Aromatic herbs: what they are, uses and recipe and benefits.
Good, aromatic and tasty to use fresh, they are ingredients that must never be missing in the kitchen. But their properties make them useful also in the therapeutic field, in the form of herbal teas or essential oils. In fact, they are rich in minerals and vitamins and bring numerous benefits to our health.
What are aromatic herbs
Aromatic herbs, as well as spices, are precious allies in the kitchen, but not only. In fact, they are plants used and appreciated for their aromatic, but also healing characteristics.
Therefore, in the kitchen they flavor our dishes, also limiting the use of salt, which is responsible for various diseases related to blood circulation, without sacrificing taste. But they are also healthy, as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. Not only that, they stimulate digestion and have an action:
- antibacterial, just to name a few
In the kitchen, it is preferable to add them only to the last one to our dish, since the essential oils they contain are sensitive to heat which cancels their beneficial properties.
Therefore, it is important to know them in order to learn how to use them correctly and make the most of their characteristics.
Aromatic herbs: classification and differences
There is talk of medicinal plants for the first time in 1931, referring to pharmaceutical use and the various processes to make the most of their properties:
- distillation, etc.
According to the legislation, “officinal plants” means medicinal, aromatic and perfume plants to be used above all in:
- food supply
- veterinary products, etc.
Let’s see the main differences.
They fall into the macro category of “officinal” plants. According to the WHO, they are plant organisms that contain substances to be used in the therapeutic field due to their healing and medicinal abilities.
They have one or more odorous substances with a pleasant taste. They are used in perfumes, cosmetics or in food as condiments.
They are classified into:
- annual, biennial or perennial, according to the cultivation methods.
- Robust, that is, rich in flavor, generally used alone and resistant to cooking (such as rosemary, thyme, sage and garlic). They are therefore suitable for dishes such as roasting, braising or grilling.
- Fine, meaning that they mix easily with other herbs and are softer when cooked (such as basil, parsley and dill). They are mainly consumed raw in salads.
From the Latin species, it indicates the aromatic substances of vegetable origin (pepper, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.).
They are used to flavor and flavor foods and drinks. They are obtained from the seeds, fruits, roots or bark of plants. In the kitchen they are used in modest quantities to have nutritional benefits, but still enhance the flavor of food.
In the Chinese tradition, the use of herbs is ancient and widely practiced for the treatment of many diseases. In fact, Chinese herbal medicine dates back thousands of years and divides herbs into 5 groups based on their main taste:
- spicy: they are effective in colds and respiratory diseases, also optimizing blood circulation
- sweets: they improve the function of the spleen, relieve pain and strengthen the immune system
- bitter aromatic: they help the cardiovascular system and are useful in case of colds and asthma
- acidic: facilitate liver and digestive activity
- salty: they promote kidney activity.
Benefits and properties
Its botanical name is petroselinum crispum, from the Latin petra and selinon which means “celery that grows among the stones”. The word crispum, on the other hand, refers to the curly shape of the leaves.
In ancient times, parsley was also attributed magical properties such as clairvoyance. It was then used in love rituals. Instead, the ancient Romans put a sprig of parsley under their tunics to ward off the evil eye.
The Etruscans used it as an ingredient for ointments, while the Greeks used it as an ornamental plant on tombs. Therefore, its many therapeutic properties and its use in the kitchen were already appreciated in ancient times.
Properties and benefits of parsley
- Ease diuresis by helping to lower blood pressure
- it is antioxidant, counteracting cellular aging
- improves appetite and reduces the formation of intestinal gas
- relieves inflammation
- strengthens bones as it is rich in calcium
- it has a positive effect on memory and brain activity
- favorisce la crescita dei capelli.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an annual flowering herb with feathery, delicate leaves (similar to those of fennel) and a rather short lifespan.
Dill is native to Asia, but the leaves are much more commonly used in Western Hemisphere dishes. Dill seed is also used as a spice, it has a unique taste: a slightly spicy “green” flavor with an anise-like aroma.
Fresh dill can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen in ice cubes, but the leaves are very delicate and must be handled with care.
