Five Tasty and Healthy Herbs | Spring Herb Guide: Nature's Medicine Cabinet

Five Tasty and Healthy Herbs | Spring Herb Guide: Nature's Medicine Cabinet

It’s starting to feel like spring is actually on its way! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be checking the garden centres and buying my bedding plants.  I always plant a few herbs and thought that this would be a good time to talk about some of the best herbs to grow for flavour and for health.

Herbs have been used for centuries, not just for flavouring food but for their beneficial properties. As we learn more about their health benefits, we quickly come to realize that nature has provided us with a treasure chest of useful plants. In this article, we'll explore some of the herbs that grow well in Alberta and discuss their many health benefits.

Herb? Or Spice?

First let’s narrow the list by defining what a herb is. Herbs are derived from the leafy and green part of the plant, while spices come from other parts of the plant, such as the root, bark, or seeds. Herbs can be consumed as teas, tinctures, or supplements, and some have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, or antibacterial properties.

Spices, on the other hand, tend to be used in smaller quantities and are generally used for their flavor rather than potential health benefits. While both herbs and spices have their own unique benefits, incorporating herbs into your daily routine may help to promote overall health and well-being.

Herbs That Grow Well in Alberta

Here are five herbs that thrive in my Edmonton garden 

  1. Basil: Most people are likely familiar with basil as it’s fragrant and easy to grow. It’s an essential staple of cooking in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean region. But did you know that it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the body? It’s also used in aromatherapy for its calming and grounding properties. It may be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as improving mental clarity and focus.
  1. Thyme: Thyme is a versatile herb that can be used fresh or dried. It adds depth to stews and soups and is easy to dry for cold winter meals. Its essential oil is believed to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects, making it a popular natural remedy for respiratory infections, coughs, and colds. A study found that it has antimicrobial properties that acted against several bacterial strains, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, and another study suggests that thyme essential oil may have anti-inflammatory effects and could be beneficial in the treatment of chronic inflammatory condition. Inhalation of the essential oil can help relax the muscles in the bronchial tubes, making it easier to breathe.
  1. Sage: Sage is a member of the mint family and has a distinct flavor. It contains compounds that have antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. It has also been shown to improve brain function and memory.
  1. Oregano: Oregano is a popular herb in Italian and Greek cuisine. It’s perfect in salads and is also easy to dry for winter use. In aromatherapy, it has similar properties to thyme, including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. One study found that oregano essential oil has potent antimicrobial activity against several foodborne pathogens, and another suggests that oregano essential oil may have anti-inflammatory effects and could be beneficial in the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.  It also has been found to reduce the severity of respiratory infections and menstrual cramps.
  1. Rosemary: Rosemary is another fragrant herb that is often used in Mediterranean cooking. It’s a key ingredient in poultry seasoning and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In aromatherapy, rosemary essential oil has stimulating and invigorating properties and helps to reduce stress. It may be helpful in improving memory and concentration, as well as promoting hair growth and improving circulation. It may also be beneficial in reducing pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. 

Note: it is important to use essential oils with caution and consult a healthcare professional before using them for therapeutic purposes.

Happy gardening!

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