How to Use Fresh Herbs

Adding Flavor to Diabetes-friendly Dishes

Fresh herbs add so much to even the simplest meals—an easy way to add flavor while sticking to a diabetes-friendly meal plan. You could even create your own herb garden to pull from in the summer and early fall (gardening can be such a relaxing, stress-reducing activity). If you can't do that, you can always buy fresh herbs at the grocery store at a farmers' market.

But if you've never cooked with fresh herbs before, they can be a bit overwhelming.  To help you out, we've put together this little list for you.  Have fun experimenting and adding a flavor boost to your meals!

  • Burnet with salads or poultry
  • Chervil with salads or fish
  • Cilantro with pasta, salads, fish, or salsas
  • Sweet basil with chicken or fish, pasta, tomatoes and other vegetables
  • Dill with chicken or fish
  • Lemon balm with fish or fruit
  • Oregano with vegetables or pasta
  • Mint with salads or fruits
  • Rosemary with chicken, veal, lamb, or potatoes
  • Summer savory with vegetables or dried beans
  • Tarragon with fish, chicken, or salads
  • Thyme with meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, or salads

Using Fresh Herbs Outside the Kitchen

But there's more to derive from a herb garden than extra flavor on your food. If it's the end of a long, hard day at the office, or at home with the children, herbs can be comforting and soothing.

Or maybe you've just come inside from a brisk walk, gardening, or some other exercise and your muscles are tight from the chill. You need relief and can find it with herbs.

I learned all about herbs—culinary and beauty herbs—from one of our country's foremost expert on herbs, Gayelord Hauser, a pioneer of the health conscious movement that swept from coast to coast in the early 1970s. His use of European Herbal Treatments was documented in his last edition of Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, for which I was privileged to work on the revision.

Here's some of the herbal treatments that I learned and use whenever I need a lift or respite from a difficult, busy day. By the way, these treatments are used in Europe on men as frequently as they are on women—so you guys get out your clipping shears and enjoy the benefits of herbs, too.

First, treat yourself to a facial sauna. There's nothing simpler or more effective for cleansing and purifying one's complexion. You'll be amazed how this pleasant herbal steam penetrates deeply and cleanses every pore. When I first met Dr. Hauser, he had the skin of a man in his 40s, yet he was approaching 72. He didn't consider his day complete without this herbal facial.

Simply boil three cups water and do the following:

  • Add 1 heaping tablespoon each of chamomile, lavender, fennel, lemon balm, sage, and rosemary.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes; turn off the heat. Pour into a metal bowl.
  • Pull back your hair away from your forehead and bend over the bowl, keeping your head at least 15 inches away so you don't scald your skin.
  • Drape a thick towel over your head to confine the vapors.
  • Inhale the herbal mist for 5 to 15 minutes, then splash cold water onto your face and neck to close the pores. Your skin will be soothed and your complexion will have a healthy, rosy glow.

Next, hop into your bathtub for a long, soothing cleansing herbal soak, in the well-established European manner.

You can prepare an herbal infusion on the stove or make up bath sachets to have ready in a pretty basket sitting beside your bathtub.

To make an infusion:

  • Pour boiling water over a handful each of rosemary leaves, mint leaves along with some thyme, lemon balm, and lavender flowers.
  • Let steep for about 20 minutes.
  • Add to your bath water and soak for 5 to 15 minutes.

An herbal bath helps you in two ways: first, your skin absorbs the essential oils from the herbs through the hot water, and then the steam makes the volatile herb oils vaporize in the air and release their marvelous fragrances.

Some herbs stimulate your circulation, some soothe and calm you down, while others provide deep cleaning. It's the combination that provides the harmonizing effect that makes herbal baths so pleasurable.

Bath bags are easily made out of unbleached muslin, tied with twine.

  • Using pinking shears, cut the muslin into 8-inch squares.
  • Mix together 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers and chopped lemon balm, mint, chamomile, lavender flowers, and rosemary leaves.
  • Place about 2 tablespoons in the center of each cloth square.
  • Gather the muslin tightly around the herbs and tie with twine, first making a double knot and then a bow.

Several minutes before getting into your bath, swish one of the herbal bath bags round in the hot bath water. It'll scent the water and the room, soothing your skin as you soak.

Keep the bags in a pretty basket near your tub to have ready for the next time. They'll scent the bathroom at the same time.

Soak away sore spots on your feet with a herbal foot bath. This steamy herb combination will stimulate your foot circulation, soothe your foot muscles, and soften the skin.

  • Combine 1/2 cup of each of the following herbs: chamomile, comfy, lavender, and rosemary.
  • Infuse the herbs in a quart of warm water and pout into a foot basin partially filled with warm water.
  • Wrap some of the herbs in cheesecloth to form a compress.
  • Gently apply or massage this compress into any sore spot while soaking.

Now the herbs have worked their magic on your exterior body, treat yourself to nature's herbal nightcap, a tranquil herbal tea.

  • Mix together 2 ounces dried peppermint leaves (nature's digestive), 2 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves (nature's tranquilizer), and 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves (nature's sleep producer).  Mix and store in a tightly closed glass jar.
  • Whenever you want to use it, add 1 heaping teaspoon of the herb mixture to a cup of boiling water.
  • Let steep for 1 minute. Strain.
  • Sweeten to taste with your favorite sugar substitute, and sip slowly. Enjoy a wonderful, restful sleep.


Updated on: May 13, 2015