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How to Cook with Herbs for Health

Updated on May 29, 2017
Herbs for Cooking  Creative Commons
Herbs for Cooking Creative Commons | Source

Adding fresh herbs to your diet is one of the easiest ways to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals. Usually the best way to consume herbs is by eating them fresh and raw but it may be difficult to convince your family as many herbs are bitter-tasting. The second best way to eat more herbs is by using them in your everyday cooking.

If you have a garden or just a window box, you can grow fresh herbs that you can simply snip, rinse and cook. There is nothing better than the smell of rosemary wafting through the house. Enliven pasta by throwing some chopped herbs into the sauce, perk up your pizzas and razzle-up your roasts with a handful of fragrant delight, knowing that they all help toward keeping you and your family healthy.

Here are some ideas for incorporating herbs into your cooking. First a look at some common culinary herbs and their health benefits.

Good for:
Stimulating appetite, aiding digestion & circulation, as an antiseptic.
Dill (weed and seed)
Salt replacement, anti-oxidant, reducing blood sugar levels. Contains folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, B-carotene, vitamin-C.
Digestion and breaking down fatty acids, sore throats, gum infections, hangovers. Used externally to ease rheumatic pain. Contains thymol, anti-oxidants, potassium, iron, calcium, manganese. Also vitamins A, B complex, C, E, K & folic acid.
Caraway (leaves, roots and seed)
Freshening breath, increasing appetite, relieving flatulence. Can offset side-effects of medication. Seed contains ash, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins C & A.
Gall-stones, liver function, gout & rheumatism. Diuretic. Roots can be a gentle laxative.
Cilantro/Coriander (leaves & seed)
Digestion, flatulence, reducing fever, asthma & upper respiratory problems, lowering cholesterol, conjunctivitis.
Halitosis, headaches, flatulence. Mildly antiseptic, used externally as insect repellent. Contains vitamins A , B6, C and folate. Also calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Heartburn, constipation, digestion, asthma, bronchitis. Mild decongestant. Reduces cramp and spasms. Contains vitamin C, manganese, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, vitamin B3.
Lowering blood pressure, stroke prevention, diarrhoea, whooping cough, parasites, digestive upsets, toothache, colds, earache.
Freshening breath, diuretic, increases lactation, skin problems. Contains vitamin A, C, B complex & K .
Salad Herbs  Creative Commons
Salad Herbs Creative Commons | Source

Herbs in Salads

Tear leafy herbs and add to salads. Sprinkle seeds or incorporate into dressings. Herbs that are excellent in salads are basil, chervil, chives, cilantro/coriander, watercress, dill, fennel, lemon balm, lovage, marjoram, mint, parsley, savory, sweet cicely and thyme. Horseradish root can be grated and added at the last minute. It is always best to add herbs to a salad just before serving. Tear, rather than chop leaves to preserve their looks.

Basil (best as pesto), bay leaf, caraway, coriander, dill, garlic, marjoram/oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme (always good).
Basil, bay leaf, coriander, dill, garlic, marjoram/oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary (of course), tarragon, thyme.
Most herbs will work well with chicken. Try chives, garlic, marjoram/oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme.
Basil, chives, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme,

Herbs in Stews and Casseroles

Herbs are wonderful in stews and casseroles. Dried herbs are packed with flavor and are best added at the beginning of cooking unless your recipe states otherwise. You can substitute fresh herbs at the ratio of one tablespoon of fresh for each teaspoon of dried. If using fresh herbs, add about a third at the beginning of cooking and add the remainder a little before serving. Even if the recipe does not call for herbs, you can always throw some in anyway. Here is a guide to the best herbs that complement meat dishes.

Herbs on Pizzas and Savory Pastries

As well as the usual basil and oregano, you can surreptitiously sprinkle a few celery seeds, caraway seeds or fennel seeds on your pizzas. Most herbs that work in salads will go well on or with pizza. Savory pastries are enhanced by chives, oregano, parsley and thyme.

Recommended Book on Cooking and Growing Herbs

Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener's Guide to Growing, Using and Enjoying Herbs Organically
Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener's Guide to Growing, Using and Enjoying Herbs Organically

The all-round best book for growing herbs, using them in cooking and healthcare. There are sections on making your own herbal cosmetics, insect repellents and lots more.

Nettle Soup, Creative Commons
Nettle Soup, Creative Commons | Source
Pasta with Herb Sauce
Pasta with Herb Sauce | Source

Herbs in Soup

Don't even think of making soup without adding herbs for flavor and vitamins. Use the guide above to decide which herbs to use for soups containing meat. When making broth be sure to make a bouquet garni (a small muslin bag of fresh and/or dried herbs) to add piquancy.