Dill is a popular accompaniment to seafood and fish dishes, as well as soups, omelets, mayonnaise-based salads, pickles (dill pickles, to be exact) and cucumber dishes.
Dill seeds are often added to breads, stews, and cabbage dishes.
Properties and benefits of dill
100 g of fresh dill leaves provide:
Protein 3.4 g
Carbohydrates 7 g
Fat 1.1 g
Fiber 2.1 g
Levisticum officinalis Koch is the scientific name of the lovage, the plant belonging to the genus Levisticum of the Apiaceae family. Also called Mountain celery or Appio montano, it was first described by W.D.J: Koch, a German physician and botanist.
Lovage grows mainly in the mountains, as its popular name suggests, and is still not much cultivated in vegetable gardens. The first to appreciate the properties of this plant, originally from Asia, were the countries of northern Europe.
The lovage is a perennial plant, characterized by a long stem up to 2 meters high, which ends with yellow or orange inflorescences. It has leaves similar to those of parsley and small seeds 5-7 mm in size. Each part of the plant is harvested at different times. Autumn is reserved for seeds and roots, however the latter can only be harvested in the second and third year of the plant’s life. The ideal period for harvesting the leaves, on the other hand, is from April to June.
Properties and benefits of levitino
Nutritional values per 100g of lovage:
Essential oils 2%
Protein 18.54 gr
Fibers 4.45 gr
Magnesium 6.76 gr
Calcium 104.1 mg
Potassium 142 mg
Sodium 3.9 mg
Iron 0.25 mg
Copper 0.14 mg
Magnanese 0.65 mg
Zinc 4.12 mg
Melissa officinalis is a herbaceous, spontaneous and perennial, bush-shaped plant, belonging to the Lamiaceae (or Labiate) family, which includes many aromatic herbs, including thyme, basil, mint and many others. The plant is 40 to 100 cm high and has petiolate, oval and hairy leaves, of an intense green color and toothed outlines.
The bell-shaped flowers bloom between May and August and are initially yellowish-white in color and then take on another color that tends to pale pink. The plant is very resistant and rustic, it does not fear the cold but prefers well-drained soils with a neutral pH.
The name lemon balm derives from the Greek and means “bee” or “she who gives honey”, because the intense perfume it releases attracts the bees that suck the nectar. Due to the citrusy smell, similar to that of lemon, it is also called limoncina herb.
It seems that “melissa” was a title assigned to wise women with great virtues. In the past, the plant was considered a remedy for female hormonal disorders related to the menstrual cycle and menopause, both physically and mentally. The substances it contains exert a calming and sedative action on the central nervous system.
Properties and benefits of lemon balm
As already mentioned, lemon balm leaves contain an essential oil with a pleasant scent and a flavor similar to that of lemon; they are often used to calm states of anxiety, irritability, insomnia, nervousness and to relax the muscular system. Here are some of its most important functions:
• Powerful calming: the main virtues of lemon balm are the calming, anxiolytic and spasmolytic action that make it particularly suitable for relaxing body and mind, so much so that it deserves the nickname “vegetable valium”. The plant is capable of reducing states of anxiety, stress and nervousness by promoting a night’s rest in case of insomnia. The relaxing effect of lemon balm also involves intestinal smooth muscles and has been shown to be useful for normalizing the rhythm of the heartbeat. Natural tranquilizer The tonic and relaxing properties make this plant a fundamental natural and rebalancing remedy for the nervous system, while its neurosedative and antispasmodic actions regulate the activity of the thyroid. Recent studies have shown that some flavonoids by binding to the same receptors in the brain that benzodiazepines (found in anxiolytic drugs) also bind to, perform the same function. The herb is indicated not only for the treatment of hyperactivity syndrome, but also for insomnia.
• Acts on tachycardias: the beneficial properties of lemon balm are also exerted on the heart. The antispasmodic action is useful for arrhythmias and tachycardias, restoring the physiological heart rate. Reduction of nervous hunger Triterpenes have a relaxing action on anxious subjects and soothe the sense of nervous hunger that affects people under stress.
