Herbs for Cooking Can Be More Than Just Tasty
By Barbara Koltuska-Haskin, Ph.D.

Key points

  • Most herbs are easily grown, care-free, and will come back every spring.
  • Rosemary and cilantro are commonly used as culinary herbs, but both also have medicinal properties.
  • Fresh herbs can add an amazing flavor to your homemade meals.

Most herbs are weeds, which is the source of their potency. They can survive in all kinds of soil and air temperatures. Some of them, such as peppermint, can spread rapidly, taking over your garden, so those are best grown in a container. Most herbs are easily grown, care-free, and will come back every spring. Many culinary herbs also have medicinal properties.

I always encourage my patients to grow their own herbs for culinary purposes. Seasoning with fresh herbs is easy, and it makes your food much tastier and healthier. You don’t need to make any heavy sauces. Just add fresh herbs to your dish while cooking. If you don’t have a yard, then grow herbs in small containers on the windowsill. You only need to add sun and water.

As I mentioned before, they’re very potent, and you don’t need a lot of them to make your favorite dish taste great. I use them all the time in my kitchen. I also put herbs into my smoothies. Some, like rosemary, thyme, and parsley, grow all year long in the southern parts of the United States.

In today’s post, I want to put my readers’ attention to two of my favorite herbs that are commonly used for culinary purposes but also have strong medicinal properties: rosemary and cilantro.


Rosemary is a perennial bushy shrub from the Lamiaceae family that is native to the Mediterranean region and used in many of the dishes in that region and also all over the world due to its fragrant aroma. However, not everybody knows that it has potent medicinal properties.

Barbara Koltuska-Haskin

Source: Barbara Koltuska-Haskin

Rosemary has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, and neuroprotective properties (Rahbardar, M.G. & Hosseinzadeh, H., 2020). Some research suggests that it may help improve cognitive deficits and may have some therapeutic potential for Alzheimer’s disease (Habtemariam, S., 2016). Rosemary is rich in manganese, a trace mineral that helps the body form connective tissue and is necessary for normal brain and nerve functions. Rosemary is also used in aromatherapy to improve concentration and memory (Young-Hae, Ch. & Jeong-Sook, K., 2006), and it may be helpful in stress reduction.

Rosemary contains pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamine, folate, and riboflavin. Rosemary is also rich in phytochemicals, which are biologically active compounds produced by plants that strengthen our immune system and reduce inflammation.

I use rosemary for chicken, fish, and lamb. Rosemary is also delicious when used for roasted or cut and baked potatoes with yellow squash and some butter. Just cut fresh rosemary into very small pieces and sprinkle over your dish before baking or roasting.


Source: Ivabalk/Pixabay


One of my favorite herbs is cilantro, which comes from the leaves and stems of the coriander plant, related to cumin, dill, fennel, and anise. Easy to grow, it reseats itself in the late fall and grows during the entire winter and into spring in the southern part of the United States. I can pick up fresh and fragrant leaves even during winter. However, it dies out during the hot summer days. It’s great in salads and soups and in chicken and fish dishes.

Some research suggests that cilantro may accelerate the removal of heavy metals from our bodies. New research also indicates that it has a significant calming effect, and I agree. Just try to smell the fresh leaves and breathe for a while. Therefore, it may be a good candidate for a natural treatment for anxiety.

High doses of cilantro extract have been found to have a similar effect to Valium, a medicine used for anxiety, but without its side effects and addiction risk (Mahendra, P. and Bisht, S., 2011). It also has some antibacterial properties and may lower blood sugar.

When your cilantro plants go to seed in the summer, don’t discard them. These little round seeds in semicircular clusters are coriander seeds. They’re ornamental in addition to being tasty. Harvest the stems with the seeds and put them into your dry flower arrangements for the winter. Then pinch some seeds from the stems when you cook and add them to your favorite soups or meat dishes to enhance the flavor. Such a versatile plant!

There are many more herbs, such as tarragon, laurel leaves, chives, and even lavender, that can be used in your favorite dishes. Have fun experimenting with them. Try seasoning with herbs, possibly fresh herbs from your garden, from your herb pot in the kitchen, or from the store, instead of with heavy sauces that usually have a lot of calories and unhealthy additives. Fresh herbs can add amazing flavor to your homemade meals and may help you stay healthy. Bon appétit!


About the Author

Barbara Koltuska-Haskin, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist in private practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico with over 30 years of clinical experience, and the author of How My Brain Works: A Guide to Understanding It Better and Keeping It Healthy. Her book has won 2 International Book Awards and 5 National Book Awards.


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