Herb Guide: P - R

Parsley, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Red Clover, Rosemary

 

 

PARSLEY

(Petroselinum crispum)

Member of the apiaceae (carrot) family

Common names: garden parsley, rock parsley

Delicious, inexpensive, and healthy; parsley is a lush, leafy herb, brimming with nutrients. It contains vitamin A, several B vitamins, and even more vitamin C than oranges (by volume, of course)! It is composed of up to 22% protein, and is packed full of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. This herb is seriously good for you! Do not be one of the many, who view this healthy gem, as no more than a garnish; it has way too much to offer to be overlooked.

This herb is available, year round, in almost all supermarkets. In light of it's numerous health benefits, perhaps you should consider making parsley consumption a daily habit. The ways to do this are countless.

Parsley is very effective when used both as a bass note (providing a subtle herbal background flavor) and as a liaison (harmonizing two stronger herb flavors) in culinary dishes.

It also makes a terrific supplement for any other herb in a dish (if you find yourself without enough on hand) and as a diluent when cooking with stronger herbs. In either case, replace up to half the amount of the herb you are using to prepare your dish with this gracious little helper. The final result is guaranteed to please you. So if you want to create a soup, stew, or sauce that has a more distinct herbal flair, use parsley in place of half the other herbs. Or if you love oregano or cilantro, but they are just a bit too harsh for you, supplement the amount your recipe calls for with parsley. It will 'tone down' the flavor of these more potent herbal treasures just enough to suit you.

Keep a bunch of fresh parsley by the stove, so it is handy when you want to 'finish off' your favorite dishes. Use it instead of salt and pepper on pasta, rice, vegetables, and potatoes. Oh, and certainly don't be afraid to try a bit of fresh parsley in your next fruit salad. Mmmmmm ... so delicious!

Toss some into a garden salad, knead a bit into a batch of bread dough, or simply saute a bunch in your favorite herbal oil; it's really quite a treat!

Parsley is extensively used in the Middle East, often this cultures dishes contain equal parts parsley and grain. This is a fabulous way to slip a bit more of this health enhancing herb into your diet.

When you find yourself with a fresh bunch of parsley and no time to cook, please don't waste even a little bit of this herbal powerhouse. Simply eat it fresh. Your breath and your friends, and family will surely thank you; this herb contains enough chlorophyll to diffuse almost any odor. It will even rid you of the potent fumes of garlic.

Medieval herbalists proclaimed parsley as a useful remedy for a wide variety of ailments. Europeans still use parsley more extensively medicinally than Americans. In Europe it is used to treat gallstones, kidney stones, asthma, and urinary infections. The roots are used as a laxative, and the leaves to relieve itchy, irritated skin disruptions.

In the United States, parsley is primarily used as an expectorant, a diuretic, a digestive aid, and to promote menstruation.

Parsley tea will provide you with relief when suffering from congestion; as it inhibits the respiratory reaction to histamine. If you find yourself suffering with conjunctivitis or styes, a bit of parsley tea used as an eyewash should clear them up nicely.

Because of its ability to shrink small blood vessels, it is often used in creams and lotions to treat bruising, thread veins, and hemorrhoids.

Cosmetically, this herb is cleansing; making it an effective treatment for blackheads. It also soothes and heals; making it a preferred treatment for both eczema and psoriasis.

Parsley oil should be kept at a 0.5 percent blend.

Do not use parsley as a medicinal cure when pregnant, or suffering from painful menstruation; it stimulates uterine muscle contractions.

Parsley should not be used by anyone who suffers from kidney disease.


PENNYROYAL

(Mentha pulegium)

Member of the lamiaceae (mint) family

Common names: lurk-in-the-ditch

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If you are a pet owner, you want to own pennyroyal as well! This beautiful little herb is best known as the 'flea herb'. Rub some dried pennyroyal into your pets coat and everyone will feel better, except the fleas of course!

Its usefulness as an insect deterrent is scientifically proven.

