HerbsSee more Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs
June 15 - September 30
June 15 - September 30
From very early times, herbs have been used for healing. Primitive people learned by trial and error how plants could be used to help them. Around the 1600s, people began correlating the physical properties of an herb, such as its color and shape, to their healing properties. For example, an herb with leaves that looked like snake skin would be used to try to help someone who had been bitten by a snake; a plant growing near a wet place would be used to treat colds; or, a plant with heartshaped leaves would be used to treat heart problems.
Today, we recognize the preventative and curative properties of herbs, but we no longer assign those properties based on shape, colour, or soil preference of the individual plants.
Medicinal Use of Herbs in the Diet
Eating food containing plenty of antioxidants helps neutralize damaging free radicals, molecules that destroy healthy cells in our bodies. This damage causes premature ageing and can lead to the onset of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimers. Herbs are full of antioxidants, occurring mainly as phenols, polyphenols and flavonoids.
Herbs and spices have also been used for their antimicrobial and antiviral properties in preventing food deterioration and pathogenic diseases. The combination of antioxidant and antibacterial components in different herbs give them the ability to treat specific ailments. For example:
Thyme improves the immune system, promotes perspiration and eases sore throats and coughs. It has mild antiseptic properties.
Sage calms the nerves, improves digestion and eases lung congestion and coughs.
Rosemary improves circulation, stimulates the liver into eliminating toxins from the body, eases joint and headache pain and relieves cold symptoms.
Mint eases stomach and digestive problems, relaxes the mind and can ease headaches.
Camomile can remedy an upset stomach and aid sleep. But it can also improve the skin if taken topically.
Culinary Use of Herbs
Most people associate the use of herbs with cooking, particularly the use of specific herbs to define ethnic dishes. Herbs are generally considered to be the leafy green parts of a plant, while spices derive from the seeds, berries, bark, root or fruit. Culinary herbs, like spices, differ from vegetables in that they are used in small amounts to provide flavour rather than substance to the dish being created. For example:
Caraway is commonly used in northern European cuisines - in rye breads, cheese, soups, applesauce, salads, coleslaw, and over pork or sauerkraut.
Tarragon is associated with French cooking and is often used in salad dressings and egg dishes, and with vegetables, meat and seafood.
Oregano is indispensable in Greek salads, tomato sauces, grilled meat and fried vegetables.
For more information on care and storage of specific herbs, visit their fact sheets.