People and Plants: An Herbal History

An herb, first and foremost, is a plant. It is a plant that can be used to flavor and garnish food, it can be food itself, utilized as a perfuming agent or made into homeopathic remedies for common illnesses and ailments. People from every society in the world and across time have used herbs to their benefit for all of the above reasons.

Humans and Herbs Intertwined

Most of the most ancient societies and peoples on the planet have used herbs and spices for food and medicine. Ancient Sumerians had healing practices that involved thyme and caraway. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian natural medicinal practice that is estimated to be almost 6000 years old, commonly used cinnamon, sandalwood and neem. Romans used herbs for medicine and anesthetics heavily in their empire. Native American knowledge of the uses and benefits of plants and herbs amazed European explorers who relied heavily on their local know-how to reap the same benefits. These cultures did not have modern medicine to rely on and the natural world had to be their medicine cabinet. Herbs have proved useful to all people and cultures. Listed below are some common herbs. However, their exact benefits might not be as well known.

Basil

basil

A common ingredient and flavor in Italian cooking, basil has a unique flavor that many people are fond of. In addition to the culinary benefits, basil has some more things to bring to the table. In the event you are stung or bitten by a bug you can chew up fresh basil and apply it to the area to help lessen the pain. Ear infections can be mitigated with basil essential oil and basil tea can help regulate blood sugar and reduce stress.

Cilantro

cilantro

Cilantro is possibly the herb with the most divided audience. People either love it or absolutely hate it. Research has suggested that part of what makes some people hate cilantro so much are the fat molecules called aldehydes in the plant. Similar aldehydes are also found in soap and lotions. The cilantro-haters’ brains negatively associate the herb with soap, an association that sets of danger-bells in the brains of people who do not come from commonly cilantro-eating cultures.Cilantro has lacy-looking dark green leaves and is used fresh in many dishes, adding a pungent flavor to dishes. The seeds of the cilantro plant are known as coriander. Both whole coriander seeds and powdered seeds are used in cooking, with coriander having a much different sort of flavor than cilantro.

Ginger

Ginger is known to be a ubiquitous ingredient in Indian cooking. When it is not providing flare to masalas and curry it can also help quell upset stomachs and aid in alleviating digestive problems. Ginger brewed into tea is a natural anti-inflammatory as well as cold reducer. Lemmongrass and lemon verbena are wonderful accompaniments to ginger in an herbal tea.

Garlic

While not exactly an herb nor a spice although a little bit of both, there is hardly a food ingredient that is more common than garlic. While many people want to stay away from garlic because of the dreaded “garlic breath”, fresh parsley often helps alleviate that symptom.

People are often surprised to find out about its other benefits in addition to making food tasty. Acne is a bane for many people, especially when they are teens. Unfortunately, most of the medicines and creams that get prescribed for acne do more harm than good and are sometimes painful. Garlic could be the answer. Rubbing crushed garlic or even whole cloves of garlic can help with chronic acne. Garlic is also a powerful antibiotic if you are wary of or seek an alternative to pharmaceutical versions. It can also help your pets ward off fleas and ticks if you make it a staple part of their diet.

Herbs can be a fantastic culinary tool that can also improve your health. Try experimenting with some of the plants mentioned to achieve different flavor combinations in your dishes. All of these herbs can also be used to treat various ailments – and these medicines are non-toxic with no need for a warning label.

One thought on “People and Plants: An Herbal History

  1. Amy

    I have just found your site. And yes, it is cold here in Nebraska. I am getting through by planning my garden! I have always wanted to try lavender. This might be the year.

    Very nice site and I plan on visiting often.
    Thank you!

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