By Minyette Burke, Wellness Specialist at The Connection at Twin Towers
Incorporating herbs into your diet is as easy as going to the grocery store, your local farmer’s market or even in your own backyard. Instead of using only salt and pepper to season your meals, spice them up with new flavors and the many healthy benefits herbs can provide.
Here are a list of my favorite herbs, their health value and how to use them.
10 Fresh Herbs for Healing & Your Daily Diet
1. Basil is related to peppermint, which is why the plants look so similar. There are more than 60 varieties that vary from sweet to lemon flavored. If possible, always choose fresh over dried basil. The difference is amazing!
- Excellent at fighting skin blemishes on your skin.
- A good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health.
- Has an antimicrobial property to fight off viruses and infections.
- A good source of calcium, folate and also omega-3 fatty acids.
- Helps alkalize the body restoring the body’s proper pH level.
- Holy Basil is an excellent detoxifying agent.
- A natural insect repellent.
How to use Basil: fresh, dried, this wonderful herb can top pizza and be added to ice cream and sauces.
2. Bay leaves have a sharp and bitter flavor. They normally aren’t eaten directly, but they are used in many dishes such as in Indian and Napalese foods. Many people use them whole and take them out when the meal is finished.
- Treats sinusitis by reducing inflammation and fluid buildup in the sinuses.
- Works to support the immune system and may help prevent heart disease.
How to use Bay leaves: dried in soups and stews, also infused in oil such as olive or ground and used in other dishes.
3. Cinnamon gives us such a warm feeling and is so delightful to the palate and nose. I sometimes open my jar and take a whiff just to elevate my mood. Underneath that wonderful aroma sitting in our spice cabinet, cinnamon boasts some excellent medicinal qualities.
- Can be used to help control blood sugar levels.
- May help lower bad cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Assists to help control diarrhea and indigestion.
How to use Cinnamon: ground, sticks, typically used in baked goods but can be added to beverages, sauces, casseroles, scents and potpourris.
4. Coriander is one of those herbs that most people only have because a recipe called for its use. Coriander is actually cilantro. The stalk and leaves of the plant are referred to as cilantro and the seeds are often called coriander. So we actually use coriander/cilantro more often than we think.
- Has been shown to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
- Citronelo, an oil in coriander, is a great antiseptic that is used to treat mouth ulcers.
- Used in many natural toothpastes.
- Contains a high iron content, which makes it effective for people with anemia.
How to use Coriander: fresh, dried and can be used in salsas and other fresh cuisine that requires cilantro (the leaves). The seeds of coriander are ground and are delicious in chili and soup as well as curries. It is also available as an essential oil to add to topical applications or to toothpastes.
5. Dandelion is given a hard time as many people spend a great deal of money trying to rid their yard and garden of this “weed.” Most of us don’t realize the superpower of this plant. It is packed with nutrients, grows everywhere, and the best part is: it’s free!
- Assists digestion by aiding the production of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and stimulating the appetite.
- Helps with liver disorders by detoxifying the organ, increases bile release and helps with electrolyte balance.
- Acts as an antioxidant, helping to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels by controlling lipid levels.
How to use Dandelion: the leaves and the root can be used. The leaves are good in salads and soups as well. Both the leaves and the root can be made into teas, with the root mostly being used as a decoration. Roasted dandelion root is often used as a coffee substitute as well.
6. Garlic is one the most popular used herbs we keep in our kitchen. It is excellent in almost any dish.
- Contains allicin, which helps provide the herb with cancer fighting benefits.
- Has the ability to slow different diseases and fight the common cold.
- Possesses properties that support the body’s natural ability to combat cognitive diseases such as dementia.
How to use Garlic: To get the most medicinal benefits from garlic, it should be eaten raw or cooked. If you cook with it, allow 10 minutes after you’ve crushed or minced it to maximize the health benefits. Lastly, using fresh garlic is always best.
7. Ginger is a mildly spicy flavored root that is commonly used in Asian and Indian cuisine and baked goods.
- Improves gastrointestinal health by stimulating saliva production, decreases bloating and promotes digestion in our intestinal tract, helping our bodies absorb more nutrients.
- Alleviates nausea from motion sickness and has been used as a remedy for nausea during cancer treatments.
- Super antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
How to use Ginger: dried, freshly chopped or grated, chewed, juiced, in teas and in your favorite dishes. Ginger is a great staple to keep in your kitchen.
8. Oregano is an absolute essential in your household, especially oregano oil. Usually found in Italian dishes, but it is good in many other dishes as well. I like to use it as a natural air freshener by simply crushing the fresh leaves to release the strong scent and placing them in a bowl.
- A natural antibiotic.
- Helps treat gingivitis.
- Boasts excellent antifungal properties and is used for ringworm, yeast infections and athlete’s foot.
- Has been used to treat sinus infections, allergies and bronchitis.
How to use Oregano: dried, fresh, add it to your favorite salads, marinades, sauces and stews, even as a tea. Or use as a topical treatment when the oil is diluted in water.
9. Sage is a very aromatic herb, whose smell enhances when you rub the leaves and release the oil inside the leaves. It’s often used in aromatherapy.
- Boasts a superior level of vitamin K, which is crucial for developing bone density.
- Improves brain function and can be an effective brain booster.
- Great for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Contains numerous antioxidant compounds.
How to use Sage: dried or fresh. For skin conditions, make a tincture or infuse the leaves in an oil such as olive oil, apricot or sunflower oil.
10. Turmeric is a root or rhizome just as ginger is, but it boasts a beautiful orange-yellow colored flesh that is used as food coloring and for dyeing fabrics. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that provides most of its medicinal properties.
- Natural pain killer and excellent anti-inflammatory, often used to help with conditions such as arthritis.
- Anticoagulant to help thin the blood.
- Stabilizes moods and has been used as a mild anti-depressant.
- A natural treatment for lowering blood sugar and reversing insulin resistance.
How to use Turmeric: fresh (chopped or grated), dried and can easily be added to smoothies or most recipes due to its mild flavor.
This information is not to be considered medical advice. It is always recommended that you consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet or medical treatment plan.
Feeling good inside and out is the cornerstone of life at Twin Towers.
The Connection at Twin Towers offers a full schedule of senior fitness classes. The Connection serves adults 50 years and older and welcomes non-residents from the surrounding community to become members and enjoy the benefits and services.
We also invite you to visit our residential community here at Twin Towers in Cincinnati. For a free tour, contact Twin Towers today! 513-853-2000.