Abundant at farmers markets and at the grocery store, herbs are called for in a multitude of dishes but are too often overlooked for their health benefits. Their variety and versatility allows herbs to be used fresh and dried in a number of ways, from fresh basil on top of a pizza to dried oregano in a pungent spice mix. However you choose to use them, know that many herbs pack a powerful nutritional and antioxidative punch that should leave you running back to the store for more. The following are eight healing herbs that should be used for both flavor and for their health benefits.
Perhaps the most abundant and popular herb to find fresh, basil is the Italian mainstay found in so many foods we love. Basil is full of magnesium, and its anesthetic properties help alleviate pains. Simple and effective, use basil to relieve sores by holding fresh leaves over troubled areas, or brew a potent basil tea to reduce swollen gums and oral pain. You can even rub crushed basil leaves on minor cuts to feel better naturally.
Packing more than forty times the antioxidant power of apples, oregano is a strong and flavorful herb that protects against heart disease and cancer, as well as serving as an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory aid. Soak bagged oregano leaves in a healing bath in order to soothe sore muscles, or breathe the steam from boiled oregano leaves to help clear bronchial issues.
Not just for dessert! Mint is rich in vitamin B, iron, phosphorous and calcium. Fresh leaves help assuage inflammation and infection. Chew on fresh mint to help open congested airways when the pollen falls, or brew into tea to help with indigestion. Also, mint is known to boost energy, so keep a small plant around your work area for maximum productivity.
Chives have great amounts of vitamins A and C, which eliminate free radicals looking to do harm. Chives are also packed with potassium, calcium and sulfur. Such a medley of vitamins and minerals does wonders to righten upset stomachs and lower blood pressure. Use chives in spreads, dips and stews.
Comforting and helping you relax, rosemary pleases both the nose and the palate while relieving tension and boosting your memory. Crush rosemary leaves to make a stress-relief tea, or wash your hair with the brew to alleviate dandruff issues.
Parsley is a powerhouse of nutrition, serving as a mild diuretic as well as fighting off lung cancer and heart disease. Parsley can be used to treat halitosis (better than sugary chewing gum!) as well as to flush toxins and treat bloating. Just brew parsley into a remedial tea and let the plant do its magic.
Citrus-y and relaxing, lemon thyme has two main active ingredients that make it a healing herb. Thymol and carvacrol are oils that relax the respiratory tract and can be found in the leaves of lemon thyme. Use this plant to relieve congestion and soothe a cough. Also, lemon thyme can help with digestion as well as oral pain. Brew it in a tea or pair it with any number of healthy recipes for a great homeopathic boost.
Not only good for pickles, dill is full of carvone, which aids the digestive tract in inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. Therefore, use dill to help with a number of stomach issues, including cramps, gas and nausea. Also, dill helps to encourage healthy herb production in nursing mothers. Boil into tea to maximize the herb's benefits.
Now that you know just how nutritionally powerful these herbs are, you should find ways to use them in all of your cooking. The fragrance and flavor of fresh herbs is just one of the few benefits you'll receive from adding these to your meals. To make things even easier, try your hand at growing them yourself. Many herbs grow very well indoors, and the convenience of a window-sill garden should encourage their use more often.