year mushroom, and the mushroom of immortality—this fungi grows in a variety of locations all over the world! Mainly in warmer climates like Asia, the south Pacific, southern Europe and the southeastern United States. It loves hardwood trees like oak and hemlock. When looking to forge these in the wild you'll see different varieties depending on the geographical location. In the store and in many places online you will find reishi mushroom in a powdered form and added to drinks like coffee or tea. Science Direct named it one of the primary herbs of choice in any immune deficiency disease. It possesses a broad spectrum of immune-stimulating activities, as well as anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic properties.


I first tried adding reishi into my morning coffee but realized that it was actually paired better without caffeine. Known as a top adaptogen (stress reducing herb), I now add it into a cup of herbal tea alongside fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme in the evening. It won't make you sleepy, necessarily, but it does allow the body to relax, unwind, and lessen tense muscles.



Lions Mane

Fluffy, cute, and wild—this mushroom is true to its name! The Lions Mane Mushroom is also just as tasty as it is visually attractive. In the past I had usually just seen this beauty in its powdered form, but summer 2020 had brought an unexpected supply to my local natural market. Grown from decayed trees in eastern north America, this fluffy 'shroom is known for calming the nervous system and therefor acts as a big aid in brain health. I blend powdered lions mane extract regularly in my morning tea, along with fresh herbs and even in my cacao smoothy. One way I have used the fresh mushroom slices are to sauté in ghee and lightly salt with sea salt and fresh cracked black peppercorns. Viola! A wonderful starter to any meal with a smooth savory-life flavor sure to please any foodie critic.



Cordyceps

Sometimes known as the 'worm', this fungi can look pretty intimidating at first glance. In its whole form, It looks exactly like a worm, and technically, it IS a parasitic fungi that has 'taken over' the body of a caterpillar—I encourage you to look this up to see for yourself! Got a good look? Now if that wasn't too graphic, the smell is not for the faint of heart as this super mushroom runs deep into the senses. Although able to order the cordyceps whole, I'm content with using the pre-blended option, making it easy to add to my morning tea blend. I really enjoy adding this cordycep extract power to a cup of Yerba Mate for a super-jolt when I have a big day ahead. I can count on cordyceps to provide a clean and even mental clarity all day long.



Chaga

Ah chaga mushrooms! Found mainly growing from birch trees, this chunky 'shroom is common in colder climates and is a wonderful addition to coffee, tea, smoothies, or even on-top of baked goods if you're feeling adventurous. With a full throttle of immunity boosting properties, this mushrooms helps fight inflammation and is said to be loaded with antioxidants. Commonly found in a blended, powered form—this mushroom is mild in flavor and is a great addition to my cacao smoothie when looking for an instant boost of physical stamina or mental clarity.


I like to brew a large batch of chaga tea in a crock pot with cinnamon and clove. Once brewed for at least 5 hours on low, I have a dense and dark colored brew that can be added to all types of recipes or even simply enjoyed on its own. I keep in a pitcher in the fridge for a couple weeks or until its ready to brew a new!


.:: A D A P T O G E N S (aka THE STRESS-LESS HERBS) ::.


Ancient cultures have been utilizing adaptogenic herbs and roots much longer than we probably have identified. Adaptogens support the bodies ability to adapt to change while boosting resistance to external stressors—hence why they have become so popular in the last decade and beyond!


This classification of herbs can be seen as a fairly new, since many of these herbs and roots are found in different regions around the world and were not considered as a large enough category until recent history. Some roots and herbs can be adaptogens, but not the other way around. I believe the primacy take away of this classification of herbs is one to help the body adapt to stress. I like to think these herbs helping us adapt to change in the mental, physical, and spiritual way. Some adaptogens that I like to circulate through my routine happen to include a variety of ginseng's from different corners of the world. They include:

Ginseng (Asian)

Specifically panax or Asian ginseng has been used for centuries to increase energy and boost the immune system, naturally. America has also been growing their own ginseng in the farms of Wisconsin for many years and is a close equivalent when looking to purchase with regular known benefits to match! I brew a small sprig of ginseng in my cup of green tea every morning and chew once I reach the bottom. This is also great in a green smoothie or cocoa smoothie depending on the time of day!



Eleuthero

Also called Siberian ginseng was said to be one of the first herbs to be identified as an adaptogen. This herb is less stimulating than the ginseng of Asian and India and is said to be tolerated by more people as many ginseng roots can really pack a punch! According to herbalist Matthew Wood, eleuthero is normalizing to the thyroid, so can be beneficial for those with hypothyroid conditions (Wood, 2008). I like to brew this herb into a tea on its own or mix with a green tea for a fresh floral flavor.



Ashwagandha

Also know as the Indian ginseng, this root is a longtime favorite of mine! I found ashwagandha in 2015 when I was over stressed and emotionally spent—in need of a serious immune reboot. I loved how I felt so much that I even gave this away as gifts to family and friends to share the stress free love! Aside from reducing cortisol levels, this root also can help with hormonal and thyroid balance! YES, ashwagandha can do it all. I have found for sale usually in a powdered form and have added to coffee in my past. Today, I prefer in a cocoa smoothie or a nice addition to my afternoon Hibiscus, Rose, and Basil Flower Iced Tea.



Asparagus Root

Most roots our there have a bitter taste and are fully dried once the common consumer is able to get ahold of them. Asparagus root is not your common bitter root! It is actually simply sweet and chewy enough to nibble on all on its own. Said to be somewhat of a speciality in Chinese medicine, this root is known for reducing stress and adding vitality back into life! I have added this root to soups and stews, teas, and even simply eaten on its own.


Reishi Mushroom, Rhodiola, and Tulsi (holy Basil) are also very powerful adaptogenic herbs and are known to increate vitality. Each worth trying for yourself!


These herbs work for me and I encourage you to do your own research and see what works best for you! If any one this information resonates with you or you have tried one of these herbs, feel free to leave a comment below. Have questions? I'd love to hear your thoughts about these super fantastic plants!




:: Please Note ::

The information suggested on this site is based on personal experience only and is not intended to cure or treat any form of a disease. Alexa Gioia is not a certified nutritionist or naturopathic doctor. Please reach out to your doctor or health care provider for medical advice. 

 

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