Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 1: Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Italian Seasoning

Essential Herbs and Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 1: Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Italian Seasoning

Everyone has their preferences on which herbs and spices they like to eat and cook with on a regular basis. After many years of preparing homecooked meals for my family, I’ve come up with a list that is essential to any kitchen. In addition to the flavor benefit from the spices, they all have significant health benefits.

Basil, Oregano, Parsley, and Italian Seasoning are some of my most-used herbs in the kitchen. They are all similar, yet have very different flavors. To prove how much I like them, I have five herbs that I grow year-round and these are three of the five!


Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 1: Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Italian Seasoning

Health Benefits

There are many varieties of Basil and they each have slightly different advantages. Overall, Basil can help with the following:

  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Blood Sugar Reduction
  • Cancer-Fighter
  • Immunity Booster
  • Liver Protection
  • Pain Reduction
  • Stress Reduction

Cooking with Basil

Basil is used in many cultural cuisines including Italian, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese. It’s used in sauces, to flavor meats, and as dressings. The most common recipes with basil are a marinara sauce, pesto, and with oil for a bread dipping sauce.

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Growing Basil

Basil is an herb that is easy to grow at home. You can purchase the seeds at most home improvement stores and put it in a small pot or jar with some potting soil. I’ve learned that most of the herbs don’t like the intense summer heat in south Texas, so this year I moved everything inside. I water the plants about twice per week, which seems to be enough since they aren’t losing a lot of water.

As soon as some of the basil is ready (when it reaches about 6-8 inches), I go ahead and harvest it. If I need it within the next day or two, it goes into the refrigerator. If not, I hang it up until it dries out then store it in a jar and use it as dried basil. Always harvest the leaves from the top of the plant to help promote new growth. It’s also essential to pinch or cut it from the stem, not just the leaves when you are harvesting or pruning the basil plant.

Purchasing & Storing Tips

If you are buying fresh basil, look for leaves that are brightly colored and firm. This can be stored in the refrigerator in a damp towel as long as it is unwashed. As with most fresh foods, buying organic is always better as long as you can afford it.

Some farmers markets will also have fresh basil available, especially during the summer months. I like to support local farmers, and this is a great way to do that while getting the freshest foods and lowering the amount of plastic waste your kitchen produces since you aren’t buying it prepackaged.


Health Benefits

Originating in the Mediterranean, oregano is a leafy herb that has been used for its flavor in foods and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It was used as far back as Hippocrates and the Ancient Greeks. Oregano can be applied topically or ingested (such as in our foods).

  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Antibacterial
  • Blood Sugar Reduction
  • Cancer-Fighter
  • Insect Repeller
  • Menstrual Pain Reduction

Cooking with Oregano

Oregano can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. It’s great for adding flavor to meats or marinades and can be used in stuffing or bread dough. Too much can make food bitter, so add a little at a time until you have your desired flavor.

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Growing Oregano

Similar to Basil, Oregano will grow easily in a home herb garden. It needs plenty of sunlight but only a small jar and seeds that can be bought from the store.

Harvesting the oregano is best done just as the flower buds start to form. This is when it will have the most flavor before getting bitter. Use a pair of garden scissors to cut just about a set of leaves so it will branch out from that spot again.

Purchasing & Storing Tips

The type of oregano you purchase will have slight variations in the size, shape, and color of the leaves. But in general, you want leaves that are bright green and soft. If you plan to use the oregano within a few days, it can be wrapped in a damp towel and refrigerated.

Drying fresh oregano is a great way to save any extra and have for when your plant is not growing at the time. Cut entire stems and hang them in a dark place to dry. Then, once they are crispy, crush the leaves to remove them from the stems and store in an airtight jar.

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Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 1: Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Italian Seasoning

Health Benefits

Parsley could be considered another superfood among the herbs and spices. It benefits your health in so many ways and is easy to add to many different recipes.

  • Anemia Fighter
  • Anti-Fungal
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Antibacterial
  • Antioxidant
  • Bone Health
  • Cancer-Fighter
  • Detox
  • Digestion Health
  • Eye Health
  • Heart Health
  • Hormones Balanced
  • Immunity Booster
  • Kidney Stone Prevention
  • Skin Health

Cooking with Parsley

Parsley is a versatile plant that can be used in pasta, soups, stews, dips, marinades, salads, and smoothies. It can be used to add flavor to meats, potatoes, rice, and vegetables. Parsley is often added as a garnish to many dishes but can be used as an ingredient in a meal as well.

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Growing Parsley

Parsley is one of my favorite herbs to grow in my indoor garden. Same as the previous two, the seeds can be bought at almost any home improvement store or garden center and planted in a small jar with some potting soil. Water a few times per week and make sure it gets plenty of sunlight.

Your parsley will be ready to harvest when there are three leaves on a stem and should be cut from the outer portions so the inner part will continue to grow.

Purchasing & Storing Tips

When you buy fresh parsley, there are usually two varieties: flat-leaf and curly-leaf. The flat-leaf is best for cooking because it has more flavor, but the curly-leaf is better as a garnish because it looks nicer. Parsley should also have soft bright-green leaves when it’s purchased and used within a few days. It can be stored in the refrigerator and does best to have the stems in a small amount of water.

If you want to dry out the parsley, harvest it when it is ready and hang it from the stems until completely dried out. Remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container.

Italian Seasoning

Health Benefits

While “Italian Seasoning” isn’t one particular herb or spice, it’s a delicious combination of them that almost makes it a superfood of spices. The Italian seasoning that I have includes marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, and sage. A few of these are ones I don’t cook with individually, so I’ll list the benefits of those.

  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antioxidant
  • Blood Flow Increased & Oxygenation of Organs
  • Memory Improvement
  • Metabolism Booster
  • Pain Reduction
  • Red Blood Cell Formation

Cooking with Italian Seasoning

I feel like it’s obvious that the most common cuisines that use this are Italian dishes, but it can also be added to other Mediterranean meals as well. Having the mixed seasoning makes it easy to add a bit to a meal without having to purchase all of the individual herbs.

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Growing Italian Seasoning

Since Italian seasoning is a combination of multiple herbs, you can’t grow it outright, but you can grow the different herbs in the seasoning.

Purchasing & Storing Tips

The only way to purchase Italian seasoning is to buy it dried from the spice aisle of your local grocery store.



8 thoughts on “Essential Herbs and Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 1: Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Italian Seasoning”

  1. Hi! I have a rather large spice garden in my yard, and try to cook with fresh herbs regularly. For TASTE. Never have I thought about the potential health benefits! Thank you for sharing- I feel so much better about my cooking choices now. 😀

  2. These are awesome tips! We started a mini herb garden last year but that didn’t last very long. I think we’ll try again with basil, we see lots of beautiful basil in pots. Can’t wait!

  3. Wow I had no idea that the seasonings I used most every day had so many health benefits! This was so interesting!

  4. i LOVE LOVE herbs! it is really fun to learn more about their potential health benefits here! look forward to the next post!

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