The history of herbs is as old as the history of civilization. Practically all diets include seasonings, flavorings, and sauces made from herbs. But they may tackle health problems, too.
The consumption of herbs varies greatly in different parts of the world, inversely in proportion to the consumption of salt. But making more imaginative use of such flavorings in food preparation could go a long way to reducing both salt and fat in our diet.
Freshly picked herbs give food lots of flavor without adding a drop of fat.
And you don’t have to have a green thumb or even a backyard to grow them.
Simply pick up your favorite herbs, already grown and potted, at a local nursery, and keep them in a sunny windowsill. Then snip off leaves as needed (the more often you trim, the faster the plant will grow).
You probably know herbs best as flavor enhancers for food. But they may tackle health problems, too. In some cultures they are mixed with food in various combinations and quantities in order to prevent or treat common diseases. In fact, about one fourth of all prescription medicines come from herbs and other plants.
Though various herbs contain carotenoids and vitamin C, because they make up only a small part by volume and weight they do not make a significant contribution to the diet in terms of nutrients. However, they all contain a number of bioactive compounds, which although their activity may be poorly understood, are now being recognized and included in scientific studies, including cancer research.
Here are a few easy-to-grow herbs and the symptoms they’ve been known to ease:
- Chamomile – Light green leaves, daisy-like flowers. May remedy: insomnia, anxiety, light cases of diarrhea, heartburn. To use: Make tea from flowers (1 teaspoon per cup for fresh, less for dried, in a pot or mug; cover with hot water and let steep for five to 10 minutes; drain). Fill a bath or compress with flowers. Smell the flowers or leaves.
- Peppermint – Oblong to oval leaves, lilac-pink flowers. May remedy: intestinal gas, halitosis, indigestion. To use:
- Make tea from leaves. Chew on leaves. Use in food preparation.
- Lavender – Gray-green leaves, purplish-blue flowers. May remedy: sunburn, dizziness and fainting, depression. To use: Make tea from dried flowers. Cool bath with flowers. Smell.
- Feverfew – Broad, segmented leaves, daisy-like flowers. May remedy: migraine headaches, menstrual cramps. To use: Chew on leaves.