Did you know that many of the culinary herbs you have in your kitchen and/or garden have medicinal properties? Many of them are good for several ailments that can be resolved in the comfort of your home.
A staple of Mediterranean cuisine, rosemary is a wonderful culinary and medicinal herb. It is good for blood circulation, memory and concentration. It may protect the liver, stimulate the secretion of bile in the gallbladder and regulate appetite.
A brain tonic and stimulant, rosemary may reduce age-related memory loss. It is good for eczema, wounds, gout, cough, toothaches, headaches and migraines.
It is also used to sooth muscle and joint pain, particularly myalgia, sciatica and neuralgia.
Rosemary is also useful for relieving congestion the air passages.
Not only a culinary herb, sage is a fantastic medicinal herb. Its health benefits stem from its essential oils, flavonoids and tannins. Together they act as a natural antiseptic, killing viruses, fungi and bacteria.
Sage may improve memory. It constricts the tissues, stops bleeding, treats diarrhea, soothes sore throat, reduces inflammation of the mouth and throat, heals bleeding gums and tonsillitis. It almost completely stops excessive sweating, combats night sweating, eases hot-flashes of menopause safely and quickly. Sage tea and breast compress decrease milk production and are therefore used during weaning.
The bitter substances present in sage help the body to digest fatty foods. They prevent flatulence, soothes stomach aches and cramps and stimulate the gallbladder.
Sage is rich in flavonoids and rosmarinic acid which are strong antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and protect the body from cell damaging free radicals.
One of the most important of all culinary herbs that are also medicinal, thyme contains essential oil which relieves spasms and is a natural antiseptic. It is an excellent for lung diseases such as bronchitis and asthma as well as nagging coughs like pertussis. Thyme calms the bronchial muscles. It hinders the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi making it an excellent gargle to treat inflammation of the mouth and air passages. It also eases menstruation and stomach cramps.
Thyme is a wonderful therapeutic addition to the bath-water as it calms the nerves, invigorates the body (combats fatigue), soothes cramps and helps loosen and remove mucus from the lungs.
A fantastic medicinal and culinary herb, parsley is high in iron and, therefore, used for anemia, fatigue and poor immunity. It is also rich in flavonoids which protect the body against free radicals.
It is a wonderful herb for the bladder and kidneys acting as a safe and effective diuretic. It is good for urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Parsley slows the flow of milk and is used to help dry up a mother’s milk during the weaning process.
5. Lemon balm
This lovely aromatic herb is slightly sedative. Lemon balm relieves cramps and gas and has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is often used for sleep disturbances, especially when caused by nervousness.
6. Marjoram (and oregano)
Not only for flavoring pizzas and sauces, marjoram and oregano are calming and soothing. They are used for nervousness, irritability and sleep disturbances caused by tension and anxiety.
Both help with respiratory ailments such as congestion, sinusitis and sore throat.
They also soothe stomach cramps and muscle spasms. Both contain essential oils that are antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.
Often used in Middle Eastern cuisine, peppermint relieves cramps (antispasmodic) and trapped gas (carminative), improves digestion and reduces pain (menthol blocks the pain receptors in the lining of the stomach). It combats hiccups, relieves bloating and regulates the appetite.
Peppermint contains essential oils (menthol) and is, therefore, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. When used externally, peppermint essential oil has a cooling effect on the skin and the mucosa (menthol excites the cold receptors in the skin).
8. Garden fennel
Not to be confused with the vegetable, garden fennel can be turned into syrups and added to honey and used as a mild expectorant, especially for children. The tea can also be used to treat upset stomach. It takes care of excessive gas and aids digestion by stimulating the secretion of stomach juices. So have a nice cup of fennel tea when you’re feeling too full from eating.
Both leaves and seeds contain essential oils with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. Coriander regulates the secretion of gastric juices improving digestion and regulating appetite. It also combats flatulence.
Coriander is particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K and the seeds contain dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese. The leaves may help to eliminate heavy metals from the body.
Rich in essential oils, anise stimulates productive cough and is, therefore, used as an expectorant. It also protects the lining of the lungs and airways. This lining serves to moisten and protect the airways against potential pathogens and foreign particles, preventing infection and tissue damage.
It is also carminative. That means it either eliminates gas or prevents its formation.
In folk medicine it is used to increase milk production in nursing women, to stop diarrhea, colic and vaginal discharge, to regulate menstruation, and to stimulate urine production.
Ten culinary herbs that are also medicinal
Bühring, U. Girsch, M. 2016. Praxis Heilpflanzenkunde. Stuttgart: Haug.
Gladstar, R. 2001. Herbal Recipes For Vibrant Health. North Adams: Storey Publishing