Home Up Herbs, Herbs & More Herbs Spices


Herbs, Herbs & More Herbs

A Comprehensive Guide to Gardening with Herbs

Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, or in some cases even spiritual usage. General usage differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. In medicinal or spiritual use any of the parts of the plant might be considered "herbs", including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark (cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions of the plant.
Culinary Herbs Medicinal Herbs
Culinary use of the term "herb" typically distinguishes between herbs, from the leafy green parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), and spices, from other parts of the plant (usually dried), including seeds, berries, bark, root and fruit. Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food.


  Plants contain phytochemicals that have effects on the body.
There may be some effects when consumed in the small levels that typify culinary "spicing", and some herbs are toxic in larger quantities. For instance, some types of herbal extract, such as the extract of St. John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) or of kava (Piper methysticum) can be used for medical purposes to relieve depression and stress. However, large amounts of these herbs may lead to toxic overload that may involve complications, some of a serious nature, and should be used with caution. One herb-like substance, called Shilajit, may actually help lower blood glucose levels which is especially important for those suffering from diabetes. Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with usage dating as far back as the first century CE and far before.
Many culinary herbs are perennials such as thyme or lavender, while others are biennials such as parsley or annuals like basil. Some perennial herbs are shrubs (such as rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis), or trees (such as bay laurel, Laurus nobilis) this contrasts with botanical herbs, which by definition cannot be woody plants. Some plants are used as both an herb and a spice, such as dill weed and dill seed or coriander leaves and seeds. Also, there are some herbs such as those in the mint family that are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
Most Common Annuals Most Common Perennials
Aloe Vera - Excellent indoor or outdoor container plant. Well-known and well-researched medicinal plant.
Arugula - Mustard-like green. Grow in salad gardens and use in salads and stir-fries for a peppery, pungent taste reminiscent of horseradish.

Basil - Popular, attractive plant with many color variations. No herb garden is complete without it. Excellent in salads and as a garnish. Medicinally used mainly for its stomach soothing qualities.

Cayenne - Attractive shrub-like plant with fruits that start green and then turn fiery red. Very hot, but nutritional powerhouses. Used medicinally for a variety of ailments.
Chamomile - Member of the daisy family with daisy-like flowers. Bitter taste and not usually used in cooking. Medicinal properties are well-known and include many common ailments.

Chervil - Close relative of Parsley, used mostly for flavoring other foods. Some medicinal uses, most notably for high blood pressure.

Cilantro -

Coriander - Another member of the Parsley family. Entirely edible plant with a strong taste often used in Indian and Asian foods. Medicinally used mostly as a flavoring agent.

Dill - Popular garden herb with feathery silver green leaves. Nice addition to the herb garden. Used as a flavoring for many dishes and in pickling. Not a major medicinal herb, but often used for its stomach-soothing qualities.

Garlic - Onion-like plant with beautiful flowers. Well-known in cooking. Medicinally important herb that is completely safe. Widely available in many forms.
Savory (Summer) - Attractive trailing plant. Nice in containers. Mostly a culinary herb used in a wide variety of dishes. Tastes like peppery Thyme. Minor medicinal herb.

  Aloe - Wonderfully easy plant to grow with amazing skin-soothing and healing properties right off the plant. Grows with little care and needs only infrequent watering. A must for every windowsill gardener and a welcome addition to the backyard herb garden. Must be brought in when the weather turns cold.

Catnip - Scraggly looking plant with pretty pink flowers that attract bees. Mostly used as a recreational substance for pet cats but the leaves can be used sparingly in salads an a tea can also be made for its soothing and calming effects. Easy to grow and good companion plant for other herbs and vegetables.

Chicory - Cool weather plant with rather scraggly overall habit, but attractive blue flowers. The ground root is a well-known coffee additive, but the roots can also be harvested and cooked like parsnips. It has a tart, bitter taste the leaves can be used in salads. Easily started from seed. Medicinally, can be used as a digestive aid and topically as a soothing eye wash.

Chives - Charming and useful member of the onion and garlic family. Cheery flowers borne on hollow, cylindrical stems. Wonderful addition to baked potatoes and many other vegetables. Good companion plant for other herbs and vegetables and a must for the windowsill herb garden. Medicinally have the same properties as onions and garlic.

