Technology may have changed, but gardens have not and plants that were useful in the past are still worth giving a whirl today. Medical herbalist Bashi Singh runs a weekly class at Anchorage Park Community House in Pakuranga entitled Cooking With Nature’s Pantry, which helps people make food from scratch using completely natural ingredients.
Our Homes TODAY spoke to Bashi about common uses for everyday plants, herbs and spices.
The purple-flowered plant’s scent is soothing for people of all ages, including babies, and can help relieve headaches and sleep disturbances. Cuttings also keep household utility rooms, such as bathrooms and lavatories, smelling sweet.
“Lavender is good for bringing the bees in, which is really important and it can be used quite safely medicinally,” says Bashi.
“If somebody has a headache they can put lavender flowers between their pillow and pillow slip. It’s also good for insomnia and very good to have in a baby’s nursery. Lavender is quietening on the nervous system and quite cleansing of the air.”
This herb is bee-friendly and great with rich meats because it helps the body break down fatty fibres.
“It should be added to all fatty foods like lamb,” says Bashi. “It aids the digestion of fat and you get a better nutrient value from the meal.”
Cinnamon is tasty with apples and in baking, but the benefits don’t stop there.
“If someone has a sore tummy or diarrhoea they can mix half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder in half a glass of water and drink that every five or six hours,” says Bashi. “Basically what that does is it calms the tummy and contracts tissue. This helps stop diarrhoea and cramps.”
Its cleansing properties make sage a winner for the whole family.
“Sage is a good remedy for sore throats,” Bashi explains. “It’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Boil a jug of water and add it to a cup, then take a few sage leaves and slightly bruise them.
Tip out the water and add the leaves to the heated cup, then pour boiling water over it and cover the cup with a plate. Put a tea towel around the whole lot and leave it for 10 minutes. Strain and use as a gargle.”
It’s a great natural medicine for the body and is also helpful for relieving sore throats.
“People use thyme in cooking a lot because, again, it’s anti-microbial,” says Bashi. “It’s like eating your medicine. Its property of antioxidants is really high.”
Not just a garnish that promotes fresh breath, parsley is packed with a very important nutrient.
“It is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C,” says Bashi. “My advice is to eat your herbs. Prevention is always better than cure.”
Mint is wonderful with potatoes and delicious in fruit punches, but it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.
“I have it a lot in salads,” says Bashi. “Chop it up just the same as parsley. What you’re eating is not just for the taste, but for medicine and nutrition. You don’t really need to take supplements – all you need to do is eat a lot of herbs. Think about the cows and the sheep. They eat all the herbs we’re talking about. They’re smart enough to know what’s good for them.”
It’s a staple herb in Italian cuisine, but basil does more than just tantalise the tastebuds.