Do you love to cook? I sure do!
And there’s nothing better than fresh herbs to add a touch of elegance and gourmet delight to your meals.
But culinary herbs add more than just taste. They are also packed with nutrition.
These potent powerhouses can boost the immune system and help with all kinds of things, from memory problems to irritable bowel syndrome.
Last week I covered spices, and this week I’m continuing that thread, with culinary herbs. The difference is that spices come from roots, seeds, and bark, whereas herbs come from a plant’s leaves.
Herbs generally come from temperate climates, whereas spices hail from tropical areas.
I already discussed alliums in a recent blog post, including garlic, onions, chives, shallots, and so on, so I won’t be discussing those here, but there are many other healthful culinary herbs to consider.
Fresh herbs are usually best, in terms of flavor and nutrition, but dried herbs are more readily available.
For the highest quality nutrition, consider having an herb garden so you can pick fresh herbs anytime you need them. This can be a simple affair, on a windowsill. This is especially ideal if you live in a small apartment.
You can add lots of fresh herbs to your salads, which makes them more flavorful and interesting as well as more nutritious. Salads are a good way to get in loads of raw fresh herbs. They’re great for cooking too, but the nutrition is more powerful raw.
Or, if you prefer the convenience of dried herbs, be sure to use them up within a few months or replace them if they get stale. Also, don’t sprinkle them onto food as you’re cooking it, because the steam can lead to mold contamination, which is bad for your health.
Here are 10 culinary herbs that also help you heal:
There are different kinds of basil, with different benefits. Holy basil, for instance, is considered a sacred herb in India. It inhibits bacteria, yeasts, and mold, and boosts the immune system. In addition, holy basil helps reduce blood sugar as well as helping with anxiety and depression.
Regular basil can help regulate blood pressure, and is also rich in vitamins A and K. It helps with bowel inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. A powerful antibacterial agent, it also removes pathogens while allowing beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Being easy to grow in your home herbal garden is another benefit of basil, especially since it goes bad so quickly in the fridge.
Whether you love it or hate it, cilantro (leaves of the coriander plant) is very good for you. One of its stellar health benefits is its ability to help the body detoxify from heavy metals.
This pungent herb, a favorite in Mexican and Asian cuisines, contains antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, and fiber.
More than just flavoring for pickles, dill can actually help neutralize carcinogens. It also helps us absorb fatty acids better, providing a source of natural energy.
This herb is also an antimicrobial, helping rid the body of harmful bacteria, fungi, and molds. It also helps with menstrual cramps, epilepsy, and depression as well as helping to lower cholesterol.
Dill makes a great topping for freshly cooked salmon. Try plucking it from your herb garden and adding it, along with a slice of lemon, to the top of baked fish, after cooking.
Dill oil even repels bugs!
A powerful antioxidant, this heart-healthy herb helps protect against free radical damage. Containing a healthy amount of vitamin C, fennel is rich in other antioxidants as well, including rutin and quercetin. It reduces inflammation and may help prevent cancer.
Fennel, a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, is crunchy and fairly sweet, and tastes a bit like licorice. Try adding shaved raw fennel to salads for an exotic touch!
Fresh mint, whether peppermint or spearmint, is more than just a flavoring for gum, candy, or mouthwash. Like most other herbs, it’s a potent antioxidant. Fresh peppermint may even help prevent the spread of cancer. It helps with asthma as well.
Peppermint is good for stomach issues and digestion. It helps with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by relaxing the smooth muscles in the colon, and also helps reduce nausea, gas, and bloating. However, it can make GERD (acid reflux) worse, so if you have problems with that, ask your doctor.
And remember that my Micronized Purple Rice powder is very helpful when it comes to GERD! We’ve had numerous people say how much it has helped them with that unpleasant malady. Gale Kimble is just one example.
Did you know fresh oregano contains eight times as many antioxidants as spinach? That’s just one of the many reasons to add this powerful anti-inflammatory herb to your salads often. It’s known for helping fight cancer, too.
Oregano is very versatile and can be used in a variety of foods. It’s especially popular in Italian cuisine. Fresh is best, and luckily it’s pretty easy to grow in your home herb garden.
Another reason to incorporate oregano is its powerful antimicrobial and antifungal effect. This tasty herb has even been used to protect against dysentery — and it may even kill MRSA!
A lot of people think of parsley as just a garnish, used to make fish look pretty, for instance, and so they leave it on the plate. However, this potent antioxidant herb is so much more.
Loaded with chlorophyll, parsley actually contains compounds that inhibit tumor formation and growth. It also helps protect against rheumatoid arthritis and is high in vitamin C and iron.
Parsley is a great one to toss liberally into your salads. Whether curly or flat, this tasty herb adds flavor and nutrition to your meals.
If you love to grill meat, you’re probably aware of the carcinogenic compounds created from cooking at high temperatures.
But using rosemary marinade on meats beforehand prevents the formation of these compounds by up to 84 percent! So protect the meat eaters in your family by marinating meats in a rosemary marinade before grilling.
You can make a simple rosemary marinade by combining avocado oil with lemon juice, raw chopped garlic, and fresh rosemary. (Avocado oil is better than olive oil for grilling, because it holds up to high heat.) Marinate meats for a couple of hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator before grilling or roasting.
Rosemary also helps enhance mental performance by increasing circulation to the brain (and throughout the body). Ancient Greek scholars even wore it around their necks when studying, to help them stay alert and retain more of what they learned.
This potent herb can also help with immune function, suppress allergic reactions, and decrease nasal congestion.
This potent herb’s name means “to save,” and that’s just what it does. Did you know sage was used in the middle ages to help prevent plague?
Sage, a close relative of rosemary, has the highest antioxidant activity (ORAC score) of any culinary herb, followed by thyme. It improves brain function and memory, and may help with Alzheimer’s.
An excellent anti-inflammatory, sage helps with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
You can make a comforting sage tea for sore throats and upset stomach, or try pairing sage with squash or legumes. It’s also delicious in mashed yams.
This potent herb contains the oil thymol, which has been shown to protect the brain. It has the second highest antioxidant activity, after sage, and is also a good source of iron, vitamins A and C, and fiber.
Thyme also helps with respiratory problems and acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant. Its antimicrobial properties help to keep the body free from pathogens.