• Stimulates Concentration: recent studies have shown that some flavonoids present in the plant, by binding to specific receptors in the brain, increase cognitive abilities. The benefits of lemon balm, as confirmed by a study by Northumbria University, exert beneficial effects on mental activity, improve attention and concentration.
• Against menstrual disorders: Premenstrual Syndrome is a particularly annoying condition that manifests itself with pain, spasms, anxiety and mood swings. The intake of lemon balm is indicated for the treatment of female ailments. The sedative activity of the plant is poured out not only on the uterine muscles, relaxing it but also on a mental level, calming mood swings and anxious states.
• Against fungi, bacteria and viruses: research has shown that the plant contains polyphenols contributing to a significant reduction in viral diseases including cold sores, herpes simplex virus and herpes zoster. The application of products based on lemon balm or fresh leaves of the plant on herpes caused by the herpes simplex virus accelerates healing. One of the most important components of lemon balm essential oil is citral which is known for its antifungal power.
• Pain reliever: lemon balm contains a natural pain reliever, eugenol, which is particularly useful for combating migraines and neuralgia.
• Antioxidant herb: Lemon balm is rich in caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, powerful antioxidants that neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS). Free radicals are unstable molecules capable of causing premature aging and degenerative diseases; however, lemon balm contains precious allies, phenols, which have the function of sweeping away free radicals with the aim of protecting cell walls.
Coriander (Coriander sativum) is native to Asia and Africa and is used in cuisines around the world using coriander leaves and seeds in a variety of dishes.
Coriander is a unique multi-ethnic herb, used very commonly in Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese dishes, which gives it a slightly spicy, anise-like flavor.
Coriander seeds are often added whole to dishes, especially Indian curries and spice blends.
In appearance, cilantro can be confused with parsley, but the fragrance and taste are very different. Cilantro is probably the most controversial herb – people seem to love or hate it. Those who dislike cilantro claim that it tastes soapy and smells unpleasant.
The leaves and stems of cilantro are both usable in dishes and it is always best to add the cilantro just before serving to prevent it from wilting. Coriander, like parsley, also makes a nice green garnish.
Properties and benefits of coriander
Coriander is a plant whose fruits, similar to those of fennel, contain alcohols and terpenes with antispastic activity on the smooth muscles of the digestive tract; for this reason, coriander seeds are used in herbal teas as a flavoring and digestive.
In folk medicine, coriander essential oil is considered useful as a vermifuge and as a component of soothing against rheumatism and joint pain. In perfumery, it is used as a flavoring, while in the gastronomic field, coriander is used as a spice and in liqueur.
Useful against dyspeptic disorders and loss of appetite, it is used in folk medicine to treat headaches, halitosis and some disorders of the oropharyngeal cavity, hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse, but not only. In fact, this plant is used by traditional medicine in China even as a remedy against chickenpox and measles, flutolence, nosebleeds and dizziness.
N.B .: the applications of coriander for the treatment of the aforementioned disorders are neither approved nor supported by the appropriate experimental tests, or have not passed them. For this reason, they may have no therapeutic efficacy or even be harmful to health.
Its botanical name origanum derives from the Greek òros (mountain) and gànos (ornament), or “ornament of the mountain”.
Oregano is among the aromatic herbs with the most intense aroma and characteristic taste, a typical ingredient of Mediterranean and Italian cuisine in particular.
But it is also a source of valuable health substances. In fact, this plant is widely used in phytotherapy (infusions or essential oils) for its action: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial.
Properties and benefits of oregano
- Acts against respiratory disorders, combining a sedative effect of cough with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory action
- promotes digestion with its antispasmodic and analgesic action
- relieves the symptoms of gastroenteritis
- performs an antioxidant action
- possesses antiviral properties
- promotes liver function
- improves hormonal balance by regulating the menstrual cycle.
Belonging to the Lamiaceae family, its scientific name is ocimum basilicum (from the Greek basilikon which means “royal, majestic plant”).
In Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, it is used for its medicinal properties and for this reason it is also called “blessed basil”.
With only 23 calories per 100g, basil is rich in minerals such as:
In cooking, it is mainly used raw to keep the aroma and organoleptic properties unaltered.
