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15 Kitchen Herbs with Medicinal Properties

Updated: 6 days ago


Kitchen Herbs with Medicinal Properties

While we all enjoy the taste and smell of the herbs and spices we use most often, these wonderful plants often bring more to the table than pleasure alone. Many common kitchen herbs have a long history of being used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. As the days get cooler, the nights get longer, and cold and flu season inches its way closer. So, with that in mind, I wanted to introduce you to the medicine cabinet that likely already exists in your kitchen, and share with you a list of 15 Kitchen Herbs with Medicinal Properties.


A Quick Disclaimer

Remember that just because something is “natural” does not always mean that it is safe for every person. When it comes to herbal medicine, there are many plants that should be avoided when pregnant or nursing, and some that can cause extreme interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medicine. The herbs and spices listed here can be found in any pantry, but the use of them in medicinal quantities can have drawbacks.

Before using herbal preparations, always do your research, and speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns. Never fail to seek medical advice when needed.


1. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

No garden is complete without basil, and it’s one of my favorite things to grow each year. Unlike many other herbs, basil is an annual, so it must be replanted yearly. It does best in full sun and is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes.


Culinary Uses:

No pizza or pasta sauce would be complete without basil, and just like in the garden, basil also makes the perfect companion for tomato on the plate. It’s wonderful to toss into salad greens for an extra punch, and I love to mix it with fruits like watermelon and apricot, like in our Apricot Basil Syrup. Genovese basil is best used in these Italian-style dishes, while Thai basil goes excellent in, you guessed it, Thai dishes.


Medicinal Uses:

Basil is a powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial herb. It can help stimulate the appetite, ease stomach upset, and reduce fever, pain, and swelling. In Chinese medicine, basil is used to support kidney function. In classic Ayurvedic medicine, basil has been used to treat everything from earaches and itching to malaria, arthritis, and anorexia.


2. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)

I’m pretty sure even kitchens that don’t have cooks have black pepper. After all, what would salt be without it? But did you know that this most common of kitchen spices has medicinal qualities too?


Culinary Uses:

Where to begin? Nearly every single dish you cook, from meats to soups, has “salt and pepper to taste” in the ingredients list. If a dish is savory, chances are it has at least a dash of black pepper in it.


Medicinal Uses:

Black pepper has been used to treat arthritis, asthma, upset stomach, bronchitis, intestinal bacterial infections, colic, depression, diarrhea, gas, headache, menstrual pain, stuffy nose, sinus infection, dizziness, nerve pain, and itching. For internal use, black pepper helps the body absorb the medicinal properties of turmeric better, and any recipe that calls for turmeric should include black pepper.


3. Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)

This red-hot spice needs no introduction. Very few kitchens don’t have a bottle of cayenne in the cupboard. But this spice has so many medicinal uses that it deserves our attention.


Culinary Uses:

Cayenne is used in the kitchen to spice chili, soups, and stews. It’s a wonderful addition to meats and veggies, and I can never make a batch of pasta sauce without a pinch. One of my favorite winter beverages is Myan hot chocolate, which has a hint of cayenne to heat things up. It’s widely used in many cuisines worldwide, including Central American, Latin, Asian, Indian, and Thai.


Medicinal Uses:

Capsaicin, the compound that gives cayenne its characteristic heat, has been shown to have pain-relieving properties. Topically, it can treat arthritis and other forms of pain. Capsanthin, a specific kind of carotenoid found in cayenne peppers, has antioxidant properties, and Capsorubin, a pigment found in cayenne, has anti-inflammatory properties. Cayenne has been shown to protect the heart, aid in circulation, and improve digestion. It’s a key ingredient in our Pain Away Salve.


4. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

While not generally considered a culinary herb, chamomile offers so many benefits that every kitchen should have a supply on hand.


Culinary Uses:

As an edible flower, chamomile can be used to flavor jams, candies, and ice cream or liqueurs like vermouth, and although it is most commonly thought of as a tea, the culinary possibilities are endless.


Medicinal Uses:

As a digestive bitter, chamomile is excellent for treating all types of gastrointestinal complaints. It is calming and soothing for inflammation. It contains antioxidants. It is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, as well as astringent. It has been used to treat hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids.


5. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)

Cinnamon is another one of those spices that can be found in nearly every kitchen, and for a good reason—it adds spice and warmth to everything you add it to. This spice is actually a bark, and it can be used whole, usually found in “sticks” or ground, depending on the preparation.


Culinary Uses:

Most commonly thought of as a “dessert” spice, cinnamon is used in cookies, cakes, breads, almost anything with pumpkin in it, and of course, cinnamon rolls. But it also adds a wonderfully warm and spicy note to Middle Eastern dishes, long-cooked braises, and hearty soups.


