Did you know that some of the most commonly grown culinary herbs are natural pain relievers? There’s a reason a sprig of parsley adorns your restaurant plate, and it’s not just for looks. Parsley uses and benefits number in the hundreds. Dill is a staple in pickles and has been used for ages in treating colic. That rosemary plant you’ve nurtured helps boost memory. Basil health benefits are numerous and include the prevention of bacterial infections. Lavender uses run the gamut from soothing frazzled nerves to adding aromatic flavor to beverages. So go ahead, eat your medicine! Here’s a list of my favorite culinary herbs that double as natural pain relievers and how to use them.
Basil: Beauty is Skin Deep
Common sweet basil is one of nature’s best natural pain relievers. It helps alleviates the pain of arthritis, but it’s not hard on the tummy like some conventional medicines. Asian varieties have more healing power and can reduce blood glucose levels. Basil combats stress by acting as an “adaptogen” helping your body to adapt to those situations. Basil contains iron, potassium, and Omega 3 fatty acids, which offer excellent skin health.
Layer basil leaves with Parmesan cheese in a freezer-proof container. They will flavor each other during freezing. It’s wonderful on pizzas and pasta.
Dill: Build Strong Bones
The little ones in our family love to pluck leaves from “the pickle herb” and munch on them. And what a bonus they get! Dill contains calcium, which is good for strong bones and teeth. Dill is effective against staph bacteria, as well.
Instead of buying dill seeds for growing, use what’s in your pantry. Like fennel and coriander, the seeds stay viable for a long time.
Add a sprinkling of fresh dill to steamed and buttered carrots.
Fennel: Good Digestion Starts Here
Feathery and delicate looking, this savory licorice-tasting herb is a true pioneer when it comes to natural pain relievers. Fennel is good for digestion and alleviating appetite. The adult Shakers chewed fennel seeds during long ceremonies. Guess what they gave the little ones? They gave them dill seeds to keep active kids calm. Fennel, along with dill, is an ingredient in natural pain relievers, like gripe water for babies with colic.
For an herbal treat, layer fennel and Parmesan shavings with a drizzle of olive oil on each layer in a shallow dish. Season with freshly ground pepper.
Flax: Flax Your Muscles
One of nature’s best vegan sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, flax is a good herb for a strong immune system, healthy brain, heart, skin, and nails. It contains iron, protein for strong muscles, and needed B vitamins. The fiber in flax helps maintain a healthy gut. Flax has to be ground (sometimes called flax seed meal) for your body to absorb it. Otherwise, you’d be just getting fiber (not a bad thing, though!).
I always add flax seed to my granola for extra crunch and nutrients. Sprinkle flax on cereals, casseroles or add to smoothies.
All herbs in the garlic family are good for cardiac and lung health. Garlic has antibiotic properties and improves circulation and blood flow. The antioxidants it contains help fight free radicals. The slaves who built the pyramids ate garlic as a vegetable – it was known even then as a “good for you” food.
Make an herbal dipping oil by stirring in fresh minced oregano, rosemary and basil into fresh extra virgin olive oil. Store in refrigerator. Right before serving, stir in minced garlic. Serve with French baguettes.
Ginger: Natural Pain Reliever Calms Upset Tummy
Ginger has been used for centuries as a remedy for stomach aches and other digestive discomforts, but it also has a lot to offer those with chronic pain and inflammation.
The pungent root has anti-inflammatory properties and lots of antioxidants, plus some analgesic ability. It can reduce the amount of pain you feel.
Ginger root makes a soothing, healing tea. Combined with lemon and honey, it will help cure upper respiratory illness.
Lavender: Mood Food
Lavender reduces stress, in part by lowering cortisol levels in the body. Sniff a fresh lavender sprig before you go to sleep. Its anti-bacterial qualities are legendary. It is said that during the plague, glove makers scented the inside of the gloves with lavender, and they were some of the few not infected.
For a yummy stress reliever, crush some lavender flowers or leaves into lemon juice when making lemonade. Sweeten as desired.
Mint: An Invigorating Digestive Aid
I grew up with this herb, which we called “Nana” as kids. Peppermint is still my favorite mint. Mint invigorates the senses, quells nausea, and aids digestion. Peppermint is especially helpful after a high fat meal. Mint contains vitamin C which we need to replenish daily.
Stir fresh chopped mint into strained Greek yogurt. Add some minced garlic. Stir in minced cucumber drained well. Add a pinch or two of salt and you’ve just made the classic Tzatziki dip!
Oregano: Immunity Booster and Sniffle Stopper
Oregano is an effective antibiotic and anti-fungal herb. Plus oregano is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Good for yeast and nail fungal infections. Its antibiotic qualities help reduce the duration of a cold.
With its strong flavor, a little oregano goes a long way. It’s a staple in my bean soups. Add it at the beginning of cooking time so that the flavor has a chance to bloom.
Parsley: A Multi-Vitamin in a Plant
Parsley is like a vitamin pill in a plant. It contains more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach or liver, more beta-carotene than a carrot and more vitamin C than an orange! Plus, it contains chlorophyll for freshening breath. Parsley promotes healthy skin and kidneys. With its gentle diuretic qualities, parsley is an effective kidney cleanser.
Parsley is key to my family’s tabouleh, that amazing bulghur wheat and vegetable salad. For those in your family who are green challenged, stir a few sprigs of parsley into canned soups while heating. It will work its magic during the heating process. Just remove the sprigs before serving. I won’t tell! Garnish with chopped parsley for a pop of color and nutrients.
Rosemary: For Remembrance
Rosemary’s strong piney, camphor-citrus like flavor along with its disinfectant and antibacterial qualities made it a popular strewing herb in olden days for cleaning floors and sick rooms. “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” Well, I guess Shakespeare was pretty smart when he coined that phrase since rosemary indeed helps our memories and mind. Rosemary enhances blood flow to the brain, and with its abundance of calcium, a glass of rosemary tea can help calm and have a positive effect on the mind.
Top a steak with an herb butter made with rosemary, thyme, parsley, garlic, cayenne pepper and blue cheese.
I hope you enjoyed this timely information on natural pain relievers. Do you grow any of these herbs? How do you like to use them?