Herb Basics


Karen Bergeron, www.AltNature.com

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Wild Ginseng: Coveted Like Gold

The high market price for wild American ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius)—as much as $600 a pound—might lead to its extinction.

Officials in the Northeastern United States, where the wild herb grows, say that the price encourages poachers and some landowners to take the wild roots before they have a chance to reach seed-bearing age, a practice that could lead to the end of P. quinquefolius. It once grew freely in cool wetlands from Quebec to Manitoba and as far south as Florida.

The market for wild American ginseng root lies largely in the East, where Asians believe it possesses more therapeutic value than its cultivated counterpart (grown mainly in Wisconsin and British Columbia). But experts also attribute its popularity to a growing interest in ginseng in the West. It has been officially listed as a threatened species in more than half of the 50 United States and is one of United Plant Savers’ “At-Risk” herbs. Fortunately, organic cultivated American ginseng is available.

Avoid These Hazards for Good Health

According to herbalist and acupuncturist Lesley Tierra, there are several health hazards we should try to avoid, as they might weaken the body and predispose us to illness:

• Refined foods, such as white flour, white sugar and white pasta
• Chemicals and preservatives in food
• Frequent indulgence in junk foods
• Polluted air and water
• Proximity to major electrical wiring, or living close to power plants
• Stress-causing situations
• Job stress or incompatibility
• Relationship problems
• Frequent use of antibiotics
• Living near toxic waste dumps
• Side effects from prescription drugs

Source: Tierra, Lesley. The Herbs of Life. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press, 1992.

Mix Up a Batch of Multi-Herb Pesto

Take advantage of summer’s bounty with a delicious pesto that’s made with a variety of herbs. This pesto will keep in the freezer for about six months, so you can enjoy the taste of fresh herbs into the winter months.


1 cup watercress leaves
1 cup Italian parsley leaves
1 cup basil leaves
¼ cup thyme leaves
½ cup oregano leaves
½ cup chopped nuts (such as macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts or pine nuts)
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup olive oil
Black pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and process until combined but still fairly coarse.

Source: Ruben, Richard. The Farmer’s Market Cookbook. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2006.

Dill: A Tasty, Potent Stomach Soother

Common names: Dill

Latin name: Anethum graveolens

Family: Apiaceae

Part used: Seeds; leaves (in cooking)

Medicinal uses: Dill is an effective digestive aid. Studies show the herb helps relax the smooth muscles of the digestive tract. It also prevents gas and has antibacterial properties. Dill is one of the best herbs for treating colic in babies, and it stimulates milk production in nursing mothers.

Forms commonly used: Fresh herb, tea, tincture, pills

Side effects: Like most culinary herbs, dill is very safe when used in reasonable amounts. Never ingest the essential oil of dill seed, which can be toxic.

Notes: A natural food preservative, dill also has been used in herbal healing since the beginning of Egyptian civilization. Archeologists found records showing the herb’s use as a digestive aid in 3,000-year-old Egyptian tombs. The herb also was used by ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese civilizations.

The plant’s name comes from the Norse word dylla, which means “to soothe.”

To make a pleasant-tasting tea, place 2 teaspoons of crushed dill seeds in a teapot. Add 1 cup of boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, and strain. Drink up to 3 cups daily.

Dill seeds are a good remedy for combating bad breath. Chew ½ teaspoon of seeds as often as desired.

Native to southern Europe and central and southern Asia, dill is now widely cultivated, particularly in Europe and North America. Dill is a tall herb with yellow flowers and makes an attractive garden plant. The annual plant self-sows, and the leaves can be harvested as soon as the plants are established.