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12 Health Boosting Herbs to Add to Your Dishes

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Herbs grow naturally, and when food grows from the ground it’s much better for you than putting processed food into your system. In times like these it’s even more important to ensure that you are nourishing your body and mind with the right foods, and that’s why herbs are so amazing. They are versatile, easy to buy or grow yourself and can be added to daily dishes and drinks, plus they contain a multitude of health benefits. The herbs below can help with anxiety, immune systems, viruses and more so you remain in tip-top condition.

Rosemary

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region, growing on fragrant herb bushes with blue, purple, white or pink flowers. This herb is popular in the culinary community, often used to season chicken, stews, pasta, vegetarian dishes and quiches.

Rosemary was considered as sacred by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and it’s not surprising when you see the health benefits. Not only is it high in vitamins including A, B6, C and folate, it’s also packed with antioxidants.

Rosemary can help to alleviate digestive problems, assist with hair growth, it can reduce joint inflammation and liver damage, plus it acts as a cognitive stimulant to help you remain focused! Try adding a little rosemary to melted goat’s cheese on crusty bread with a drizzle of honey or to a delicious lentil shepherd’s pie!

Basil

Basil is a flavoursome, leafy herb grown from Southeast Asia to Africa. It’s used frequently in traditional Italian recipes and can be added to soups, salads, pasta and sauces. It’s easy to grow at home in window boxes, plant pots and gardens or you can purchase it fresh or dried from health food stores and supermarkets.

There are several types of basil all with different tastes but the most common is sweet basil. This rich green herb is packed with Vitamin K which helps to heal wounds and skin conditions and maintains bone health. It can help with memory, stress and ageing, improve cholesterol and reduce blood pressure in those with hypertension. Add fresh basil to pasta sauce or serve with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for a tasty, healthy snack.

Mint

Mint can be grown at home in pots or gardens, thriving best in damp environments near water, rivers or lakes. This fast-growing herb can be grown year-round or can be purchased in fresh or ground form. Mint is often used to create sauces for meat dishes, to garnish beverages, plus, it’s added to chocolate and desserts including ice cream!

In Morocco and across Northern Africa, mint leaves are popped into glasses of sugary tea to create a refreshing any-time beverage. The health benefits of mint are also plentiful. This aromatic herb is effective in alleviating nausea, can help treat and prevent asthma, allergies, respiratory disorders and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Add mint to breakfast tea and smoothies to give a quick daily boost to your immune system.

Oregano

Oregano is cultivated from flowering plants in the Mediterranean and Eurasia. The herb is close to marjoram in taste and frequently used in Italian cuisine where it’s added to pasta, sauces and pizzas. It is grown indoors and outdoors and can be purchased fresh, dried or as an oil.

Oregano is rich in antioxidants which help to prevent cell damage, it can eliminate viral infections quickly and it also has antibacterial properties which have shown to be effective in fighting off 23 bacteria species! Give your dishes and health a boost by sprinkling chopped Oregano leaves onto salads, into tomato-based pasta sauces or drizzle some oil into minestrone and vegetable soups.

Bay Leaves

This aromatic leaf comes from several plant species including the bay laurel and California bay tree. The leaves are often used in cooking for their distinctive flavour, being added to soups, pates, pasta dishes and biryani’s.

They can be used in cooking and boast a multitude of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A – for eye health and the immune system and Vitamin C which assists with upper respiratory tract infections and reparation of body tissues. Bay leaves can also help to reduce anxiety or stress and improve digestive health in individuals which make them a handy herb to always have in a jar at home.

Chives

Chives are easy to grow in small pots at home. These slender, onion-like herbs are often freshly chopped and used to season salads, creamy mashed potatoes, dipping sauces and cheeses.

They contain nutrients essential for the body’s wellbeing including Vitamins A and C, riboflavin, folate and thiamin. Chives can assist with the healthy function of the digestive system and intestinal tract, plus, they can strengthen bones and eliminate bacteria within the body.

Dill

Dill is part of the celery family – a fern-like biennial herb which blooms in Eurasia with yellow flowers. It’s easy to grow at home in a vegetable patch or in pots and should be planted in spring or autumnal months.

The leaves are strong in flavour and used to garnish salads, potatoes, smoked salmon, quiches and rice dishes. The fragrant herb also has many health benefits. Adding dill to your diet can help to reduce depression, lower cholesterol, destroy bacteria and ensure you maintain good vision.

Fenugreek

Deriving from the Fabaceae plant species, Fenugreek has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. The herbs, which can be used in fresh, powdered or seed form are often used to season Indian vegetable-based curries, daals and pickles.

Fenugreek is high in iron, providing a massive 262% of your daily value and it also contains Magnesium, Phosphorus, Manganese and several B Vitamins! It is beneficial to women of a certain age as it can minimise symptoms of menopause and can help to treat diabetes and cellulitis, however, it’s not advisable for consumption by pregnant women.

Tarragon

Part of the sunflower family, tarragon is widely grown across North America and Eurasia for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is commonly used in French cooking and a main component of the popular Bearnaise sauce.

Sprigs of freshly picked or dried tarragon can be added to chicken and fish dishes and in some countries of the Middle East it’s used to flavour a sugary soft drink. This versatile herb has several health benefits. It may decrease blood sugar levels in diabetics, helps to relieve pain and it has antibacterial properties which can eradicate bacteria which causes E. coli and other food related illnesses.

Lemongrass

This silky grass with lemon fragrance is used in Asian cuisine and also to prepare perfumes, soaps, oils and insect repellents! It’s added to popular dishes such as Thai green curry and soups in fresh, dried or powdered form.

Lemongrass also works its citrusy magic to effectively protect the body against flu, colds, to relieve anxiety, alleviate rheumatism, dental issues and even certain types of cancer

Thyme

Ancient Egyptians were big advocates of thyme, often using the herb in the embalming process, whereas citizens of ancient Greece burned it as incense to promote courage. The herb was believed to have healing properties in the Middle Ages too. It was placed beneath pillows to prevent nightmares and oils were used to medicate bandages to help prevent infection.

Today, although thyme flavours tea, chicken and stews across the world, its medicinal properties still hold strong. It is used in alternative medicine to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure, enhance mood and alleviate symptoms of sore throats, bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections.

Sage

Sage is most commonly used today to season poultry dishes such as chicken and turkey, but in the ancient world it had more practical uses. The Romans would use herb in religious rituals to ward off evil, it was also said to increase a woman’s fertility and heal snake bites.

Today, sage is found mainly in Mediterranean regions and when in full bloom is decorated with pretty lilac coloured flowers. It’s an essential herb used in culinary dishes throughout the world being added to sausages, casseroles, roasted meats and cheeses.

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