Medicinal Uses:

As a warming spice, this aromatic bark is a wonderful stimulant for digestion and circulation. Research shows that cinnamon consumption can increase insulin production by the pancreas, thus lowering blood sugar for type 2 diabetes. It has also been used to treat Alzheimer's, the common cold, hay fever, heart disease, thrush, spasms, and sore throats. It is a key component of our Homemade Kitchen Cough Syrup.

Guide to stocking the Apothecary

6. Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)

Clove has been used for centuries as a food preservative. Because of its aromatic nature, it is also often used in potpourri, and it’s a common spice around the holidays. But this dark little bud packs more than just a flavor punch.


Culinary Uses:

Cloves have been spicing up curries, enriching sauces, and seasoning the meat for centuries. You can use it as a tea or add it to your coffee, and no pumpkin spice blend would be complete without it.


Medicinal Uses:

Clove has a history of being used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used to treat upset stomach, gas nausea, and vomiting. Clove has been used to reduce inflammation, ease toothaches, reduce ulcers, and improve liver function. It also has strong antifungal properties and is a primary ingredient in our Good-bye Fungi Salve.


7. Garlic (Allium sativum)

Yet another herb found in nearly every kitchen, this little bulb is a kitchen and medicinal powerhouse. The smell of garlic alone is enough to breathe life into any dish, and garlic is a veritable apothecary in and of itself.


Culinary Uses:

From garlic bread to garlic chicken, pasta, rice, veggies, and even ice cream, there are a million ways to use garlic in the kitchen.


Medicinal Uses:

Best known for its antimicrobial action, garlic has been used to clear deep-seated infections. It’s warming, pungent, and drying, so it’s the perfect solution for damp, cold congestion. Garlic can boost the immune system and is necessary for any good Fire Cider. It contains inulin, a prebiotic that is necessary for good intestinal flora. And it works as an amphoteric for balancing high and low blood pressure.


8. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger is a warming and spicy little tuber most commonly found as a ground powder. But it can also be purchased fresh in any produce aisle.


Culinary Uses:

In the kitchen, ginger can be used in everything from sweets and cakes to savory soups, stews, and curries. It’s most common in Asian and Indian cuisine.


Medicinal Uses:

Ginger has a long history of medicinal usage to address a long list of diseases and disorders. It is fervently used during fall and winter to ward off respiratory tract infections and colds/flu. Fresh ginger is one of the most essential herbs in Chinese medicine. Ginger is best known for reducing nausea of morning sickness, motion sickness, or nausea arising after consuming a heavy meal. It works by warming the stomach, which settles queasy feelings. As an acrid herb, it reduces spasms internally and externally.


9. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

True, lavender is most often thought of as merely a flower. But lavender has a long history of medicinal and culinary use. Opt for English lavender (instead of French lavender), as English lavender is better for both culinary and medicinal purposes.


Culinary Uses:

In the kitchen, lavender can be used fresh or dried as a flavoring in desserts like cupcakes, cookies, and even cakes. One of my favorite summer dishes is a bowl of fresh berries topped with creme fraiche and drizzled with lavender simple syrup. You can also use lavender to infuse drinks like lemonade or cocktails like lavender gin and tonics.


Medicinal Uses:

Medicinally, lavender is a calming herb both internally and topically. It can help to ease stress, calm anxiety, aid in the loss of appetite, ease circulatory disorders, and induce sleep. It also boosts mood and helps combat symptoms of depression. Topically, it can help soothe skin problems and flare-ups like rashes, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. In folk medicine, it is often used to treat migraines, cramps, and insomnia.


10. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Ancient Greeks and Romans profusely loved oregano. This shrubby little herb is a favorite in gardens everywhere, and fresh or dries, it has found its way into many a recipe. Oregano is bold, deep, and strong, and the fresh herb is considerably more potent than its dried counterpart. It is deeply herbaceous and slightly similar to thyme, with faint mint-like undertones.


Culinary Uses:

Oregano is a warm, almost spicy herb that adds just a little kick to meals. Being a Mediterranean herb, it goes well with southern French, Greek, and Italian cuisine, and no spaghetti sauce would be complete without it. It’s a versatile culinary herb that pairs well with everything from meat and eggs to veggies.


Medicinal Uses:

Oregano is known for being a powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic herb with powerful antioxidant properties. Hippocrates, often considered the “father of modern medicine,” was said to have used it to treat wounds, infections, psoriasis, and stomachaches. It is also used to treat respiratory issues and support immune health.


