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Culinary Herbs: Their Medicinal Uses - Part I
by Annemarie Colbin, C.H.E.S.
Basil is used as a tea to alleviate menstrual cramps;
In India it is considered the “king of herbs” and it can also be found in Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean.
It is an excellent breath freshener, has blood-pressure lowering components, and it also has been used successfully, as a tea, to combat the nausea from chemotherapy.
It may help diabetics as in test tube studies it breaks down blood sugar three times faster than insulin. Boiled bay leaves may be used as a poultice on the chest to relieve cough.
Bay leaves are also used in cooking beans to improve their digestibility.
These are also called “ramps” in Tennessee. They’re a member of the onion family and contain sulfur.
They’ve been linked to reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, and to prevent cancer.
Chives should not be cooked, but snipped or sliced and used raw as a garnish.
CORIANDER/CILANTRO (leaf and seed)
Both the leaves and seeds are used in cooking. During the Hand dynasty in China (207 BCE to 220 ACE) the leaves were consider an aphrodisiac. In India it is supposed to “cool” a hot stomach, banish intestinal gas, and aid digestion.
Two tablespoons of chopped coriander leaf should be eaten as soon as indigestion hits, or sprinkled on the food for prevention.
In Ayurvedic medicine, an after-meal digestive aid is made by combining a teaspoon each of coriander and fennel seeds, toasting them in a dry skillet for about two minutes, until fragrant, and adding a pinch of salt. Chew well. As a remedy for rashes, mash the fresh leaves and apply as and “anti-fire, or anti-pitta” poultice, then offer a cup of coriander seed tea (2 tsp in 1 cup boiling water, 7 minutes).
Dill was used in early Greece and Rome as an air freshener; the seeds were burned as incense. In the early US colonies it was called “meeting’ seed” because it was chewed for breath freshener during long church meetings. Tea made from dill seed helps soothe upset stomach. Dill seed is also rich in calcium, with 100 mg in a tablespoon. For chapped skin on hands and spit nails, make DILL SEED oil: warm ˝ cup olive, grapeseed, or canola oil, then pour into a bottle with 2 tablespoons of DILL SEED. Steep, covered, for one week; then strain, and use on hands and feet right after washing.
This is a classic Greek and Middle Eastern remedy for intestinal gas. They can be used as a tea, or chewed directly after a meal, as they often are in India. The tea is often used to combat infant colic. Hot fennel tea helps respiratory congestion, and three cups a day help nursing mothers produce more milk.
This is the king of all medicinal herbs. It’s use goes back at least 5000 years around the world. In China, it was prescribed raw for colds; Chinese prisoners are required to eat raw garlic every morning to maintain their health. Egyptian slaves were fed garlic and onions to make them strong enough to build the pyramids. It was thought to ward off vampires and evil spirits.
Science has vindicated folklore. An average clove of garlic contains substances equivalent to 100,000 units of penicillin (about 1/5 the average dose), without its side effects. It can prevent various types of cancer (stomach, skin, breast, esophageal, and colon) and prevent cancer cells from reproducing. It reduces cholesterol and high blood pressure, but you need to eat one to three fresh cloves per day for at least three months before positive results are seen. It may even help regulate blood sugar for diabetics. Most of the benefits are from the raw bulb.
An Asian remedy consists of a whole bulb of garlic, peeled and minced, and marinated overnight in enough honey to cover. A teaspoon of this honey three times a day has been credited with eliminating colds.
Another powerful, popular in China, India and Japan for thousands of years, then traveled to the Middle East and Spain, then the West Indies. Ginger ale was first made in Jamaica, to help digestive distress. It’s an excellent remedy for indigestion and nausea, including motion sickness, and morning sickness. It prevents stomach flu and the nausea associated with chemotherapy. Ginger tea is helpful for headaches, chest congestion, and indigestion. A ginger bath is used in Asia to combat stuffed noses due to allergies, sinus trouble, or colds.
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