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Four Herbs for Health and Healing

Updated on March 2, 2010

Illustrated Parsley

Chew some parsley to freshen breath.
Chew some parsley to freshen breath.

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

Ok, this sounds like the Simon and Garfunkel tune of the 70s. Again I am dating myself, but these herbs along with hundreds of others are used as culinary spices and have medicinal benefits as well.  Let’s start with parsley. Frankly, most dishes I prepare start with a base of chopped parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Parsley is either flat-leafed Italian or curly leafed. Both have a crisp, fresh flavor and are used as garnishes as well as a seasoning. Its medical uses include acting as a breath freshener when chewed; helping to ease the itching in mosquito bites, and, parsley tea may be used as an enema. It adds color and subtle flavor to all dishes, and is suitable for treating urinary infections, gout and stones.  It is not recommended for medicinal use by pregnant women

Salvia

Fragrant Sage
Fragrant Sage

Salvia "To Heal"

Sage, or salvia officinalis, literally means “to heal.” Throughout history it has been recommended as a treatment for virtually every ailment. It has been used as an antibiotic, antifungal, astringent, antispasmodic, estrogenic and tonic. Its oils can be extracted and used to benefit moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Its ancient history shows its use to ward off evil, help snakebites, increase women’s fertility, and was used along with other ingredients in a blend called “Four Thieves Vinegar” that helped ward off the plague. Sage is a delicious herb in Italian cooking and compliments meat dishes, especially with pork or poultry. A very popular sauce for stuffed pasta is called burro e salvia where the sage is sautéed in olive oil and butter until crisp then added to the pasta. This is so scrumptious!

My Plant

Fresh Rosemary is Best
Fresh Rosemary is Best

Rosemarino

Rosemary grows everywhere in the Mediterranean areas of Greece and Italy, Spain and Portugal. It can become so large it resembles wisteria with branches overhanging awnings and courtyards. Its fragrance is very distinct and compliments many meat dishes, especially poultry, lamb, and pork. A sprig of rosemary makes an elegant garnish. Its volatile oils are used in shampoos, cosmetics and perfumes.  It is an excellent remedy for headaches, either taken as an infusion or being applied directly to the head. Like many other essential oils, rosemary also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is stimulating to digestion and increases the flow of bile.  Most recently scientists have found that rosemary contains carnosic acid (CA), which fights off free radical damage in the brain improving memory. Shakespeare knew something about this when he wrote: “There’s rosemary: that’s for remembrance,” and it is often planted around war memorials and cemeteries.” It is easy to grow rosemary as a potted plant – I currently have a good-sized shrub in my living room. It is one of the “must have” herbs that should be used often.



Lemon Thyme

Excellent for a tea
Excellent for a tea

Time for Thyme

Thyme also produces important volatile oils that aid in digestion, reduce flatulence, makes wonderful soothing teas for sore throats and coughs, and is also an excellent rinse for hair combined with rosemary and sage. The essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is made up of 20-54% thymol;  the main active ingredient in Listerine mouth wash. Thyme baths helps ease arthritis and the oil is often used in liniments and massage oils. An ointment made with thyme can also treat shingles. As a spice thyme is one of the predominant flavors in Italian food and sauces. It is also easy to grow in pots outdoors and favors a warm environment.  I personally keep an indoor herb garden all year round so I have access to these versatile plants whenever I wish.  

We’ve listed lots of benefits to using fresh herbs for many everyday aches and pains, but as always, moderation is the best policy. Any substance can be abused, even these natural remedies. There are Herb Stops and shops all over the country – consult a trained specialist before using any product as there are conflicts between prescription drugs and natural herbs in some cases. Pregnant women should be especially careful about what to ingest or apply topically.

Thin Kitchen uses Parsley and Rosemary

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