The best way to make the most out of herbs is to try growing them yourself. Regardless of the size of your home, there’s always room for a pot on the windowsill or a small container. These herbs provide what can only be considered as that special X factor missing in many meals. Even small quantities of these herbs stimulate the taste buds while providing potent antioxidant value.
At times I've eaten all of these herbs daily. They would rejuvenate my body, increase energy levels and most of all ward off colds and fatigue through the infusion of powerful phytochemicals. All of these herbs can be used as food, flavoring, medicine, and even perfume.
1) FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
Parsley is an amazing medicinal herb with a world of health benefits. The root contains calcium, B-complex vitamins, and iron, which nourish the glands that help regulate the uptake of calcium. It is a source of magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin K.
Fresh or dried parsley is a kitchen staple. The leaves give a bite to salad greens, and when dried they add depth and complexity to sauces. Once established, parsley beds grow in loose clumps with delicate serrated leaves and spindly stems.
Cilantro, also known as coriander, Chinese parsley or dhania, contains an abundance of antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. It also is an excellent source of vital vitamins and minerals.
It is rich in many vital vitamins including folic-acid, vitamin-A, beta carotene and vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural antioxidant. Cilantro leaves provides 30% of daily recommended levels of vitamin C. The health benefits of cilantro are many. Its powerful anti-inflammatory capacities that can help one deal with symptoms of arthritis.
This humble herb can be grown in your kitchen garden. So, make it a part of your kitchen and add more taste to your platter.
Oregano is an important culinary and medicinal herb that has been used in medicine and cooking for thousands of years - with a number of health benefits. It is one of the top five spices in the world with one of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scores meaning it will more effectively neutralize free radicals. It is a rick source of fiber, iron, maganese and vitamin K. The herb is used to treat respiratory tract disorders, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, menstrual cramps, and urinary tract disorders.
Oregano works wonders in Italian dishes, which favor sweet and savory flavor combinations. It is one of the few herbs that tastes even better dried than fresh. This herb also works wonders as a companion plant to help keep bugs at bay in the vegetable garden.
Thyme has a long history of use for chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. It is an excellent source of iron and manganese, and a good source of calcium and dietary fiber. Thyme contains a variety of important flavonoids and volatile oils, including the important volatile oil thymol.
Thyme has many beneficial antibacterial actions similar to another important herb, basil, which can help prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods. For example, researchers reported in 2004 that thyme was able to decontaminate lettuce inoculated with Shigella, an infectious organism that triggers diarrhea and may cause significant intestinal damage. Washing produce in a solution containing either basil or thyme essential oil at a low concentration of only 1% resulted in dropping the number of Shigella bacteria below the point at which they could be detected.
SWEET ITALIAN BASIL
Basil is a delicious herb that goes well in a variety of foods. It is originally native to Iran, India, and other tropical regions of Asia, but now it is widely available throughout the world. Basil’s has antioxidant, antimutagenic, antitumorigenic, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It also helps lower your blood pressure. Extract of basil has been shown to lower blood pressure. Adding fresh basil to your diet is easy and certainly can’t hurt. Keep a small pot of the herb in your kitchen garden and add the fresh leaves to pastas, soups, salads, and casseroles.
While many varieties of basil exist, sweet basil is one of the most predominant and most frequently examined herbs for its health benefits. Basil’s antioxidant, antimutagenic, antitumorigenic, antiviral, and antibacterial properties likely arise from a variety of components including linalool, 1,8-cineole, estragole, and eugenol.
A hardy bush with woody branches, rosemary makes the herb garden complete. The needle-like leaves emit the piney aroma of Christmas trees. Rosemaryt creates one of the most divine kitchen fragrances, sending appetites into overdrive.
Rosemary contains caffeic acid and rosemarinic acid, both of which are potent antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory agents. Rosemary is also a good source of antioxidant vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and other important antioxidants.
In addition, rosemary contains 19 chemicals with antibacterial action and a number of volatile oils, which reduce the airway constriction induced by histamine -- the chemical culprit of asthma and other allergy symptoms. Notably, rosemary has long been used to treat asthma.
Dill has been used to soothe the digestive tract and treat heartburn, colic and gas for thousands of years. In fact, the word dill comes from the Old Norse word dilla, meaning to lull or soothe. The herb has an antifoaming action that suggests why it might help break up gas bubbles. Like parsley, dill is rich in chlorophyll, which also makes it useful in treating bad breath.
In Russia, Ukraine, and Poland dill is one of the most popular herbs used in the kitchen, and, along with parsley, is used for various purposes. Fresh, finely cut dill leaves are used as topping to various soups and salads.
Successful cultivation requires warm to hot summers with high sunshine levels; even partial shade will reduce the yield substantially. It also prefers rich, well drained soil. The seeds are viable for three to ten years. It's difficult to effectively grow dill in the winter indoors.
John Summerly is nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.