Some of them smell good, a lot of them taste great and a few will even help cure a stomach ache. That was about the extent of my knowledge of herbs before this weekend, with my previous experience limited to a few cooking recipes and dried lavender stashed in a sachet.
When I saw an herbal workshop was being offered at Sang Lee Farms in Peconic Saturday, I decided to see what else I could learn.
Heather Cusack, a local herbalist, teaches the workshop when she isn’t selling her own herbs, teas and tinctures at local farmers markets.
Our class met outside at a nearby picnic table where Ms. Cusack had organized a collection of herbs for us to identify, along with some homemade herbal teas and drinks for us to sample.
By the time the class was finished, I added the following five tidbits to my herb arsenal, along with a bunch of other fun facts.
1. Catnip is fit for human consumption
Catnip is not just for cats. It’s a nervine, which means it can calm the nervous system and help us relax. Catnip tea can be consumed at night for insomnia and is gentle enough for children. The tea is mild and Cusack recommends adding honey if you don’t like the catnip flavor.
2. Cayenne is a coagulant
Cayenne pepper can treat cuts and wounds. Not only can it stanch blood flow, but it can also disinfect a wound since it contains anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
3. Peppermint and spearmint have completely different qualities
While both mints are good for treating indigestion, peppermint is an energy herb and is often used as a pick-me-up. The smell of peppermint stimulates, while spearmint is more calming on the nervous system.
4. Rosemary is good for improving memory
Rosemary has been used medicinally for years to improve memory, but only now are researchers actively examining if a whiff of the herb really does help people suffering from memory impairment.
5. Sage does more than just flavor food
When cooked with meats that are high in fats, sage will help to cut down on grease buildup. This herb is loaded with antioxidants.