Culinary herbs are most useful to herb gardeners, because of having a wide
range of uses in cooking. These herbs, because of their strong flavors, are
generally used in small quantities to add flavor to food. These are produced
in largest amount and used mostly as a garnish.
Aromatic herbs have got some novel uses and are not as popular. Most are
pleasant smelling flowers or foliage. Oils from these aromatic herbs can be
used to produce perfumes, toilet water, and various scents. In home, the
plant parts are used to scent linens or clothing. When dried, many aromatic
herbs retain their aroma for a considerable period of time. Some common
aromatic herbs include mint, marjoram, rosemary, and basil
Ornamental herbs consist of brightly colored flowers and foliage. Many of
them have whitish or light-colored flowers. Valerian has crimson blossoms
while borage and chicory has blue-flowered. Such herbs as variegated thyme
mint, lavender, and chives produce variegated foliage.
Medicinal herbs have thought to have curative powers. But present medical
knowledge recognizes as some herbs have healing properties while others are
highly overrated. Medicinal herbs should be used carefully. Some herbs are
harmless while others can be very dangerous if consumed improperly.
Herbs can also be classified as annuals, biennials, and perennials. Annuals
bloom in only one season and then die. Biennials live for two seasons,
blooming the second season. Once established, perennials overwinter and
bloom each season.
In Ayurvedic herbalism, there are different methods of preparing herbs.
Each method is developed to have an intended therapeutic effect on the body
or to preserve the healing properties of an herb Ayurveda aims to use herbs
in their natural form as much as possible to maximize their healing
abilities, thus herbs are often used fresh. Most methods involve the
ingestion of fresh herbs, but there are also many methods that require the
external application of preserved herbs via ointments, powders, and oils.
Main Methods of Herbal Prepartions
The main methods of herbal preparations focus on the ingestion of herbs in
their fresh condition or application of herbs soon after their modification.
The main methods are juice, herbal paste, decoction, hot infusion, cold
infusion, powders, oils, and ghee.
Juice is made by crushing fresh herbs into a pulp and then straining the
liquid through a cloth. This creates a highly concentrated juice. To dilute
it, one would add water. Juice is the most powerful of all liquid
preparations because it contains the medicinal properties of the herbs in
the fresh, natural state.
Herbal paste is made by crushing fresh herbs to the extent that it becomes
a soft, semi-solid, mass. Honey, ghee, oil, water or sugar is usually added
to give it extra mass. Paste is usually applied externally on the skin to
heal wounds, cuts, and sores. It can be heated to use as a poultice.
Decoction is used to extract and concentrate the active compounds of herbs.
It is a water-based preparation.It is prepared by putting the herbs in a
large pot of water and then boiling the herbs over a low flame til much of
the water get evaporated. Decoctions are usually made from the harder parts
of herbs such as roots, stems, bark, and fruits. The main advantage with the
Decoction is that it can be stored for many months unlike juices.
Hot infusion is prepared in a similar way to decoctions. It is another
water-based preparation. The difference between the two is that hot infusion
is made by steeping the fresh herbs in water, which is already boiling for
short period of time. This is because hot infusion is used for more delicate
parts of the herbs such as leaves and flowers. Also, It is primarily used
for aromatic, oily herbs that get destroyed if steeped for longer span of
Cold infusion is the most weak method of herbal preparations because it is
having the least amount of medicinal properties. It is made by putting fresh
herbs in cool water and let the concoction sit for a very long time. This is
necessary for extremely fragile herbs, but it generally extracts less active
compounds than decoctions or hot infusions. Cold infusions are best used for
cooling therapies and are usually made with mint, jasmine, sandalwood, and
other aromatic herbs.
Powders are made by crushing semi-dried herbs into finely grained pieces
and then it get mixed with a suitable liquid medium such as ghee, oil,
water, milk or honey. Powders are supposed to be more powerful than any of
the previous methods because these allow the herbs to be directly ingested.
Powders have powerful short-term effects but do not last long. These are
often ingested or mixed with other concoctions.
Letting herbs sit in specific oils for a period of time until the medicinal
properties of the herbs have been released into the oil makes oils. Coconut,
Castor oil, Sesame and Sunflower are few of the popular choices. Oil is
mainly used externally, especially for massaging, because they are most
effective for the skin, blood, and lungs. They lose their healing powers
very quickly inorder to affect the deeper, internal organs thats why
they are often not ingested.
Ghee is basically raw, unsalted butter which is supposed to be heated until
all the water get evaporated and only the thick, nutrient-filled foam is
left. After the foam gets cooled, it becomes solid and can be stored outside
in refrigeration. Unlike oils, ghee has long-lasting strength to affect
internal organs, tissues, bone marrow, and nerves, so it is often ingested
itself or along with special herbs infused within it. Ghee helps in
increasing digestion, creation of enzymes, and activities of the stomach and
Indian Herbs as Food
The preparation methods described above intend to use herbs as medicine to
cure a specific illness that has occurred in the body. Herbs are also
consumed regularly as food to prevent illnesses and maintain good health.
Whereas herbs in the form of medicine are used to restore balance, herbs in
the form of food are used to maintain balance.
"Herb" is a loose term to describe any plant that has health
benefits to humans. For the boundary-setting purpose of research project, "herb"
term has been used only for non-fruit, non-vegetable plants and spices.
Thus, when herbs are taken as food in Ayurvedic preventative practices, they
are actually supplements to the main dish in the form of condiments, spices,
and beverages. Herbs enhances nutrients content and healing powers of the
main dish, these enhance the body's ability to absorb nutrients, and opens
the whole person to get benefited psychologically, emotionally, and
spiritually from eating the food.
Herbs as teas and tisanes
The tea plant, is now the most widely drunk herbal tea. Herbal teas, as we
think, are actually refreshing tisanes, which are an integral part of the
herbalist's medicine. They have been used against various conditions like
soothe, alleviate depression, invigorate, induce sleep, aid digestion, and
even in childbirth. Teas and tisanes can be differentiated by their methods
of production. Teas are made from herbs that have been harvested, dried or
processed, such as smoked. Tisanes are made from the infusion of fresh
herbs, or herbs which are simply air-dried.