Five Healing Herbs

These five herbs add more than just flavor to your favorite meals. They're full of disease-fighting antioxidants and health-boosting vitamins and minerals.

Maryann Hammers | May 28, 2013


1. Rosemary

While you're chopping those leaves, breathe deeply: rosemary's sharp, clean scent can boost your mood, according to research. Previous studies also show that rosemary can enhance memory and boost alertness. "I love using a woody rosemary stalk as a skewer for grilling vegetables," says Los Angeles - based registered dietitian Sharon Palmer, author of The Plant-Powered Diet.

Use it: Boost the flavor of meat dishes like lamb, chicken and pork, or add it to a mocktail.

Tip: Freeze sprigs of rosemary in ice cubes for a beautiful addition to sparkling water.
2. Basil

Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, basil is one of the healthiest herbs, says Keyrsten McEwan, a registered holistic nutritionist at Integrative Healing Arts in Vancouver, Canada. Just two tablespoons contain 27 percent of your recommended daily dose of vitamin K, which helps build bones.

Craving a good night's rest? Eat your pesto. "Basil is a great source of magnesium, which is touted as 'nature's relaxant' because it promotes good sleep, relaxes muscles and aids in stress management," says McEwan.

Use it: Delicious with most vegetables, especially in tomato-based dishes.

3. Dill

This herb has been used medicinally for thousands of years: ancient Egyptians used it as a painkiller, the Greeks covered their eyes with dill to improve their sleep, and Roman soldiers believed dill helped to heal wounds. Dill is also a "carminative," meaning it helps to relieve indigestion and intestinal tract spasms.

Use it: Brighten the flavor of lighter dishes like fish, chicken, salad, vegetables and yogurt-based dips or sauces.
4. Oregano

"Oregano is a powerful natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory," says certified nutritionist Nancy Guberti, who specializes in functional medicine and healthy weight management. "It's a great source of antioxidants that prevent cellular damage. In fact, it has more antioxidant activity than most fruits and vegetables," she adds.

What's more, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that oregano added to ground beef during cooking reduced the formation of malondialdehyde, a compound linked to cancer and heart disease.

Use it: Perfect for punching up beef and pasta dishes.

5. Tarragon

There are two types of tarragon: Russian and French. French tarragon has a stronger, sweeter flavor with a hint of licorice, and is more commonly used for culinary purposes than its bitter cousin. But both varieties are high in vitamins A and C, and can aid digestion.

Use it: Take sauces, marinades and salad dressings to the next level.

About the Author

Maryann Hammers