Did you know that your common kitchen herbs do more than just season your food? They're also used as alternative medicine!
For thousands of years cultures around the world have used plants as medicine. One of the first trades ever made across borders was for spices or herbs!
These herbs were some of the most coveted and sought-after goods. Not only for their flavor but to aid digestion, prevent bacterial infections, and many other qualities for healing.
The following herbs that I would like to discuss are some of the most common found in the kitchen for cooking. They also happen to be some of the oldest, and most widely used across the world. Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Ginger, and Cinnamon.
Thyme: Thymus vulgaris (Lamiaceae):
Thyme is an important and excellent antiseptic and tonic, and is commonly used today for the same ailments as it was when it was first used in the 1600’s. The essential oil constituents are strongly antibacterial. Thyme is indicated for spasmodic conditions of the respiratory and urinary systems. Traditionally, considered specifically for whooping cough (with Lobelia). The essential oil contains thymol – which is antispasmodic and has an antiseptic effect on respiratory system. The antiseptic and tonic qualities of thyme make it very useful for the immune system in chronic (especially fungal) infections.
Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis (Lamiaceae):
“Heart of the sea”-Matthew Becker
Rosemary is a well-known and greatly valued herb that is native to the Mediterranean and southern Europe, growing on the high cliffs of the coastal regions. It has been used for generations traditionally to improve memory, and invigorating a “zest for life”. Rosemary has a considerable amount of healing qualities, including being an anti-inflammatory herb, as well as a stimulant to the circulatory system. It has shown great clinical results for relief from headaches, and to improve concentration.
Oregano: Origanum vulgare (Lamiaceae):
Oregano was considered a “cure all” in medieval times and was one of the first medicinal herbs cultivated by New England settlers. Although mostly used in the food industry as a spice and flavor enhancer, internally Oregano is helpful for spastic and inflammatory conditions of the respiratory tract.
It’s use for bronchitis, laryngitis, minor bronchial asthma, and coughs are well known and utilized today.
Oregano contains Rosmarinic acid (also found in rosemary) and other phenolic acids that have been shown to inhibit the biosynthesis of prostaglandins and leukotrienes in the body. Thus, explaining it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral effects. It is a wonderful diaphoretic hot tea for the common cold. Externally it is used as a wash for inflammations of the mouth, and throat.
Cinnamon: Cinnamomum spp (Lauraceae):
Cinnamon, although best known as a culinary flavor ingredient in food, is traditionally used as a warming herb for circulatory disorders bringing blood to cold hands and feet. It is also used internally for digestive disorders like nausea, vomiting, as well as diarrhea. This herb’s antiviral qualities (curcuminoids in particular) make it valuable for viral conditions during cold and flu, such as the aching of muscles and general malaise. In Chinese medicine it is applied to raise the over-all vitality of a person, it relieves abdominal spasms, and stimulates the vital functions of the body.
Ginger: Zingiber officinale (Zingiberaceae):
Ginger helps to aid in digestion, as a warming stimulant to the digestive tract, and works best against nausea. Ginger relieves cold cramping in the abdomen, as well as warms and soothes coughs, the flu, the common cold, and other respiratory inflammations. It is very useful for GI infections and can relieve the symptoms of motion sickness. Ginger helps to stimulate circulation, good for chilblains (poor circulation to the extremities). In China it has been given for bacillary dysentery and the patient had a full recovery. Ginger also aids in painful menstruation, relieving cramping.
So, there are some common kitchen herbs that you might have lying around the house that can be helpful. These herbs are safe, effective, and readily available. You can add them all together in a pot of water to make an herbal steam as well. Simply use about 1 teaspoon of each in about 2-3 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, while covered, then turn off heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Take a tea towel or bathroom towel and cover your head. Take off the lid and let some of the steam out before placing your face over the hot liquid. Breathe in the steam deeply for the antimicrobial action. Enjoy!!
- Carrie Calvin, Licensed Clinical Herbalist & Nutritionanist