Growing annual herbs for the kitchen and the natural healing medicine chest. Growing culinary herbs. A list of herbs for cooking and healing. Easy to make herbal tea remedies.
When you use kitchen herbs for healing you are using some of the safest medicines on the planet. You know kitchen garden herbs are safe because of their long history of culinary use.
The healing action of herbs used in cooking is gentle. One teaspoon of fresh herbs or half a teaspoon of dried is a standard dose. You can chop the leaves and add them to your food or bruise them and steep them in hot water to make an herbal tea remedy.
All the plants listed here are annual herbs which can be grown to maturity in one season.
The blue links lead to pages of growing info.
The licorice flavor of sweet basil makes an incomparable contribution to Italian dishes. It pairs well with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and pine nuts.
Marinara sauce is not complete without it.
Basil is one of my favorite annual herbs. When I inevitably plant too much of it, I like to make banana basil bread with the excess.
Medicinal Properties of Basil Herb:
Basil is an antispasmodic herb which makes it useful in treating asthma, coughing, diarrhea and intestinal wind. It is also a fine digestive herb and an appetite stimulant.Little-known fact:
Keeping a pot of basil on your kitchen windowsill or patio table will deter flies and mosquitoes. They dislike the scent.
The bright green, aromatic leaves of this annual herb will add flavor to your garden and your table.
Melissa officinalis has a minty/lemony taste that makes a fine contribution to iced tea.
Medicinal Uses of Lemon Balm Herb Tea:
In ancient times, it was known as the "elixir of life", an herbal fountain of youth.
More than a few centenarians credit their longevity to drinking a daily cup of lemon balm herb tea.
Lemon balm is also calming. Use it when you are anxious or need help falling asleep.Little-known fact:
Lemon balm is antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Dip a cotton ball in the cooled tea and dab it on a cold sore or cut to speed the healing process.
Medicinal Uses of Mint:
Two mint leaves steeped in a cup of hot water make a delicious tea which will sooth an upset stomach or aid in digesting a heavy meal.
Because mint promotes sweating, regular ingestion can aggravate hot flashes or night sweats in menopausal women.
Nepeta cataria, commonly known as catnip or catmint, is a fun annual herb to grow if you enjoy watching cats act a fool. They love this stuff and will roll around in it every chance they get.
I sometimes grow it, and we don't even have a cat! It gives the neighborhood cats a compelling reason to visit our yard, and I have noticed that when I'm seeing cats, I'm NOT seeing snakes or rodents.
Catnip has a calming effect on humans. The shoot tips and leaves may be added to soups and stews or used to make an herbal tea. Honey-sweetened catnip tea will soothe a cough.
Grow some in a pot where the cats can't access it, unless you don't mind a bit of cat fur in your tea.
Portulaca oleracea is a succulent annual herb which grows nearly everywhere in the summer months. Edible purslane is so prolific that most gardeners mistake it for a weed.
Once you find out how useful it is, you will stop tossing it onto your compost pile and start tossing it into your salad bowl.
Purslane is rich in vitamins A,B,C, and calcium. It is diuretic and anti-parasitic.Little-known fact:
Plant-based calcium is more easily absorbed than the calcium in dairy products or calcium supplements. Always dress calcium-rich greens with vinegar as it aids in calcium absorption. This is why salad dressing always contains vinegar or another acid.
Although cayenne pepper plants are perennial in very mild climates, most gardeners grow them as annual herbs.
Hot pepper plants are ornamental as well as productive. You may want to grow 1 in a decorative pot so you can bring it indoors and keep it over the winter.
I kept just such a plant on my kitchen table this winter and it provided me with ripe peppers until spring. Once the weather became reliably warm, I moved the pot back onto my porch where the plant spends the rest of the year.
The healing power is in the heat. Any chili pepper that is as hot as cayenne will have the same medicinal properties. If you are short on space, grow the variety you most enjoy eating.
Cayenne peppers are nutritious. They are full of vitamin C an many other nutrients. The herb stimulates blood flow and feeds the heart.
Eating chili peppers or taking cayenne tincture or capsules is of particular benefit to men over 40 who tend to eat a less-than-healthy diet. This group is vulnerable to sudden heart attack due to nutritional deficiencies.
Because of its stimulating properties, cayenne can also be helpful in cases of suspected heart attack.
A teaspoon of the tincture or powder in a cup of warm water works faster than the capsules for this use. Take it while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Cayenne Pepper Healing will reveal more of this annual herb's health-enhancing abilities to you.
Tagetes lucida is an annual herb that can be used, in cooking, as a French tarragon substitute. People in Florida call it Mexican tarragon. Texans know it as winter or Texas tarragon.
Its leaves give off a lovely anise aroma when bruised and its gold blooms can be used to color rice.
Parsley is technically a biennial but I'm including it here because it can be grown from seed to harvest in one growing season. It is commonly grown as an annual by many gardeners.
Chopped parsley adds a subtle "green" note to many dishes which would be missed if it were not there. It also serves the important purpose of counteracting the "vampire breath" effect of garlic.
