Herbology: Kitchen Herbal Apothecary

The herbs/spices that we purchase in bottles at the store and keep in our kitchen for our recipes have more qualities than flavor as you
will see in this article concerning herbology. These wonderful plants from nature has provided humans flavoring for their meat and vegetables as far back in history that archaeologists and anthropologists can determine – which is a long time. Here is a list with herbal information of common kitchen herbs that most people purchase processed and put in containers or grow in their backyards.
Its seed packages are usually given the common name of Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum), a culinary herb of the Lamiaceae family (mints), sometimes referred to as Saint Joseph’s Wort (not to be confused with Saint John’s Wort) in Olde England, Wales, and Celtic
(Keltic) folks of the United Kingdom. Of course the Gallic tribal ancestry is not just in Northern England and Ireland, but also originated in southern Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, and France of today, referred to as Gaul(s) by the ancient Romans.Basil is an herb
that has properties that are carminative, which means it relieves gas and soothes stomach upset. It contains a compound called eugenol, which also helps to ease muscle spasms. Laboratory research also points toward basil as being helpful in disrupting the chain of events that leads to the development of cancer, which gives it properties as an antioxidant.
Cayenne pepper, also called red pepper, is a spicy-hot tropical chili pepper that most of us are
familiar with who like spicy foods from Cajun
folks in Louisiana,
cowboys in Texas to Guatemala. It has long been used for health
as an herb, also used as part of the ingredients of a safe
to toxic insect sprays on edible plants in vegetable gardens.
Cayenne contains an alkaloid called capsaicin, which relieves pain by
blocking chemicals that send pain messages to the brain. If you eat cayenne at
the first sign of a headache, with plenty of water, this spicy herb will serve
as an alternative treatment. When added to food, cayenne improves appetite,
digestion, and relieves gas, nausea, and indigestion. Cayenne also thins phlegm (mucus) and eases its passage from
the lungs, used to help prevent and treat coughs, colds, and bronchitis.
Cinnamon bark, obtained from inner
bark of several trees of the genus Cinnamomumum, is
native only to the island of Sri Lanka, but cinnamon trees are naturalized now in
South East Asia. It contains an oily chemical called cinnamaldehyde, which kills a variety of bacteria that causes
illness, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureas. Recent
research has shown that it stops the growth of the Asian flu virus and
Herbalists report that it helps to regulate menstrual cycle and reduce flooding
during menopause. Cinnamaldehyde also has a tranquilizing effect to reduce anxiety
and stress.
Cloves are dried aromatic flower buds of a tree of the Myrtaceae family. They are native to the Maluku islands in
Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisines globally. The English name derives
from the Latin word clavus (nail) because they resemble small nails.
Cloves are harvested in Indonesia,
India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The clove tree is
actually an evergreen that grows from 8-12 meters high, with large leaves and
flowers that form in clusters. Flowers are first pale, then green and turn
bright red, when ready to collect. In Indonesia, cloves are used to make a type
of cigarette called kretek, which is exported as cigarettes in Europe, Asia.
Kreteks were outlawed in 2009 in the United States as well as fruit and
candy-flavored cigarettes as a part of the increased role of government
controlling individual citizens and transgressing against freedom of choice. It
has not been proved that Kreteks are any less or more harmful than smoking
tobacco. Oil of clove is 60% to 90% eugenol, a potent pain-deadening
antimicrobial. The FDA as an effective measure for tooth pain has officially
endorsed clove. Clove is also among the spices that help the body use insulin
more efficiently, thus helping those suffering from diabetes to lower their
blood sugar naturally. Clove also, according to lab studies, heals cold sores. Chinese
have long used cloves as medicine and are considered therapeutic for the kidney
Cloves may be used externally and internally as a tea or oil for hypotonic muscles, as well as multiple sclerosis
This familiar spice-herb has been used in salads and canning
pickles for a long time. Its scientific name is Anethum graveolens and is either a perennial or an annual herb; depending upon where it is grown. It is the only
species of the genus Anethum, although some botanists and recently herbalists
have re-classified the dill as to the species Peucedanum graveolens. They are tall
plants, as you can see in the photo of my herb raised garden image. The plant
originated in the Mediterranean
area and South Russia
. The earliest archaeological evidence for dill
cultivation comes from late Neolithic lake shore settlements and several twigs
were found in the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh, Amenhotep II. Traces of dill were found in Roman ruins in Great
Britain. The name originates from Old English who derived it from a Norse or
Anglo-Saxon word dylle (soothe). Dill is aromatic like caraway
plants used to flavor foods and used in food to cure salmon, borschet, soups,
and pickles. Sometimes the entire dill flower is placed in the pickle jars.
