Herbs are plants that are grown for their culinary, medicinal, aromatic, and sometimes, ornamental properties.  Most people are familiar with at least a handful of culinary herbs, and can either use them readily in their cooking or at the very least can recognize them in favorite dishes.

Without really giving it much thought, many of us use herbs medicinally, too.  Though you might not be in your kitchen conjuring up potions, tinctures, and elixirs, every time you drink herbal tea, for example, you are enjoying the medicinal and aromatic powers of herbs.

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What’s more, every time you use herbs in your cooking, you are getting a dose of their medicinal properties without even thinking about it.  By learning a little more about the medicinal properties, and not just the flavor profiles of common culinary herbs, you can start to make more intentional choices about the herbs you use in your cooking and, indeed, the amount you use.

Here is a list of common culinary herbs and the medicinal properties you might benefit from just by adding them to your dishes.

Oregano

Culinary: This is a wonderfully aromatic herb that is very familiar to most people.  It is often associated with Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines.  Oregano can be sprinkled on pizzas or made into a pesto as an alternative to the classic basil pesto.  Here is a delicious recipe for 5-Ingredient Artichoke Oregano Spread that can be used on toast or in sandwiches. Or, you can try making some of these Potato Oregano Rolls to dip into a homemade bowl of tomato soup.

Medicinal: Oregano is high in antioxidants which can help with inflammation. Just one teaspoon of dried oregano provides 8% of your daily vitamin K.  It is said that oregano works as an antibacterial and may even have some antiviral properties, too.

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Sage

sage

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Culinary: Sage is a very common herb with strong earthy flavors.  It is associated with hearty dishes such as soups and stews and is a foundational flavor in many holiday dishes—think stuffing!  Indeed, check out this recipe for Show Stopper Mushroom and Sage Stuffing and consider it for the upcoming holiday season.  If you really want to pack a ‘sage-y’ punch try this Sage Tempura and chomp down on a crispy-leaved snack.

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Medicinal:  Sage provides significant amounts of vitamin K and B6 as well as iron, calcium, and manganese.  It is also loaded with specific antioxidants which are said to help boost brain function and memory.  Sage has antimicrobial properties that may aid in oral health by fighting cavity-causing bacteria.

Rosemary

rosemary

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Culinary: This is another highly aromatic herb that is well known in many kitchens around the world.  It is especially common in Mediterranean cuisine and is just lovely when used to season soups and stews or potato dishes.  Check out this Rosemary Purple Potato Focaccia and fill your kitchen with the smell of fresh-baked bread and warm rosemary.  You can even use it in desserts, such as in this recipe for Rosemary Lemon Sandwich Cookies.

Medicinal: Rosemary is high in antioxidants and has antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.  Rosemary also contains compounds that when inhaled are thought to help improve mood and decrease anxiety.

Thyme

 

thyme

Alice Henneman/Flickr

Culinary:  This classic herb is a well-known feature in the spice cabinet.  It is delicious in stews and soups and adds flavor to roast vegetables.  Try these Maple Dijon Thyme Roasted Vegetables next time you’re cooking a Sunday lunch, or try this Thyme and Pistachio White Bean Dip with some chips or flatbread.

Medicinal:  Thyme is packed with vitamin C and A which help to boost your immunity.  It is also said to help alleviate cough symptoms, so this might be one to make the most of when you feel a cold coming on.  Thyme is another herb that is said to help boost your mood and promote feelings of wellbeing.

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Parsley

Culinary:  Here is a herb that is often thought of as more of a garnish than as a full culinary herb, but this needs to be changed.  There are lots of ways that this light and fresh herb can be enjoyed in abundance.  For a parsley-packed punch, try this Parsley Pumpkin Seed Pesto on your next pasta dish.  Also, this Pear and Parsley Smoothie will give you a good dose of this healthful herb.

Medicinal: Parsley has many surprising health benefits and provides more nutrition than you’d think.  Parsley has significant amounts of vitamin A, C, K, folate, and potassium.  As with the other herbs listed, parsley is high in antioxidants which as said to be more potent in dried form as opposed to fresh. It is also thought to support bone health due to its vitamin K content.

Always consult a medical professional before using herbal medicine.

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