It's long been understood how herbs can improve your health. In fact the Chinese have used herbs as medicine for thousands of years. Although I'm not a Herbalist I often recommend herbal supplements because they have so many benefits. I always recommend including herbs in the diet for the same reason. Herbs can be eaten on a daily basis to increase nutrient intake as well as obviously adding taste to meals. They are easy to grow in the garden or even on a window ledge. Here are some of the more common culinary herbs, some ideas for using them and how they can benefit your health.
Basil has 35 different varieties. It's best known for its use in Pesto and tomato pasta sauces. I like to blitz fresh basil with parsley in organic extra virgin olive oil. Then I add balsamic or cider vinegar for a really zingy salad dressing. Basil is a herb recommended as an addition to fruit salads or can be used to make sorbet.
Like most herbs, Basil is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which all have health benefits. Basil is good for the immune system, especially combined with garlic in pesto. Basil also has anti-microbial effects. It's anti-inflammatory and can help the body to deal with stress.
Great chopped into a salad, stirred through rice or to add flavour to any cooked dish. Parsley is a herb packed full of nutrients. Just two tablespoons of parsley provides 2% of your daily requirement for calcium, iron and folate. It's even higher in doses of vitamins A, K and C. Like Basil parsley is anti-inflammatory and can help to reduce joint pain. There's also evidence to show that it can help prevent kidney stones and diabetes.
Rosemary is so easy to grow in the garden. In countries where it's eaten daily it's credited with healthy ageing and longevity. This herb goes really well with lamb but can also be infused into oils, butters and vinegars. It’s delicious used in soups, sauces and marinades. The stalks can be used as skewers when cooking on a barbeque.
Rosemary is proven to have a memory enhancing effect and can ease muscle or arthritic pain, these effects would explain why those who eat it regularly have a healthy and prolonged old age.
Mint can be used in so many different ways. Like Rosemary it's well known as a condiment served with lamb. It's also fantastic in salads, with potatoes, fish and chicken.
Mint has anti-spasmodic effects in the gut which means that it can aid digestion, relieve nausea and soothe an upset or unhappy gut. Adding this herb to your diet can help convert fat to energy helping prevent weight gain. Mint tea also has a well-deserved reputation for effectively relieving headaches.
This herb is most commonly known for its use in sage and onion stuffing. But sage can also be used in tomato sauces, as a tea or in a salad.
Sage is truly a super herb for health. It can improve brain function, lower inflammation, boost the immune system, regulate digestion and support digestive function. Like Rosemary, sage is associated with healthy ageing and a longer lifespan. Sage tea is also really helpful for sore throats. It's a taste that needs some getting used to but mixed with liquorice tea it's really soothing.
Most herbs can also be used in essential oil form – they are more potent like this but need to be used with care. In your diet though herbs can and should be used in abundance for the significant health benefits they can bring.