Healthy Herbs

Herbs aren’t just for flavor, they have health benefits too.

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It seems that, eventually, everything old becomes new. Centuries ago, we looked to nature to heal ourselves.  Natural remedies were commonplace,  like mint and ginger to help digestion, aloe vera to assist in healing burns and chamomile to fight inflammation and promote better sleep. Recently, there has been a to return to these kinds of environmental treatments, with good reason:  they work.

An obvious benefit to using herbs is that we’re more likely to eat beneficial foods like vegetables when they taste better. A healthier diet often means less salt and fat, which can also mean less flavor. Fresh herbs can enhance flavors and more than make up that deficit.  “Food is medicine, and what we eat affects our health. Herbs are a natural medicine that are easy to absorb and utilize. Herbs are a kind of food that can help you heal. For example, many people use green onions on their food, but they use the green part and discard the white part, when it’s the white part that is good for the immune system,” explains Tamara Willingham, LOM, owner Tamara TCM Wellness Clinic in downtown Maumee https://tamaratcm.com/

Nutritional powerhouses

But what about the herbs themselves?  Do they have any nutritional benefits of their own? Studies have shown that herbs contain elements

that are anti-inflammatory and antiviral. Many herbs also boast a  variety of antioxidants, which combat cell damage throughout our bodies.

These properties can help with conditions including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, blood clots and high cholesterol. Some herbs have even been shown to fight cancer. In addition, most herbs have high levels of vitamins and minerals.

The nose knows

You don’t even have to eat some herbs to benefit from them. Smelling rosemary can boost brain activity and help your memory. Peppermint aromatherapy has proven to be very successful in fighting nausea and headaches. The scent of lavender has a calming effect, good for both anxiety and insomnia.

If you’re used to cooking with dried herbs, switching to fresh means that you’ll likely need to use greater amounts. As a general rule, it takes four teaspoons of fresh herbs to get the same amount of flavor as from one teaspoon of dried herbs. Add fresh herbs as close as possible to the end of cooking the dish to preserve their healthful benefits.

Growing herbs is not difficult; container gardens work very well. This is the time of year to begin “from seed” indoors to later transplant outside once the weather is cooperative. Outdoor herb gardens are a joy.  Not only beautiful, fresh herbs are available all summer and into the early fall. A large herb garden can be enjoyed for a source of ideas at Toledo Botanical Gardens, 5403 Elmer Drive,, 419-270-7500, metroparkstoledo.com/explore-your-parks/toledo-botanical-garden-metropark/

Some herbs can interact with medications, so be sure to talk to your doctor before dramatically altering your diet.

SIX Herbs
To inspire you to grow and use seven of the best herbs that will flourish in your garden, here are some recipe suggestions.

Thyme“One of the best herbs for novices is thyme, because it’s easy to grow and has so many uses. It’s good in soups, in a compound butter, or even infused in honey for your tea.” says Christie Clark, Herbalist with the Maumee Valley Herb
Society, facebook.com/MaumeeValleyHerbSociety.  Thyme is very good on chicken, lamb, veal and eggs.

Basil and tomatoes are best friends. There’s nothing better than raw tomatoes, straight from the garden, with fresh basil.For extra indulgence, go for the classicItalian salad, by adding sliced mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Basil is the main ingredient in pesto.

Parsley Flat leaf parsley tastes much better than the curly variety. Pair it with current culinary darling cauliflower, and you’ve got a winning side dish. Parsley is very good as a finishing touch to soups and stews.  It is the mail ingredient in Tabouli, a much-loved Lebanese salad.

Mint and chocolate are a classic pairing, and it doesn’t get better than brownies. Mint adds death and flavor to many foods:  lamb, Fatoosh, fresh fruit.  It is also tasty muddled with vodka.

Rosemary The piney flavor of rosemary goes exceptionally well with meats, especially lamb. Rosemary goes well with pasta, adds a kick to meatloaf and long stems, with needles left on, make fantastic skewers for kabobs.

Oregano is the exception to the “use more when fresh” rule. Unlike other herbs, it’s stronger fresh than dried, so you need less if you’re using what comes out of your garden instead of what comes out of a jar. Use oregano in red sauce, on a pizza, with potatoes, fish and chicken.