An Herbalist’s Point of View
Everyone cooks with herbs and spices. Sometimes we use fresh herbs and sometimes dried, it doesn’t matter which stage you use the herbs and spices. Either fresh or dried will make your food taste delicious. The thing not everyone knows is that herbs, either fresh or dry, have healing properties. Yes, even in your food. You can use herbs in your food to help an ailment and you’ll have a delicious tasting meal at the same time.
In the 5th century Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” I firmly believe he was talking about eating clean whole foods. In the 5th century they also used many herbs to help their food taste delectable. They knew then that many plants had properties to heal or prevent illnesses and diseases. We wouldn’t have our current knowledge of herbal healing without our ancestors learning it first. Even ingredients of ancient witch’s healing brews translate into everyday herbs we use today. This is because witches were healers, herbalists and gardeners that understood that plants and herbs could prevent and help ailments. You can use herbs in tinctures, salves, capsules and oils to help your body. Why wouldn’t cooking with them be the same? The great thing is that they are the same; you just use them as you cook instead of as a strict supplement. This might take more time then ingesting a tincture or capsule filled with the herb but if you are cooking with the herb everyday it will build up into your system just like the tincture or capsule does. I am going to use soup as an example. How many times have you heard someone suggest eating some soup to kick a colds butt? I can’t even count the number of times I have been told to do this or used soup to help my family members feel better. Every time my husband is sick or the weather is a fright I make a big o’ pot of homemade healing soup. The kids make fun of me saying it’s my witches brew. (I have been known to yell at someone for stirring the pot the wrong direction.) I think certain soups are suggested because the ingredients used to make soup help many symptoms associated with the common cold. The ingredients can do things like soothing coughs, throats, congestion and even belly aches. Soup will also warm you to the bone and help remove any germ that might have gotten in during cold weather.
“The warmth of the soup helps all that” or “helps sooths your throat,” you might be thinking.
This is true but if you are like me your soup has helpful ingredients in it like salt, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and basil; just to name a few. All of these ingredients are plants that have cold fighting abilities. When you are cooking and eating the warm soup the steam enters your sinuses and the plants that are used work as a form of aromatherapy and decongestant, opening up your airways. Eating the herb enriched soup give your body the energy to fight the germs. Garlic, onion, thyme and rosemary all have germ fighting abilities and basil breaks down the shell of the bacteria so any antibiotics will work better. Some of these herbs even have bacteria fighting abilities. Add a little cracked pepper (red, black, white or well any pepper will do) to your bowl will help give it all an extra kick.
It doesn’t matter if you use fresh herbs or dry herbs during cooking. What does matter is the amount of herbs you use. It is suggested to use 1/3 the amount for dried herbs as you would if you are using fresh herbs. This is because the dried herbs have a higher concentration of flavor. Some professional cooks say it is better to add your fresh herbs towards the end of the cooking process. I am not sure that I would agree with this, I believe that when you add the fresh herb you should add them throughout the cooking process. Some in the beginning, some in the middle and some at the end depending on what you are cooking, how you are cooking it and which herbs you are using. You can chop or leave fresh herbs whole. Before using dry herbs I always give them a good crush. Crush the dry herbs by placing them into the palm of your hand, then press or rub the herb gently with your fingers to release the aromatic oils. Always add the dry herbs to your dish at the beginning or middle of your cooking process. This gives the herb time to rehydrate. I always suggest tasting your food as you are cooking. This way you will know if it needs more flavor or not.
Remember I just used soup as an example there is many ways you can cook with herbs to help your ailments. You can control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol all by cooking with or eliminating the right herbs, spices and foods. You want to make sure you do some research before ingesting herbs, to make sure they are edible. Some plants are meant for aromatherapy and topical use only, others are strictly ornamental. Some are even harmful for pregnant women and nursing mothers. You wouldn’t want to have a reaction because you didn’t make sure the herb was safe for your body. Most herbs you find in the produce or spice isle are safe and healthy for daily consumption. We should all take our ancestor’s advice and let food be our medicine.