Rock paintings from the Stone Age are evidence of prehistoric human interaction with nature. They reveal wood, nuts, berries, leaves, barks, and seeds as significant sources of nutrition, medicine, shelter, entertainment, and beauty. They indicate that humans learned to use specific plants, herbs, and spices to enhance their food and health.
In Ayurveda, herbs and spices have not only played a critical role in improvising the culinary experience of humans over the millennia but have also been of great importance in context with medicinal practices to offer protection from diseases, help with mental health, and aid digestion.
A vast range of herbs and spices, including oregano, garlic, mint, sesame seeds, cloves, myrtle berries, celery, turmeric, anise, lavender, dill, pepper, capers, Coriander, myrrh, galbanum, fenugreek, cinnamon, dwarf chicory, hyssop, black mustard, nutmeg, parsley, lemon grass, chives, cilantro, basil, bay leaf, green onion, ginger, green pepper, hot chili pepper, tarragon, marjoram, sage and more are used all over the world in Indian, Greek, Egyptian, Turkish, Roman, Jewish, Italian and western cuisines. Moreover, under the Ayurvedic domain, culinary herbs stand out for their health benefits and the potential to enrich taste buds.
Here is a list of five culinary herbs and their essential details, underscoring their importance in the context of health-related benefits. You can add them to your routine dietary plans and witness the fulfilling results through their nutritional values.
1. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) – Coriander leaves and seeds are rich in calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. Often used as a condiment, the characteristic smell of ‘coriander’ is caused by aldehydic compounds (terpenes, linalool, and pinene). In many countries, it is considered an aphrodisiac and a symbol of eternal love. It is treated essentially in curry powders, vegetarian dishes, pickling spices, baked goods, grilled meats, fish, and beverages. With its medicinal properties, traditionally, Coriander is used to treat colds, fever, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, stomach worms, epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, and joint pain. In Ayurveda, it is excellent as a carminative, tonic, diuretic, stomachic, antibilious, and aphrodisiac. It is also beneficial in external treatment for ulcers and rheumatism. Phytonutrients and bioactive compounds are the attributions of many of Corinader’s healing properties. The compounds include aliphatic lactones, terpenes, glycerides, anthraquinones, sterols, and essential oils. Coriander can also reduce lipid levels because of its ability to increase bile synthesis. The culinary herb is rich in antiarthritic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anxiolytic, anticonvulsive, antidepressant, and neuro-protective medicinal properties.
2. Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) – It is a perennial culinary herb that grows to a height of just over half a meter. The herb bears white to light yellow delicate flowers and is known for its usage in cooking and traditional medicine. In Ayurveda, practitioners frequently prescribe Black Cumin seeds after extravagant feats to calm upset stomachs. In context to the herbal medicinal systems, they are also significant in treating chronic headaches, toothaches, stomach ailments, digestive and liver ailments, intestinal parasites, respiratory congestion, amenorrhea, colds, infections, and skin conditions like rashes, sores, itching, and herpes. Black Cumin oil also strengthens and brings luster to hair and nails. Treatment of snake bites, scorpion stings, old tumors, abscesses, fever, asthma, back pain, rheumatism, and diabetes is also possible through Black Cumin. The herb is good for purifying and detoxifying the body, reducing mucous, and improving lung function. Ayurvedic practices indicate that molecules from the plant have immunemodulating, antioxidant, anti-parasitic, cardio-protective, gastro-protective, and hepato-protective properties which are also beneficiary in treating hypertension, dyspepsia, dermatitis, and even cancer.
3. Mint (Mentha genus) – The four most commonly cultivated species of mint are menthol, peppermint, spearmint, and bergamot. While vitamins A and C are the major components of ‘Mint,’ it is also known for vitamin B2, calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. The herb’s aerial shoots and foliage are sources of essential oil rich in carvone, menthol, linalool, and linalyl acetate.
The herb is used in the treatment of indigestion, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, common colds, nausea, morning sickness, liver and gall bladder complaints, bad breath, breathing problems, clogged respiratory passages, insect bites, spasms during endoscopy procedures, cramps, as a cooling sensation for treating minor burns and skin irritations.
Peppermint is beneficial in preventing and treating risk factors of chronic degenerative diseases. It is also used in aromatherapy to relieve sore muscles and headaches. Spearmint benefits the digestive system by relieving flatulence, constipation, and vomiting, as well as is excellent for respiratory tract ailments like bronchitis, catarrh, asthma, and sinus.