Medicinal herbs had been discovered long before the onset of recorded history. Early man had various but limited options for injury and disease. The Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans have practiced herbal medicine for nearly 4,000 years, and along the course of time, many remedies and traditions have been passed on to our part of the globe.
Over the ensuing millennia, our ancestors discovered that herbs also were useful for fragrance and flavor.
During the Dark Ages, the air was considered unhealthful to breathe. Little wonder — the streets served as garbage sites and probably smelled similar to the Glenneyre “dip” on a bad day. Strewing, nosegays and aromatherapy, all derived from herbs, provided fragrance to mask many of those aromas.
Old recipe books show that cooks used herbs to flavor beverages and season food. Of course, without refrigeration, meats were served in problematic states of decay. Without heavy seasoning, it would have been difficult to stomach most meals.
Today, the tradition of herbs continues. Modern science allows us to isolate and identify the active ingredients of most plants. Scientists have discovered that certain herbs used for healing have a firm foundation in medicine. One of the best examples is foxglove, which is used in treating heart disease.
Renewed interest in aromatherapy and landscaping uses represents our continued reliance on herbs. Many of us grow herbs for culinary uses because of their great taste and the pleasure of cultivating our own fresh food.
One of my favorite uses of herbs is in teas. It has been said that tea can relieve a thousand different ailments, and provides a sense of decency and luxuriousness.
There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour the English dedicate each day to the afternoon tea. I present my favorite beverage.
Catharine’s Herb Tea
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon sage
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon mint
1 teaspoon raw, unfiltered wild honey
Combine water and herbs in your tea kettle. Cover and boil about 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer about 5 minutes. The tea is ready when the liquid is reduced by one-third and darker than a strong coffee. Strain into a suitable cup and add wild honey. See you next time.
STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award winning writer Catharine Cooper, and has four dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to email@example.com.