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Not Just for Cooking

If you use any of the following herbs in cooking, then you’re providing therapeutic benefits to yourself and your family. If you don’t already grow these herbs, then consider doing so this year.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of my favorite herbs. It has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help with diseases caused by inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Basil helps reduce triglycerides and cholesterol levels. It’s high in antioxidants; and therefore, helps fight free radicals that damage the body. Basil also helps to slowly release sugar in the blood; so, it’s good for people with blood sugar issues. Although most research has been done on the extracts of basil, it still has benefits in its raw form. Basil helps aid digestion and contains calcium. Two tablespoons of basil pesto contain 50 mcg of calcium; so, go ahead and make a batch of pesto.

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) helps rid the body of heavy metals, aids in digestion by preventing gas and bloating, as well as relieving indigestion and heart burn. Other benefits include reducing anxiety and aiding sleep; lowering blood sugar levels; and aiding the circulatory system by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. I love cilantro in Mexican and Asian dishes.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is rich in antioxidants and is a good source of vitamins A and C, and magnesium; and it also helps to ease digestive issues.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) has been used as an estrogenic agent for millennia, specifically to increase milk secretion for lactating women, promote menstruation, and facilitate birth. It also aids digestion and helps with coughs and bronchitis.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) was used in Ancient Greece and Rome for medicinal purposes. It has antibacterial properties and phytonutrients to fight infections. It's also loaded with antioxidants that prevent cell damage. Oregano aids digestion and is a good source of fiber, vitamin K, manganese, iron, vitamin E, tryptophan and calcium.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It helps the immune system fight infections. Rosemary also stimulates the circulatory system and the nervous system, so it will wake you up! Rosemary also has a toning and calming effect on digestion. I infuse rosemary, sage, thyme, and garlic in olive oil to use on salads.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins A and C. It's rich in vitamin K, so it helps the body in blood clotting. Sage been traditionally used by women to help ease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Sage may also assist in reducing blood sugar levels, supporting memory and brain health, and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Avoid during pregnancy because it stimulates the muscles of the uterus.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is loaded with vitamin C, potassium and manganese, so it helps the immune system, promotes healthy cells, helps bone development and blood clotting. It's also used as a natural preservative of food because it protects it from food-borne bacteria that causes illness. Thyme is also used for digestive issues, such as upset stomach, colic, diarrhea, and flatulence. I love lemon thyme in chicken dishes.

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