Pennyroyal can be brewed into a tea and used to stimulate menstrual flow, bring relief to those suffering from gripe, and rest to those who find themselves struggling with insomnia.

Be aware that taking large internal doses of pennyroyal has been known to produce convulsions and result in coma.


PEPPERMINT

(Mentha piperita)

Member of the lamiaceae (mint) family

Common names: brandy mint, lamb mint, field mint

Many years ago, spearmint met water mint and peppermint was born; it is a natural hybrid. Today it is the most notorious of all the mints. It's highly fragrant oil is the most widely used essential oil on the market. It contains many health-enhancing nutrients, including potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

It is a natural deterent for rodents and insects; who find its odor quite repulsive. A spray bottle containing white vinegar and a few drops of peppermint oil can always be found on my porch. Just a moment taken to spray down the furniture, floors, and borders of the porch make evenings spent lounging outdoors at my house pleasantly pest-free.

While the mention of peppermint brings hot tea or candy to mind for most, this magnificent herb is so much more versatile in the kitchen than that. It possesses the nearly magical ability to cool and warm simultaneously. This property makes it a perfect addition to meat rubs; particulary those made for pork, lamb, and poultry.

Try adding it to your favorite meatball recipe, it's fabulous!

When using fresh peppermint in the kitchen, it is important to remember to bruise its leaves before adding them to your dishes; causing the fragrant oils they contain to be released.

The tradition of offering peppermint candies after a heavy meal, as a digestive aid, has been passed down through the ages. One of my favorite things about dining out is the mint which is so often presented with the check. In my own home, I prefer a cup of peppermint tea!

The volatile oils found in peppermint leaves are mildly anesthetic to the walls of the stomach; making it an unmatched rival for treating indigestion, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, stomach muscle spasms, and hiccups.

This herb is an irreplaceable ally to those suffering from the common cold. It works as both a decongestant and an expectorant.

If you are suffering from a headache, peppermint can help with that as well. Simply rub a bit of peppermint oil on your forehead and temples; it has been found to be as effective as acetaminophen.

Cosmetically, this herb is used primarily for its fragrant and deodorizing properties. Although it is an effective circulation stimulant when added to lotion, soap, and body spray.

Peppermint is generally considered a safe herb. However, its essential oil can be irritating to the skin if it is not well-diluted in a carrier oil. It should not be used on the face, and is not recommended for people who suffer from gallstones, or hiatal hernias.


RED CLOVER

(Trifolium pratense)

Member of the fabaceae (pea) family

Common names: cow clover, meadow clover, peavine clover, sweet kitty clover, purple clover, honeysuckle trefoil, meadow trefoil, king's crown, sleeping maggie, bee-bread

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This very quaint, beautiful gift of nature provides an excellent grazing crop for livestock, and a great nectar source for honeybees, all while rejuvenating the soil. It's a win-win situation!

For human consumption, however, a great deal of space is required to cultivate a reasonable amount of this herb. So, if you want to make it a part of your health regimen, it is best to purchase it dry, or buy seeds and sprout them. Either way, it's a breeze to incorporate this herb into your diet; the possibilities are endless.

It can be added to just about any dish you prepare with great success. Use it in salads, vegetables, eggs, rices, pastas, soups, and stews.

When cooking with sprouts, it is best to add them just before serving your dish. This way they will retain a bit of crispness; adding not only flavor to your dish but enhancing it with texture as well.

Dried red clover makes a highly nutritive tonic ... so rich in vitamins!

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a large amount of fresh red clover, saute it up and eat it like a fresh vegetable. The American Indians looked forward to this 'spring time treat' all winter.

When taking red clover medicinally, consuming fresh sprouts and drinking tea made from dried herb are interchangeable. Either can be used to treat skin conditions; such as, psoriasis and eczema. Red clover is a particularly effective way to treat children for these ailments.

