Healthy herbs

11. May 2021

The effect on our health

The effect on our health

We have recently written in detail here about healthy spices and learned a little about how Hildegard von Bingen became known not only for her diet, but also for her medicinal knowledge of spices and their impact on our health.

We also know that Hildegard von Bingen must have been the first herbal healer as she discovered the healing properties of herbs and spices back in the 12th century. We’ll now take a look at the herbs which can be grown in gardens or on balconies.

Spring awakening

If we wake up before dawn or rise with the black redstart, robin, blackbird, blue tit and great tit, greenfinch and chaffinch, nightingale or thrush, that means spring is here and it’s time to tend to the garden, ideally the herb garden. 

A herb garden is a garden specially designed for culinary herbs, aromatic herbs or medicinal herbs. Many monastery gardens in the Middle Ages consisted of herb gardens. One of these includes the medicinal herb garden at the Kloster Lorch monastery in Baden-Württemberg. The herb garden of Charlemagne, called the Karlsgarten, can be admired behind the Gothic town hall in Aachen.

Herbs are plant-based foods

Hardly anyone would doubt that herbs are healthy. Chives, thyme, parsley, dill, cress, rosemary, fenugreek, sage, tarragon, chervil, cayenne pepper, lemon balm, peppermint and marjoram contain high quantities of vitamins and minerals that our body needs.

Herbs not only add flavour to our dishes but also help to protect our immune system and protect cells thanks to their colourings, known as flavonoids. Their bitter and spicy flavours support the gastrointestinal tract and certain essential oils can even help combat viruses and bacteria. 

In earlier centuries, so-called herb witches made ointments, tea and tinctures using herbs. In fact, many herbs are even better than fruit at protecting.

What effect do herbs have on our health?

Rosemary is the all-rounder among the herbs. It is a restorative medicinal plant. Rosemary helps with low blood pressure and regulates the gastrointestinal tract. It also helps combat fatigue. Grown in the garden, it can reach up to two metres tall and loves a sunny exposition. 

It is extremely compatible with other garden herbs such as sage, oregano, lavender, fennel, leek, chamomile and caraway, and particularly supports basil growth.

Stinging nettle is often considered a weed, although some people recognise it as the most potent medicinal herbal plant. Stinging nettle is a diuretic, purifying for the blood and reduces blood sugar levels. It helps with urination, kidney and joint pain and boosts metabolism. Stinging nettle can be prepared as a tea or in a salad. The leaves should be picked using gloves and ideally only the young shoots. Stinging nettle is rich in vitamin C and minerals. It can be prepared using olive oil, lemon juice or yoghurt. Stinging nettle, whose seeds are considered a superfood, contains more vitamin C than citrus fruits.

Basil belongs in every herb garden as it has antibacterial properties, stimulates digestion, relieves cramps, boosts the immune system, supports the stomach and intestines and even prevents arthrosis-related inflammations. 

This tasty herb goes well with antipasti, salads, mozzarella, fresh cheese, goat’s cheese, pasta, bruschetta and on pizza. There are hardly any limits to how it can be used. It primarily adds a typical Mediterranean flair to many dishes. Basil also contains many minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. It contains vitamin A and B-group vitamins.

Peppermint is known worldwide, particularly in the form of peppermint tea. Its fresh leaves from the herb garden prevent respiratory illnesses, alleviates indigestion and colds and relieve cramps and flatulence. The medical effects of mint are thanks to their oil, called menthol. 

Peppermint tea has a calming effect, particularly in the evening. This medicinal herb is popular in herbal medicine thanks to its pain-relieving properties for gastrointestinal discomfort and stimulates the appetite. Peppermint oil and tea is not recommended for people with gall bladder and liver problems or inflamed mucous membranes.

The typical mint aroma is excellent for jazzing up desserts, summer drinks and salads. Mint requires a partially shaded exposition in the garden and nutrient-rich, damp soil that is kept well watered.

Known as a medicinal plant since ancient times, sage is a valued culinary and medical herb. The only thing that matters is: it must be genuine sage (Salvia officinalis). As an anti-inflammatory and purifying herb, it is a trusted means of treating inflammation in the mouth and throat area thanks to its disinfectant properties. Sage tea is thought to have a relaxing and soothing effect on stomach pains and menstrual cramps.

