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Medicinal Qualities of Organic Culinary Plants

By Sarah Zettelmeyer

(Sarah is an independently trained student of herbology, has taught community classes on wild food/medicine ID, herbal home health, and herbal crafts in north central VT for over ten years. She is trained as a doula and has collectively facilitated and taught at an herbal summer camp for kids for the last 9 years. She works in sales at HMS and runs the donation program, encouraging the food security movement with our donated seeds.)

Are you already growing a kitchen herb garden to spice up your meals with freshly grown flavor? Have you ever been interested in making your own medicine, or easy and safe home remedies you can make in your own kitchen? Tired of the high cost of health care or not getting the care you require? Grow your own medicine!!* You may be amazed at the helpful and healing qualities of the plants you are familiar with for seasoning and spicing up your meals. Read on about the different ways to use some of our easy to grow popular culinary plants.

Things to note regarding terms in this article:
  • Aerial parts means leaf, flower and stems above the ground
  • To make tea: 1 tsp herb per 8oz of boiled water, steeped for 3-5 minutes, uncovered.
  • To make an infusion: 4 Tbsp of herb per quart of boiled water steep for 20 minutes, covered.

Basil: Is a spicy warming herb that works well to relieve painful digestion, ie: gas, cramps, bloating, nausea, and constipation. Its properties can help reduce fevers, sinus and chest congestion. It is also a wonderful tea for melancholy and grief.
  • Use the aerial parts.
  • Take as a tea or infusion and of course, in a paste (pesto).


Dill: Work very similarly to Basil with its high content of essential oils. Helps aid in digestion by relieving painful gas and bloating, and insomnia related to indigestion. It is a gentle plant that works well on babies and children for colic. And it can help promote lactation, an excellent way to get it into colicky babies.
  • Use the aerial parts or seeds.
  • Take as a tea or infusion or you can chew on the seeds (not for small children).


Fennel: Another spicy warming plant that has a long history as a digestive aid in India, ever notice the small bowl of colorful candied fennel as you leave an Indian restaurant? Those are meant to reduce spastic digestion, gas and flatulence. It can also help to expel mucus from the lungs. Fennel is gentle enough for babies and children as a tea.
  • Take as a tea or infusion or you can chew on the seeds. Use the seeds.




Catnip: Not just for our feline friends anymore! A bitter plant that stimulates proper digestion through the release of bile, it also helps to relieve painful gas and bloating. It promotes sweating so it is an excellent herb for fevers, especially in children. It was my personal favorite and the only thing that worked when my kids were small. Use some mild sweetener (not honey for kids under two years old) to make it more palatable.

  • Use the aerial parts. Taken as a tea or infusion.


Garden Sage: A spicy warming plant that helps dry up excess fluids in the body. Such as a wet rattling cough, post nasal drip, excessive sweating, hot flashes and diarrhea. Be sure to AVOID sage if you are nursing, as it will dry up breast milk!! It is very soothing to sore, irritated mucous membranes, such as gums or sore throats, as a gargle. A great way to take it as a tea is with raw honey and lemon, very comforting when a cold or flu is coming on.
  • Use the aerial parts.
  • Take as a tea or infusion.

See our selection of

Parsley: A sweet mild tasting herb that is an excellent kidney tonic that helps the body reduces edema and fluid retention. It is a great source of Vitamin C. It is uterine stimulants that can help reduce menstrual irregularities, but be sure to AVIOD it in pregnancy for that very reason.
  • Use the aerial parts and seeds.
  • Eat fresh and take as a tea or infusion.

Thyme: A wonderfully warming herb that has antiseptic qualities. It helps relieve the intensity of a spastic cough and to remove mucus from the lungs. It can also work well as an infusion in a bath for the same effect. It is excellent for sore throats and for the aches and pains that come with the flu. My favorite way to take thyme is chop it up fresh, stuff it in a jar and cover it with raw honey. Let it steep in the honey for at least a month or longer, then slightly warm honey and strain out the plant material. Sweet and pungent!
  • Use the aerial parts.
  • Take as an infusion.

Oregano or Marjoram: Very similar in action, these herbs work well on digestive disturbances such and gas and bloating, and constipation. The infusion can be used as an inhalation to relieve sinus and lung congestion. The tea can also be used to relieve menstrual cramps and body aches.
  • Use the aerial parts.
  • Taken as a tea or infusion, and as a steam.

All types of Hot Peppers: Always use CAUTION when handling hot peppers, wear gloves, wash hands and do not touch mucous membranes!!! Amazingly practical and effective. Hot peppers with their high content of Vitamin C are an excellent remedy for mucous congestion, especially in the sinuses. A little can go a long way when using hot peppers. Just a small slice in a cup of hot water with lemon juice and raw honey will warm you right up when you get the chills from a cold or flu.

Dried pepper ground up and put into empty veggie or gel caps is my go to remedy for heavy sinus congestion and infection. Be sure to watch out if you have a sensitive stomach or an ulcer, this is not the plant for you.
  • Use the Fruits.
  • Eaten in foods, or added to tea or in capsules.

Garlic: Not just for sexy Italian food anymore!! Garlic is my absolute favorite remedy every single time I feel a little run down. The key is to eat it fresh or pickled!

A pungent, aromatic, antibacterial and antibiotic plant that increases perspiration, which will help to lower fevers. It clears arterial walls of fatty deposits and to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Will work effectively to curb a cold and infectious flu with its amazingly effective antibiotic qualities. It is also antiparasitic, helping to remove all sorts of intestinal parasites. I find it easiest to take raw with sourdough bread, usually 3-6 cloves a day, for a few days. Research for more in-depth info on all its healing potential.
  • Use the Cloves. Eaten raw or pickled with or without other food.

A couple more ideas for your medicine cabinet…

Cover crops are good for the soil and some are good for your body!!

Oats: A sweet nourishing herb that is excellent for soothing an exhausted nervous system. In the same league as St. John’s Wort, but without all the media hype. A simple plant that produces a seed head that is harvested during the “milky” stage or when the latex is running to the seed head, usually a week or so during the mid to late part of its life cycle. It is specific for exhaustion, mental fogginess and melancholy with the ability to replenish a depleted nervous system. It also works well when getting off of a depleting substance like caffeine. Also, externally for as an infusion added to a bath for eczema or poison ivy or rashes. Mild enough for babies and children.
  • Use the Milky oat heads. Taken as a tea or infusion.

Red Clover: Vermont’s state flower! For good reason as it is what our dairy cows love to eat and it is loaded with calcium. It is a sweet tasting plant with mild sedative qualities with an affinity for the lungs. It has blood thinning actions with the constituents contained in the flowers, so please AVIOD if you are already taking blood thinners or are pregnant or a hemophiliac. Will work to clear out rashes such as eczema or psoriasis. It can help clear out chronic clogged lymph that responds well to heat and massage.
  • Use the Flowers. Taken as a tea or infusion.

*The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any condition. This is only meant as an educational piece on the traditional healing properties of plants. This information is not meant to replace the care of a trained medical professional.

Views: 200

Comment by Cornelia on May 11, 2011 at 5:10pm
This is an awesome list - thank you!!
Comment by Christine Mora Breakstone on May 11, 2011 at 7:37pm
Great article! Thank you!
Comment by Kristie Nackord on May 11, 2011 at 8:48pm
love this!
Comment by kristin clapper on May 12, 2011 at 9:29am
haha we also used raw garlic to remove a wart on my friends hand! Two weeks of keeping the garlic wrapped over the wart, and one day it was just gone!


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