Nettles are incredibly healing - used in cooking or as tisanes (infusions or teas), they are good for anemia, arthritis, constipation, eczema, gout, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, menorrhagia, and rheumatism. Use externally for arthritic pain, burns, gout, hemorrhoids, insect bites, neuralgia, nosebleed and scalp problems.

Pasta with creamy cheese and herb sauce. Fast and easy herb recipe.
Pasta with creamy cheese and herb sauce. Fast and easy herb recipe. | Source

Herbs in Sauces

Fish dishes are lifted from ordinary to deliciously health-promoting with the addition of a herb-laden sauce. Pasta meals are also perfect with herb sauces. A simple cheese sauce is sublime with fresh chopped chives, parsley, oregano and one chopped sage leaf added during cooking.

Use basil and other leafy herbs to liven up a tomato sandwich. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Use basil and other leafy herbs to liven up a tomato sandwich. (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Source

Fill Your Sandwich with Leafy Herbs

Herby salad leaves, such as basil, watercress and rocket taste absolutely divine in sandwiches, and there's no easier way to benefit from all the rich anti-oxidant goodness found in leafy herbs. Pull them fresh from the plant and just layer them in your sandwich, bread roll or baguette.

Double the good stuff by adding chopped parsley, mint, chives, dill or any other growing herbs to mayo to make a great salad dressing.

Healthy Herbs

As you can see, herbs are little powerhouses of nutrition that can help maintain a healthy diet. All the above herbs can be added to food without any ill-effects. However, while many herbs have beneficial medicinal properties, they may cause harm if taken in excess, especially in concentrated forms. Before self-medicating with herbs, make sure you carry out thorough research or get the advice of a qualified herbalist.

What's Your Favorite Herb?

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    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 10 months ago from Wales

      Thanks so much, gyanendra :)

    • Gyanendra Mocktan profile image

      gyanendra mocktan 10 months ago

      I'll share article to facebook. I hope someone, somewhere will surely benefit from your article. And live a healthy life.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Thanks Kirsten. Happy cooking!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bev, this was an excellent hub on how to cook with herbs, something I would love to do this late summer/early fall. Voted up for useful!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      You are too kind - I just write like I would write a letter telling someone how to do something. Don't really think about it much. Whereas you write like you are sculpting words into shapes. My stuff is all fluff and yours is deep, with many layers.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 5 years ago from New York, NY

      You write and present your topic so professionally here, I wonder if you have thought about a book. You draw the reader into the text. I cook, for example, and use herbs, but when I read what others are doing, I glance at it, maybe soak a little in; but this hub drew me in and I liked it. Voted up as awesome.

    • Einy51 profile image

      Einy51 5 years ago from Gampaha,Srilanka

      Nice hub! useful... :D

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Great hub! I love to put herbs on my cooking too. Loved your hub!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Ooh... that sounds really nice. I have a large pot of sage that is just bursting into... er... sagey goodness! Yes, do come - as long as you do the cooking!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Can I come to dinner? Love herbs in everything. What a delightful Hub and so pretty to look at. Packed with information!

      When we are starving but we haven't done the shopping we throw loads of fresh chopped sage into some butter and have it over pasta with grated cheese. It's the BEST!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks Brenda & HawaiiHeart.

    • HawaiiHeart profile image

      HawaiiHeart 5 years ago from Hawaii

      What a great list! Very informative and useful.

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 5 years ago from Utah

      I have cilantro and mint in my garden and absolutely love it! Great hub!

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      This hub made me hungry! I love to use fresh herbs in cooking. My favorites are basil and cilantro. It was interesting to read that fennel may help with heartburn. My daughter is having a terrible time with heartburn right now, so I may have to try adding it to my cooking. Thanks for the info! voted up.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you all! Glad you liked it.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Wow. This is a lot of great information! I love all herbs and knowing they provide so many health benefits makes me savor them even more. Thanks for breaking down those benefits into such an easy-to-read format.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

      This is great information presented in a very easy to understand format. Isn't it wonderful that herbs are once again recognized for the health benefits they can give. Cooking with them can help lessen our dependence on sodium as well. voted up and sharing. Ok, voted useful. The vote up button is gone.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Very informative hub! My favorite herbs are parsley and basil. Thanks for sharing.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I really like the reference list you included with the different herbs for different meats. I needed that! I agree, I just love the smell of fresh rosemary, and I always keep one growing outside!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Fennel is lovely, I made something delicious with fennel bulb a few weeks ago and for the life of me I can't remember what it was!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      Great hub, very useful. I am a fennel fan!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Much appreciated, urmilashukla23.

    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 5 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      Great Hub. Thanks for share it. Voted up.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks, Claudia. I love thyme too. I keep trying to grow it but without much luck. It's too rainy here.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

      I am a real enthusiast of fresh, raw thyme, it has a very particular and pleasant flavor. I have experimented with it in many salads and I really recommend it.

      By the way, the first photo of your hub got me hooked, great selection.