Everybody is familiar with herbs like basil, thyme, parsley, and mint. But there is a world of herbaceous plants out there you might not know about. Here are 5 amazing herbs you may never have heard of:

1. Chocolate Mint

A plant that smells like a Peppermint Patty? It’s real. Chocolate mint is unbelievably delicious to smell, but unfortunately, the flavor is not as intense as an after dinner chocolate mint. Still, you can’t deny the awesomeness of a plant that smells as decadent as candy! Use it in drinks, desserts, or in other dishes where you might use regular mint varieties. Like regular mint, chocolate mint is a prolific plant that will soon take over your entire garden if not contained. Therefore, grow in pots, sunk into the ground, to keep roots from escaping to the far reaches of the garden bed. Not a fan of chocolate? Give Ginger Mint a try. It’s a bright green and beautiful plant with a subtle ginger flavor. All mints aid in digestion, but flavored mints make digesting fun! And mint is known to repel annoying insects as well. 

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2. Orange and Lemon Thyme

There are over 60 types of thyme, but the citrus varieties are a sure favorite! Citrus scented herbs sometimes lose some of their potency when eaten, but that is not the case with Orange or Lemon Thyme. These delicious herbs grow low to the ground and enjoy full sun, similar to standard thymes, but with a distinctive citrus scent.  In addition to tasting great, lemon thyme can be brewed into a tea that can help with digestion, coughing, menstrual cramps, and promote relaxation.

3. Toothache Plant

This plant got its name from its numbing properties when chewed. Its distinctive flower but, also known as Szechuan Buttons, looks almost like a yellow and red eyeball. In addition to its numbing properties, the flower buds and leaves can induce salivation and create a cooling sensation in the throat. It’s long been used medicinally, but is also used culinarily, in salads, drinks, and sorbets, as well as in an insect repellent.

4. Stevia

Stevia has become increasingly popular as a natural sweetener, and it’s pretty easy to find the sweet white powder in your local grocery stores, nowadays. But did you know you can eat fresh stevia, and even grow some in your own garden? Stevia leaves are up to 300 times stronger than sugarcane, so less is needed. The leaves can be chewed fresh, or dried and crushed into a powder, though it won’t resemble the look of the processed white stuff found at your supermarket. Because it has a negligible effect on glucose levels in the blood, it is a go-to sweetener for those watching caloric, carbohydrate, or glucose intake. Stevia is also rumored to help aid digestion and clear up skin problems.

5. Curry Plant

Everyone who has ever eaten Indian food is probably familiar with the warm, comfortingly spicy flavor of a curry blend, but did you know that that flavor is also available in plant form? While the curry found in your favorite Indian restaurant is likely a blend of spices, the curry plant has the same distinct smell and flavor. The smell is also quite strong, so take note if you are putting the curry plant in your home or garden. Curry leaves are best used immediately, since they lose flavor when dried or frozen. They have long been used in Asia and India, and are common to Ayurvedic medicine for cooling the body temperature and treating blood disorders. Ironically, considering their distinct smell, curry leaves are known for relieving nausea and morning sickness. They are also rich in iron, and including them in your diet can help strengthen hair, and relieve constipation. 

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Give these great herbs a try in your home herb garden!

Image source: H. Zell / Wikimedia Commons

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