Dill is best and most potent if fresh, losing its flavor when dried.
Freeze-dried dill leaves preserve the flavor for a few months. Dill oil,
extracted from the leaves, stems and seeds, is as spice for fish. In Arabic,
dill seed is ain jaradeh (cricket eye) and is used in cold dishes
like fattoush and pickles. In the Persian Gulf, dill is shibint, used in fish recipes. Dill is
used in Thailand, called phak see. In
Laos, it is mok pa used in fish steamed in
banana leaves. In southeast Asia several coconut curries contain dill used with
fish and prawns. In Romania dill (mârar)
is used nationally for soups like borscht, pickles, and other dishes. Often it
is mixed with salted cheese (Mediterranean countries do this also) and as a
filling for langos. Langos is actually a Hungarian food, and they use dill
for soups and sauces. It is especially favored to make a dill sauce served with
meat and eggs. Hungarians make crepes filled with cottage cheese mixed with
dill. Hungarian name for dill is kapor.
Dill is used just about everywhere: Vietnam, Iran, India, Malayalam, Sanskrit,
Manipur, Serbia, Canada, and Santa Maria of the Azores.  Dill is a common weed in Central and South
America and used in dishes there. Dill helps break up gas bubbles and like
parsley it is rich in chlorophyll that makes it a good
breath freshener. Chlorophyll is also beneficial
for health and dietary
Foeniculum vulgare is in the genus Foeniculum, which most botanists
treat as the sole species. It is a perennial, umbelliferous herb with yellow
flowers and feathery green leaves and originates from the Mediterranean shores,
but naturalized in other parts of the world. Highly aromatic it is useful as
flavoring and medicinal use. Rich in volatile oils, fennel is used as a carminative
herb that eases bloating, gas pains, and digestive spasms in the small and
large intestines. Fennel also reduces bad breath and body odor originating from
the intestines. Women who breast-feed have found that it stimulates hormones to
increase milk flow. The anise swallowtail and mouse moth larvae used fennel as
a food plant. In Greek mythology, Prometheus used the stalk of a fennel plant to steal fire from
the gods. The Greek name for fennel is marathos
and the place of the famous Battle of Marathon, as well as the Marathon sport events. Fennel is popular in India, Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East for culinary dishes. Florence fennel is a main ingredient
in Italian and German salads, often tossed with chicory
and avocado, or braised and served as a warm side
dish. Fennel may be blanched, marinated, or cooked in risotto.
Allium sativum is a species of
onion, Allium that is closely related
to onion, shallot,
chive, and rakkyo. Its recorded historical use dates back to over 7,000
years and is native to central Asia; but long been a staple in the Mediterranean
area, as well as seasoning in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The ancient Egyptians
used it for both culinary
and medicinal purposes
. It is a bulb plant that grows to about 2 feet
(0.5m) high and it is listed as USDA Zone is eight, but it is grown in colder
regions – but not year round. Pollination occurs by insects and bees. There are
wild garlic varieties, often called the “wild onion” commonly seen in fields of weed. It
grows wild in central and southwestern Asia and British species grow wild in
North America. The elephant garlic is actually a wild
leek and not a true garlic plant. In cold climates, garlic cloves planted in
the fall, approximately six weeks before the soil freezes are harvested
in late spring
. Garlic plants are hardy and are not prone to insect and
disease infestations, and can be used as companion plants to keep garden
pests and disease away. Garlic plants are supposed to repel rabbits and
. The two major pathogens that attack garlic plants are nematodes and
white rot disease, which can remain in the soil indefinitely after the ground
has become infected. Garlic can also suffer from pink root, a nonfatal disease
that stunts roots and turns them pink or red.
