Herbs and spices have been cultivated for centuries for their medicinal or culinary properties. Nutritionists Adela Jamorabo-Ruiz, M.D. and Virginia Serraon-Claudio, M.D., made their own study on the subject and concluded that “plants contain several chemical constituents, such as phytochemicals and phytonutrients, which have health-enhancing properties.”
Raymond Rubia can speak of their benefits firsthand. He and his wife Mariel have been practicing organic farming since 2007 at their Daily DOSE Farm in Candelaria, Quezon. DOSE stands for Diverse, Organic, Sustainable and Eco-friendly—three hectares of land previously overgrown with weeds, now transformed into a sustainable small-scale farm, home to about 100 kinds of vegetables and herbs.
While not many can tend and till a farm, a garden right in one’s own backyard may well be within reach.
Some simple herbs to start
Rubia advises that newbie gardeners choose herbs based on hardiness, such as:
Basil: Leaves and tender stems from an herb of the mint family with a strong, aromatic, sweet and spicy flavor
Culinary use: Tomato dishes, salads, meat and poultry, especially Italian dishes
Medicinal use: It is a natural tranquilizer, a tonic to calm the nervous system. Tea is a useful gargle for yeast infections of the mouth and throat. Rubbing crushed leaves on skin can reduce itchiness from insect bites and ward off warts. Adding fresh leaves to hot baths relaxes tired muscles.
Bay leaves or laurel: Leaves of evergreen, member of the laurel family
Culinary use: Bouillons, soups, flavor accent for adobo, estofado, pochero and sauces
Medicinal use: It stimulates and aids digestion. Oil of bay may be rubbed on arthritic aches, muscle pain and tendon swelling for relief. It can help the body use insulin more efficiently at quantities as low as 500 mg (about 2 tsp).
Lemongrass or tanglad: Grassy blades or basal stems with a lemony aroma
Culinary use: Used in Muslim and Bicolano dishes; leaves used to flavor meats and salads; for lechon stuffing by Visayans; basal stems chopped and used in fish curries
Medicinal use: Tea removes stomach queasiness and bloatedness. It is rich in Vitamin A and is used as an antiseptic and for cleansing oily skin.
Pandan: Erect shrub with slender and long leaves spirally crowded towards the base of the plant
Culinary Use: Flavoring for drinks and desserts; masks undesirable odors in rice
Medicinal Use: Pulverized dried leaves are used to facilitate wound healing.
Parsley: Annual mild-flavored herb that grows in tight clumps
Culinary use: Garnish and seasoning for most vegetables, soups, sauces, salads and marinade
Medicinal use: It can be used to remove excess fluid in congested heart disease and to treat problems of the urinary tract.