By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Growing your own herbs at home is not only easy but it’s inexpensive! When you have herbs on hand you can create countless flavor-filled recipes without trips to the market. When you buy them at the store, the bunch is usually more than you need and that can get wasteful (unless of course you use these handy storage tips)! When picked straight from the garden they are also super fresh and will have a stronger flavor while also offering more antioxidants and nutrients. Culinary herbs not only offer fabulous taste but they also offer a long list of health benefits.
In my garden I always like to have a few different types of herbs going. Right now I have basil, oregano, rosemary, chocolate mint and stevia. The chocolate mint is taking over at the moment and I rarely use it for smoothies like I intended so it may need to make room for something more appropriate for me. I absolutely love having herbs in the garden for quick salad additions, homemade pestos, dressings and thrown in any vegetable based dish or to add loads of flavour to a juice or a smoothie.
So here are some basic herbs that can be easily grown (and enjoyed) in a garden:
Rosemary is high in antioxidants, nutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds. Rosemary is traditionally used for poor memory, to stimulate hair growth topically, improves muscle aches and pains topically, supports blood circulation, improves digestion, liver disease and is helpful to reduce food borne pathogens. There are also studies that indicate rosemary may help to reduce cancer cells from replicating.
Researchers have found that sniffing rosemary is good for reducing free radical damage in the brain due to an ingredient, carnosic acid and it also may be helpful for protecting against beta amyloid-induced neurodegeneration that has been shown to occur in Alzheimer’s disease. Rosemary also helps to reduce carcinogenic substances that may form in the cooking process, so used in a marinate it has many beneficial health properties.
Thyme is a herb I commonly use in respiratory and gut infection formulas and for coughs as it has natural antiseptic compounds, one being ‘thymol’. Thyme also has soothing expectorant properties that can be used in bronchitis and for sore throats. Thyme is also showing promise to be helpful in the reduction of breast and colon cancers. Its extracts have been shown to improve oil stabilization by reducing it from oxidizing and acts as a natural preservative. It is also helpful for candida infections and as a helpful soak for athletes foot and other fungal infections.
This is a well-known beautifully smelling herb that has a vast array of health benefits. It is mostly used as a smelling agent and as an essential oil as a natural anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, soothing agent, supports rest and reduces anxiety and depression. Lavender can also be consumed as a tea, herbal medicine or added to meals in small quantities.
Oregano is a well-known herb that is used all around the world for its health benefits and its delicious taste and scent. Oregano has been shown to be helpful as a natural antibiotic, for upper respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, as a strong anti-inflammatory herb and has shown potential for its naturally occurring anti-cancer compounds. Learn more about health benefits of oregano!
This is certainly one of my favorites to add to salads such as a caprese salad, or a great tasting pesto, Italian dishes, stir-fries with chilli, juices and smoothies and many other delicious dishes. Basil contains a wide range of essential oils rich in phenolic compounds, polyphenols such as flavonoids and anthocyanins, and is also high in antioxidants and other anti-bacterial agents.
Basil is a strongly scented herb that offers an array of health benefits such as its natural antiseptic compounds, which can be used topically or internally. It helps to clear acne, infections and is used in some mouth washes. Basil has been studied for its potential anti-aging benefits, and it may be effective at reducing the effects of free radicals, as well as protecting heart, liver and brain cells.
Cilantro is also a good source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese. Cilantro has been found to suppress lead accumulation in rats, which gives promise to combat lead and other heavy metal toxicity. Many people in this study suffering from mercury exposure report a reduction in the often-cited feeling of disorientation after consuming large and regular amounts of cilantro over an extended period.
Because of its chelation abilities, cilantro is also being studied as a natural water purifier. Research reported success in removing lead and nickel with their cilantro filters, and are studying how well the herb can remove other heavy metals found in the Tule Valley water such as arsenic and mercury. It has also been shown to reduce anxiety levels and reduce oxidative stress and offers cardio-protective effects.
Parsley is high in nutrients particularly iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium. When we juice this herb we are consuming these nutrients easily and in excellent quantities. Parsley is a great accompaniment to many dishes, juices and smoothies. Parsley is revered for its ability to support bone health due to the high mineral and vitamin content.
Parsley is traditionally used as a diuretic in cases of excess fluid retention and can help reduce this from occurring. It is also helpful for reducing garlic breath after consuming plenty of garlic.
Research at the Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey showed evidence that diabetic rats that were given parsley actually showed a decrease in their blood sugar levels over a period of a month and may be helpful for blood sugar in humans while other research indicates that parsley displays anti-inflammatory and supports and protects liver cells.
Add this fragrant herb to juices and teas and more. It’s a particularly good source of vitamin A (critical for eye health), is rich in antioxidants and known to reduce nausea and aid digestion.
This is a great natural sweetener that can be easily added into dressings, juices and smoothies. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar and very little is needed to give a meal sweetness without the sugar hit or the calories. Stevia has been shown in studies to be helpful for diabetes and insulin resistance in the management of healthy blood sugar and insulin levels post meal.
It is also important to note that many granulated sugar substitutes that claim to be stevia are often mostly sugar alcohols with a small amount of stevia glycosides for sweetness and these combinations may cause diarrhea, so it’s important to read the labels.