This spring when you are thinking of starting or renewing your herb garden, remember that herbs not only infuse your food with flavor, but also give you better health!
Herbs have been part of every culture and medical tradition since the earliest humans walked the earth for treatment of everything from colds to digestive issues to depression.
They are easily grown in your own home so you can have them on hand to use whenever the urge to cook strikes you.
Rosemary has been used as a brain tonic in Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. Rosemary contains oils that help stimulate brain activities and increase brain alertness. One compound it contains, cineole, has been found to enhance the ability of rats to navigate mazes. So skip the harsh coffee and spice up your energy level with rosemary. Other benefits include perking up your immune system and using it as a digestion aid. Steep it as tea, use in your poultry dishes and soups – or just crush some up to fill your home with an energizing scent.
Growing tips: Rosemary needs to live in a very sunny window and may even need supplemental light. It is sensitive to over watering so keep it on the dry side.
Peppermint, spearmint, and other mint-family plants are considered one of the most versatile herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Peppermint has many well-documented properties: It increases healthy gastric secretions, relaxes the intestines, soothes spasms, settles the stomach, and alleviates gas. In a culture marked by poor diet and digestion – and the heartburn that comes with it–peppermint can be your best friend. Additionally, peppermint is rich in antioxidants that support good vision and also cleanses your liver, helping to eliminate harmful toxins from your body. Steep peppermint as a tea and drink it a half an hour after mealtimes for untroubled digestion.
Growing tips: Mint is an easy-to-grow herb that is invasive, so be sure to grow it in its own pot.
When you’re suffering from a cold or the flu, steep oregano in a pot of water and inhale the vapors, which are antibacterial, antiviral and decongesting. This immunity-enhancing herb also settles digestion and prevents bloating.
Growing tips: Oregano needs a lot of light to grow so find a window with direct light or grow out-of-doors.
Chinese traditional medicine has long used sage to help prevent the loss of mental function that comes with age. Sage has been found to increase oxygen to the brain cortex and to help improve concentration. Sage is easy on the digestion. Cook it up in soups and poultry dishes.
Growing tips: Sage can be a bit difficult to grow. It is very sensitive to over watering because it is more susceptible to mildew than other herbs.
A member of the garlic and onion family, chives have been used throughout history for natural healing because they contain a substantial amount of vitamin C as well as essential minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron and folic acid. In Chinese medicine they are used to clear stuffy noses, prevent bad breath, ease stomach aches, strengthen the lower back, and improve poor circulation that gives you cold hands and feet. Some serving suggestions? Chop up chives and add them to stir-fries or mix in with ground poultry to stuff ravioli or dumplings.
Growing tips: Chives are fairly easy to grow because they don’t require as much light as other herbs.
A favorite herb in Italian cooking, basil’s scent can perk up your energy level and it is filled with luteolin, a bioflavonoid that studies have shown to be the best protection of cell DNA from radiation.
Growing tips: Basil can be more difficult to grow. Your best bet is to grow it during warm, bright summer months.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at email@example.com. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com.