Have a (Herb) Ball!
Herbal powders are a simple, cost-effective method of taking herbs because they are ingested as food. I like to use them because you are guaranteed to be getting the whole herb (assuming your source is reputable).
Extracts are highly concentrated and convenient, but they are still an extract of the whole herb, and they tend to be more expensive on a per dose basis.
Herbal teas are also nice, but a down side is that they take more time to prepare, and, as in the extracts, are still pulling out a subset of constituents of the whole plant.
Enter herbs in powder form. I advise my clients that they can sprinkle the herbs on soft foods such as applesauce, oatmeal, even yogurt. Some people blend them directly into smoothies. Lately, though, I have had several clients for whom sprinkling on/in food was not palatable to them for one reason or another.
In these cases, making “herb balls” may be a better, more convenient alternative. Though they take a bit of preparation time up front, once they’re made, all you need to do is pop one in your mouth like a “bon bon” for each dose.
What’s an herb ball, and more importantly, how do you make one?
An herb ball is exactly as it sounds: a small(ish) sphere that contains powdered herbs mixed in and held together with a sticky, tasty base (think peanut butter). You can then add flavorings to make them sweet or savory, mix-ins to add texture, and/or coatings for some extra zing.
How to: Take your favorite herbal powers and mix with any of the following (I’ve underlined my personal favorite choices):
Base: any nut or seed butter (I like almond), coconut oil
Sweetener: Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar
Savory: tahini, hummus, miso
Mix-ins and coatings (sweet or savory): sesame seeds, chia seeds, coconut flakes, cacao nibs, ground nuts, cocoa, cinnamon, ginger, any other tasty spice
Determine how many doses your herbal powder includes. This will be the number of balls you will make.
Mix the powdered herbs in a bowl and add the base, sweetener/savory and mix-ins to a ball-rolling consistency and to taste. You may need to adjust the ingredients to get the consistency you want.
Roll the appropriate number of balls from the resultant ‘dough’.
If desired, roll the balls in spice, nuts, etc.
Store in an airtight container, and eat one ball for each daily dose.
A few hints for success:
A reasonable “dose” – an herb ball of convenient size for easy eating will contain between 2 – 6 grams of herb. Anything larger than that may produce unwieldy results.
For larger doses, divide the total dose into two (or more) balls. For example, if the daily dose is 12 g, make twice as many 6 gram balls as you would 12 gram balls
If the balls are too gritty, add more of the nut butter and/or the sweetener/savory until you get a smoother consistency.
Coatings in ground herbs or cocoa will be absorbed into the rest of the ball within a day, i.e., they will lose the ‘powdery’ look. Dust balls just prior to eating, if desired.
What herbs make good herb balls?
Here’s a short list of some of my favorites, but see my latest Green Haven Living blog post for some specific formulas to address a number of health concerns such as Type 2 diabetes, stress, and menstrual support.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous)
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, C. cassia)
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)
Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestris)
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp)
Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
There are infinite possibilities – have fun with it!
Donna Koczaja, M.S., RH(AHG) graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) with a Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism and a Post-Master's Certificate in Clinical Herbalism. She earned Registered Herbalist status from the American Herbalists’ Guild in 2018. Originally educated as a mechanical engineer, she combines the rigor of her original scientific training with the traditional healing art of herbal medicine to partner with her clients to uncover the root cause of their underlying health issues. Also a Master Gardener since 2008, her primary interest is in inspiring others to improve their health and sense of wellbeing through the joys of gardening and the power of natural medicine.
Donna currently practices at the MUIH Natural Care Center in Laurel, Maryland. Read more about her, what she does, and why she does it at www.greenhavenliving.com, or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 240-353-8754.