Properties and benefits of basil
- It is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, as it is rich in antioxidants that fight cellular aging
- performs an anti-inflammatory action especially in the intestine
- it is immunostimulating thanks to its vitamin C content
- promotes digestion and stimulates appetite
- it is useful in states of anxiety, stress and chronic nervousness
- facilitates sleep.
Rosemary, a perennial and aromatic plant, belongs to the Lamiaceae family. Its scientific name is rosmarinus officinalis and derives from the Latin rosae maris which means “rose of the sea”.
This name is due to its geographical location. Then, in popular tradition, rosemary branches were used in brides’ bouquets as a symbol of love.
In addition to the classic use in the kitchen, rosemary is also used in the form of:
- herbal teas
- essential oil
Properties and benefits of rosemary
- It reduces intestinal swelling and relieves gastroesophageal reflux disorders
- stimulates the appetite
- it has an antispasmodic action especially in the intestine and gallbladder
- relieves states of anxiety and is also effective in the treatment of mild depressions
- prevents brain aging and stimulates the nervous system
- promotes liver function and biliary secretion
- performs an antibacterial action especially in cooling disorders
- reduces painful symptoms.
Its botanical name is thymus vulgaris, and is typical of the Mediterranean basin. It needs drought and lots of sun to thrive.
Already in ancient times, the thymus was used to treat gastrointestinal and airway disorders. The origin of the name is Greek. It would derive from thýmon, (courage, strength), since in the past it was thought that by smelling its smell one would become more courageous and bold.
Thyme has remarkable nutritional properties. In fact, with its 123 mg of iron, it is considered one of the foods with the highest content of this element.
It is also rich in calcium: 100 g of thyme contains 1900 mg of calcium. Therefore a daily portion, equal to about 5 g of thyme, is equivalent to about 10% of the daily requirement. It also contains potassium, magnesium and B vitamins.
Properties and benefits of thyme
- Has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties (especially in respiratory and urinary tract infections)
- it is a good antifungal
- has an antioxidant action
- improves liver function.
Aromatic, perennial and evergreen shrub of the lauraceae family, laurel is a plant native to Asia, where it grows spontaneously. It was then imported to Europe and grows mainly in the Mediterranean areas.
Known since ancient times for its therapeutic properties and for food uses, its scientific name is laurus nobilis, from the Latin laurus (to praise, for its healing virtues) and nobilis (for the reputation it enjoyed).
However, there are two plants: laurus nobilis, used in phytotherapy for its therapeutic virtues and in the kitchen as an aromatic herb and prunus laurocerasus.
The latter is used as an ornamental plant and is not edible, indeed if ingested, in addition to being toxic, it is potentially lethal.
Properties and benefits of laurel
- It improves digestion and promotes the elimination of intestinal gas
- counteracts flu symptoms
- plays a soothing action for coughs and promotes the elimination of phlegm
- it is anti-inflammatory and relieves muscle pain and arthritic symptoms
- thanks to the content of vitamin C, it has antioxidant properties
- facilitates the regulation of metabolism and improves the functioning of the nervous system.
Arbusto perenne, la salvia appartiene alla famiglia delle lamiaceae ed è diffusa nelle zone dal clima temperato e tropicale. La sua origine la vede prosperare nella penisola balcanica e in Turchia, fino a espandersi poi nel tempo nelle aree mediterranee dal clima mite.
l suo nome deriva dal latino salus che vuol dire “buona salute”, proprio per le sue innumerevoli virtù terapeutiche. È particolarmente ricca di sali minerali come calcio, ferro e magnesio.
Properties and benefits of sage
- Relieves menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, migraines, hot flashes, irritability and vaginal dryness
- it has an antidiarrheal and antispasmodic action, helping intestinal motility
- it has antioxidant properties because it is rich in polyphenols
- improves oral health
- helps fight “bad” cholesterol
- rich in camphor, it is used in cosmetics because it slows down skin aging and is ideal for hair care, combating hair loss and dandruff
- is a natural teeth whitener.
Native to northern Africa and western Asia, marjoram in Europe almost never grows spontaneously, but is cultivated.
