Basil and green onions, common culinary herbs

Except in botanical usage, an herb (Listeni/ˈhɜrb/ or US /ˈɜrb/)[1][2] is any plant that is valued for flavor, scent, medicinal, or other qualities.[3] (Botanists use the same term differently, for any non-woody flowering plant, regardless of its flavor, scent or other properties, and thus include only grass-like plants and forbs.)

Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, and in some cases spiritual usage. General usage differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. In medicinal or spiritual use any of the parts of the plant might be considered "herbs", including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark (cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions of the plant. Culinary use of the term "herb" typically distinguishes between herbs, from the leafy green parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), and spices, from other parts of the plant (usually dried), including seeds, berries, bark, root and fruit.


Culinary herbs

A bundle of thyme

Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food.

Many culinary herbs are perennials such as thyme or lavender, while others are biennials such as parsley or annuals like basil. Some perennial herbs are shrubs (such as rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis), or trees (such as bay laurel, Laurus nobilis) – this contrasts with botanical herbs, which by definition cannot be woody plants. Some plants are used as both an herb and a spice, such as dill weed and dill seed or coriander leaves and seeds. Also, there are some herbs such as those in the mint family that are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Medicinal herbs

Plants contain phytochemicals that have effects on the body.

There may be some effects when consumed in the small levels that typify culinary "spicing", and some herbs are toxic in larger quantities. For instance, some types of herbal extract, such as the extract of St. John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) or of kava (Piper methysticum) can be used for medical purposes to relieve depression and stress. However, large amounts of these herbs may lead to toxic overload that may involve complications, some of a serious nature, and should be used with caution. One herb-like substance, called Shilajit, may actually help lower blood glucose levels which is especially important for those suffering from diabetes. Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with usage dating as far back as the first century CE[4] and far before.

Mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant), is a creeping annual or perennial herb.

Medicinal use of herbs in Western cultures has its roots in the Hippocratic (Greek) elemental healing system, based on a quaternary elemental healing metaphor. Famous herbalist of the Western tradition include Avicenna (Persian), Galen (Roman), Paracelsus (German Swiss), Culpepper (English) and the botanically inclined Eclectic physicians of 19th century/early 20th century America (John Milton Scudder, Harvey Wickes Felter, John Uri Lloyd). Modern pharmaceuticals had their origins in crude herbal medicines, and to this day, many drugs are still extracted as fractionate/isolate compounds from raw herbs and then purified to meet pharmaceutical standards.

Some herbs are used not only for culinary and medicinal purposes, but also for psychoactive and/or recreational purposes; one such herb is cannabis.

Sacred herbs

Herbs are used in many religions. For example, myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and frankincense (Boswellia spp) in Christianity, the Nine Herbs Charm in Anglo-Saxon paganism, the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) by the Tamils, holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) in Hinduism, and many Rastafarians consider cannabis (Cannabis sp) to be a holy plant. Siberian Shamans also used herbs for spiritual purposes. Plants may be used to induce spiritual experiences for rites of passage, such as vision quests in some Native American cultures. The Cherokee Native Americans use white sage and cedar[which?] for spiritual cleansing and smudging.

Pest control

Herbs are also known amongst gardeners to be useful for pest control. Mint, spearmint, peppermint, and pennyroyal are a few such herbs. These herbs when planted around a house's foundation can help keep away unwanted creatures such as flies, mice, ants, fleas, moth and tick amongst others. They are not known to be harmful or dangerous to children or pets, or any of the house's fixtures. Herbs are often used to repel pests from vegetable and flower gardens.

See also


  1. ^ Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionary, Cambridge University Press: headword "Herb" Online version
  2. ^ Wells, Professor John, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, Longman Education, March 2000, ISBN 0-582-36467-1
  3. ^ "Dictionary.com". http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/herb. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  4. ^ "Chinese Herbal Medicine". http://www.acupuncturehemelhempstead.com/chineseremedies.html. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 

External links

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  • Herb — ist in der polnischen Heraldik eine Gruppe von gemeinen Figuren, siehe Herb (Heraldik) die englische Bezeichnung für Küchenkraut Herb ist als Kurzform von Herbert der Vorname von Herb Alpert Herb Andress Herb Brooks Herb Edelman Herb Elliott Herb …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Herb — ([ e]rb or h[ e]rb; 277), n. [OE. herbe, erbe, OF. herbe, erbe, F. herbe, L. herba; perh. akin to Gr. forbh food, pasture, fe rbein to feed.] 1. A plant whose stem does not become woody and permanent, but dies, at least down to the ground, after… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • herb — HERB, herburi, s.n. (înv.) Stemă a unei ţări, blazon al unei familii nobiliare etc. ♦ fig. Origine, neam nobil. [var.: hierb s.n.] – Din pol. herb. Trimis de gall, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  HERB s. v. armoarii, blazon, emblemă, stemă …   Dicționar Român

  • herb — Adj. (Mittelstufe) von kräftigem, strengem, leicht bitterem oder säuerlichem Geschmack oder Geruch, nicht mild oder süß Beispiel: Der Wein ist herb im Geschmack. Kollokation: herb schmecken herb Adj. (Aufbaustufe) sich kaum ertragen lassend,… …   Extremes Deutsch

  • herb — (n.) c.1300, erbe non woody plant, from O.Fr. erbe grass, herb, plant (12c.), from L. herba grass, an herb, herbage, turf. Refashioned after Latin since 15c., but the h was mute until 19c. Slang meaning marijuana is attested from 1960s …   Etymology dictionary

  • herb — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}rz. mnż I, D. u, Mc. herbbie {{/stl 8}}{{stl 20}} {{/stl 20}}{{stl 12}}1. {{/stl 12}}{{stl 7}} ustalony według określonych reguł znak osoby, rodziny, umieszczany na chorągiewkach, różnych częściach uzbrojenia, bramach,… …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • herb|y — «UR bee, HUR bee», adjective, herb|i|er, herb|i|est. 1. having many herbs; grassy. 2. of or like herbs …   Useful english dictionary

  • herb — [hə:b US ə:rb, hə:rb] n [Date: 1200 1300; : Old French; Origin: erbe, from Latin herba grass, herb ] a small plant that is used to improve the taste of food, or to make medicine ▪ Sprinkle the dish with chopped fresh herbs …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • herb — herb: Die Herkunft des seit mhd. Zeit in der Form har‹e›, flektiert har‹e›wer bezeugten Adjektives ist unklar. Vielleicht gehört es im Sinne von »schneidend, kratzend, rau, scharf« zu der unter 1↑ scheren dargestellten idg. Wurzel *‹s›ker… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • herb — ► NOUN 1) any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine, or perfume. 2) Botany any seed bearing plant which does not have a woody stem and dies down to the ground after flowering. DERIVATIVES herby adjective. ORIGIN …   English terms dictionary

  • herb — [ʉrb, hʉrb] n. [ME erbe, herbe < OFr < L herba, grass, herbage, herb < IE * gherdha < base * gher > GRASS] 1. any seed plant whose stem withers away to the ground after each season s growth, as distinguished from a tree or shrub… …   English World dictionary

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