I’ve just returned from a week and a half in Ireland. Hazel and scabiosa and fuschias. It seemed ironic that the herb I was most grateful for as I traveled, though, was carob. Wouldn’t you know it, on the morning of my last day in Ireland I was at the National Botanic Garden in Glasnevin and in a glasshouse I came upon my friend.

I first came to appreciate carob on a trip to Greece in 2008. I ate wonderful traditional Greek semolina halva sweetened with carob. Then I saw the trees growing on the island of Thera and was struck by how they reminded me of the mesquites in Texas. To me, carob powder is best compared to mesquite powder. It is sweeter, though, and milder. It’s traditionally used for respiratory infections and for digestive problems of all kinds. It’s extremely nutritive: one of those herbs I think of as the herbalists’ vitamins. My inclination with carob is to not overthink it. There is science out there on the details, sure, but I prefer to get my nutrition by alternating nutritive plants rather than counting out milligrams of this and international units of that. It’s high in a laundry list of good things, good enough.

In preparing for my trip to Ireland, I wanted to put together a lightweight formula that would keep me well. I mixed together equal parts of eleuthero powder, a mixed medicinal mushroom powder blend and carob. I wanted endurance and resilience. And I didn’t want to be bothered with sinus congestion or digestive problems, my most likely maladies. I’m attracted to these kinds of herbs – those with neutral energetics. None of these herbs would make me too warm or cold, wet or dry, tense or lax. I can compensate for these energetic imbalances as I go, but use these centering, grounding herbs to stay firmly rooted, harder to throw off balance. Within days I came to crave the powder, the sweetness of the carob, “my dirt” as I thought of it. I would take a spoonful of the powder once or twice a day, and being careful not to breathe, mix it with water in my mouth and swallow it down. A little vitamin D and some omega-3 oils and I was all set.

And it worked! Despite the pub crawling and the overstimulation, the unfamiliar food and water and the long travel days, I stayed well til the end. Thank you, dear Ceratonia siliqua!

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