Do You Need to Know About Herbs?

The month of May is super filled; Worker’s day, Children’s day, International Day of the Boy Child, Democracy day in Nigeria and lots more. But our focus today is the World Herbs Day which was celebrated on the 2nd day of May 2020.

In general, Herbs are somewhat perceived secretly and considered orthodox, for fear of the spiritual power that is sometimes attached to it. But going as far as gaining an International celebration day? Nah, you need to know more about Herbs.

Did you know that Herbs were used in prehistoric medicine? As far back as 5000 BCE, Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with usage dating as far back as the first century CE and far before. 

In fact, at the beginning of the 21st century, 11 percent Trusted Source of the 252 drugs considered, “basic and essential” by the World Health Organization were, “exclusively of flowering plant origin.” Drugs like codeine, quinine, and morphine all contain plant-derived ingredients.

Identification

Herbs are plants with savory, or aromatic properties that are used for flavoring and garnishing food, for medicinal purposes, or for fragrances and this excludes vegetables and other plants consumed for macronutrients.

There is a thin line difference between herbs and spices; the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried) is the herb while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots and fruits.

Uses of Herbs

Herbs have a variety of uses including, culinary, medicinal, and in some cases, spiritual. General usage of the term, “herb” differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs; in medicinal or spiritual use, any parts of the plant might be considered as “herbs”, including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, root bark, inner bark (and cambium), resin and pericarp.

Some herbs can be infused in boiling water to make herbal teas and extract contents of plants. It is considered that ingesting the plants can have even less side effects than taking concentrated, manufactured supplements, as there’s more risk of contamination of the product during the manufacturing processes.

People are now enjoined to cultivate herbs in their homes, because it is relatively a safe first-aid source.

Specific Herbs and their Importance

Aloe Vera

Nature Aloe Vera
An uncommon species of Aloe Vera

Did you know that Aloe Vera can give a soothing relief for incidental burns or skin problems? Did you also know that many antiseptic substances contain Aloe Vera because of the soothing property mentioned above?

Aside from its external use, Aloe Vera ingested will also help with digestion(stomach upset), circulation and weight loss. If you are concerned about the natural taste; blend the plant and mix with honey before consumption. 

Another Bingo for the ladies is that it is essentially good for the human hair. It contains a protein called proteolytic enzymes which repairs dead skin cells on the scalp. It also acts as a great conditioner and leaves your hair all smooth and shiny.

You should also know there are over 250 species of Aloe Vera sometimes called, Aloes. These species differ in size, degree of bitterness, and body markings. Most of these species are native to Africa. 

Cultivation tip:

You can simply plant this herb by transplanting a rooted single piece Aloe Vera into a loamy soil that is water rich.

Aloe Vera plants are very succulent and are as much as 95% water. That means they are very sensitive to frost. In warm climates, they should be in full sun or light shade. But you may have more success with this plant by keeping it indoors in a sunny window.

Peppermint

Peppermint is a plant of the mint family. It is peculiar for its ability to give soothing and fresh breath, hence it is an important ingredient of toothpaste and menthol sweets.

Also, it has been found to be a good source of calcium, potassium and Vitamin B, making it a wholesome food ingredient.

General uses of Peppermint includes;

  • To relieve digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating and indigestion.
  • Acts as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever in cases of headache. The menthol in peppermint oil increases blood flow. This is an explanation for how it eases pain .
  • Peppermint oil can be used for flavoring but is also useful as a natural pesticide.

Quick tip for cultivating Peppermint plant;

Peppermint prefers rich soil and partial shade. Like other mints, it spreads quickly, so consider planting it in containers. 

Lemongrass

Scientific name- Cymbopogon sp

Lemongrass is that plant that looks like the common weeds that grows during rainy season, but a close examination would tell you otherwise.

It grows into a cone shape and has a mild irritating feel and short spine edges by the sides. The leaves are relatively thin and green.

Lemongrass stalks can provide antioxidants such as beta-carotene and a defense against cancer and eye inflammation. Lemongrass has a strong lemon flavor. You can brew it in hot water for tea as well as use it as herb seasoning. 

Cultivation Tip;

To grow this outdoors, you need to live in at least Zone 9. Outside it can grow up to six feet high but will be notably smaller if you grow it indoors.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are popular food ingredient.

Bay plant

The smell of bay’s noble leaves reminds you of balsam, clove, mint, and some say even honey! It is known for its use in hearty stews and other long-simmering dishes with a slightly sharp, peppery, at times bitter taste. 

The Curry leaves are also similar to Bay leaves. Curry leaves are an herb cultivated from the curry leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) and are largely used in South Indian cuisine. Do not confuse them with curry powder, which is a mixture of ground spices that may or may not contain ground curry leaves.

Application;

Add the whole leaves at the beginning of the cooking process and remember to remove them before serving. Sweet bay is native to the Mediterranean.

Chamomile

It has flowers that resemble small daisies and sunflower.

Chamomile is a medicinal plant that’s thought to have anti-anxiety properties. Most people know it because it’s a popular tea flavored), but it can also be ingested through liquids, capsules, or tablets.

The calming powers of Chamomile have been frequently studied, showing that Chamomile is superior to taking a placebo when treating generalized anxiety disorder. One recent study confirmed it’s safe for long-term use, and another recent study looked beyond its use for anxiety and confirmed that it also shows potential in anticancer treatments.

Common uses;

  • Reducing menstrual pain
  • Treating diabetes and lowering blood sugar
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Aiding sleep and relaxation

I hope you learnt a great deal about herbs? Don’t stop here.


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