Chefs and health professionals alike tout the benefits of fresh herbs. For most busy adults, creating a large container of mixed herbs is the easiest way to go. Container gardening allows consumers to conveniently keep their herbs in the kitchen or right outside the back door. If one environment proves to be too harsh, the container can easily be moved to a more suitable area of the home or yard. With so many herbs on the market, however, which ones will prove most useful and easiest to grow in a container environment?
1. Basil is one of the most prolific herbs. Its sweet taste adds rich flavor to foods and its pleasing scent can bring freshness to any porch or kitchen. Research has also shown basil to have anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits. Eugenol, part of the volatile oils found in basil, blocks cyclooxygenase, an enzyme naturally found in the body that causes inflammation. Many over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, work by blocking the same enzyme. Basil also contains nutrients that contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle, including vitamin A and beta-carotene.
2. Mint is a favorite among container gardeners. It’s easy to grow, spreads quickly, smells great and adds a distinct flavor to many dishes. Mint has been known to effectively treat indigestion, nausea and other digestive issues. Its scent activates saliva secretions, flooding the digestive tract with enzymes that facilitate digestion. Additionally, the aroma of mint has been used for centuries to treat headaches, coughs and respiratory disorders. The strong fumes help to open and soothe the nose, throat and lungs. Mint is a common ingredient in skin care products, as well. The herb works as an anti-septic, soothing skin and treating infection from insect bites.
3. Sage does well as a container herb when properly cared for. It’s important to cut it back to keep the stems from becoming too woody, producing less leaves. Sage’s sweet and savory flavor is a great addition to any poultry dish. It’s easy to dry for indoor storage or the dry leaves can be used to make decorative scented wreaths. Sage is also rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Increasing sage intake is recommended for people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, asthma or atherosclerosis. Additionally, a study published in Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior in June 2003 showed that sage improves brain function and is an effective memory enhancer.
4. Rosemary, a cousin of sage, is also a good choice for drying and storing. It’s hardy, rarely being affected by insects or too much sun. Its savory flavor makes mixed vegetables, as well as meats and fish, delicious. Like sage, rosemary is an anti-inflammatory herb and improves brain function. In addition, it’s been shown to improve the immune system, increase circulation and aid digestion. Since ancient times, people have used rosemary to treat ailments such as headache, anxiety and joint pain.
5. Thyme is an ideal, low-maintenance herb. It needs only minimal water and attention. It produces beautiful purple flowers and can grow into a shrub, becoming a welcomed addition to any landscape. The herb tastes great in meat rubs, soups or dips. Some cultures add it to cheeses and alcoholic beverages. Because thyme is part of the mint family, it shares some of the same medicinal properties, including anti-septic, antibacterial and antioxidant benefits. It is commonly used in cough drops because it acts as an expectorant, ideal for treating bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Additionally, oils made with thyme have been used to treat mouth and throat infections.
For centuries, many cultures have known about the medicinal properties of herbs. Reap the same benefits and add bold flavors to your food by planting a container of herbs.