A garden full of fresh herbs can do more than pretty up your yard. Besides adding flair to your favorite foods, various herbs have the power to reduce inflammation, support your immune system, lower cholesterol and more.
Samar Rashid, DO, family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Liberty Station, employs culinary medicine practices to teach her patients how to harness the medicinal properties of herbs and other foods that can influence overall health. She says, “I learn about my patients by learning more about what they cook.”
Aside from their many health benefits, fresh or dried herbs can keep you from picking up the saltshaker. Most Americans’ sodium intake is exceedingly high. Dr. Rashid says that incorporating different or new tastes, such as those from potent herbs, can help counteract that:
“One of the reasons people even reach for salt is because they’re really looking for flavor. When we introduce more robust spices and herbs to the palate, naturally things like sodium aren’t needed.”
The easiest way to ensure you always have herbs on hand is to grow them yourself. Many herbs enjoy the heat, so the San Diego summer is a perfect time for a flourishing herb garden. No yard? No problem. Herbs take nicely to windowsills too.
Dr. Rashid explains the benefits of common herbs you can easily grow at home.
Rosemary is a great addition to barbecue, or any other meats cooked at high heat, because of its anti-carcinogenic effects. It also supports immune function.
Swap your coffee for mint tea. Mint is a natural energizer. It can also help improve gut health and soothe gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
This must-have in Italian dishes provides immune support. Toss it with lycopene-packed tomatoes and blood pressure-lowering garlic for a healthy and tasty toast topper.
There’s some evidence that this taco topper helps lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It also helps rid the body of heavy metals, specifically mercury and aluminum.
Sage has been lauded for countless generations for its cleansing properties. It also helps improve neurocognitive health. Pair it with butternut squash for a healthy and hearty side.
Dill is packed with flavonoids, which fight cardiovascular disease by lowering bad cholesterol. Dr. Rashid often recommends recipes that include dill to her patients with hypertension and diabetes. It pairs well with roasted vegetables, especially carrots, as well as a summery cucumber salad.
This poultry perennial is packed with vitamin C and can help boost immune function. It also works well to counter some gastrointestinal dysfunction and infections of the gut.
Oregano is an antimicrobial superstar with powerful antioxidant properties. There’s even some evidence to show that it helps slow cancer cell progression.
This close relative of onions can garnish just about anything savory. It shares many of the same beneficial properties as other members of the genus Allium, namely onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and scallions. Chives also help slow bone degradation and can help ease allergies by decreasing histamines.