Six Lesser-Known but Delicious and Healthy Herbs You Should Know
© 2023 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
Herbs are a healthy way to enhance the flavor of foods, adding spicy, savory, sweet or other tastes while imparting antioxidant and other healthy benefits.
And while most everyone is familiar with the staples -- oregano, basil, parsley, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and dill, for instance -- there are countless other delicious and nutritious herbs out there that often get overlooked.
The next time you're cooking, think about adding a sprinkle of some of these more obscure herbs to your food. They'll add a unique flavor and a burst of healthy properties.
1. Rose Geranium
Rose geranium leaves have an herbal, spicy aromatic scent that is said to add "complexity" to foods like ice cream, cake, and jelly. Use it like you would a bay leaf (adding it in for flavor, then removing it before you eat).
Rose geranium was also cited as having extremely high antioxidant activity in a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
These tiny seeds add a nutty, peppery flavor that's popular in Mexican, Tex-Mex, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. If you've ever had curry, then you've had cumin, as it is a key part of curry powder. Cumin is so popular in some Middle Eastern regions that it's kept in a shaker on the table, as salt and pepper are kept in the United States.
Cumin is rich in iron, which is excellent for energy and keeping your immune system healthy. It is also known to benefit your digestive system, as cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes that help with digestion and nutrient assimilation. Cumin may also have cancer-fighting properties.
3. Summer Savory
Savory has a long history of medicinal use that dates back to ancient Rome. It's been used for everything from bee stings to flatulence to promoting health during pregnancy. It's even said to be an aphrodisiac.
Savory is a member of the mint family and has a peppery flavor with mint and thyme undertones. Use it to enhance the flavor of fish, vegetables (particularly tomatoes and tomato sauce), cheese, eggs, pea soups and beans.
4. Cilantro/Coriander Seeds
Coriander, one of the world's oldest spices, is known in Europe as an "anti-diabetic" plant because it helps control blood sugar. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and may help to lower cholesterol.
Coriander seeds have a flavor of citrus peel and sage that works well with vegetables, fish, soups and stews. You can even put the whole seeds in a pepper mill and use them to season any dish you like.
Ground turmeric, which lends a characteristic yellow color to foods, is used in many Middle Eastern meat and vegetable dishes. It has a peppery, slightly bitter flavor that is a staple ingredient in curries.
Turmeric is a nutrition powerhouse. Most notably, it contains curcumin, which gives it not only its color but also many of its health benefits. Turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory properties and has been found to be helpful in fighting inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. It may also provide cardiovascular and liver protection.
You can use turmeric for much more than cooking curries. Add it to sautéed veggies, egg salad, brown rice, salad dressings and dips or beans, particularly lentils.
6. Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds belong to the incredibly healthy cruciferous plant family. Aside from being an excellent source of selenium, mustard seeds contain phytonutrient compounds that protect against gastrointestinal cancer.
Mustards seeds are, of course, used to make all varieties of mustard, from yellow to brown, but you can also sprinkle them on fish and chicken or use them to flavor sauces and salad dressings. You can even make your own mustard sauce by soaking mustard seeds in vinegar or water, then grinding them into a paste. Add in some turmeric, garlic, pepper, paprika and any other spices to taste and you'll have your own homemade mustard.
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