8 Commonly Used Herbs and their Healing Properties

Herbs have been part of every culture and medical tradition since the earliest humans walked the earth for treatment of everything from colds to digestive issues to depression. You may be surprised to learn that the herbs you have been regularly using to infuse your food with appetizing flavors also have amazing healing abilities. They are easily grown in your own home so you can have them on hand to use whenever the urge to cook strikes you. Read on to find the healing health benefits of these commonly used herbs.

1. Rosemary
Rosemary has been used as a brain tonic in Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. Rosemary contains volatile oils that help stimulate brain activities and increase brain alertness. One compound it contains, cineole, has been found to enhance the ability of rat to navigate mazes. So skip the harsh coffee and spice up your energy level with rosemary. Other benefits? Rosemary also aids in digestion and perks up your immune system. Steep it as tea, use in your poultry dishes and soups--or just crush some up to fill your home with an energizing scent.

Growing tips: Rosemary needs to live in a very sunny window and may even need supplemental light. It is sensitive to overwatering so keep it on the dry side.

2. Mint
Peppermint, spearmint, and other mint-family plants are considered one of the most versatile herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Peppermint has many well-documented properties: It increases healthy gastric secretions, relaxes the intestines, soothes spasms, settles the stomach, and alleviates gas. In a culture marked by poor diet and digestion--and the heartburn that comes with it--peppermint can be your best friend. Additionally, peppermint is rich in antioxidants that support good vision and also cleanses your liver, helping to eliminate harmful toxins from your body. Steep peppermint as a tea and drink it a half an hour after mealtimes for untroubled digestion.

Growing tips: Mint is an easy-to-grow herb that is invasive, so be sure to grow it in its own pot.

3. Oregano
When you're suffering from cold or flu, steep oregano in a pot of water and inhale the vapors, which are antibacterial, antiviral and decongesting. This immunity-enhancing herb also settles digestion and prevents bloating.

Growing tips: Oregano needs a lot of light to grow so find a window with direct light or grow out-of-doors.

4. Sage
Chinese traditional medicine has long used sage to help prevent the loss of mental function that comes with age. Sage has been found to increase oxygen to the brain cortex and to help improve concentration. Sage is easy on the digestion. Cook it up in soups and poultry dishes.

Growing tips: Sage can be a bit difficult to grow. It is very sensitive to overwatering because it is more susceptible to mildew than other herbs.

5. Chives
A member of the garlic and onion family, chives have been used throughout history for natural healing because they contain a substantial amount of vitamin C as well as essential minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron and folic acid. In Chinese medicine they are used to clear stuffy noses, prevent bad breath, ease stomach aches, strengthen the lower back, and improve poor circulation that gives you cold hands and feet. Some serving suggestions? Chop up chives and add them to stir-fries or mix in with ground poultry to stuff ravioli or dumplings.

Growing tips: Chives are fairly easy to grow because they don't require as much light as other herbs.

6. Basil
A favorite herb in Italian cooking, basil's scent can perk up your energy level and it is filled with luteolin, a bioflavonoid that studies have shown to be the best protection of cell DNA from radiation.

Growing tips: Basil can be more difficult to grow. Your best bet is to grow it during warm, bright summer months.

7. Cilantro
Cilantro is an energy tonic that can boost your immune system and smooth out your digestion. Use it in your cooking to get its health benefits.

Growing tips: Cilantro, the name for the stems and leaves of the coriander plant, can be hard to grow. Sow the coriander seeds in a thick concentration in a shallow tray.

8. Parsley
Parsley is used in a Chinese folk remedy for cooling the liver and clearing the eyes. Parsley is packed with luteolin, and there is some evidence that this helps protect the eye from UV radiation damage and from glycation, a process in which sticky sugar molecules bind up protein, potentially damaging the retina. The age-old folk remedy recipe for vision protection is a juice blend of celery, peppermint, and Chinese parsley, made fresh daily.

Growing tips: Parsley doesn't need very much sun, but it is a slow grower, so don't expect a high yield.

Herbal Tea Recipes
Aside from use in cooking, all of the above herbs can be used to make aromatic potent teas. You may use the herbs individually or experiment with combinations. For example, to make a tea that soothes digestion and prevents bloating: Steep 1 teaspoon each of mint, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, sage and basil and in a cup of hot filtered water for five minutes.

Other herbal teas that can bring big benefits to your health are my specially formulated Ancient Treasures tea and Internal Cleanse tea, which will gently cleanse your body of toxins and bring you emotional tranquility.

Grow Your Own
To grow your own herbs, all you need is some terra cotta pots with drainage holes, high-quality organic potting soil, and a window sill that gets at least six hours of light per day. A southwestern-facing window is your best choice for good light. If this isn't possible, you can get a few clamp-on reflector lights with compact fluorescent bulbs and place them about six inches away from the plant. Keep in mind that overwatering is the biggest mistake people make when trying to grow herbs inside. The rule of thumb is to let the herbs dry out completely, and then water. Beginning with baby plants will be less troublesome than starting from seed. With practice, you will learn the best ways to grow and care for your indoor herbal garden.

I hope this article helps you make the most of herbs! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

--Dr. Mao

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