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Medicinal Herbs

Updated: Nov 6, 2018

by Barbara Porsch - Herb Enthusiast

A while back I received a newsletter from talking about 6 medicinal herbs that are easy to grow. You know, I am more into the eating than the healthy stuff so I haven’t written about that. But, why not? They listed 6, so I will do 3 this week and the remaining 3 next week.

I know that using fresh herbs does qualify as being healthier because you can really cut down on the salt and fat in some recipes by using herbs to brighten the flavor. And growing your own is the frugal thing to do. Compare the price of a transplant that lasts all season to the few twigs or leaves that you pay big bucks for at the grocers.

1. German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) supposedly brings on sleep and reduces anxiety levels. We all know we will not be healthy if we don’t sleep and worry all the time. It also soothes upset stomachs. It is an annual bushy shrub that needs lots of sun and room. You can make tea by steeping dried blossoms in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Dry the blossoms by putting them in a shady area for about a week.

2. Oregano (Origanum spp.) is high in antioxidants which are believed to protect against chronic diseases such as cancer. And it also helps prevent inflammation which may help it protect against arthritis. Oregano is a hardy perennial which is very easy to grow in full sun. It can be grown in pots if it has plenty of light. Those of you who have been to my house know that I use it as ground cover in the front courtyard, as well as some places in my vegetable garden. Oregano instantly brings to mind Italian sauces and pizza, but it is a staple in Mexican food. It is very versatile in the kitchen.

3. Peppermint (Mentha xpiperita) soothes stomachs, relieves chronic indigestion and lessens the discomfort of sore throats. Its active ingredient, menthol, helps treat colds and congestion. Mints are very easy to grow, in fact maybe too easy. It will take over if planted in the ground. Big pots are good. It will grow in sun to partial shade. It is used to make delicious tea, either hot or cold. It can be muddled and mixed into an adult beverage…..had a Mojito lately? It is common in Thai food (think spring rolls) and Middle Eastern dishes such as tabbouleh.

4. First is Sage (Salvia officinalis) which they say can improve your memory. Boy howdy, do I need to eat a lot of that! Studies show it is a strong antibacterial especially against such as salmonella and staphylococcus. Like most herbs, Sage is native to the Mediterranean area and will survive winters most anywhere. It wants lots of sun and good drainage. In fact it wants sun so much, that it would be a hassle to grow indoors even with a grow light. There are quite a few varieties of the common culinary sage. It has a strong flavor and I am always reminded of the time I put too much into the Thanksgiving dressing. (Some people call it stuffing.) A little goes a long way. You can use it with cheeses, pasta and breads and even make tea by steeping fresh leaves in boiling water.

5. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is the symbol of remembrance. The old herbalists recommended it “for all infirmities of the head and brain.” Europeans suggested wearing a garland of rosemary as a remedy against forgetfulness. Do you see a trend here in why I like these two herbs? It is said that an ointment can soothe the pain of rheumatism. Toss some sprigs into a hot bath to soothe aching muscles. I can attest that after a hard day in the garden this really is nice. Also, I have heard that rubbing your dog with rosemary twigs will repel ticks and fleas. I do know that my dog sure did smell good after running through the shrub chasing lizards. The blossoms attract bees and birds. A woody shrub native to the Mediterranean, Rosemary was spread through northern Europe by the Romans who burned the pine scented leaves as incense. Rosemary needs sun and, above all, good drainage. It is evergreen so you don’t need to save and dry. Just go out and cut a twig to use on any meat, but especially chicken or fish, and potatoes or bread.

6. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is considered a universal seasoning and is one of three basic ingredients (with bay and parsley) in bouquet garni which is the traditional mix of herbs used in French cooking. However, in Europe medical practitioners use thyme products to treat coughs, bronchitis and even asthma. It is considered an expectorant and antibacterial. Thyme is easy to propagate by cuttings or divisions. The seeds are very slow to germinate. They need good light and like most other herbs, good drainage. There are over 100 species of Thyme, each probably with a minute difference of flavor. Lemon Thyme is especially tasty in cooking chicken or fish. You can use thyme in soups and stews. If you all remember the ballad that mentions “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” then you know I just can’t quit without mentioning parsley even though it makes one more than the six I said I would start out with.

7. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is like a vitamin pill on your plate. It is rich in vitamins A, C, and B and is a good source of calcium, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, a natural source of potassium and magnesium and reportedly fights cancer. Added bonus is that it deodorizes your breath especially after eating garlic or onions. So, don’t leave it there: eat that parsley on your plate. 2-4-2018


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