This herb is a strong alterant, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic. It is highly effective as a cough expectorant; making it useful for those who suffer with whooping cough, bronchitis, and the common cold.

Red clover tea can be taken up to three times a day. Use it as a remedy for constipation, gout, and rheumatism. It is known to stimulate both liver and gall bladder functioning.

This amazing gift of nature is particularly useful for postmenopausal women. It is increasingly noted for its use as a substitute for hormone replacement therapy. It promotes calcium retention and bone density maintenance. It inhibits cancer cell growth and deters cancer cell adhesion. It regulates cardiovascular health and sex hormones. It really is an all-purpose aid for the mature woman.

Yet, when it comes to red clover, there is no need for men to feel forgotten by nature. This great little herb is known to deter the development of benign prostrate hyperplasia as well.

Cosmetically, red clover stimulates skin circulation and promotes healing; making it a superior scalp treatment.


ROSEMARY

(Rosmarinus officinalis)

Member of the lamiaceae (mint) family

Common names: incensier, old man, compass plant, komero, polar plant

Rosemary, an evergreen shrub, is a useful and attractive little plant to have around the house. I keep mine on the porch when the weather is warm, and bring it into the kitchen during the cold season. I have even dressed it up with a few festive baubbles and used it to adorn my dining room table throughout the holidays.

Students in ancient Greece often wore sprigs of rosemary in their hair while studying; as it is notoriously known as the 'memory herb'.

Italian tradition found sprigs of rosemary tossed into graves, as a symbol of the desire to remember and celebrate the life of the deceased.

Rosemary was also once thought to celebrate the trait of strength in women, and it was believed that it would only thrive in homes where strong women resided. An old adage from 18th-century Gloucestershire, England states, "Rosemary will not grow well unless the Mistress is master". It is rumored that the rage, which men of the time felt at this belief, caused many a lush, healthy rosemary plant to be uprooted!

Aromatically, rosemary makes a delightful addition to any potpourri blend. It is especially effective when used to scent closets and drawers; as it deters moths. You can toss a few sprigs in the fireplace on a blustery winter evening to enjoy its enchanting scent, as well.

This herb is quite potent as a culinary aid and is best used sparingly. It gives a distinct flavor to a batch of red sauce, a robust stew, or a nourishing pot of soup. It is also a terrific addition to meat dishes; particularly shellfish, lamb, and chicken. It compliments root vegetables nicely.

Toss a few sprigs of fresh rosemary on the coals at your next barbeque, and the flavor will permeate your food nicely.

Rosemary makes a fabulous scalp treatment; it controls dandruff, and treats oily scalp. So just before your next evening bath, make a batch of rosemary tea ... drink the first cup and take the second in the bath to pour over your head! Your scalp will emerge healthier and your hair shinier. As a bonus, rosemary trumps lavender where mood stabilization and memory enhancement are concerned. This will undoubtedly be a very rejuvenating bath!

Rosemary is a powerful astringent. It kills bacteria, fights fungal infections, and heals skin abrasions. It is great for treating insect bites, eczema, acne, scabies, head lice, dermatitis, and athletes foot.

It contains in excess of a dozen antioxidants, and helps restore balance to hormonal disharmony.

This herb is the perfect choice when trying to alleviate exhaustion or weakness. Used in massage oils, or as a bath additive, it will ease the pain caused by aching muscles, gout, rheumatism, arthritis, bruises, strains, and sprains.

Rosemary is found, by pharmacologists, to be a useful carminative.

There is promising evidence that it may be an effective antispasmodic.

Cosmetically, rosemary is stimulating, astringent, and conditioning. It is a terrific addition to facial masks, face and body steams, and body wraps.

Rosemary tea should be taken in moderation - only one cup per day, for no longer than a week.

Do not use rosemary when pregnant, or suffering from epilepsy or hypertension.

Undiluted rosemary oil is not meant to be taken internally.

Rosemary should not be taken when menstruating as it can cause excessive bleeding.

 

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