Herbs are friendly undemanding, fresh and fragrant companions that can greatly improve our health and well-being, whether we are ill or well. And, no matter what the situation, there is a green friend that will extend a helping branch.
“To be surrounded by the sweet scents of herbs is the perfect antidote to overwork and stress “ Lesley Bremness.
History of herbs and spices
Fresh herbs and spices provided vitamins and minerals long before our need for them was understood. They have through the ages, traditionally been used for their preservation properties. Before the days of refrigeration, their volatile oils and other properties prolonged the life of many foodstuffs. Scientists have now confirmed that many of the culinary herbs and spices have strong antimicrobial properties that assist in the preservation of meat.
Similarly, when used in cooking herbs can kill microbes and neutralize toxins that have started to contaminate food. Many of the phytochemicals which protect plants against insect and microbial attacks are the very chemicals that ‘preserve’ our bodies. They protect against degenerative disease and by slowing down the ageing process.
Bring herbs back into the home
For our well-being, nutrition, optimal body function, sleep and relaxation, exercise, and our environment all play important roles and need to be in balance. Herbs reconnect us with nature and all its offerings. To fully embrace the many neglected benefits of that nature offers, it is essential that we reintroduce these back into our daily living.
In ancient times, earth’s harvest was taken into the kitchen where it was transformed into food and medicine. Additionally, gardens, kitchens and pantries used played an important role which was not limited food. Kitchens are the environments from which we can nurture our families’ well-being and encourage healthy and happy lifestyles. Herbs have their own immensely useful vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which we can tap into.
Herbs in water-based preparations
One of the easiest ways to use herbs in daily living is through water-based preparations such as teas/infusions, cool drinks and culinary dishes. Both our bodies and those of plants are water-based. Water is able to extract nutrients, minerals and vitamins from the plants. These we ingest in a water base.
One of my favourite herbs, Lemon Balm is growing so well after our harsh winter. As I brushed past the plants a fresh gentle lemony sweet fragrance wafted up to me. I could feel my body relax as the aroma calmed my nerves and muscles. Nicolas Culpeper, (1616 – 1654) British Herbalist and Astrologer wrote
“Lemon Balm caufeth the mind and heart to become merry and reviveth the heart, faintings and fwoonings…”
Lemon balm has been used for centuries to help relieve anxiety and stress being referred to as “the herbs of gladness”. Relax with a cup of tea helping to relieve spasms in the digestive tract when there is nervous tension, digestive upsets with children or just the built-up stress at the end of the day.
The fragrance of fresh herbs can greatly improve our moods and affect more subtle aspects of health. Read more about using fresh herbs for aromatherapy.
Chamomile is another great soother. It is useful for upset tummies, strained nerves and nightmares. The tea has a delicate apple-citrus flavour. Use chamomile as an eye bath or tea bag compress, to reduce inflammation, conjunctivitis and eliminate fatigue shadows.
Incorporating herbs into cooking
Many herbs can help us digest our food more optimally. So many of our common aromatic kitchen herbs such as basil, fennel, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme have carminative properties. They assist digestion in helping to alleviate gases, bloating and spasms, for instance. By supporting the digesting of foods our energy levels increase, preventing sluggishness after meals. Furthermore, these herbs are rich in antioxidants and have antiseptic/antimicrobial properties as well.
Add these chopped up into your sauces (eg. oreganum, basil or marjoram to pasta sauces or salads). You can also make pastes by pounding them in a pestle and mortar or grinding them in a coffee grinder. Add olive oil and lemon. Dry your own herbs and experiment making various salts to augment the flavour of what you are eating. Garnish your potato salad with cayenne pepper or chives. Cook your vegetables with sprigs of rosemary, thyme or coriander. Enjoy fennel cooked with fish. Add the green leaves to your smoothies. Herbs in the kitchen not only enhance the flavours of our food they also support our overall healthy living. The delicious aromas that arise out of the kitchen are an effective source for helping to calm the body while eating. Relax and enjoy and digest life. Within this limitless range is the pathway to wellness.
You can refresh and invigorate with the various mints, citrus and lemon-scented herbs such as Lemon verbena and Lemon Grass.
Enhance your memory and concentration with the aromas of Rosemary and Basil.
Herbs for first aid
- Disinfectant infusions: 1T fresh herb to a cup of just-boiled water, infused for 5-10mins (eg. thyme, lavender, sage, organum).
- Minor burns, sunburn: Cut open a fresh aloe leaf, remove the inner gel to soothe the burn.
- Sore throat: 1T sage leaves added to a cup of just-boiled water. Add a pinch of salt. Mix and gargle.
- Thyme tea for coughs: 1T thyme leaves to a cup of just-boiled water. Stand for 5-10mins. Add honey to taste.
- Yarrow leaves: Crushed yarrow leaves can be used to stop bleeding of minor wounds.
- Nasal congestion: Add a handful of Chamomile flowers to a bowl of just-boiled water. Place a towel over your head and breathe in the vapours
For more healing herbs follow this link.
Making a Tea/Infusion
1T fresh chopped herbs
or 1t dried herbs
To 1 cup of just-boiled water
Allow standing for 5-10minutes
The partnership between herbs and healthcare continues to be validated and strengthened as anecdotal evidence and research validates their effectiveness. When safely and properly used, herbs can support your health in mind, body and spirit!
Article courtesy of Janet Visee and Healthy Living Herbs.
Janet is a qualified Pharmacist and has extended her knowledge into natural health and healing. She has diplomas in Aromatherapy, Astrology, Reflexology. Janet is initiated as an Ethnomedicine Practitioner in the field of Traditional Health Care. She is the past Chairperson of the Herb Association of South Africa (HAoSA). In addition to her academic qualifications, she continually keeps abreast of new research and development in the field of aromatic chemistry, astrology, pharmacology.
Important: Some herbs in large doses can cause side effects or interact with medications. Use moderation, and tell your doctor about any herbal supplements you take.