Going Back to Nature – Herbs to Heal You

Using herbs is an easy way to purify your body, mind, and soul. Herbs have been used for centuries for spiritual reasons, to spice up food, or as homemade remedies for ailments (ie: cold, sore throat). Today, I will show you ways to use them in your daily lives, either for their fragrance, for their healing powers, or in yummy recipes.

Health Benefits

Herbs contain unique antioxidants (vitamins/minerals and enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions) believed to play a role in preventing the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, etc.), essential oils, vitamins, and many other plants derived nutrient substances, which help our body fight against germs, toxins and help boost our immune system.

Essential oils can also do a lot more than just smell good. They have been found to have anti-inflammatory function; which makes it an important remedy for relief in individuals with inflammatory health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteo-arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions.

Essential oils and herbal supplements are also widely used to help treat certain emotional and mental states. Individuals having trouble sleeping, feeling anxious, or in need of an energy boost could benefit from them. Some people choose to use them in pill form, others use them directly on their skin (essential oils where you would put perfume: palm of hand, back of neck, etc.), in a diffuser, or even in a bath. The most popular ones are St John’s Wort (for depression), peppermint (helps with nausea, stomach issues, and overworked muscles), lavender (Go-to oil that does anything from improves sleep to combats joint pain), and rose (ultimate women’s oil: improves hormonal balance, improves look/health of skin)

Herbs in our diet

The easiest way to use herbs seem to be in the kitchen. Here are a few ways to use herbs in your food/drink preparations:

  • Fresh leaves can be used in the preparation of soups and herbal sauces. Try adding a few bay leaves to your favorite sauce or stew. It won’t overpower your dish, but will give it a little “je ne sais quoi”. Expect people to ask you for your recipe!
  • Chopped, fresh herb leaves can add richness to vegetable and fruit salads. My favorite: Add Basil in a tomato and balsamic vinegar salad – yum!
  • Use in marinade. Take your favorite marinade and add another layer of flavor by adding your favorite herbs. Try a simple lemon and sage marinade over chicken.
  • Herbal leaves and plant parts are a popular choice to flavour drinks. Use herbs in smoothies, or try making your own herbal tea blend. Try making your own spearmint and lemongrass herbal tea (1/2 tsp. of both herbs per cup in boiling water. Let steep for 5-10minutes); this herbal tea is amazing for digestion.
  • Fresh vs dried. Rule of thumb: use fresh when possible, and use half the amount if using dried. If you’re making a recipe which asks to use fresh and you would like to use dried (or vice versa), there’s no problem. Just remember to use less dried herbs since they are more concentrated in flavour, which could lead your dish to have an overpowered, bitter taste.

Guide to Fresh Herbs

For your convenience, here’s a list of popular herbs and their flavour profiles. Hope this helps you add them to your favorite dishes:

  • Cilantro – Also called coriander, is one of the world’s most popular herbs. The sweet stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, added after a dish has been cooked. The leaves and seeds have two distinct flavours: The seeds are very aromatic, and the leaves have an earthy pungency. Coriander is often used in asian cuisine.
  • Parsley – From flat-leaf to Italian, parsley is one of the most common and best known garnishing herbs used in the West. Cooking with parsley enhances the flavour of other foods and herbs. It’s most often used in sauces, salads or garnished over a dish at the end of cooking for a flash of colour and a fresh taste.
  • Basil – Basil has a floral anise like flavour and aroma. It is one of the few herbs to increase its flavour when cooked. It is most often associated with Mediterranean foods like pesto and tomato sauce.
  • Mint – Cooling, peppery, and refreshing are words often used to describe drinks and food served with mint. It is commonly associated with sweet treats (like chocolate mint), but does have its place in the savory world too (like mint jelly over lamb). Fresh mint mixes well in vegetable and/or fruit salads, and makes a great digestive teas.
  • Rosemary – If left to grow freely outside, rosemary will take the appearance of a small ever green tree. Its flavour is best described as being “woody” or pine-like. Rosemary’s spiky leaves can be used either fresh or dried, but remember that a little goes a long way.
  • Thyme – Thyme can be paired with nearly any kind of meat, poultry, fish, or vegetable. To use fresh thyme: peel off the leaves from the woody stem by running your fingers along the stem. Good fact: Thyme is known to be a digestive aid and to help break down fatty foods.
  • Sage – Most people recognize this herb from the taste of their favorite Thanksgiving stuffing. Sage is an herb in the mint family. Its long, greenish-grey leaves take on a velvety texture when rubbed. The flavor can be somewhat overwhelming (particularly dried sage), so start off with a small amount and build on that. It has been long been used with sausages because if its preservative qualities.
  • Dill – The feathery leaves of the dill plant adds a pleasant anise-like flavor. It is most often found in pickles, but also widely used in seafood dishes.

No matter the reason that you are using herbs, those power plants are packed with flavour, health properties, AND best of all, has little to no calories (approx. 3-5 calories per Tbsp.)!

*Remember that you know your health situation better than I do. Please consult your doctor or health care professional before trying anything new.