Did you know that some of the most commonly grown culinary herbs double as healing herbs? There’s a reason a sprig of parsley adorns your restaurant plate, and it’s not just for looks. The chlorophyll it contains freshens your breath, and parsley is good for the immune system. Dill is a staple in pickles, and has been used for ages in treating colic. That rosemary plant you’ve nurtured helps boost memory. Lavender adds aromatic flavor and also helps soothe frazzled nerves. So go ahead, eat your medicine!
BASIL: Ease Pain And More
With its anti-inflammatory qualities, basil may not only help arthritis sufferers, but is also easy on the tummy. Asian varieties have even more healing power.
Basil has antibacterial benefits, as well. To soothe skin and help remove environmental toxins, make a basil face splash by pouring hot water over basil leaves (add some rose petals for astringency). When cool enough, strain and use on your face, avoiding the eyes.
Add a few more basil sprigs during the last five minutes of cooking time in your pasta sauce. You’ll get an explosion of flavor.
PLANTING TIP: Basil is an annual. Sow seeds or transplant in spring after danger of frost. Plant in fertile, moist, well-drained soil in full sun.
DILL: For Bones & Colicky Babies
My kids used to call this the “dill pickle herb.” The little ones in our family love to pluck dill leaves and eat them right in the herb garden. Dill contains calcium, good for strong bones and teeth. It’s a gentle digestive aid and, along with fennel, an ingredient in gripe water, which helps colicky babies with gas and digestion.
Add dill to a fresh herb crust for salmon. Toss a few sprigs into your homemade chicken soup.
PLANTING TIP: Dill is an annual. Sow seeds in spring or fall or transplant in spring. Dill likes fertile, moist, well-drained soil in full sun or part shade.
FENNEL: Good Digestion Starts Here
I love this savory licorice flavored herb. Feathery and delicate looking, it makes a beautiful background herb. Fennel is an ingredient in natural pain relievers. Good for digestion and alleviating appetite, fennel also has an abundance of fiber.
Try stuffing mushrooms with Italian sausage, which contains fennel, and mozzarella cheese. It’s delicious and easy.
PLANTING TIP: Fennel is a perennial or annual. Sow seeds in spring or fall or transplant in spring. It grows well in average, well-drained soil in full sun or shade.
FLAX: The Wonder Herb
When it comes to natural pain relievers, flax is a star. One of nature’s best vegan sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, flax is a good herb for a strong immune system, healthy brain, heart, skin and nails. It contains iron, protein and B vitamins. The fiber in flax, both soluble and insoluble, helps maintain a healthy, calm gut. Your body absorbs flax seed when it is ground, or made into flax oil.
Flax seed comes in two varieties: brown and golden. The brown flax seed has an earthy flavor and the golden, nuttier.
I always add flax seed to my granola for extra crunch and nutrients.
PLANTING TIP: Flax is an annual. Sow seeds in early spring in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun.
GARLIC: Heart Smart
All garlic species are good for your heart and lungs. Garlic has antibiotic properties. It improves circulation and blood flow, and also contains antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the system. The slaves who built the pyramids ate garlic as a vegetable. It was known even then as a “good for you” food.
Make an herbal dipping oil by stirring in oregano, rosemary and basil into fresh extra virgin olive oil. Store in the refrigerator. Right before serving, stir in minced garlic. Serve with French baguettes.
PLANTING TIP: Garlic is an annual. Plant cloves in early spring or late fall. It will grow in average, well-drained soil in full sun.
GINGER: Quell Nausea, Relieve Pain
Ginger has been used for centuries as a remedy for nausea, stomachaches and other digestive discomforts, but it also has a lot to offer those with chronic pain and inflammation.
The pungent root has anti-inflammatory properties and lots of antioxidants, plus some analgesic ability—that is, it will help to fight inflammation, protect your joints and tissues from further inflammation, and even reduce the amount of pain you feel.
Ginger root makes a soothing, healing tea. Combined with lemon and honey, it will help cure upper respiratory illness.
Ginger has some natural blood thinning qualities, too. If you are taking blood thinner medications, talk to your doctor before using ginger and go with the advice given.
PLANTING TIP: Ginger is an annual. Plant rhizomes in potting soil in spring in average, well-drained soil in shade.
LAVENDER: Soothe Your Mind, Sleep Well
One of my favorite herbs that have a calming effect is lavender. The aroma of lavender is clean, warm and soothing. Crush and sniff a fresh lavender sprig before you go to sleep or make a lavender pouch and place it under your pillow. Its anti-bacterial qualities are legendary. It is said that during the plague, glove makers scented the inside of gloves with lavender, and they were some of the few people not infected.
Crush some lavender flowers or leaves into lemon juice when making lemonade. Sweeten as desired.
PLANTING TIP: Lavender is a perennial. It’s best to start with established small plants. Lavender likes full sun in very well drained, average soil. It hates wet feet!
OREGANO: Add Spice, Beat A Cold
We think of oregano as the pizza and pasta sauce herb. It goes far beyond flavoring, though. Oregano contains antioxidants and is good for your immune system. I like to add oregano to my healing salves. Its antibiotic qualities may help reduce a cold’s duration.
With its strong flavor, a little oregano goes a long way. It’s a staple in my bean soups. Add it at the beginning of cooking time so that the flavor has a chance to bloom.
PLANTING TIP: Oregano is a perennial. Sow seeds or transplant in spring. It likes average soil in full sun.
MINT: An Invigorating Digestive
I grew up with this herb, which we called “Nana.” Peppermint is still my favorite mint. Mint invigorates the senses, reduces nausea, and aids digestion. Peppermint is especially helpful after a high fat meal. Mint contains vitamin C, which we need to replenish daily.
Stir fresh chopped mint into strained Greek yogurt. Add some minced garlic. Stir in minced cucumber, drained well. Add a pinch or two of salt and you’ve just made the classic Tzatziki dip!
PLANTING TIP: Mint is a perennial, an aggressive one! Plant mint in a container because it’s so invasive. Sow seeds or transplant in spring in average soil, sun or shade.
PARSLEY: Multi-Vitamin & Breath Freshener
Parsley is like a vitamin pill in a plant. It contains calcium, iron, beta-carotene and vitamin C, to name a few of its virtues. Plus, it contains chlorophyll for freshening breath.
Parsley is key to my family’s tabbouleh, that amazing bulgur wheat and vegetable salad. For those in your family who are “green challenged,” stir a few sprigs of parsley into canned soups while heating. It will work its magic during the heating process. Just remove the sprigs before serving. I won’t tell!
PLANTING TIP: Parsley is a biannual. Sow seeds in spring. Parsley thrives in average, moist, well-drained soil in sun or part shade.
ROSEMARY: Memory Booster & Disinfectant
Rosemary’s strong piney, camphor-citrus like flavor along with its disinfectant and antibacterial qualities made it a popular strewing herb in olden days for cleaning floors and sick rooms.
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” Well, I guess Shakespeare was pretty smart when he coined that phrase, since rosemary indeed helps our memories and mind. Rosemary enhances blood flow to the brain, and with its abundance of calcium, a cup of rosemary tea can help calm us and have a positive effect on the mind.
Sprinkle quartered potatoes with a bit of olive oil, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast and enjoy.
PLANTING TIP: Rosemary is a tender perennial. It’s best to start with established small plants that you place in average, well-drained soil in sun or part shade.
This article is from the fall 2018 issue of The New Pioneer Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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