Most of us have herbs somewhere in our kitchen cabinets and they often get haphazardly added to recipes and culinary creations. Interestingly, there are many health benefits of herbs and spices, not to mention they improve the taste of so many foods. The problem is, most herbs and spices lose their nutritional value as they get stored for a long time.
We recommend growing them yourself whenever possible, but whenever you have a surplus of herbs you can easily preserve them by freezing them in oil. Frozen herbs retain their taste, smell, and most importantly their nutritional benefits, so you can freeze a surplus of herbs throughout the harvesting season to enjoy later. The oil, on the other hand, helps in the extraction of oil soluble components from the herbs, which makes these compounds easier to absorb by our digestive system.
Given this use, the oil-and-freezer method of preservation works best with the tougher hard herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. These are all herbs that would probably be cooked when added to a dish.
Steps for Freezing Herbs in Oil
- Start by picking firm, fresh herbs from your garden or from the market if you don’t have a garden.
- You can choose how you want them. You can either chop them fine or leave them in larger sprigs and leaves. You can even mix them up by leaving some as a whole and some chopped fine.
- Next is packing the wells of the ice cube trays up to 2/3 with the herbs.
- You can also mix up few different types of herbs in the trays. You can put some whole and some chopped and you can mix them by type of herbs or by their use in the future. For example, you can combine a bouquet garni of rosemary, sage and thyme to add to winter roast chickens and potatoes.
- After that, pour extra-virgin olive oil or melted unsalted butter on top of them.
- Cover the tray with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
- In the morning, remove the frozen cubes and store them in freezer containers or small bags.
- The last step is to label the container or bags by the type of herb or oil inside.
By freezing the herbs you are not only preserving an ingredient for your food but also a medicine for your body and mind.
Here are the health benefits and uses of 4 herbs for which this preservation method works the best.
Enhancing memory and concentration – Rosemary oil contains a compound (1,8-cineole) that closely correlates with improved cognitive skills
Improves eye health – Rosemary contains carnosic acid, which protects retinas from degeneration and toxicity in cell culture thus making it a powerful agent in the fight against age-related macular degeneration, the most common eye disease in the US.
Rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds – Several different studies have shown that rosemary is rich in antioxidants, which play an important role in neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals. It is also thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.
Improving digestion – Rosemary has been traditionally used in Europe as a remedy for gas and stomach gas pain. Rosemary oil can relieve an upset stomach, as it provides a calmative effect by reducing the frequency and severity of muscle spasms that can contribute to digestive discomfort.
Rich source of anti-inflammatory compounds – Sage contains rosmarinic acid which is readily absorbed from the GI tract, and once inside the body, acts to reduce inflammatory responses by altering the concentrations of inflammatory messaging molecules (like leukotriene B4). The anti-inflammatory qualities of sage extend to health issues such as arthritis and gout, as well as general inflammation of the cardiovascular system, which can result in heart disease and increased blood pressure.
Improving Bone Strength – One of the most overlooked benefits of sage is actually its superior level of vitamin K, an essential vitamin for the body that isn’t found in many common foods. Vitamin K is a crucial element in developing bone density and ensuring the integrity of our bones as we age.
Possible Alzheimer’s treatment – Sage is believed to inhibit the loss of Acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain, that is found in lower levels in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Anti-fungal Ability – The most famous active ingredient found in thyme is thymol, which has a wide range of effects on the body, including the ability to prevent fungal and viral infections, thereby reducing strain on the immune system.
Improving Circulation – Thyme contains a high concentration of iron and other essential minerals, which make it ideal for stimulating the production of red blood cells, thereby boosting your body’s circulations and the oxygenation of essential organ systems and extremities throughout the body.
Improves Heart Health – Thyme is rich in potassium and manganese, which are important for your heart health. Potassium is a vasodilator, meaning that it can reduce the stress on the cardiovascular system by relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. This can extend your life by preventing atherosclerosis and avoiding strokes, heart attacks, and coronary heart disease.
Antibacterial properties – Oregano oil is a powerful antimicrobial, because it contains an essential compound called carvacol. This property has been confirmed by a team of British and Indian researchers, who confirmed that the essential oil of Himalayan oregano has such a strong antibacterial properties that can even kill the hospital superbug MRSA.
Protecting against cancer – Recent study shows that oregano exhibits anticancer activity by encouraging cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (cancer cells commit suicide) of the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer line. This confirms that components in oregano may help slow down or prevent the progression of cancer3 in patients with breast cancer.
Anti-inflammatory properties – Oregano contains an active ingredient known as beta-caryophyllin which may possibly be of use against disorders such as osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis.