Even though herbs have been used for thousands of years for healing purposes, it is still considered a form of “alternative” medicine today. Recording of herbs and plants began around 3000 B.C. with the birth of written language. Cultures in China, Babylon, Egypt, and India were some of the first to record descriptions of herbs and other plants. The Ancient Greeks obtained their knowledge of herbalism from the above-mentioned cultures. Herbal medicines can be potent drugs and should never be taken in excess. An herbal remedy should not replace any current prescriptions unless you doctor advises you to do so. It is also important to keep in mind that certain herb-drug combinations could have serious side effects (check with your pharmacist and doctor before combining herbs and prescription drugs). Herbs can also cause allergic reactions in certain individuals.
Even though herb usage reached an all time low in the mid-twentieth century, a greater concern about the side effects of prescription and OTC drugs has brought herbal medicine back into mainstream culture. There are various forms of herbal preparations and they include: infusion or tea, decoction, powder, syrup, tincture, essential oils, ointments and creams, hot/cold compresses, and poultices.
Herbs are part of not only the medicinal world, but also part of the culinary world. Herbs provide a variety of flavors for various foods and can help cut our consumption of table salt. Some popular culinary herbs include: basil, bay, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, lemon balm, mint, oregano and marjoram, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, and thyme. The uses for these herbs is endless and only requires a good imagination (why not experiment, what have you got to lose?!!) and/ or a good low calorie cookbook. Try some of your favorites in soups; on fish, game and poultry, and meats; in casseroles; eggs and cheese; vegetables; salads; desserts; bread; oils; jelly and vinegars.
Potato Salad with Dill and Chives (Serves 4)
4 medium potatoes
1 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 flowering head of dill finely chopped or 1 tsp. dill seed
3 Tbsps. Mayonnaise (go low fat if you can)
1 Tbsp. Plain Yogurt
Salt and black pepper
Boil the potatoes in their skins until just tender. Cool, peel and slice them. Sprinkle on the onion, parsley, chives, and dill. Blend the mayonnaise and yogurt, season with salt and pepper. Add to potato mixture and stir gently. Leave to stand a few hours so the flavors can mingle.
RD Home Handbooks: Herbs (1990)(pgs. 178-81, 101-106, 125): Reader’s Digest; Pleasantville, NY.