Garlic plants will grow close
together, but mature better if properly spaced, and can be easily grown in
containers. Garlic plants prefer to grow in a soil with a high organic content,
but seem to do okay in a wide range of soil conditions
and pH levels
. The garlic bulb is the part of the garlic plant that is most
commonly used. The leaves and flowers (bulbils) are eaten as well. Immature
garlic is sometimes cultivated and sold as “green garlic”. The skin of clove
garlic is discarded and like the roots, not eaten. Garlic is commonly mixed
with olive oil and egg yolks to produce aioli.
Garlic, almond, oil and soaked bread produces ajoblanco. You can store garlic if kept warm (64-degrees) and
dry to keep it dormant, traditionally hung in braided strands called plaits or grappes. Garlic is kept in oil to enhance its flavor, like
olive oil; however, this also is done to prevent garlic from spoiling.
Untreated garlic that is kept in oil can support the growth of Clostridium botunlinum, a deadly botulism illness. Avoid this
by refrigerating garlic kept in oil. Manufacturers add acid and/or other
chemicals to eliminate
the risk of botulism
. Two
of botulism related to garlic stored in oil have been
. Garlic is most likely toxic to cats and dogs, as determined in
liver toxicity tests in rats. Of course, large quantities of garlic was given
to the lab animals that exceed what they would normally consume. To me this
makes the lab test worthless. Other than that, garlic is a wonderful medicinal,
therapeutic herb that reduces risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the
arteries) and kills many forms of bacteria and viruses that cause earaches,
flue, and colds, Extensive research shows that it is effective against
digestive ailments and diarrhea and may even help prevent cancer. The mythology
that has surrounded garlic over ages is good and evil. According to Cassell’s Dictionary of Superstitions, an Islamic myth was
developed that after Satan left the Garden of Eden, garlic arose in his left footprint and onion on
the right. In Europe garlic has been used for protection against evil, like in
Central Europe garlic was considered a powerful ward against demons and
vampires. To ward off vampires, garlic was worn around one’s neck, hung in
windows, and/or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes. In Hinduism and Jainism, garlic is considered
to stimulate and warm the body to increase desire. Devout Hindus avoid garlic
during religious festivities and events. Followers of the Jain
religion avoid eating garlic and onion on a daily basis. In some Buddhist traditions, garlic
and five other “pungent spices” are thought to stimulate sexual and aggressive
desires and detrimental to meditation
If you suffer from motion sickness, Herbalists say that
there isn’t anything better than ginger. Researchers have agreed when comparing
ginger to dimenhydrinate, the main ingredient
of motion sickness drugs, such as Dramamine, for controlling symptoms
of motion sickness. Ginger also stimulates saliva flow and digestive activity,
settles the stomach, relieves vomiting, eases pain caused by gas and diarrhea,
and is an effective anti-nausea remedy. Herbalists have found it is also useful
as a pain reliever. The ginger plant or ginger root is the rhizome
of the plant Zingiber officinale, used as a delicacy,
medicine, or spice. The cultivation
of ginger
began in South Asia and spread to East Africa and the Caribbean.
The ginger plant produces clusters of white and pink flowers that bloom into
yellow flowers. Ginger is often used as landscaping plants around subtropical
homes. It is a perennial plant that looks like reed with annual leafy stems
about 3 or 4 feet tall. The rhizome is gathered when the stalk withers, which
it is then immediately scalded, washed and scraped, to kill it and prevent
sprouting. Ginger is a hot, fragrant kitchen spice, young ginger rhizomes are
juicy and fleshy with a mild taste. It is used in India recipes extensively.
