The suggestions made in this article are not based on medical research approved by the FDA and should not be taken as medical advice. The herbs included in this article are simple suggestions for what your can grow in your garden that can be used for basic wellness and comfort.
As you have been following the Victory Garden Initiative blogs we have provided tips for how to start your vegetable garden to provide food sustenance and a grounding activity for your household. This week we will be highlighting some common garden herbs that not only have beneficial health properties but may also attract pollinators and add beauty to your garden.
Culinary herbs not only add delicious flavor to your meals, they also contain vitamins and other beneficial compounds, like antioxidants, which support general health. Let’s look into some of these wonderful plant friends to help you decide which of them you would want to add into your garden this year!
Parsley, a delicious fresh herb used most often as a garnish is actually a good source of Vitamin A and C, both of which have antioxidant effects and support immune health. Antioxidants also prevent stress from free radical particles in your body which may help with cancer prevention. Glutathione is another compound beneficial to immune health and detoxification of the body, and since cooking can reduce the amount of these compounds, parsley is best used fresh, as a perfect addition to salads or cooked dishes for many of your fresh out of the garden dishes this summer!
Oregano is an herb that packs quite a punch! It’s flavorful and aromatic nature probably makes you think of italian style dishes. Oregano is another herb containing antioxidants preventing damage caused by free radicals inside the body. Other compounds in oregano reduce inflammation inside the body. While none of these studies are yet conclusive, scientists have also used test-tube studies to investigate oreganos’ effect as an anti-cancer, antibacterial and antiviral. What we do know is that Oregano is tasty, grows well in full sun and humans have been eating it in good faith and health for hundreds of years.
Rosemary is personally, one of my favorite herbs. An amazing pairing with garlic for just about any dish be helpful for treating a number of cancer, bacterial and viral cells. Again like many of these herbs, rosemary has antioxidant compounds fighting free radicals within the body and antiinflammatory properties which improve the immune system and blood circulation. Some studies are also showing us that rosemary has various positive effects on brain function including improved memory and concentration through its aromatic effects. Other studies suggest that more research can be done on how rosemary can prevent brain aging, brain damage and recovery from strokes and even alzheimers. Even though many of these studies use higher concentrations of the rosemary herb, adding it to many of your dishes will give your meals a comforting flavor and give your kitchen a scent.
Now seems like an appropriate time to say that many of these herbs have antioxidant properties, making them all great additions to your meals depending on the flavor you seek, including sage! Sage also contains antimicrobial properties shown to improve dental hygiene and health. Sage has also traditionally been used as a treatment for high blood sugar as an effect of diabetes and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol which causes heart disease. Sage is also suggested to benefit memory and brain function, , which included a test showing improvement among Alzheimer’s patients. In addition, sage is suggested to protect against some cancer cells, combat skin aging, and alleviate diarrhea. While many of the examples used above are with concentrated extracts, sage is extremely easy to add sparingly to many dishes as dried or fresh herb. For a more concentrated effect sage tea has also been traditionally used.
Thyme is another timeless herb, used for centuries by humans for a variety of uses from embalming to incense. Thyme has even more uses and even more studies coming out to determine more of its benefits. Thyme tea can alleviate coughing or sore throat symptoms and as a cold preventative. Containing vitamin C, vitamin A as well as copper, fiber, iron and manganese, it is another one of these culinary herbs that provides some essential nutrients for our health, and even using just a little bit in your cooking can help. In fact substituting salt for thyme can help reduce heart rate of those with high blood pressure. Along with the many recipes that include Thyme, it can also be used for various household uses. As an ingredient in potpourri you can utilize its antifungal properties in the restroom and as a mold treatment / disinfectant for low concentrations of mold. Thyme is also a perfect herb for your garden because of its ability to deter pests! Rub the leaves between your hands to release the aromatic properties or mix drops of essential oil into water or olive oil as a homemade repellent. Lastly, thyme is also suggested to improve mood, a compound called carvacrol found in time as well as some of the other herbs mentioned above can be used when diffused to boost your mood and feelings of well being.
Coriander/cilantro: an exciting dynamic duality, two benefits from a single plant! Some people dislike the taste of cilantro leaves, fortunately the coriander seed has a distinctly different taste. This also means they cannot be used interchangeably in recipes. While cilantro far outweighs the Vitamin K content of the seeds, coriander has a higher percent of recommended daily intake for most other nutritious compounds like Iron, magnesium and others. Using coriander in cooking to reap its many benefits will spice up your life, but of course use the cilantro leaves in your classic side dishes like salsa, tacos and guacamole. Another herb to use in place of salt, coriander may lower chances of heart disease and may assist in lowering bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDl cholesterol. Coriander contains antimicrobial effects that could protect against food bacteria including food borne illnesses and urinary tract infections. In addition coriander may promote gut health and alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Dill is a fun one! Not just used for pickles, Dill herb can add some tang to many of your dishes throughout the year and also contains health promoting compounds. Probably the funniest one, is that dill supposedly reduces flatulence! That’s right, along with promoting healthy digestion, helping with diarrhea and preventing constipation, dill also prevents the build up of gas in your system. Dill can also be beneficial to oral health and hygiene through its germicidal and antibacterial properties by chewing on its seeds. The calcium rich seeds also strengthen your teeth! Due to antihistamine and decongestant properties of Dill, it also clears up congestion from allergies and can reduce asthmatic symptoms and help with the common cold. Additionally, the antiinflammatory properties are a good addition to meals for those with arthritis.
Basil is another historically and culturally relevant herb considered to be magical and sacred to some. Now, we know it contains many healthful compounds that benefit a variety of uses. Antioxidant properties again, protect the body from free radicals that cause cancer and prevent body and mind from experiencing stress from these particles thereby also having anti aging and properties. This is another anti-inflammatory herb that can assist in the symptoms of pain from arthritis. It’s adaptogenic properties also help in stress reduction and its help in regulating hormones will also help with PMS.
Peppermint, maybe not the most versatile herb for cooking meals, can be added to a variety of other ingestible goodies to promote health benefits! Add it to chocolate goodies, salads or just add it to ice water for something extra refreshing! You can also make mint tea that has a variety of benefits. Peppermint can alleviate digestive symptoms like bloating, gas and indigestion. Peppermint tea can also help with headaches and migraines, the menthol compounds increase blood flow and relieve the pain, the mint essential oil can also be used topically for cooling sensation and some say it helps when directly applied to the temple. The steam of peppermint can help unclog sinuses when experiencing cold or allergy symptoms.
We hope that this information about the wonderful world of herbs and your health can be of use to you. At the least, it’s just a couple of ideas for tasty additions to your Victory Garden this year!
Ciera Wilbur, Forest Farming AmeriCorps VISTA
Appalachian Sustainable Development