Other Parsley Herb Uses:
Parsley is the mineral supplement of annual herbs. It is rich in a form of iron which is easily absorbed. The tea is often taken as a spring tonic.
Pregnant women can eat parsley in food dishes without worry but they should avoid consuming parsley tea in medicinal doses (1 cup or more per day) because the herb can bring on your menstrual cycle when used at this dose.
Women who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding should also be careful with it as it can exacerbate this problem. If you need the iron boost, use 1 teaspoon of molasses in a cup of hot water instead.
Summer savory herb, Satureja hortensis is the annual twin of Satureja montana,the perennial winter savory herb.
Garden savory has a mild peppery flavor that compliments meat or bean dishes. A sprig of fresh or dried savory added to the cooking water of strong-smelling vegetables like cabbage will deodorize them.
Add summer savory to a pot of beans to make them less gassy.Little-known fact:
Fresh summer savory can relieve the pain of a bee sting. Bruise the leaves and rub them on the affected area.
Apple, rose and lemon scented geranium plants are the most well-known of this group of interesting annual herbs. Many different flavors of scented Pelargoniums are available via specialty nurseries.
These plants are cultivated mainly for their aromatic leaves which are used in perfume, potpourri and cooking.
Simmer a few leaves of Pelargonium graveolens, the rose scented geranium, in a pot of filtered water and use it to steam your freshly-cleansed face to take advantage of its anti-aging properties.
Use the leaves of any variety to line a cake pan before filling it with batter. The leaves will subtly impart the chosen flavor to the cake.
This aromatic annual herb does double duty in the kitchen. Its Chopped leaves (cilantro) give Mexican salsas and other dishes their unique flavor while its seeds are used to spice baked goods.
Medicinally, both the leaves and seeds are mildly antispasmodic. They are used to relieve gas or bloating.
Chewing coriander seeds will eliminate garlic breath.
Borage is so easy to grow that it has naturalized throughout most of Europe. Give it good soil and moisture and it will thrive. It is also one of the few shade tolerant herbs.
Its pretty purple flowers appear in nodding heads atop the two foot tall plants. In addition to decorating your annual herb garden, the star-shaped blooms may be used to garnish salads.
Fennel is an easy-to-grow tender perennial which is often grown as an annual. It is a satisfying plant to grow in a child's garden as the plants will shoot up 5 or 6 feet by the end of summer.
It is both an herb and a vegetable. The ferny foliage and the seeds are used as herbs, while the bulb at the base and the stem are used as a food. Florence is the variety of choice for table use.
Direct sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and a foot apart in April or May. Any soil except heavy clay will produce succulent stems. Fennel is drought tolerant, but the stems will be more tender if regular water is supplied.
Do not attempt to transplant fennel plants; they don't respond well to it. Like roses, they grow best when planted in a bed by themselves.
Medicinal Use for Fennel:
The seeds are mildly antispasmodic. Use 1/4 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds steeped in a cup of hot water to halt a mild asthma attack or to sooth a cough.
Nursing moms can prevent colic by drinking 1 cup of fennel seed tea every day.
Dill grows best in full sun and acid soil. Give it a top dressing of composted manure and a site that is protected from wind. Sow the seed in 1/4 inch deep drills. Thin the seedlings to stand a foot apart.
Little Known Fact:
Dill can be grown as a houseplant. Sow 6 seeds in a 6 inch pot. Once the seedlings reach 3 inches, thin them so that only the strongest 3 remain. Place the pot on a south-facing window sill and harvest the leaves as needed.
Although Stevia rebaudiana has been grown and used as a zero-calorie sweetener in South America, from whence it hails, for centuries, it is relatively new to most North Americans. Its low gylcemic index makes it an important sugar-alternative for diabetics.
Now that everyone is kicking the habit, some Southeastern tobacco farmers are growing Stevia instead. This is not as bizarre as it might seem. The two crops require similar growing conditions and processing techniques. Stevia's use in soft drinks and jams makes it a viable commercial crop.
Chamomile is perennial in zones 5-9, but it can also be grown as an annual herb in colder or hotter areas because it matures in 120 days. German chamomile has a more upright growth habit and showier flowers than Roman.
Drought resistant Roman chamomile has long been used as a grass alternative in European landscapes. Its stems creep along the ground, rooting as they go, creating a green mat of feathery foliage 5-10 inches tall.
Both types will grow in any free-draining soil in full sun to part shade.
Medicinal Value of Chamomile:
Chamomile tea is relaxing to body and soul. Drink a cup to settle your nerves or your stomach.
Chives mature in 80-90 days and may, therefore, be raised as annual herbs, but they will also survive winters in zones 3-10.
Both common and garlic chives will grow in the poorest soil and endure the most tenacious neglect (don't ask me how I know this). The chopped leaves add color and subtle flavor to many dishes. The flowers do so as well, only with greater panache.
This herb is particularly well suited to pot culture. I have a clump growing in an old, rusted-out watering can that I filled with potting soil.
Much of the information on the medicinal properties of the herbs listed here came from The Complete Guide to Natural Healing, a reference I really like. It is full of color pictures, recipes and even growing info for many of the herbs.