Ginger is also used in confectionery recipes. Fresh ginger may be peeled before
eating. For long-term storage, ginger is placed in a plastic bag and
refrigerated or frozen. In Western cuisine, ginger is used mainly in sweet
foods and drinks such as ginger ale, gingerbread, ginger snaps, parkin, ginger biscuits, and speculaas. It is widely used as main ingredient of traditional
medicines. In Arabia, ginger is called zanjabil,
used for spice in coffee and milk. Ginger tea is used in many countries from
the ginger root. In china the tea is made by boiling peeled and sliced ginger
with brown sugar, sometimes adding a sliced orange or lemon. Studies have shown
that ginger may help arthritis pain, as well as cholesterol lowering
properties. In folk medicine, Jamaica ginger is a stimulant and carminative, and used to disguise the taste of certain
MINT (Mentha)
Mint or Mentha is
the herb of choice when it comes to stomach tonic, to counter nausea and
vomiting, promote digestion, calm stomach spasms, relieve gas (flatulence) and
hiccups. Mint contains menthol, an aromatic oil found in peppermint, which also
relaxes the airways and fights bacteria and viruses. The plant belongs to the
Lamiaceae family and can be found distributed across Europe, Africa, Asia,
Australia, and North America. They are perennial, sometimes annual, herbs. The
flowers are white to purple and the fruit is a dry capsule that contains one to
four seeds. Mint plants grow naturally in wet environments and moist soil, and
considered an invasive plant because of its tendency to spread.
The Oregano plant, Origanum vulgare
is a genus of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is native to warm-temperate
western and southwestern Eurasia and Mediterranean region. It is a perennial
herb preferring mildly acidic soil but will tolerate alkaline soil up to 9.0
with the best range being between 6.0 and 8.0 pH levels. It is sometimes called
being a close relative to the sweet marjoram plant. It grows up to 20 inches tall with purple
flowers and olive-green leaves. It prefers hot, relatively dry climates, but
grows in other environments as well. When planted, do so in the early spring,
in mostly dry soil with full sun. Plants should be spaced 12 inches apart. Oregano
contains at least four compounds that soothe coughs and 19 chemicals with
antibacterial action that also helps to reduce body odor. It may help to loosen
tight muscles in the digestive tract. Oregano with a combination of other herbs
reduces blood pressure. The main chemical makeup includes carvacrol, thymol,
limonene, pinene,
ocimene, and caryophyllene. The
leaves and flowering stems are antiseptic,
antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic, and
mildly tonic. Many strains and
subspecies have been developed over the centuries from the original wild
oregano plant whose taste can be spicy or sweet. It is a plant closely related
to marjoram from Turkey. The
herb is popular in Turkish, Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, Portuguese,
Spanish, Philippine, Italian, and Latin American cuisines. In Turkey, oregano
is used mostly to flavor meat – mutton and lamb. Along with salt, pepper, and
paprika, Turkish barbecue and kebab restaurants usually have oregano added as
table spices. Chefs in the Philippines use oregano to eliminate the odor of carabao (water buffalo)
when boiling it and improving its flavor. Hippocrates used oregano as an
antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. It is still
used in Greece today for sore throat. Oregano is a strong antioxidant because
of phenolic acids and flavonoids. The word oregano comes from Medieval Latin organum, latter used in Old English. In
classical Latin, it was derived from the Greek origanon (òρίγáνòν).
A species of Petroselinum, Apiaceae family, native to
central Mediterranean (southern Italy, Algeria, and Tunisia), but has been
naturalized in Europe. It is used widely as an herb, spice and vegetable.
Garden parsley is a biennial, herbaceous plant grown in temperate climates or
an annual in subtropical and tropical areas. It grows best in moist,
well-drained soil, with full sun exposure. Germination is slow and can take up
four to six weeks. Parsley attracts wildlife and some swallowtail butterflies
used parsley as a host plant for their larvae, the caterpillars feeding on
parsley until they turn into butterflies. Goldfinch birds feed on the tiny
seeds. The curly leaf of parsley is used as a garnish in Middle Eastern,
European, and American cooking. Root parsley is used in central and eastern
European cuisines as a vegetable for soups, stews and casseroles. While parsley
is good for prevention of kidney stones and bladder infections, it also
relieves bloating during menstruation. However, pregnant women should not
consume parsley because certain amounts can have uterotonic effects.
