Article - Medical herbs and spices -definitives
Medicinal Herbs and Spices
Edible and aromatic plants have been used as folk medicines, herbs to enhance food, cosmetics, and for ritual purposes from the earliest history of man. The use of medicinal plants, herbs and spices developed in all parts of the world based on indigenous local plants which served as the underpinning for folk medicine and the distinctive cuisine of various cultures. The desire for authentic spices led to the development of trade and supply routes between distant lands, for example the Spice Route which linked the Far and Near East to Europe. Today, folk medicine, which is based on plants, is an integral component of alternative medicine as well as a basis for new developments in mainstream medicine.
The use of herbs and medicinal plants in Eretz Israel is mentioned frequently in the Bible and the Talmud, playing an important role in rituals and in daily life. Indigenous herbs have regained popularity in Israel in recent years. Alongside increased use of these herbs, the cultivation of them has developed into an important export branch.
Peppermint (Mentha peperita, L.; nana harifa, Heb.; nana, Ar.)
Part of the Labiatae family, peppermint has over 200 varieties. It is a perennial, with round as well as elongated leaves. Its flower spike is reddish purple. Peppermint originates in Europe and around the Mediterranean Sea. It is widespread in moist environments, for example, riverbanks.
Uses: Spices, essences and aromatic oils in the food industry. In folk medicine, as a remedy for intestinal problems, as an antiseptic, and for respiratory relief.
Thyme-leaved savory (Micromeria fruitcosa, L. Druce; zuta levana, Heb.; isbat a-shai, Ar.)
A small aromatic plant from the Labiatae family with grayish blue leaves. It is especially widespread in Israel, Syria and Lebanon, and grows between rocks in the Mediterranean area.
Uses: The leaves, which have a menthol flavor, are used as an excellent tea essence. In folk medicine, as a remedy for stomachache, antiseptic for cuts, cough suppressant, mouthwash, and relief of cold symptoms.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum, L.; gad hasadeh, Heb.; cusbara, Ar.)
The plant was named for the manna that descended on the Hebrews in the desert, as written: "Now the manna was like coriander [gad] seed" (Numbers 11: 7), and "like coriander [gad] seed, it was white, and it tasted like a cake fried in honey" (Exodus 16:31). Gad is thought to be the plant that is known in culinary use as coriander. It originated in southern Europe and the Middle East, but is cultivated widely throughout the temperate zones.
Uses: As other plants in the umbelliferae family, the leaves and seeds of this plant are used as an herb, popular in many cuisines throughout the world.
Dr. Nativ Dudai and Prof. Eli Putievsky
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Unit, Institute of Botanical Sciences, Newe Ya'ar, Agricultural Research Organization, Israel
More stamps in the Medicinal Herbs and Spices Definitive series are planned for future issuance