A few fresh edible leaves not only add flavour without adding calories, they also provide health benefits as healing foods.

Leaves of some plants have been used as herbal medicine for thousands of years. The human body responds well to theses natural treatments and now, they have become popular globally. To avoid diseases and live long, a healthy diet and sensible eating habit is required.

A basic knowledge of how healing leaves can help what ails you is the key to your eating plan. Here are five healing leaves that you can add to your recipe:

Basil leaves: Holy basil leaves contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It acts as antimicrobial ingredient that fights viruses and infections. Besides combating stress, it promotes cardiovascular health and fights cancer. It has been used in India for around 5000 years and is acclaimed for its healing properties of mind, body and soul. These curing leaves can prevent many kinds of fever, cough, respiratory problems, sore throat, kidney stone, diarrhoea, vomiting, diabetes, stomach problems, eye disorder, gum disorder, bad breath, headache and other types of pain. Basil is quite helpful in quitting smoking and fights laziness by renewing your energy levels. If taken with homemade curd, it may help in reducing body weight.

Mint leaves: Mint is a great appetiser that promotes digestion. It soothes stomachache and other pains, gives you glowing and acne-free skin, helps fight oral infections, relieves cough and cold, prevents allergies and asthma, gives relief in menstrual cramp and pain, beats morning sickness, stress and depression, boosts immunity and helps fight cancer.

Coriander leaves: Coriander leaves or cilantro is a high source of dietary fibre, manganese, iron and magnesium. It is rich in vitamin C, vitamin k and protein. Besides one of the most popular herbs around the world as a condiment, garnish or decoration on culinary dishes, it can treat skin inflammation, high cholesterol levels, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers, anaemia, indigestion, menstrual disorders, smallpox, conjunctivitis and blood sugar disorders. It is also good for eye care.

Curry leaves: Curry leaves can do you more than just seasoning your food. Packed with carbohydrates, energy, fibre, calcium, phosphorus, iron, folic acid, magnesium, copper, minerals, vitamins C, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, antioxidants, plant sterols, amino acids, glycosides and flavonoids, curry leaves help your heart functioning better and fight infections. It can enliven your hair and skin with vitality. Interestingly, curry leaves help keep anaemia at bay, protect your liver from damage and maintain blood sugar levels. It helps with digestion, relieves the symptoms of diarrhoea, reduces congestion in chest and nose, soothes the side effects of chemotherapy, accelerates hair growth, prevents and treats skin infections and so on. Eat them to reap their amazing benefits.

Bay leaves: Bay leaves offer a healthy dose of vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. Having anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, they support immune system. Having a century-old reputation as a medicinal herb, they may treat wounds, diabetes, urinary infections, dandruff, respiratory disorders, joint inflammation, anxiety and fatigue. An organic compound found in bay leaves strengthens capillary walls in heart and eliminates bad cholesterol from the cardiovascular system. You may rub bay leaf oil on the stomach after having food to promote the secretion of digestive juices, enzymes and bile. It’s worthy to make them a part of your lifestyle.

Perfect combinations of these leaves with food:

Basil: Italian cooking, soups, beans, rice and milk desserts.

Mint: Fruit salads, tangy chutneys, fruit juices, dips, lemon drinks, mock tails, cocktails, peas, lambs and sauces.

Coriander leaves: Mexican food, Asian food, rice, salsa and soups.

Curry Leaves: Poha, South Indian dishes, Gujarati dishes and Rajasthani food.

Bay Leaves: Rice, biryani, rich veg or non-veg gravies, Mughlai food and Thai food.

One of the main benefits of using these healthy leaves in your cooking is that they serve as flavourful options to salt, fat and sugar without adding excess and unwanted calories to your food.

When learning to cook with healing leaves, it can be difficult for you to know which flavours pair well with different foods. Once you become familiar with them, feel free to try your own combinations. Till then try the suggested blends and enjoy health in a delicious way.