The Addition of Herbs

Published 5:12 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2022

By: Elizabeth Dixon

In honor of a healthcare promoted community event this month, a topic of interest spotlights “The Addition of Herbs” to your everyday meals and diet. The addition of herbs have many uses and benefits and are a great way to add flavor, texture, color, and nutrient value to dishes. Common herbs include rosemary, oregano, coriander, thyme, sage, lavender, marjoram, basil, tarragon, parsley, mint, dill, and cilantro.

What are herbs? Herbs are plants with tasteful and scented value that are commonly used in cooking, and may be a garnish on a dish, used for medical reasons, or used for fragrance. Herbs are the green leafy part of the plant that are used for flavoring, medicine, or even some perfumes!

Who uses herbs? Anyone can use herbs to advance a dish! According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, “It is estimated that up to four billion people (representing 80% of the world’s population) living in the developing world rely on herbal medicinal products as a primary source of healthcare and traditional medical practice which involves the use of herbs is viewed as an integral part of the cultures in those communities.” The use of these leafy greens has also been around for many years. Another article in the National Library of Medicine states that written documentation of the medical use of plants has been dated back 5,000 years with the use of thyme by the Sumerians. The article goes more into detail to discuss the use of herbal medicine dating as far back in time as 60,000 years ago in Iraq and 8,000 years ago in China. 1,2

Why do we use herbs? Herbs have been used for many centuries for both medicinal and culinary reasons. Culinary herbs, commonly in the dried form, has high amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants are products that help your cells protect against bad substances that enter your body on an everyday basis. Antioxidants are also known to help prevent common illnesses.

What are the benefits of herbs? Herbs can help protect against illness, provide flavor, add bold color, add nutrients to your dish, and provide enjoyable aromas. In addition to herbs containing agents that have antioxidant effects, they also have inflammatory effects, anti-carcinogenic effects, blood glucose stabilizing effects, gut health benefits, antibacterial and anti-fungal activity, digestion help, potential weight management effects, and may help lower cholesterol. They also contain properties that may affect an individual’s mood and mental status. Other benefits include their potential role in protection against damage done to cells and the nervous system for mobility, coordination, strength, sensation, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and respiratory diseases. Overall, herbal medicine suggest that these plants and leafy greens have substances in them that act as fighters for disease prevention.

What are some good recipe ideas? Dried herbs are best to use with oils or butters to enhance flavor with cooking; fresh herbs are great for flavor and seasoning! Herbs can be dried or fresh and are used well for roasting or sautéing vegetables & meats. Thy are used well to chop into mashed potatoes or a potato salad or enhance your favorite pasta dish or homemade salsa. To store fresh, place in the refrigerator in a Ziploc bag with a damp paper towel around the stems. To store dried, you may place in a container on the counter in a room temperature environment.

Common Dishes that contain herbs include a caprese Salad with mint, basil in your favorite pasta dish, dried bay leaves in your favorite soups, or dill in your potato salad. Also, ideas include marjoram in your winter soup, oregano in your eggplant casserole, rosemary on your pork tenderloin dish, or thyme in your minestrone soup.

Herbs are amazing and should be a common addition to your everyday cooking! You can find them locally grown in most areas that have farmland or purchase them from your local grocery store. Don’t forget to ask your local Dietitian or nutritionist how to add more herbs in your diet. Also, always speak with your healthcare provider to see if the addition of herbs in your everyday diet is good for you! Enjoy!

Ekor M. The growing use of herbal medicines: issues relating to adverse reactions and challenges in monitoring safety. Front Pharmacol. 2014;4:177. Published 2014 Jan 10. doi:10.3389/fphar.2013.00177

Pan SY, Litscher G, Gao SH, et al. Historical perspective of traditional indigenous medical practices: the current renaissance and conservation of herbal resources. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:525340. doi:10.1155/2014/525340

Elizabeth Dixon is the registered dietician for ECU Health Beaufort Hospital.