The Double Life of Culinary Herbs

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The Double Life of Culinary Herbs

By Sue J Morris

Plants have the power to heal us on many levels. Common and easy to grow culinary herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, mint and many more are amongst the most beneficial plants to grow for in our gardens as kitchen herbs, but did you know they lead a double life? The herbs which we typically consider to be used for culinary purposes, or simply put, used in cooking, not only enhance the flavor and aroma of our foods, improving their taste with powerful flavors, but their aromatic properties also serve as the foundation for many health benefits. Growing an herb garden can be the foundation for a healthier life, rewarding us with an immune system booster as well as helping to prevent or delay a wide range of degenerative and chronic disease conditions. In combination with a balanced supply of nutrient rich foods, organic herbs can prevent chronic disease conditions. How do they do this? Through good nutrition. Herbs are extremely nourishing. Poor nutrition is the root cause of all illness.  Herbs are nutrient packed. Adding them to our foods can help us add a huge nutritional punch to the simplest of meals. Culinary herbs can powerfully contribute to our health by doubling as medicinal herbs.

Just by adding some chopped herbs to a salad, in a vegetable dish or in meats, the nutritional value of the meal increases as do the health benefits. Herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and glucose- and cholesterol-lowering activities. Culinary herbs are full of aromatic compounds -essential oils. They are extremely rich in antioxidants-detoxifying to the system. Their health benefits include enhancing the immune system, regulating digestion, being energizing mentally and physically, while increasing the appetizing effects of eating good food.

Let’s look at some examples.

 ROSEMARY: Rosemary as a culinary herb is typically paired with meats, lamb and pork, but is also commonly added to stuffings and marinades. Why is rosemary traditionally paired with meats? It is an antioxidant which preserves foods and prevents food poisoning. Rosmarinus officinalis, L. is a rich source of phenolic compounds used in food preservation as the extract prevents oxidation and microbial contamination. Rosemary is also used for the treatment of illnesses. Use leaves and flowers as an infusion for a stimulating nerve tonic and aid to digestive ailments such as gas and indigestion. It is useful for headaches and insomnia. Rosemary fights infection. Rosemary is also a fantastic liver cleanser and booster. Rosemary oil benefits the memory, cognition, hair growth, it’s pain relieving and most importantly rosemary extract has been shown to exhibit anti-cancer properties. (Anticancer Effects of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) Extract and Rosemary Extract Polyphenols, Jessy Moore,1 Michael Yousef,1 and Evangelia Tsiani). Use 1 tsp of crushed herb per cup boiling water. Steep 10-15 for tea.

SAGE (Salvia): Sage, a strongly flavored culinary herb used for seasoning stuffings, egg dishes, poultry, pork, vegetables and sauces. Sage contains powerful antioxidants which slow food spoilage acting as a natural preservative. Like most culinary spices it relaxes the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract making it an antispasmodic. It is effective in reducing perspiration and stopping night sweats. If drunk as a tea, sage treats fever. It can also dry up mother’s milk so do not drink sage tea when nursing.  Sage is active against infection causing bacteria. Crushed leaves can be used in wound treatment. Steep 2 tsp in boiling water and drink to settle the stomach or as a gargle or mouthwash for sore throats and inflamed gums.

PEPPERMINT:  Mints are known primarily for tea drinking and are sometimes added to jellies, sauces, butters, sorbet and salads such as tabbouleh. Mint has so many medicinal properties which should not be overlooked. Peppermint relieves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, dyspepsia, and colonic muscle spasms. It protects against cancer formation in the colon, skin, and lungs. Peppermint is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A.  

An anti-microbial oil- essential oil of peppermint also stops the growth of many different bacteria. It has also been found to inhibit the growth of certain types of fungus. Peppermint contains the substance rosmarinic acid, which has several actions that are beneficial in asthma. Peppermint is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A.  

Grow it as a hardy perennial, dry it throughout the summer and fall and enjoy it in foods and teas all winter long.

GARLIC: One of the most commonly eaten plants that is easy to grow is garlic. Garlic is antibiotic in nature. Eat raw garlic daily to boost the immune system, prevent circulatory problems and intestinal parasites. Garlic acts as a blood thinner and reduces blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Use for chest infections, colds and flu, sore throat and digestive ailments. Mash the clove and apply to bee stings.

Plant bulbs in the fall and harvest the next summer. Garlic is easy to grow and wonderful to keep chopped and stored in a glass jar filled with olive oil, preserved in the fridge all year long.

For many hundreds of centuries herbs have been grown both for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Dill: A fragrant, hardy annual, dill leaves and seeds are used in pickles, vinegars, salads and meat. Medicinally dill is made into a drink known as gripe water, often given to infants for gas pains. Buying a bottle of gripe water can cost over $10 and is full of preservatives, not what we want to give to babies. Make gripe water by steeping fresh or dried dill leaves or seeds in pure boiled water, strain and drink this mild drink to relieve indigestion, gas and hiccups. Refrigerate to store it.

Calendula, a flower more than an herb, has high amounts of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged by free radicals. It is also high in carotenoids, helpful for the retina.


Culinary and medicinal herbs are non-toxic, nourishing remedies which help us to improve the taste, quality, nutritional and medicinal value of the foods we eat. The benefits of growing safe and readily available culinary herbs in our gardens offers immense rewards, delicious, medicinal, and best of all herbs help us to avoid the need for toxic medicine.

For more information contact Sue Morris at


Rosemary Tincture

Rosemary tincture is a tonic for the brain. Rosemary can aid memory and concentration. Rosemary is also known to aid digestive function. As a decongestant, Rosemary is known to relieve congestion caused by colds and flu. As an analgesic Rosemary is known to relieve pain and helps to calm muscle spasms. Famous as a cardio tonic, Rosemary has been known to stimulate poor circulation and may improve varicose veins.



Tinctures are a liquid extract made by steeping fresh organic herbs in alcohol. Tinctures are the most concentrated form of herbal medicine.

Tinctures are best taken under the tongue where they directly enter the blood stream. They are very strong and may be taken diluted in water, juice or tea.  Avoid liquids for 10-15 minutes afterwards.
 Check with your doctor to be sure the herbs do not interfere with your medications. Some herbs are not recommended during pregnancy.

Tincture Dosage

Tincture dosage depends on the herb, person and situation. In general, 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon (15–30 drops, 1/2 – 1 dropperful) of tincture is used 3 times daily for chronic situations. For acute conditions, you want to take smaller and/or more frequent doses, such as 1/4 teaspoon every hour.

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Sue Morris