11. Peppermint (Mentha piperita L.)

Peppermint is a must-have in any home garden. It grows easily and is infamous for its ability to spread quickly and take over a space, so it’s best to plant it in a pot or container to keep it under control.


Culinary Uses:

Mint is often paired with lamb and used in Mediterranean dishes. It can be tossed in a salad or used to flavor desserts like ice cream and cheesecake. In the beverage department, it makes a lovely tea, and if you’re into adult beverages, no mojito is complete without muddled mint.


Medicinal Uses:

Peppermint has been used to reduce nausea, soothe upset stomachs, reduce fever and headaches, fight colds and flu, and freshen breath. To reap mint’s medicinal benefits, you can chew the fresh leaves, steep it into a tea or a tincture, or infuse it in a carrier oil for balms and salves to soothe headaches.


12. Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

Rosemary is a highly flavourful, highly medicinal perennial herb that’s a staple in just about every herb garden. It’s a flavorful herb with a myriad of uses as everything from a spice to a natural preservative in food and cosmetics, as well as an ornamental plant.


Culinary Uses:

Rosemary’s earthy flavor lends itself well to flavoring roasted potatoes and root vegetables like carrots and beets. I love to use it to stuff a roast chicken or turkey, but it also goes great with hearty, red-meat-based meals like roast beef and beef stew.


Medicinal Uses:

Rosemary has long been used as a medicinal herb. Its consumption can help prevent asthma, ischemic heart diseases, atherosclerosis, peptic ulcer, and renal colic. It can also help with high cholesterol, lung injury, and depression, as well as help improve memory and focus.


13. Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is an unsung heroine of our spice cabinets, and it has been used for thousands of years by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and the Chinese. Its name, salvia, means “to save” in Greek. Native Americans have long used white sage in traditional ceremonies to ward off evil spirits and purify a space.


Culinary Uses:

Sage is a velvety herb that can be enjoyed fresh or dried. It pairs well with pumpkin and winter squashes. It’s present in most holiday turkey seasoning, and it’s what gives breakfast sausage its distinctive flavor.


Medicinal Uses:

Sage is anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. It has been used to help lower cholesterol, aid digestion, improve appetite, and detox the liver. It is particularly beneficial for women and can help ease menstrual pain and dry up milk when a mother is ready to stop nursing. Sage also enhances focus, promotes memory, and improves cognitive health and mental clarity.


14. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme, a relative of mint and oregano, is another popular earthy, woody herb that goes hand-in-hand with rosemary in the garden and kitchen. It’s one of the easiest culinary plants to cultivate, and this humble, low-growing herb is one of the hottest and most penetrating of spices.


Culinary Uses:

Thyme is a staple herb in both French and Mediterranean cuisine. It goes well with chicken, red meat, root vegetables, and mushrooms. It blends well with rosemary in soups and stews, as well as roasted meats and veggies.


Medicinal Uses:

Both the flowers and leaves of thyme can be used to treat various illnesses and ailments, including sore throats, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. The plant is known to boost immunity and combat acne. It also has a history of being used to treat all kinds of infections, particularly in the respiratory and digestive systems. Due to its intensity, it is the perfect remedy for cold, thick, phlegmatic bronchial conditions. At a time when antibiotic-resistant strains of illnesses are challenging our immune systems, thyme is moving back into the limelight as an antibacterial agent.


15. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

The warm, rich golden hue of this root is a perfect match for fall weather, and in a lot of ways, turmeric is a spice unlike any other because its main function in food is not to flavor but to add healthfulness.


Culinary Uses:

You’ll find this herb both powdered and dry, most commonly in Indian and South Asian dishes, lending its vibrant hue to curries and soups. It pairs well with veggies and meats alike. Whenever I have an issue with inflammation of any kind, I heat up a cup of almond milk and add a generous helping of turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, and honey.


Medicinal Uses:

Most well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is also antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic. It helps in improving the functions of the immune system. In Ayurveda, it is often used to aid in treating disorders of the skin, digestive system, and upper respiratory tract, as well as arthritis, liver disease, and depression.


Your Medicinal Spice Rack

As you can see, many of the herbs most commonly found in the kitchen pantry can be used to aid in the treatment of many of our most common ailments. From aches and pains to colds and flus, your spice rack may just have the cure! And the best part is many of the medicinal properties will work by simply cooking these spices and herbs into your everyday dishes. After all, Hypocrites once said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” So, go ahead and spice up your next meal! If you have a favorite medicinal “spice” that we’ve missed, tell us all about it in the comments below, and as always, until next time:


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15 Kitchen Herbs with Medicinal Properties

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