An herb is any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume. Come learn about the history and uses of many different herbs!
WHAT ARE HERBS?
Herbs are the fresh and dried leaves of plants and are usually green in color.
Indigenous people around the world have used herbs for food and medicine for thousands of years. In the Middle Ages, herbs were often used to help preserve meat as well as covering the rotting taste of meals that couldn’t be refrigerated. Herbs also helped mask the odors of people who did not bathe. They are used in Greek, Roman, Chinese, Egyptian, and South American traditions.
Herbs are used today for health and cooking. Find recipes and art activities below!
COMMON HERBS AND THEIR USES
Lavender – Reduces anxiety, stress, and headaches
Mint – Helps the digestive system, improves brain function, and improves cold symptoms
Flax seed – Decreases obesity, regulates blood pressure, and prevents cancer
Echinacea – Helps relieve cold symptoms and strengthen the immune system
Chamomile – Reduces stress and helps you sleep
Ginger – Reduces nausea and motion sickness
MAKE AN INDOOR HERB GARDEN
You can regrow many different types of herbs. Here are instructions for regrowing mint and lavender.
- A glass of water
- A mint or lavender plant
- A pot or yogurt container
Cut the top off of your plant of choice.
- For mint: below the point where leaves emerge
- For lavender: 3 inches from the top
Place the stem in a glass of water until new roots begin to grow. This may take a couple of weeks.
Once the plant has grown a big root system, plant it in a pot.
- For mint: Water it once a day, making sure the soil is always moist
- For lavender: Water it once a week
You’re on your way to having your own herb garden!
COOK WITH HERBS
Make refreshing lemonade with fresh lemons and mint. Isabel shows you how!
CUCUMBER AND TOMATO SALAD
- 4 cucumbers, diced
- 4 roma tomatoes, diced
- ½ purple onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoons black pepper
Mix cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, and mint together in a bowl. Add olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Note: You can get creative and substitute and vegetables, herbs, or spices that you have available.
MORE WAYS TO USE HERBS WHEN YOU COOK
Just like green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs contain large amounts of vitamins A, C and K. Because the flavor of fresh herbs is milder than dried herbs, you can use more to boost the nutrients in your food. In addition to the recipes above, here are some ideas from MSU Extension:
- Substitute 1/2 of the greens in lettuce salads with herbs such as parsley, dill, and basil.
- Top soups with handfuls of fresh herbs.
- Make a sandwich with herbs rather than lettuce (e.g., grilled cheese with basil).
Watch this video to learn more about cooking with herbs and spices.
Many plants that are herbs also produce flowers. A few examples are: bee balm, lavender, thai basil, dill, rosemary, spearmint, and pineapple sage.
You can press flowers using a book, microwave, or an iron. Click the button for detailed instructions. Make sure to ask an adult for help when using an iron or a microwave!
Once you press the flowers, watch the video to see one way to display them!
LEARN MORE ABOUT HERBS
READ A BOOK
A Kid’s Guide to How to Grow Herbs by Patricia Ayers
Visit Brother Noah’s garden near Parkridge and what herbs he likes to grow!
Meet Graham Scholar Isabel Chaney!
I am a senior at the University of Michigan studying Economics. I am interested in pursuing degrees in public health and public policy with a focus in the environment. In the future, I hope to make a career promoting policies that will encourage everybody to live as sustainably as possible. I enjoy traveling and have worked on organic farms in Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
The Graham Scholars Program supports 50 undergraduate juniors and seniors at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus annually. The co-curricular program complements many academic programs. Scholars work with organizations through summer internships and sustainability projects that provide an opportunity to refine project management, collaboration, and other skills applicable to all career paths. The Scholars Program is open to all schools and colleges and is supported by the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute, see graham.umich.edu/scholars.