Culinary SUPER HERBS. Energize Your Kitchen with these pantry staples.
Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Plants heal the body, mind, and so much more! Once you know more about these herbs you'll understand why they have superpowers. It's amazing how accessible these herbs can be once you set your intention on them. Below is a list of common culinary herbs and spices that I use, and I hope you will too!
Turmeric & Black Pepper
The Super Combo! Black pepper has been called the 'king of spice' and is a great way to jumpstart digestion. Its versatile and elevates so many dishes with its wonderful health benefits all on its own. Add the magical orange turmeric root into the mix and you have a super charged combo to fight even the toughest inflammation! Said to be a lead crusader against disease, turmeric and black pepper have been a staple in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and China for centuries— I mean, the variety of turmeric spiced curry dishes with this truly blow my mind!
I like to add turmeric any chance I get to my food. When I can find the fresh root, I like to make my own Ayurvedic kitchari dish, or a simple golden latte with oat milk during the colder months of the year. Throw some curry leaves into the mix and add to a veggie sauté for a wonderfully healing meal for all!
Ginger is known to calm the stomach, ease motion sickness, nausea, help with colds/ coughs, and even increases circulation and stimulates proper digestion! While a great additive to spiced ale's and baked goods, ginger is wonderful to add to your diet if you suffer from arthritis or need a boost of Vitamin C or magnesium. Ginger is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even antiviral (McBride 68).
I like to add ginger to a wide range of dishes but particularly love it with Asian soup dumplings, sautéed fresh bok choy, or paired with garlicky kale sautéed in coconut oil. I slice ginger in my tea, grate it and add to salads, or even throw in a blender to add to my green smoothie or carrot ginger soup.
Cumin, Coriander & Fennel seeds
On their own they are said to have wonderful effects on the body but combine they are said to be an Ayurvedic powerhouse for the digestive system. All great cooling spices for the body, this combo is said to gently remove toxins while supporting proper function of the urinary tract system. When taken as a tea before or after meals can help the body absorb more beneficial nutrients—better absorption means that our bodies are able to soak in vital nutrients from our foods rather than eliminating them too soon! I like to grind these herbs in three even parts and steep a simple aromatic tea while I prepare the heaviest meal of the day, allowing time for the healing spices to soak in.
What kind of world would this be without this wonderful bulb! If you've been to my house for dinner you know how much I LOVE garlic. It is an extremely versatile spice and goes well with just about anything savory. If you are getting sick, eat garlic! Eat it raw or jazz it up by chopping and spreading on bread, add to homemade hummus, or sauté in oil to make your meals (and your home) wonderfully aromatic! Garlic has been proven to help strengthen the heart and keep blood flowing and the antimicrobial properties of garlic are said to be more effective if the garlic is eaten fresh (McBride 67).
So what if you you love garlic, but are not a fan of garlic breath? Try drinking red wine with your meal or chewing fresh parsley, roasted fennel, anise, or cardamon seeds after you take a bite to minimize the lingering odor.
Studies have shown that this pepper can boost metabolism and lower blood pressure— this super spice levels up any dish when added to your diet, also making it beneficial for your digestive system as well as your heart health. I love adding cayenne to my special Mexican style hot chocolate or rustic chili for a nurturing and heart warming pick me up. Be sure to wash your hands if crushing whole peppers.
Contrary to the thought that this is only used on-top a slice of Italian pizza — Anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral, this plant also has plenty of antioxidants to keep you flowing all year long! This herb, when mediterranean style, is subtle, pungent, and earthy when eaten fresh. Depending on where in the world it is grown, it will lend to different undertones of flavor.
For example, Mexican oregano is said to be more 'citrusy', while the common greek and Italian oregano (also similar to the Turkish oregano) will hold a bold and robust flavor. This herb is said to contain iron and vitamin K which is good for the blood and bones. I like to mix these leaves in my morning tea or level up a tomato based seafood dish like Mussels Marinara or Shrimp Veracruz.
Bushy, hearty and many times 'evergreen' throughout the seasons — Rosemary is a showstopper in the kitchen but also packs a punch for your mental health too! Said to be a cognitive stimulant, when eaten fresh this herb can also boost the immune, and may help blood circulation while filling the body with powerful antioxidants. I always have a rosemary plant at home given how resilient it is. It can grow indoors well but if given a chance to strengthen its roots in a healthy summer, can survive a winter outside too!
Try making a super crowd pleasing herbed chicken with plenty of fresh rosemary. Your house will smell amazing!
For as long as I can remember I've always been entranced by the intoxicating smell of fresh basil leaves. The way it jumps into your senses and gives you big spicy hug—yea, it's like that! It turns out that basil is known for helping with depression, has anti-inflammatory properties and can promote healthy gut microbes which in turn can help clear the skin from acne or other impurities.
I pick basil leaves daily in the summer and eat them as is, but a great way to incorporate this magical plant into your life is to make basil infused water.
Worldwide there are over one hundred varieties of thyme, each with a subtly different flavor. Feeling a bit under the weather? Try making a simple fresh thyme and lemon tea. Due to its drying properties, It's said that thyme had been used historically for treating mucus and excess 'wetness' in the body making it a great germ killer!
Along with being anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and a wonderful antioxidant, thyme is also anti-parasitic and can protect your teeth from decay. So if you're that nomadic traveler type who loves trying food in foreign countries, you may benefits from adding fresh thyme to your diet to help move those nasty buggers down and out!
This herb is said to contain small amounts of magnesium, zinc, copper and vitamins A, C and E. It can be consumed in a variety of savory dishes and is usually fried in a fat like butter, ghee, or coconut oil to bring out the flavor in a variety of dishes. Note that white sage is different from general cooking sage you find in the supermarket but is among my favorite variety of sage!
It can be found or grown in the wild in more drier/desert climates. You can cook with this sage when fresh, but the big benefits for me come with burning white sage once dried. I like to cleanses my space with bundled, dried ceremonial white sage.
With over 600 varieties of mint worldwide you are sure to find some mint taking over in a nature patch by you. Plant once and enjoy the benefits for years if you are lucky! Rich in nutrients, the most common are peppermint and spearmint that are great for digestion and are said to promote antiviral and antibacterial effects in the body. Have you ever wondered why many modern tooth pastes are mint flavored? It's great for oral health too! I could see our ancestors chewing on this plant to keep healthy teeth. I like to make iced fresh mint tea or top mint on watermelon for a zesty and cool flavor punch.
Using fresh herbs over dried will always provide more nutritional benefits and more qi (chi) or energy to your foods. These culinary herbs, like other 'super' foods are special plants for good reason and have a somewhat magical effect on the consumer.
Many herbs have wonderful, positive effects on the body and can rarely be 'overdone' when taken in small/culinary doses. The herbs listed here are of the more common 'super' herbs and are meant to be easily incorporated into your daily routine.
Aggarwal/Yost, Bharat B. Healing Spices. Bill Gottlieb, Sterling New York, NY. 2011.
Mcbride, Kami. The Herbal Kitchen. Conari Press, San Francisco, CA. 2010.