Benefits & Properties of Selected Herbs
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- ASTRAGALUS: The ancient Chinese favored the astragalus herb for its immune system enhancing properties and benefits. It provides support for a healthier spleen and can reduce fatigue brought on by poor spleen function. It has been said to lower blood sugar and blood pressure and provide circulation support. Also said to provide a variety of benefits to the liver, kidneys, and endocrine system.
- BAIKAL SCULLCAP: This medicinal herb was also favored by the Chinese in ancient times as a pain reliever. They prescribed it for the relief of colds, insomnia, headaches, shingles and to reduce fevers. Clinical studies have supported the traditional wisdom of the Chinese. The herb features beautiful blue flowers.
- BASIL: Basil is the king of culinary herbs and, in fact, the name ‘basil’ is derived from the Greek word ‘basileus’ which means ‘king’. This culinary herb is a staple of cooking throughout the Mediterranean. Adds a distinct, pungent flavor that has been described as mingling of cloves and licorice. It is a vital ingredient in Italian cooking and is used in pesto and other Italian sauces. It is said to aid digestion and acts as a very mild sedative.
- BURDOCK: A versatile herb with both culinary and medicinal uses. Burdock leaves are stewed and used in western cultures as a flavoring in vegetable stock for soups and stews. Leaves can be included salads to add mild flavor. Medicinally, burdock is said to have properties that purify and detoxify the blood. It is also said to have anti-cancer properties that have been supported by clinical research. Burdock has commonly been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema.
- CAYENNE PEPPER: Another versatile herb with culinary and medicinal properties. Cayenne powder is quite spicy and is used in Indonesian, Mexican, and Italian dishes. It can be used to spice up just about anything. Cayenne is high in capsaicin which is used as a digestive aid. Cayenne has blood thinning properties that can reduce blood pressure and act as a mild stimulant. Organic gardeners use powdered cayenne mixed with mild soapy water as a natural insect repellent.
- CHIVES: Chives have a flavor of mild, sweet onion and are popular as a flavor and garnish in a vast variety of dishes from salads to vegetable dishes to soups and more. Chives are a natural insect repellent and will drive insects away from even neighboring plants.
- CILANTRO: (also called Coriander) Cilantro is used in a wide variety of foods including Caribbean, Indian, Mexican, and Asian. Fresh cilantro has a strong fresh, and incredibly distinct flavor. It is slow to germinate (sometimes taking up to 2 weeks) but is easy to grow. One of the most popular culinary herbs around.
- DILL: Sporting both medicinal and culinary uses, dill is said to settle an upset stomach and improve appetite. It has been used for centuries by nursing mothers to encourage milk flow and relieve breast congestion. As a culinary herb, it is obviously a critical ingredient in canning and pickling. It also adds flavor to a variety of dishes. Fresh dill tastes incredible, but can lose its potency as it cooks. As such, it should be added toward the end of the cooking process to maintain flavor and fragrance.
- ECHINACEA: Highly favored as a medicinal herb, Echinacea has a variety of health benefits including blood purification, and immune system support. Popular as an all-purpose herb for most any ailment. In addition to its medicinal benefits, it is a spectacularly beautiful flower herb that sports a bloom of light purple, red, and orange. A great addition to any herb or flower garden. Blooms from July to September in most climes.
- FEVERFEW: A popular medicinal herb it is also a beautiful flowering herb that features a large number of delicate white/yellow blooms. Feverfew is popular in England as a natural remedy for headaches and migraines. Leaves can be consumed raw or steeped in a tea. Also said to provide relief of stress, tension, and arthritis. Also said to provide a pleasant sense of well-being.
- GARLIC CHIVES: Very similar to chives in flavor and appearance, garlic chives also add the additional flavor of garlic which makes it a good choice for some recipes over regular chives. Can also be used as a garlic substitute in most dishes.
- GERMAN CHAMOMILE: The primary herbal ingredient in chamomile tea. Immensely popular for its relaxing and soothing effect, it also has additional medicinal benefits including settling indigestion, relieving menstrual cramps, reducing inflammation and immune system support. It produces a large number of daisy-like flowers that are a beautiful addition to any flower garden.
- LEMON BALM: A tremendously popular herb for herbal teas. The leaves aren’t part of the citrus family but carry an intense lemon flavor. Teas made from dried lemon balm leaves have a pleasant flavor and are said to benefit the heart and calm the nerves. Also used as a treatment to minimize the symptoms of herpes. Fresh chopped leaves can also be added to soups and salads.
