Keeping Healthy with Kitchen Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme
Keeping healthy with kitchen herbs means thinking of ways to use your kitchen spice shelf as a medicinal resource. If you do little cooking, or if your spices are more than a year old, you'll need to get a fresh supply. Good quality spices make for tastier foods as well as more effective medicine. (Please note: if you have a serious medical condition, please consult a medical practitioner.)
Sometimes the simplest of kitchen spices that we take for granted are among the most useful medicinally. Of the following four herbs, three of them contain very strong essential oils that can really aid in fighting off illness.
Parsley, while not as strong as its other companions, nonetheless is a very useful herb. Parsley, Petroselinum crispum, a member of the Umbelliferae family, acts as a diuretic, expectorant, emmenogogue, carminative and, according to some, may even be an aprodisiac. (So in a restaurant, eat parsley, rather than throwing it out.)
Medicinally, parsley has several uses. First, because of its diuretic action, it helps the body gently get rid of excess water. As an emmenogogue, parsley can be used to bring on the menstrual period, so it is recommended that pregnant women avoid consuming medicinal dosages of it. Another use of the herb is as a carminative, which can ease flatulence.
Sage, Salvia officinalis, decreases secretions of all kinds—whether from lactation, sweating, salivation or especially from excessive mucus secretions of the sinuses and bronchi. Brew a strong tea from sage leaves for a good gargle for sore throats, for sage is antiseptic.
Sometimes when I have a runny nose and I want to sleep without dripping all over the place, I will brew up a cup of tea about a half hour before going to bed. I find this often drys up my sinuses enough to allow me to sleep easier.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is an antioxidant, astringent, somewhat antibacterial, carminative, antiseptic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenogogue (stimulates menstruation) and nervine.
Its antioxidant properties are one of the reasons rosemary is used so extensively in cooking. In the days before refrigeration, spices helped to preserve food.
Because rosemary helps increase blood circulation and strengthens the capillaries (small blood vessels), it can have an uplifting and strengthening effect on your brain, and therefore, the herb has a reputation for being good for poor memory.
Rosemary is a diaphoretic for colds, flu and fever. It can help to relieve tension headaches. You can also inhale it for bronchial/lung infections or sinus infections. Rosemary is contraindicated (in other words, do not use) in medicinal doses during pregnancy. In Europe, rosemary is known as a liver herb. It especially helps the body in digesting fats.
Powdered rosemary is antiseptic and can be placed on minor cuts and scrapes.
Catherine Novak is a Certified Medicinal Herbalist, who teaches about wild-crafting edible plants and using herbs to create better health and balance in our lives. She is also the owner of Beads N Botanicals, a local shop in downtown Urbana, IL.