A member of the ginger family, turmeric originated in southeast India and has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years as a staple in Asian cooking and also as a popular medicinal herb.
The leaves are used in confections like patoleo, and they are perfect for wrapping and cooking foods. Ground to a fine yellow powder, turmeric is used in sweet dishes like Lebanese sfouf cake, and is even added to canned beverages, baked goods, dairy products, cereals, ice cream, yogurt, and orange juice. Turmeric is usually the flavoring base in curry powders. The root can also be sliced and used fresh, the same way you might use ginger root.
For medicinal purposes turmeric has been used to treat skin conditions like eczema, chicken pox, and scabies; and for problems with the pulmonary and gastrointestinal system as well as aches, wounds, and sprains.
It contains an active ingredient called curcumin which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is currently being tested for the treatment of a variety of disorders including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer's.
Originally from the Siberian region of Asia, and also known as dragonwort, tarragon is a hugely popular herb in Mediterranean cuisine. Fresh tarragon enlivens green salads. In marinades, both fresh and dried tarragon leaves can enhance the flavors of fish, lamb, and poultry. It is one of the key ingredients in French barnaise sauce, and adds zing to a traditional Slovenian Christmas bread called potica.
Tarragon is rich in phytonutrients and polyphenolic compounds which can help lower blood sugar levels. It is a terrific source of vitamins A, B, and C as well as calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, and potassium.
Tarragon tea has been used to help with insomnia. And the oil is often used as both a local anesthetic and an antiseptic during dental procedures. The herb has also helped as an appetite stimulant in cases of anorexia, and as a remedy for hiccups and flatulence.