There are many uses for common and not-so-common herbs that are not just for cooking with but also for use as medicinal remedies among other things.
Herbs have been used for thousands of years to heal ailments, soothe wounds, scalds and burns, relieve the pain of insect bites and even keep the insects away.
They are also very useful in the kitchen, but that is only a small part of their collective worth.
Living in a hot climate like southern Spain, I've found that one of the most versatile healing balms has to be aloe vera.
This is a plant that I grow in abundance and use regularly for all manner of skin related problems, from relieving sunburn to healing cuts, abrasions and scalds. It make a great soothing aftershave and helps with dry skin and itching insect bites.
Camomile grows wild in the countryside in spring and I always gather a good supply of the flowers to dry and keep for making the soothing tea throughout the year.
Herbs for Cooking
Rosemary, thyme and sage are my favourite of the culinary herbs that have multiple uses, such as treating sore throats, coughs and colds as well as making a really refreshing tonic tea.
Basil is a great culinary companion to the tomato, but how many people know it makes a really good insect repellent?
Insect Repelling Herbs
To use it as such, keep a big pot of basil by open door and windows and it'll keep all but the most persistent flies out of your house!
Another anti-insect herb is common mint. A few pots of growing mint will deter flying insects, spiders and even mice from wanting to pass them to get into your home.
A member of the mint family is Pennyroyal, which insects hate. The crushed leaves of this herb makes a compound that dissolves the chitin (outer or exoskeleton layer) of insects so they avoid it at all costs!
Lavender is another great insect repellent. Crush and rub leaves and/or flowers onto your skin in the evening and you won't be bothered by mosquitoes!
Anti-Viral, Anti-Bacterial Herbs
Ginger is an ancient Chinese herb and another great treatment for colds and sinus problems as it opens up the airways every bit as well as propriety sprays and decongestants and is considerably better for you.
Garlic is the blood cleanser and purifier king and also boosts the immune system to help fight off colds and flu. It's a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent and is much better than taking antibiotics for anything other than serious infections.
Even then, personally I prefer to use fresh aloe vera gel to deal with any infected external wound or burn.
Onions, leeks and shallots are also related to garlic and contain many healthful, sulphurous compounds that help to clean the blood, support the liver and reduce the instance of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. I believe that these tasty offerings should feature prominently in every healthy diet!
Turmeric is related to ginger and its active component, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, blood cleanser and is believed to help fight off cancer (check with your doctor if in any doubt). This can be bought fresh in stores and is usually found next to the ginger.
There are many more herbs that can be found growing in corners of the garden and even in lawns that have some amazing health-giving properties when used correctly.
It would take a whole book to do this subject justice, especially when using herbs as natural remedies for any number of ailments. So in this article I have just shared a basic starter to whet your appetite and peak your curiosity as to the incredible and often underrated abilities of common herbs.