Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, or in some cases even spiritual usage. The word herb, which is pronounced with or without the (h), is one of a number of words borrowed into English from French. The (h) sound had been lost in Latin and was not pronounced in French or the other Romance languages, which are descended from Latin, although it was retained in the spelling of some words. In both Old and Middle English, however, h was generally pronounced, as in the native English words happy and hot.
The green, leafy part of the plant is often used, but herbal medicine makes use of the roots, flowers, seeds, root bark, inner bark, berries and sometimes the pericorp or other portions. General usage differs between medicinal herbs and culinary herbs. A medicinal herb may be a shrub or other woody plant, whereas a culinary herb is a non-woody plant, typically using the leaves. In contrast, spices are the seeds, berries, bark, root, fruit, or other parts of the plant, even leaves in some cases; although any of these, as well as any edible fruits or vegetables, may be considered "herbs" in medicinal or spiritual use. Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that they are used in small amounts and provide flavor (similar to spices) rather than substance to food.
The Chinese are largely known to have used herbs for centuries either for cooking or for healing. However, since there are no clear historical records as to the exact time when the herbs started to be part of our food, we can’t really pinpoint the exact date when our ancestors started mixing herbs into their food. Some research shows that the art of using plants in cooking started way back before the pyramids of Egypt were built. Still, no matter when the practice started, it is evident that using herbs is still very common in our times. A lot of people who love to look still scour the markets and the grocery stores for their favorite herbs and spices every day. Chefs in famous restaurants also use these plants on their cooking too.
Cooking delicious food is an art. You do not have to be a chef to be able to produce some sumptuous meals for your family. The key to producing good food with unique taste is to experiment. When you start to experiment, be prepared to meet a lot of challenges. Normally, you will not succeed on your first, second or even third try. In fact, the results of your experiments could turn out to be a big disaster! However, don’t lose heart, hundreds of people all over the world discovered their specialty dish after a cooking disaster so do not be discouraged if your cooking experiments do not succeed at first. Sometimes, your cooking does not taste as good as you intend it to be so, be patient.
When experimenting with your food, take care not to let the taste of these herbs and spices overpower the dish. Always remember that in cooking, you can add more if you need to but you cannot take out the things that you add into your food once you put it in. This means that if you add too much salt or spices into your food, you will most likely end up with a too salty or too spicy food and there is nothing you can do about it. To avoid wasting your ingredients, start adding herbs and spices in small quantities to make sure that you only put enough into your food. Furthermore, fresh herbs generally taste better than the dried ones. Drying can affect the taste of herbs and reduce their potency.
Herbalism has its own language and culture. Many new ways of preparing herbs are being released everyday. You should not substitute herbs for any prescribed medications you are taking under a physician's care. Nor should you look to herbs as a cure-all. They tend to be much milder than synthetic medications and work more slowly, but they can be a healthy part of a balanced practice of health care. Some herbs can be poisonous and contain phytochemicals that when consumed in small quantities can be healthy, yet in large quantities can be toxic to the liver.
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