For botanist Laura Shiels, herbs in the garden are not only a source of spice and flavor, but of healing.
Lemongrass adds zest to a soup but also helps relieve insomnia, while ginger is good for nausea. Chili peppers add spice but also stimulate circulation.
Basil can help relieve indigestion or nerves. Rosemary is said to enhance memory.
Shiels, a doctoral student in ethnobotany and former lecturer at the University of Hawaii, has been teaching workshops on how to grow and cultivate herbs for several years, with a focus on healing.
“Let food be your medicine,” says Shiels, who cultivates gardens everywhere she goes.
Many culinary herbs make aromatic compounds to protect themselves from being attacked by viruses and fungi, as well as to attract pollinators, she said. Those same compounds have antioxidant or antimicrobial properties.
So you can add flavor and health at the same time, she said, and address specific ailments with herbs.
Basil, for instance, popular in salads and the main ingredient for pesto, alleviates gas. Its leaves can be used for many dishes, while the flowers can be brewed into a tea, good for treating coughs.
Garlic is good for lowering blood pressure and relieving colds and flu. Continue reading