Food as Medicine: Herbs – a new way to recovery

This entry was written by Lisa Grey of Pink Kitchen. Lisa is looking forward to exhibiting at LBBC’s Annuual Conference for Women Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer:

You may be familiar with the typical Italian pesto made with basil, pine nuts, and olive oil. Today, Pink Kitchen challenges you to ‘think outside the jar.’ Sure, basil is wonderful. But why stop there? Nature is full of sweet and savory herbs to nurture us, heal us, and add spice to our lives.

When we season with herbs, we add flavor to our food. This helps us cut back on salt, fat, and sugar. Not only that, but herbs can also help to protect and restore health to the body. Ancient cultures around the globe have been using herbs as medicine for thousands of years. In fact, Hippocrates once said “Let food be your medicine, and let your medicine be food.”

Modern scientists are finally beginning to give recognition to the positive effects of herbs on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here are some basic facts about a few different herbs to get you started.

Mint is not just a flavor for dessert. In fact, without any added sweeteners, mint has more of a tangy flavor, making it a great herb to use in every-day cooking. The oil in the mint plant aids digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles surrounding the intestine. Mint also has anticancer and antioxidant properties. There are many common herbs that are part of the mint family.

Sage belongs to the mint family. Since ancient times, it has been used as a healing herb and a preservative. Sage contains powerful germ-fighting components and antioxidants. In addition, it has the ability to lower blood pressure.

Thyme is also a member of the mint family. In ancient times, it was a symbol of bravery. Thyme has cleansing and germ-fighting properties, and it promotes healthy cell membranes. Recent studies show that thyme may also help to increase brain function.

Lemon balm is not as popular as many of its cousins in the mint family. That’s a pity. Not only does this herb have a soothing lemon flavor; it also has some important health benefits. Lemon balm (also known as melissa) has been proven to improve memory as well as concentration by helping the brain to focus and remain calm. This may be especially useful to cancer survivors who experience “chemo-brain.”

In ancient times, Greek students placed rosemary in their hair to increase thought and memory. Since then, scientists have discovered that rosemary is actually a stimulant which increases blood flow to the head and brain. It also boosts the immune system.

Caraway may have been used as far back as the Stone Age. In Eastern Europe, caraway seed has remained one of the main seasonings for savory dishes. In addition to having antibacterial qualities, caraway also aids in digestion.

Fresh herbs are best in terms of flavor, color, and nutritional value. You can find fresh herbs at supermarkets, farmers’ markets, or ethnic grocery stores. You may even want to try growing your own herbs – either in your garden, or year-round on your windowsill. The key to growing your own herbs is to avoid overwatering – water them only when the soil is just starting to get dry.

If you are using dry herbs, you will need to use less, because the flavor is more concentrated. The general rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon of dried herbs to 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs. Be sure to store dry herbs away from heat and light, which rob them of their nutrients and flavor.

Here’s an easy recipe using fresh herbs. For a quick appetizer, spread this pesto on sliced baguettes and top with sundried tomatoes.

Pignoli Rosemary Pesto

1/2 cup raw pignoli (pine nuts)

1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup water

Place nuts in food processor and pulse a few times. Add rosemary, salt, pepper, and oil. Add water  – but only until desired consistency is reached. Makes approx. 1 cup of pesto.

You can find more recipes using fresh and dried herbs at

How have you changed your diet to curb the risk of recurrance? What are some healthy foods that you recommend? Comment here or on our Facebook page.

2 thoughts on “Food as Medicine: Herbs – a new way to recovery

  1. Excellent suggestions, especially using fresh herbs.Can’t hurt and they’re really yummy. I got an aerogarden for a gift and have been using it to grow my own herbs and just this morning I picked a bunch of basil and didn’t know what I’d do with it all – then I saw your tweet and got inspired. Thank you.

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