- MILK THISTLE: Said to provide benefits to the liver. Milk thistle has prickly edges on he leaves. For medicinal use, the prickles are trimmed off and the leaves are then steamed our sautéed. In the middle ages, milk thistle was actually cultivated as a vegetable food source. Milk thistle sports glossy leaves with creamy veins filled with ‘milk’.
- MUSTARD: A staple culinary herb which is excellent raw or cooked. Mustard features strongly flavored leaves that make a great addition to sandwiches and salads. Mustard leaves can be cooked to add flavor to many dishes. Harvest when the leaves are tender and young for enhanced flavor. Mustard greens can be served as a primary dish either stir-fried or steamed. Also a critical herb for canning and pickling. Medicinally, mustard is said to stimulate appetite.
- OREGANO: Part of the same plant family as thyme and marjoram and thyme. Oregano has a distinct pungent flavor that is the staple of Italian cooking. Also used as a popular cooking spice worldwide. Once you have used fresh oregano in your cooking, you will have a hard time returning to dried. Medicinally, oregano has been used to treat indigestion, coughs, and headaches. Also said to provide regulate menstruation. It is also a beautiful flowering herb that sports long groups of small pinkish flowers. Flowers in July.
- PARSLEY: A popular culinary herb with a slightly peppery taste. Popular as a garnish and or flavoring in many dishes. It is a great addition to soups, salads and stews. Parsley goes with almost in any dish as a garnish. Medicinally, parsley is high in vitamins A and C, and are popular like cranberry juice to provide relief for bladder infections.
- SAGE: Sage is a popular triple threat herb with medicinal, culinary and herbal tea uses. It makes a flavorful tea that is used as a mouthwash to relieve mouth ulcers and gum infections. Sage helps dry up the milk flow during weaning and is useful in treating Amenorrhea, and painful menstrual cramps. It is an aromatic herb used in a cooking spice. It repels insects, but will attract bees. Fresh sage provides a wonderful scent to any kitchen.
- SAVORY: Another herb with medicinal and culinary benefits, savory has a flavor that has been described as a cross between mint and thyme. It has a delightful aroma and flavor which makes it a valuable addition to any cooking spice collection. It is very popular as a seasoning to bean, lentil and pea dishes. If you juice, try juicing a leaf or two of fresh savory in with your vegetables. Medicinally, savory is a homeopathic remedy for sore throat, diarrhea, and upset stomach.
- ST. JOHNSWORT: Medicinally St. Johnswort has been used since ancient times as a natural remedy for bed-wetting, insomnia, and depression. Modern clinical research has revealed that indeed the flowering tops of St. Johnswort do have mood regulating and mild anti-depressant properties. Popular as a medicinal herb tea, St. Johnswort flowers are also used to relieve menstrual cramps. A poultice made of the flowers is also said to provide relieve to aching muscles and joints. NOTE: you should be aware that the USFDA has rated St. Johnswort as unsafe as prolonged use can cause light sensitivity.
- SWEET MARJORAM: With both culinary and medicinal benefits, Sweet Marjoram is a delicious seasoning for vegetable dishes, best added toward the end of cooking for maximum flavor. Marjoram tea is popular as a headache remedy and to provide relief for ulcers, colds and flu.
- THYME: A popular herb with both culinary and medicinal benefits. Fresh Thyme has a flavor and aroma that is all its own, but has hints of mint and lemon in it. It is a very popular seasoning in vegetables, soups, sauces and countless other dishes. Fresh thyme is far superior in cooking than dried. As a medicinal herb, thyme is said to provide diaphoretic, antibiotic and expectorant benefits and is good for coughs, colds and sore throats. It is a fast growing creeping plant with beautiful pink or purple flowers.
- VALERIAN: A popular medicinal herb tea with widely accepted sedative effects. Used as a sleep aid and to relieve pain, nervousness, insomnia and headaches. Try a tea made from chamomile, lemon balm Yarrow and Valerian for a knockout punch! Valerian should only be used in small doses and sparingly as continued use is said to cause depression. Overdose of Valerian can cause vomiting and dizziness.
- YARROW: Yarrow is considered the king of medicinal herbs with a reputation for providing a wide variety of herbal health benefits: improves digestion, liver and gall bladder function, kidney support, immune system support and improves circulation. It is also said to provide relief for PMS and menstrual cramps. Popular as an herbal tea, it also is reported to provide a mild sedative effect. A fast easy grower, it should be a staple of any medicinal or herbal tea garden.
See also our guide to stress relieving herbs for information on even more herbs.