Dandelion - Largely considered a weed by homeowners, this much maligned plant has remarkable nutritional value and is safe for consumption from root to flower. Can be gathered and cooked like any other green such as turnip for a tasty, healthy addition to meals. Medicinally effective both internally and externally for a variety of ailments.

Echinacea - Hardy, easy to grow, extremely useful plant with delightful flowers on long, sturdy stems. Though it has no uses in the kitchen, it is a well-studied medicinal herb that can be safely used for a variety of ailments. A must for any serious herb garden, and a welcome addition to both formal and informal flower gardens.

Fennel - Close relative of Dill, this tall (6 foot) plant makes a nice, feathery back of border plant. It is drought-hardy and needs little care once established, and has a myriad of uses in the kitchen. Ecologically, it is a host for swallowtail butterflies, and as such should definitely be a part of any habitat-type situation. Medicinally, Fennel is well known and completely safe, and can be used in a variety of ways for relief of multiple complaints.

Ginkgo - The Ginkgo is an amazing medium to large specimen tree that has survived since the dinosaur age. It grows into stately shade tree with distinctive fan-shaped leaves that turn a showy yellow in the fall. Ginkgo has no uses in the kitchen but is an extensively studied medicinal herb that appears to be something of an anti-aging agent, improving mood, mental alertness, memory, and stamina.

Ginseng - Tough to grow and not an ideal landscape plant, Ginseng has been over-harvested in the wild and is an endangered plant in most areas today. Most of the prepared Ginseng in the stores is commercially cultivated currently. Valued for centuries for the root that often takes on vague human shapes, the sweet-bitter taste of Ginseng is used in many oriental dishes and is considered medicinally valuable in a variety of ways, but is probably best known for its purported aphrodisiac properties.

Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) - A true heavyweight in the herbal world, it's hard to say enough about this shrub and its medicinal qualities in such a small space. The sinensis variety is the type used for green tea, and there is a remarkable list of ailments that this tea is believed to alleviate. Even if you don't grow your own plants, green tea is readily available on grocery store shelves, and virtually everyone without contraindications should at least try this amazing and easy herbal remedy at some point in their lives for the overall health benefits.

Lantana - Lantana is a well-known landscape plant with easy culture and reliable bloom all summer long. It mingles well in flower beds and works well in containers and even on slopes for erosion control. Bees and butterflies love it, making another good addition to habitat gardens. It has no uses in the kitchen and the green berries are toxic and should be avoided. The medicinal properties are not well researched and are conflicting, however, a tea can be made from the leaves that some report is of benefit for joint pain and some flu-like symptoms.

Lavender - What can one say about Lavender? It's arguably one of the best known flower, herb, craft, and aromatherapy plants on the planet. It is versatile, relatively easy to grow, and fits into almost any garden scheme. It does equally well in containers and in the ground, and the fragrance evokes fond memories in almost everyone. It has limited use in the kitchen, but is medicinally reported to have antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive, and anti-depressant properties, making it a valuable medicinal herb in addition to it's place in the flower and fragrance gardens.

Lemon Balm - Easy to grow, attractive, low-growing plant with a lemony-minty taste that lends itself well to many drinks and dishes. Medicinally safe and mild, usually taken in a tea for the calming and overall health benefits. Great starter plant for beginning herb gardeners and a mainstay in culinary gardens. 

Marjoram - An excellent culinary herb with a cascading, mounding habit, making it a nice addition to any herb garden. Marjoram tastes like mild oregano, and can be used as an oregano substitute in any dish. Medicinally, this is a safe plant to use both internally for a variety of problems, and externally as a wash and mild pain reliever.

Mint - The mints we are most familiar with are only a small part of a huge family of plants, many of which are quite invasive. An important source of menthol and flavoring in industry, mint is also a delight in the home garden when grown in pots or otherwise contained in the garden. This rampant grower comes in a variety of flavors from strong to mild, and lends itself well to many uses in the kitchen. Medicinally, the plant is completely safe and is best known as a digestive aid. Don't forget to pick a leaf and crush it between your fingers for some of the best aromatherapy around!

