Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M.,
Herbs have been part of every culture and medical tradition since the
earliest humans walked the earth for treatment of everything from colds
to digestive issues to depression. You may be surprised to learn that
the herbs you have been regularly using to infuse your food with
appetizing flavors also have amazing healing abilities. They are easily
grown in your own home so you can have them on hand to use whenever the
urge to cook strikes you. Read on to find the healing health benefits of
these commonly used herbs.
Rosemary has been used as a brain tonic in Chinese traditional
medicine for thousands of years. Rosemary contains volatile oils that
help stimulate brain activities and increase brain alertness. One
compound it contains, cineole, has been found to enhance the ability of
rat to navigate mazes. So skip the harsh coffee and spice up your energy
level with rosemary. Other benefits? Rosemary also aids in digestion and
perks up your immune system. Steep it as tea, use in your poultry dishes
and soups--or just crush some up to fill your home with an energizing
Growing tips: Rosemary needs to live in a very sunny window and may even
need supplemental light. It is sensitive to overwatering so keep it on
the dry side.
Peppermint, spearmint, and other mint-family plants are considered
one of the most versatile herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.
Peppermint has many well-documented properties: It increases healthy
gastric secretions, relaxes the intestines, soothes spasms, settles the
stomach, and alleviates gas. In a culture marked by poor diet and
digestion--and the heartburn that comes with it--peppermint can be your
best friend. Additionally, peppermint is rich in antioxidants that
support good vision and also cleanses your liver, helping to eliminate
harmful toxins from your body. Steep peppermint as a tea and drink it a
half an hour after mealtimes for untroubled digestion.
Growing tips: Mint is an easy-to-grow herb that is invasive, so be sure
to grow it in its own pot.
When you're suffering from cold or flu, steep oregano in a pot of
water and inhale the vapors, which are antibacterial, antiviral and
decongesting. This immunity-enhancing herb also settles digestion and
Growing tips: Oregano needs a lot of light to grow so find a window with
direct light or grow out-of-doors.
Chinese traditional medicine has long used sage to help prevent the
loss of mental function that comes with age. Sage has been found to
increase oxygen to the brain cortex and to help improve concentration.
Sage is easy on the digestion. Cook it up in soups and poultry dishes.
Growing tips: Sage can be a bit difficult to grow. It is very sensitive
to overwatering because it is more susceptible to mildew than other
A member of the garlic and onion family, chives have been used
throughout history for natural healing because they contain a
substantial amount of vitamin C as well as essential minerals such as
potassium, calcium, iron and folic acid. In Chinese medicine they are
used to clear stuffy noses, prevent bad breath, ease stomach aches,
strengthen the lower back, and improve poor circulation that gives you
cold hands and feet. Some serving suggestions? Chop up chives and add
them to stir-fries or mix in with ground poultry to stuff ravioli or
Growing tips: Chives are fairly easy to grow because they don't require
as much light as other herbs.
A favorite herb in Italian cooking, basil's scent can perk up your
energy level and it is filled with luteolin, a bioflavonoid that studies
have shown to be the best protection of cell DNA from radiation.
Growing tips: Basil can be more difficult to grow. Your best bet is to
grow it during warm, bright summer months.
Cilantro is an energy tonic that can boost your immune system and
smooth out your digestion. Use it in your cooking to get its health
Growing tips: Cilantro, the name for the stems and leaves of the
coriander plant, can be hard to grow. Sow the coriander seeds in a thick
concentration in a shallow tray.
Parsley is used in a Chinese folk remedy for cooling the liver and
clearing the eyes. Parsley is packed with luteolin, and there is some
evidence that this helps protect the eye from UV radiation damage and
from glycation, a process in which sticky sugar molecules bind up
protein, potentially damaging the retina. The age-old folk remedy recipe
for vision protection is a juice blend of celery, peppermint, and
Chinese parsley, made fresh daily.
Growing tips: Parsley doesn't need very much sun, but it is a slow
grower, so don't expect a high yield.
Herbal Tea Recipes
Aside from use in cooking, all of the above herbs can be used to make
aromatic potent teas. You may use the herbs individually or experiment
with combinations. For example, to make a tea that soothes digestion and
prevents bloating: Steep 1 teaspoon each of mint, rosemary, oregano,
cilantro, sage and basil and in a cup of hot
for five minutes.
Other herbal teas that can bring big benefits to your health are my
Ancient Treasures tea and
Internal Cleanse tea, which will gently cleanse your body of toxins
and bring you emotional tranquility.
Grow Your Own
To grow your own herbs, all you need is some terra cotta pots with
drainage holes, high-quality organic potting soil, and a window sill
that gets at least six hours of light per day. A southwestern-facing
window is your best choice for good light. If this isn't possible, you
can get a few clamp-on reflector lights with compact fluorescent bulbs
and place them about six inches away from the plant. Keep in mind that
overwatering is the biggest mistake people make when trying to grow
herbs inside. The rule of thumb is to let the herbs dry out completely,
and then water. Beginning with baby plants will be less troublesome than
starting from seed. With practice, you will learn the best ways to grow
and care for your indoor herbal garden.
I hope this article helps you make the most of herbs! I invite you to
visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
Maoshing Ni, L.AC., D.O.M., PH.D., DIPL. C.H., DIPL. ABAAP
Dr. Maoshing Ni is a doctor of Chinese medicine,
bestselling author and an authority in anti-aging medicine. He runs an
acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice in Santa Monica, California,
called Tao of Wellness, where his patients have included physicians,
Fortune 500 CEOs and celebrities. He is co-founder and Chancellor of Yo
San University in Los Angeles, where he teaches the art and science of
Wellness Medicine. Dr. Mao, as he is known to his patients and readers
has lectured internationally and has been featured on radio and
television as well as on the pages of The New York Times, Los Angeles
Times, and many other publications. He is currently featured as an
expert on Yahoo Health, where he writes a blog about longevity. For more
information on his bestselling book, Secrets of Longevity and his
latest book, Secrets of Self Healing and his other books, go to