What are herbs?

Some of the HerbsCredit: AuthorFrom scientific or botanical point of view, herbs; derived from the Latin root ‘herba’meaning; grass, are essentially non woody, flowering plants, which do not persist after the growing season. This excludes woody plants like shrubs and trees, as well as the non flowering plants like ferns, fungi and algae. Generally speaking, herbs are small grass like plants used for grazing as in herbage, or the dried leaves as in herbarium. It is interesting to note that some big herbivorous (herb eating) animals like Camel, zebra and giraffe, consume thorny branches or leaves of trees like Acacia and still known as ‘herbivores’.

How the herbs are defined in context of health?

The only condition for an herb of medicinal value is to have some chemical which could be extracted from any part of a plant such as a root, stem, leaves, flowers, seeds, bark, or tubers etc.  and could be utilized an active ingredient in the development of an alternative medicine. For the purpose of this article, we shall consider this definition of herbs on account of it’s relevance to health.

What is the value of herbs?

In addition to the general, culinary and medicinal value, herbs have spiritual and aesthetic value too. The yellow flowering; herb bennet literally means’ blessed herb’ from the Latin ‘Heba benedicta’.On account of their being malodorous, some herbs, like onion and garlic, are infamous from literary point of view as considered by Shakespeare in ;A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 4, Scene 2 :

“And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic,

 For we are to utter sweet breath;”

Aesthetic value of herbs had always been realized, by the poets of as great stature as Shakespeare, who had been spell bound by the attractive herbs as in The Winter’s Tale (Act4, Scene4)

“Hot Lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;

The marigold, that goes to bed wi’th’sun,”


What are the benefits of herbs for health?

Health benefits of herbs are very wide ranged and entail cosmetic applications by dint of terpene content or alovera gel to their being as valuable as an antidote. Water Extract of Mimosa pudica; commonly known as ‘touch me not’ by dint of an alkaloid ‘mimosine’ contained in it, can neutralize the lethal venom of Cobra by inhibiting the enzymatic activity and toxicity of the snake poison. Of the innumerable benefits of herbs, a few typical uses and benefits are given in the following:

  • Ajwan, carom seeds (Trachyspermum ammi) are used to prevent abdominal pain and improve digestion.
  • Chewing one or two black cardamoms (Amonum subulatum), gives immediate relief to GIRD (Gastro Intestinal Reflux Disorder). 
  • Mustard oil, extracted from the brown mustard (Brassica juncea) is known for its anti dandruff and hair growing properties.
  • Licorice extracts of Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), is an excellent anti ulcerative and is also known to prevent cough effectively.
  • For Americans there is a pill for everything and for Chinese, the herb; Ginseng is panacea for all ailments.
  • There are no two opinions regarding the cholesterol lowering properties of garlic.