Cooking with Medicinal Herbs
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Jenna Edwards
Posted on: February 17, 2006

I was wondering if many medicinal plants retain their properties when cooked. My family does not like the idea of tea or pills, so I was thinking maybe I could add the herbs to their food, since it is heated in a tea anyway. Would that work? And if so, what herbs (aside from the basic cooking ones) taste good, or at don’t taste bad (bitter or very sour)?

Yes, you can use medicinal herbs in cooking. In many cultures, cooking is the principal method of preparing herbal remedies. Look for some simple Chinese and Indian cookbooks that describe how they cook with herbs. In general, to retain their medicinal properties, they should be cooked in the same way as recommended for teas: boil roots and seeds with food for 20 to 30 minutes; add fresh or dried leaves at end of cooking, and allow to infuse with the heat turned off for 10 to 15 minutes.

Following is a list of some of the herbs that are tasty. This list originated with British herbalist Christopher Hedley. There are thousands of herbs that could be used in cooking. When a herb that is bitter or sour is used in the small amount needed for its medicinal value and cooked with other food, the flavour is disguised.

*Aniseed - *antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, warming digestive. Relaxes the stomach and chest, especially in children’s ailments

*Asparagus* - gentle diuretic, source of selenium and folic acid. Uses: excellent diuretic, useful as a tonic, for arthritic complaints and heart disease, bladder infection. Best eaten raw, or if cooked, drink the water it is cooked in.

*Basil *- carminative, anti-spasmodic, anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, adrenal stimulant. Use in soups, salads, pesto.

*Bay* - antiseptic, anti-fungal. Use in soups and stews. Inhale steam for chest congestion

*Caraway* - Warming, anti-spasmodic and digestive

*Cardamom -* Warming digestive, expectorant.

*Cayenne* - Stimulant, carminative, tonic. Use to increase blood circulation, digestive problems, colds, flus, sore throat, cold hands and feet. Facilitates the action of other herbs, circulating their healing powers freely throughout the body.

*Cinnamon* - Warming, carminative, stimulant, astringent, mucilaginous, aphrodisiac. Use for indigestion, gas, nausea, diarrhea. Add to baked goods, cereals, hot drinks, yogurt, milk.

*Clove* - warming, expectorant, carminative, aphrodisiac, antiseptic, anaethesic.

*Curry* - digestive carminative, anti-rheumatic, expectorant, warming, liver tonic. Use for coughs, colds, flu

*Fennel seeds *- Warming carminative, diuretic. Not to be used in pregnancy

*Ginger* - antiseptic, carminative, anti-spasmodic, aphrodisiac, tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic. Use for motion sickness, nausea, cold hands and feet, flu, cough, hangover, rheumatism, colic, gas. Warms the whole system.

*Garlic and onions* - antiseptic, anti-viral, cholagogue, hypotensive, anti-microbial, expectorant, lowers blood pressure. Use for coughs, colds, infections, as a heart tonic, liver & gall bladder tonic, add to vinegars, vegetables etc. Externally apply to clean wounds, sores, earache.

*Horseradish* - Warming, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic, decongestant

*Marjoram* - Antiseptic, tonic digestive, antidepressant, slightly expectorant

*Mints* - analgesic, anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-spasmodic, nervine, tonic, astringent. Use for stomach aches, nausea, gas, headache, colds. Add to rice, vegetables, fruit salads, lemonade.

*Mustard* - stimulant, diuretic. Use for colds, bronchitis, fever, flu. Add to sandwiches, dressings

*Nutmeg* - antiseptic, analgesic, digestive stimulant. Relaxing in small doses, emetic in large doses.

*Oats* - Nerve tonic, soothing, nutritive, strengthening

*Oregano/Marjoram* - antiseptic, expectorant, emmenagogue, anti-viral. Use for respiratory ailments, coughs, colds, flu, digestive. Use on garlic bread, with potatoes, dressings, soups

*Parsley* - diuretic, expectorant, carminative, emmenagogue. Rich in vitamins C, E, bioflavonoids, iron, folic acid, carotene precursor. Use in bladder infections, as a breath freshener, in salads, dressings, spreads. Not in medicinal doses in pregnancy or kidney inflammation.

*Peppermint *- Warming carminative, digestive, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic

*Rosemary* - Anti-depressant, carminative, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, stimulant, memory tonic, digestive, hepatic, good for headache, migraine.

*Sage *- carminative, astringent, anti-septic, anti-spasmodic, reduces preparation, dries up mothers’ milk, diarrhea, sore throat, hair rinse, coughs, indigestion, laryngitis, cools hot flashes. Not to be used in pregnancy

*Thyme* - carminative, anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, astringent. Use for lung congestion, coughs, indigestion, diarrhea. Use in tea, soups, vegetables, as a gargle or mouthwash, compress of fresh plant for minor wounds; steam is a disinfectant.

*Turmeric* - antiseptic, digestive, liver tonic

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