Sage is also rich in vitamins and minerals and contains plenty of vitamin C and vitamin B3. Due to its strong flavour, sage should be used carefully and sparingly. It is ideal for seasoning meat, fish and vegetable dishes and goes well with other herbs such as garlic, thyme and tarragon. 

In the garden, sage enjoys full sun. It can also tolerate partial shade, under one condition: it must be warm.

Lemon balm is considered a herb for the soul as it has a strong lemon aroma. It is used to treat sleep disorders, anxiety and depression and has a calming, anxiety-reducing effect. It can also help alleviate indigestion. 

Lemon balm goes well with fish, game, poultry and quark. Dried lemon balm can also be prepared as a tea, for ointments and herbal wine. When drunk as a tea, it helps alleviate cramps, gastric disorders, diarrhoea and flatulence. The contents of lemon balm also protect mucous membranes and are anti-inflammatory.

In the garden, lemon balm prefers plenty of light and space so that it can spread out. It prefers a sunny to partially shaded location in loamy, nutrient-rich soil.

Dill is known primarily for its great flavour and less for its healthy properties. It is an ancient herbal and medicinal plantDill contains numerous vitamins and minerals such as sodium, calcium and potassium.

As a medicinal plant, dill helps with nervous disorders, sleep disorders and alleviates cramp and stomach pain. The essential oils found in garden dill are extremely rich in carvone. Only the seeds (dill fruits) are used for medicinal purposes and not the herb itself. 

Dill is versatile in cooking, it perfectly complements salads, soups, cheese dishes, sauces, fish dishes, squashes, green peas, herb dressing, preserved vegetables and gherkins. Dill emits an aromatic fragrance in your garden and reaches heights of 30 to 75 centimetres. Garden dill is very flexible when it comes to soil, however it does not like compacted and waterlogged soil. 

Fenugreek is also a medicinal and herbal plant for your garden. It is particularly popular with Asian cuisine enthusiasts. This popular medicinal and herbal plant is also very aromatic. Fenugreek is extremely popular in Indian curry dishes.

The seeds are used for seasoning beef, lamb and pork. They can also be used to enhance vegetables, soups and stews. The shoots are ideal for use in salads. Fenugreek likes a dry, sunny and well-protected spot. The soil should be slightly damp but never too wet.

The plant is rich in essential mineral and enzymes with a high iron and calcium content. Fenugreek alleviates high blood pressure, gastrointestinal discomfort, liver damage, bronchitis, rheumatism, cramp and sore throat. Hildegard von Bingen praised its excellent properties as a natural remedy for a wide variety of ailments. Anyone interesting in finding out more about the little known fenugreek plant can read more here. Believe us, you’ll be amazed.

One of the most popular herbs used in cooking over here were chives, yet its medicinal properties are largely forgotten about. 

Chives contain almost all of the minerals and trace elements we require. It is rich in iron and has an expectorant, antibacterial and diuretic effect. Its high content of essential oils such as mustard oil is antibacterial and reduces blood pressure. 

In ancient times, chives were a popular medicinal plant that have been rediscovered as the Chinese have labelled them the jewel among the vegetable plants. It is used in cooking and medicine.

It contains a higher vitamin C content than apples. 100g of chives contain as much vitamin C as one kilo of apples and are extremely healthy. Chives complement almost every savoury dish. They are classically used as chives in herb cheese and herb butter, on scrambled eggs, on dips or in potato soup and potato salads. Chives also enhance tomatoes or salads. You can grow herbs such as sage, oregano, thyme and many other medicinal hers such as bearberry leaves, comfrey, birch leaves, bloodwort, boldo and borage in your garden.

Herbs can be used to make tea, tinctures, herbal oils, herbal ointments, herbal powders, aromatic vinegar and herbal syrup. The best thing about them is that you don’t necessarily need a garden to grow them; most plants can be grown on balconies in plant boxes.

So, head to your garden and stay healthy!