The chlorophyll content is good for bad breath.
is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen
needle-like leaves with white, pink, purple, or blue flowers; native to the
Mediterranean region. The name derives from Latin for dew (ros) and sea (marinus) – “dew
of the sea”. It is so named because it needs no water other than the humidity
carried by the sea breeze. The plant is sometimes called anthos, form the ancient Greek word meaning flower. Rosemary is
used as a decoration in gardens, culinary dishes, and medical purpose. It is
one of the richest in sources as an antioxidant that prevents cataracts and
contains 19 chemicals with antibacterial properties. It reduces airway
restriction that asthma victims suffer with, being a natural histamine. Tradition has it that it
improves memory. As a spice it is used to flavor foods such as stuffing and
roast meats. In mythology, it is associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The Virgin Mary was
supposed to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush
when she was resting, which made the flowers turn blue. Thus, the Medieval name
became Rose of Mary.
Rosemary was also used in the Middle Ages in wedding ceremonies, the bride
wearing a rosemary headpiece and the groom wearing a rosemary sprig making it a
love charm. The plant was also said to repel witches, which made it popular as
a home and garden plant. When eaten it is a safe plant, but when used for
topical preparations it has been known to cause allergic skin reactions. Simon
and Garfunkel made the plant famous in the song Scarborough
with the lyric
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme”.
The oils found in Sage are antiseptic and antibiotic. It is
effective for symptoms of menopause – night sweats and hot flashes. There is
also recent evidence that it is of value to people with diabetes helping to
produce hormone insulin more efficiently. As a culinary and medicinal herb,
sage was popular in the Middle Ages, as it is today.
Sage plants spread and could be considered intrusive, but complements tall herbal plants like Dill, where it grows below the herb and thus making practical use of herbal garden space.
Thyme contains thymol, which increases
blood flow to the skin. Ancient Egyptians used it for embalming. Ancient Greeks
used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples. Ancient Romans
spread the use of thyme throughout Europe, used mostly to purify rooms and provide
an aromatic flavor to
cheese and liqueurs
. It was also placed beneath pillows in Medieval
Europe to ward off nightmares and provide a restful sleep. Women would often
give knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, a custom dating
back to ancient Greece because of its ability to instill courage. Thyme was
also used as an incense on coffins during funerals, easing passage into the next life.
In superstitious beliefs, thyme is sometimes associated with murder, in that
places where murder has occurred smells like thyme. It has also been used to
treat depression. Today it has been endorsed to treat bronchitis, relax
respiratory muscles, speed healing, and an aromatic mood lifter.
Curcumin found in turmeric has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, beneficial to relieving rheumatoid arthritis
and carpal tunnel syndrome; also used to lower cholesterol. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its yellowish color. Turmeric is an antioxidant that includes Vitamins A, C, and E that prevents cataracts. It is a perennial plant (Circuma longa) and is of the ginger
plant family of Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia, requiring temperatures ranging from 68- to 86-degrees and a considerable amount of rainfall. It is commonly used as a spice in curries in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. In medieval Europe, turmeric was known as Indian saffron. It is also used as food coloring because of its yellow pigmentation, used as such for pickles,
relishes, and mustard to prevent fading of color in storage. It is also used to color cheese, yogurt, butter, and margarine. Containing phytochemicals, turmeric has been found to be useful to treat cancer and arthritis, as well as pancreatitis-associated lung
. It recently been studied for use in chemotherapy treatment of patients with advanced bowel cancer. Turmeric is used by Indian women as a cosmetic, supposed to improve skin tone, anti-aging, and tanning. It is also used in the formulation of sun screens. While some cultures, like in India have used it for fabric dye, it is not light fast. It is used in Pujas Hindu religious ceremonies, mixed with water and formed into a cone shape. Neopagans use it for power and purification rites.
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