It can be confused with oregano from which, however, it is distinguished by its more delicate aroma and the fluff on the leaves.
It is precisely the leaves that, once dried, are used for the preparation of infusions, herbal teas and numerous recipes in the kitchen, allowing you to benefit from its many beneficial properties.
Its scientific name is origanum majorana and it belongs to the lamiaceae family. It is rich in vitamins C and B and a good source of magnesium and iron.
Properties and benefits of marjoram
- It is a natural antibiotic with bactericidal and fungicidal functions. The infusion is useful in intestinal infections
- performs an antioxidant action by counteracting free radicals and strengthening collagen, counteracting skin aging
- has anti-inflammatory properties
- acts on the nervous system by promoting relaxation and regulating adrenaline and serotonin levels for mood balance
- counteracts colds
- it is an excellent remedy for rheumatic and muscular pains
- promotes digestion
- relieves headaches thanks to its vasodilatory action
- stimulates diuresis by counteracting water retention
- restores hormonal balance by regulating the menstrual cycle.
It is part of the Lamiaceae family, a group of plants widespread above all in the temperate and warm regions of the Mediterranean area, which adapt well to rocky and calcareous soils.
The plants of this family are characterized by a marked fragrance of the stems and leaves.
Mint is particularly rich in iron, calcium and potassium and other mineral salts. In addition, it is an excellent source of B vitamins, vitamin C, provitamin A and folate.
Properties and benefits of mint
- It has an antimicrobial and fungicidal activity, useful for the treatment of sore throat, in the treatment of herpes simplex and to counteract bad breath
- facilitates digestion and fights gastrointestinal disorders
- relieves abdominal pain and menstrual cramps
- it is useful in the treatment of irritable bowel
- it has a relaxing action on involuntary smooth muscles
- promotes the elimination of free radicals and toxins accumulated in the body
- allieva i sintomi di asma, tosse, sinusite e raffreddore
- effectively fights headaches
Chives is a perennial bulbiferous herbaceous plant belonging to the lily family. It grows spontaneously in the temperate-cold areas of Asia, Europe and North America.
In Italy it is present in the northern area and along the Apennine ridge. It prefers a rich and well fertilized soil. In summer, it needs abundant watering.
It is particularly rich in vitamins C and B and in mineral salts such as iron, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. In the kitchen, it is mainly used raw in order not to lose its organoleptic properties with heat.
Properties and benefits of chives
- Relieves pain caused by inflammation and is a good healing agent
- stimulates diuresis and fights constipation
- has antioxidant properties
- promotes digestion by stimulating gastric juices.
Also known as tarragon or dragonweed, its scientific name is artemisia dracunculus. It is a perennial plant that belongs to the asteraceae family, such as fennel, anise and wormwood. Tarragon is native to the territories of Siberia (Northern Asia) and in Europe it is cultivated as an aromatic herb, useful in cooking and in phytotherapy.
But thanks to its delicate aroma, it is useful for making many recipes. Instead, the therapeutic efficacy is due to the presence of vitamins, minerals and aromatic compounds with high nutritional value. They are useful properties for combating respiratory diseases, dysfunctions of the circulatory system and the gastrointestinal tract.
Properties and benefits of tarragon
Regulates the menstrual cycle by rebalancing the hormonal system
improves the functionality of the male urogenital system
it has a calming action against headaches
normalizes blood pressure and kidney activity
reduces the glycemic index
it is a natural antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Wild fennel (foeniculum vulgare Mill.), Commonly known as fennel or fennel. It is an aromatic herb belonging to the umbelliferae (or apiaceae) family such as carrot and coriander, so called due to the typical inflorescence that resembles the shape of an umbrella.
It generally grows spontaneously in the Mediterranean area. It differs from sweet fennel because, unlike the latter, its flowers have more pronounced aromatic properties and the branches develop more in height.
Properties and benefits of wild fennel
It counteracts digestive disorders in the intestine, especially in the case of meteorism and aerophagia
eases diuresis by improving kidney function
promotes the production of breast milk
relieves cold symptoms
it helps in menopause by reducing mood swings
has an antioxidant action.