Fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, mint, thyme, basil and sage are known for their use in the kitchen, especially for seasoning or garnishing delicious meals. However, herbs have been used throughout history, across many cultures, for a wide variety of uses besides cooking.
With their strong aromatics and medicinal properties, herbs are used in cosmetics, for their healing properties, to freshen and cleanse the air, in teas and for many more uses. It’s well documented that herbs have been used since ancient times, and they are just as popular today many centuries later.
History of Growing Herbs
Historians believe people across all cultures have been growing herbs since before history was documented, but herbs are depicted in cave paintings dating back to 13,000-25,000 B.C. in France. Before modern medicine, herbs were widely used for their medicinal and healing properties, used in healing ointments and to treat diseases.
Anthropologists speculate that the power of herbs for use in various applications was discovered through trial and error when finding wild plants to experiment with. As civilizations became more developed, knowledge about specific herbs and their uses became more widespread.
Herbs were especially important before doctors and hospitals became accessible. The medicinal properties in herbs were used to treat any illnesses, from mild to severe health issues.
12 Uses for Fresh or Dried Herbs Besides Cooking
Herbs have been used throughout history for their medicinal benefits and despite modern medicine making vast advancements, herbs are still commonly used medicinally in homeopathic medicine. Herbs for medicinal use can be taken in capsules, powders, in teas and cooked in soups or other meals.
Some examples of herbs used for medicinal healing are turmeric for anti-inflammation and to treat respiratory issues, ginger for nausea and vomiting, and garlic for lowering blood pressure and fevers.
Many people who prefer natural skincare products use herbs in their everyday skincare routine. Herbs like lavender, aloe vera, chamomile, and turmeric are used as skincare remedies to soothe skin from irritations, treat acne, reduce inflammation, tone the skin, and clear up aging spots.
Herbal skincare products come in the form of face masks, creams, oils and serums. Natural skincare enthusiasts make them at home, but many companies are now dedicated to using clean beauty skincare products and use herbs in their formulations.
Just as herbs can benefit the skin, they can equally benefit the hair. Herbs are used in haircare to promote hair growth, treat scalp conditions, increase hair softness and shine, and overall make hair healthier and stronger without the use of harsh chemicals. Herbs in skincare can also give the product a nice smell. Common herbs found in haircare products include eucalyptus, hibiscus, rosemary, peppermint and basil.
Hair rinses, shampoo and conditioner, hair masks and scalp treatments are examples of haircare products that can contain herbal ingredients.
Dating back to ancient Egyptian times, people have used aromatic herbs to freshen up and smell better. Herbs like lavender, chamomile, rosemary, mint, basil and lemon balm are known for their strong fragrance and are commonly seen in the ingredients list of perfumes.
In addition to spray perfumes, these herbs are used in other applications to make homes smell better, in candles, household cleaning products and used universally to cover up odors.
Herbs have a history of being used for spiritual practices and traditions. Herbs are used for spiritual protection, to promote positive energy, to enhance the practice of meditation and promote healing and inner peace.
Whether used in a ritual, burned in incense, during yoga or meditation, or simply growing herbs at home in a windowsill, on your porch or in your garden, herbs can be used in a spiritual capacity to nurture our spiritual side for emotional healing.
Herbal teas are known for their various advantages, including aiding in digestion, reducing inflammation, promoting gut health, regulating hormones, and providing a natural mood booster. Herbal teas are full of antioxidants that can relieve stress and fight off diseases.
Herbal teas are made using an infusion of herbs or spices in hot water, including ginger, peppermint, chamomile, rosemary, eucalyptus, turmeric and sage. Each has their own specific health benefits and have been used as home remedies for centuries.
Herbs like peppermint, rosemary, and lavender can be used to naturally freshen the air and overpower all other odors. Many choose to use fresh herbs as air fresheners instead of store-bought air fresheners, which are often filled with toxins that can pollute the air. Herbs have a naturally powerful scent and can be used planted in pots, gathered in bundles, or mixed in a bowl with essential oils.
Herbs that can improve your sleep or fight insomnia include chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, passionflower and peppermint. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted due to stress, jet lag or any other reason, some opt to take a sleeping pill. For those who wish to stay as natural as possible, herbs can be used as a holistic method to help improve your sleep. These herbs have calming and relaxing properties, which might help get your circadian rhythm back on track.
Another use for herbs that might not be as familiar is as a household disinfectant. Many household cleaners for home surfaces are packed with chemicals. Especially women who are pregnant or those with young children, many choose to switch to all natural household cleaners that contain lavender, basil and rosemary.
To make a DIY herbal household disinfectant, combine the herb with vinegar and water, then pour it into a spray bottle. For carpet cleaner, combine the herbs with baking soda. Not only will these mixtures clean your home, but they offer a calming scent that works as a natural deodorizer too.
Certain herbs have the ability to repel pests such as insects and even mice. The strong fragrance of herbs like mint and rosemary can ward off pests who detest the smell. To ward off flies, mosquitos, gnats and other pesky insects while sitting outside, make your own bug repellent with basil, lavender, sage or lemon thyme. To keep them out of your garden, plant these herbs to ward off the pests.
Before there was toothpaste and mouthwash, herbs were used to freshen breath. Parsley, tarragon, basil, rosemary and most commonly, mint, can be used as a natural breath freshener. Mint fights the bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath and makes the mouth feel clean.
Anyone struggling with fertility might’ve heard of using herbs to naturally boost chances at getting pregnant, although it’s not a proven fact. Herbs can support reproductive health, aiding the body in regulating hormones and supporting ovulation. Since it’s not a big expense and there are no disadvantages to it, many couples who struggle with fertility try using herbs as a way to increase their chances at conceiving.
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