Oregano - This is a nice plant with either low, sprawling growth or an upright habit, depending on the type. The hot, peppery taste lends itself to many foods beyond the obvious Italian dishes it is best known for. Oregano has not been extensively studied medicinally, but is safe for consumption and is reported to be effective in a variety of minor medical complaints, such as digestion, bloating, flatulence, coughs, and headaches, to name a few. 

Poppy - This time tested gardening favorite provides interesting flower buds, showy blooms, fascinating seed pods, and incredibly easy care, with many varieties and colors to choose from. With such virtues, it's a wonder we don't see this plant in every home landscape. Medicinally, the Opium Poppy is an important medicinal herb commercially, but is a controlled plant because it is the source of - well - opium. However, it takes so many plants to make just a tiny bit of opium, that you probably won't have the plant police knocking at your door if you grow just a few plants mixed in with your other perennials. Other poppy types are also great garden plants but are only minor medicinal plants that are perfectly legal and can be used for a few common medical complaints.

Rosemary - Top of the line aromatherapy herb, that can grow into a 6 foot aromatic shrub or be contained to fit proportionately in any size container. Very amenable to topiary techniques and a popular plant at Christmastime shaped like a Christmas tree and decorated. Excellent companion plant. Valuable in the kitchen for its piney-minty-ginger combination of flavors that lends itself well to meats, fish, cheese, eggs, and vegetables. Medicinally safe and can be used to treat many common ailments and also as a general tonic.

Sage - Nice looking plant with gray-green leaves that are slightly hairy. Welcome addition to herb or ornamental gardens, as the leaf color compliments other plants, especially those that are red and orange in color. Very attractive to bees, and as such a good addition to habitat-type situations. Lemony-camphor-bitter taste that is well known in the kitchen as an ingredient in poultry stuffings, but also makes a nice addition to meats, poultry, and vegetables. Medicinally safe herb for a variety of medical conditions. Top notch aromatherapy herb - pick a leaf and roll it between your fingers for a remarkable aromatherapy experience.

St. John's Wort - Short-lived, opportunistic plant that has naturalized virtually all over the world. 3 foot bushy growth type with cheery bright yellow flowers that bloom in the heat of the summer while other plants are on the decline. Very easy culture, with bluish green leaves with a turpentine-like smell. Bitter taste and of no real use in the kitchen, but well-known for its anti-depressant properties medicinally.

Savory (Winter) - Woody shrub with bright green leaves and a piney flavor. Quite winter hardy and tolerates less than perfect soil. Good windowsill herb. Used mainly for seasoning game meats and in stews. Especially good for seasoning dried beans. Not currently used medicinally.

Tarragon - Tarragon is not one of the more beautiful herbs, but for those who relish the anise-like flavor, it is a good addition in the herb garden nonetheless. It is a delightful enhancement to many meats and vegetables, in addition to cream sauces, vinegars, herbed butters, and yogurt. Medicinally, it can be made into a tea or dried and used in capsules for a variety of common ailments.

Thyme - Thyme is an incredible culinary herb that should be present in every garden. There are multiple varieties, from tiny plants that will fit between brick pavers to cascading types that are perfect for containers or windowsills. In cooking, it blends well with dozens of foods and other herbs. If there is a perfect culinary herb, Thyme is that herb. Medicinally, it is believed to work as an antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-parasitic


If the names below are underlined and red, that indicates an active link and by clicking on the name, you can go to that page and read more information. More herb links will become active as time goes on.
Aloe Aloe Vera Basil
Catnip Cayenne Chervil
Chickory Chives Coriander/Cilantro
Dandelion Echinacea Fennel
Garlic Ginko Ginseng
Green Tea Lantana Lavender
Lemon Balm Marjoram Mint
Oregano Poppy Rosemary
Sage St. John's Wort Savory
Tarragon Thyme Parsley

Herbs & Spices

This book is a great resource is you're interested in planting an herb Garden. Clicking on the Book image or title will take you to Amazon.com 

More photos. Click on the thumbnails to get a larger image then use your browser's back button to return to this page.
Home Up Rosemary Basil Thyme Oregano Cilantro Sage Parsley Lavender

Home | Rosemary | Basil | Thyme | Oregano | Cilantro | Sage | Parsley | Lavender

This site was last updated 11/30/12 s