Healing Herbs for the Kitchen

A cook’s garden contains many ingredients that can be artfully combined to enhance our culinary experience. Not only can these common ingredients tantalize our taste buds, but they bring healthful, healing ingredients to our bodies.

The human body has an amazing capacity to heal itself and nature provides the resources to allow the body to function at its greatest potential. A good diet combined with medical advice offers us the best chance of living a healthy life.

Below are five healing herbs that can be grown at home and incorporated into delicious meals that support your health.

Garlic (Allium sativa)

Garlic is one of the best herbs for detoxifying the body and supporting the immune system and cardiovascular health.  The Sulphur compounds in garlic are responsible for its distinctive odor and many of its healing properties.

Garlic can be taken raw or used in cooking.  Taking parsley with garlic can help reduce the odor associated with garlic.  Chewing caraway or Fennel seeds will also help reduce the odor.  Fresh lemon juice applied to your hands before washing will remove the garlic odor.

Garlic affects all body systems especially the circulatory, respiratory, intestinal, and immune systems.  Garlic has a reputation as a blood thinner and has been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation. It is not recommended to consume Garlic in large quantities if you have an anticipated surgery or are taking other anti-coagulant medications.

Garlic is widely cultivated throughout the entire world.  Individual cloves can be planted early in spring or in the fall in mild climates.  When the tops begin to wither, the bulbs are ready to harvest.  Garlic can be stored in mesh bags.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is a common culinary herb used to flavor wines, cheeses, poultry, meats and preserves.  The herbs can be consumed with bread and butter.

Sage is most commonly used for sore throats, tonsillitis, stomatitis, gingivitis and night sweats.  The carminative properties of sage stimulate the production of digestive fluids and relax the smooth muscles.

Sage also stimulates the central nervous system and has estrogenic effects on the body.  Sage can help reduce sweating and excessive perspiration.  It has been shown to be useful in treating hot flashes and other symptoms of estrogen deficiency.

Sage can even be used in tea form to promote shiny hair, particularly for dark hair.

Sage can interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals. It can decrease the milk supply in nursing mothers and should not be taken by pregnant or nursing mothers. However, the amounts used as seasonings do not have this effect. Sage should not be taken by those with seizure disorders or high blood pressure

Sage is common to the Mediterranean states but is cultivated around the world. In the southern states, sage is an evergreen, but in colder climates is needs to be protected or grown as an annual.

To Native Americans in the southwest, Sage is a sacred plant and is used in physical and spiritual purification rites.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme is most often found in baked goods, meat, condiments and vegetable dishes.  Thyme oil is also used to flavor alcoholic beverages. 

Thyme is valued for its expectorant and antibacterial properties. It is frequently found in remedies to support the respiratory system.

Thyme can help eliminate gas and reduce fever, headaches and mucus. Thyme is good for respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and croup.

The essential oil of Thyme is an excellent disinfectant especially when combined with essential oil of Lemon.

Thymol, the main constituent of Thyme’s volatile oil, is a primary ingredient in Listerine® Antiseptic.

Thymol can be toxic if taken in large doses.  Symptoms include nausea, vomiting gastric pain, headache, dizziness, convulsions, coma, cardiac and respiratory collapse.

Native to the rocky slopes of the Mediterranean, Thyme will thrive wherever there is a similar environment.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley is commonly used as an after dinner breath mint to reduce mouth odors.  Chlorophyll is abundant in Parsley and is responsible for its deodorant characteristics.  It is common to consume parsley with garlic to reduce the odors of garlic.

Parsley is also used as a tonic for the urinary system.  It is good for difficult urination and is a folk remedy for kidney and gall stones.

Parsley contains more vitamin C by weight than oranges.

Parsley is native to eastern Mediterranean countries but is now well established in many different areas including the United States.

Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulagare)

Fennel is a tall, graceful plant better suited to the garden than the kitchen window. As a hardy perennial, Fennel grows in most parts of North America and Europe.

In the kitchen Fennel seeds are used in baked goods, curries and to flavor sausages. The odor is fragrant, and the taste is sweet and agreeable to most people.

Fennel has the ability to make the taste of many other herbs more palatable, particularly to children.  It’s aromatic properties also make it a catalyst for other herbs.

Fennel is used to aid digestion and to suppress the appetite.  Fennel relieves abdominal pain, colon disorders and gas and intestinal tract spasms. So, it is often used in purgative and laxative formulas to offset the intestinal griping they may cause.

Fennel is one of the plants that is disliked by fleas. The powdered herb can be used to drive away fleas from kennels and stables. 

While garlic and fennel may be best grown in a garden, parsley, thyme and sage can be grown in a pot on a sunny windowsill.

Greek physician Hippocrates said: “let food by thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” This statement has stood the test of time and is as relevant today as it was then.

To your good health!

Sources:

Pederson, Mark, Nutritional Herbology, 2015, Whitman Publications

Balch, Phyllis A., CNC, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 2010, Penguin Group

Fritchey, Philip, MH, ND, CNHP, Practical Herbalism, 2015, Whitman Publications

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