An infusion of sage is one of the best herbal remedies for a sore throat. Red sage is especially good for throat infections. Sage also helps to digest a fatty meal; one reason it’s often added to meat dishes. A sage infusion also works as a homemade hair rinse for dark hair!
Mint and peppermint are easy to grow. Drink peppermint and mint infusions for stomach upsets, and drink a cup of mint tea to help digestion after a heavy meal. Mint or peppermint tea is also a good home remedy for colds and sore throats. Mint even works as a natural insect repellent/pesticide: sprinkle mint or peppermint leaves in the pantry to keep mice and ants away.
Parsley is a good source of many vitamins including A, B and C, as well as calcium, iron and magnesium. Parsley is a diuretic, it stimulates digestion, and it freshens the breath.
Lemon balm makes a nice lemony herbal tea to drink warm or cold. You can also add lemon balm leaves to salads and desserts. Lemon balm tea relieves stress, nervous tension, low moods, and nervous headaches.
Thyme is another herb with many cooking uses and many medicinal and household uses. It helps digestion when added to foods, and thyme infusions are another traditional home treatment for colds and sore throats. Thyme can be used in baths and facial steams – and in cleaning.
Rosemary is very versatile. It helps the digestion of greasy foods and is a typical ingredient in meat dishes and roasts, but rosemary has many medicinal and household uses too. Add rosemary leaves to a bath or to a facial sauna, make your own infused massage oils with rosemary, or make rosemary hair rinses for dark hair.
Basil is good for so many things: Mediterranean foods, pesto, tomato salads. The leaves contain vitamin K, vitamin A, and minerals including iron and calcium. Basil keeps flies away, so grow it on the windowsill. The essential oil of basil is a great general tonic and especially good for mental fatigue.
Coriander (cilantro) is another digestive aid. Fresh cilantro leaves contain several vitamins including vitamin C and beta-carotene, and minerals such as iron and magnesium. Coriander seeds are a common cooking spice in South Asia where they are used to aid digestion and to improve appetite.
Don’t forget the wild herbs: one of the best is stinging nettle – a great source of iron and many vitamins and minerals, as well as a diuretic; good for anaemia and for a spring detox.
Remember the spices too: ginger is one of the most popular spice remedies, widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and India’s Ayurvedic medicine. Cardamom, cinnamon and cloves are also commonly used in Asian cooking for their ability to help digestion and to relieve digestive upsets; add these spices to food especially in wintertime.
How to use all these healthy herbs and spices? Try some of the great recipes on the Untrained Housewife – make herb butters, add herbs to salad dressings, or use your basil herbs for homemade pesto. And here are some tips for Successful Gardening with Herbs.
Books on herbs:
Jekka McVicar: The Complete Herb Book (Firefly Books, 2008)
Lesley Bremness: The Complete Book of Herbs (Studio, 1994)