Flowers don’t seem to get as much attention as roots, leaves and stems in discussions of herbal medicine. It’s time for that to change. The flowers of many plants and herbs offer amazing health benefits. And many are tasty too. Add them to a meal for a touch of simple natural beauty and delightful flavor.
Here are several popular favorites…
Calendula, aka Marigold
Yellow, orange or red-gold, dried calendula petals can be used in just about any dish from soups and stews to salads, sauces and desserts. Calendula has been a part of herbal medicine for eons, especially for the way it supports the immune system. Its also a well-known antiseptic with a powerful topical effect to support healing of skin injuries and burns.
Researchers report calendula has a diverse profile of flavonoids, including quercetin and glucosides that may help protect the brain and nervous system by supporting acetylcholine levels.[i] Some species of calendula have shown some anti-fungal properties as well.[ii]
A rose is beautiful with an uplifting aroma – and its petals can be eaten too! Rose petals have been used for thousands of years around the world to make rose water, add flavor to tea and to enhance and enliven meals. Its claimed rose petals have an aphrodisiac quality, but they are much better known for their calming, cooling and cleansing properties.
Rose petals also contain anthocyanins, potent antioxidants which may protect cells via anti-mutagenic properties.[iii]
Just remember, before eating or cooking with rose petals, remove the white at the base of the flower.
Chinese Medicine has used chrysanthemum in teas for ages to stimulate the mind. The flower also opens the airways and has been used to treat headaches, nausea, dizziness and fever.
The chrysanthemum provides a wide range of antioxidants.[iv] The taste varies from one species to another with some sweet and others bitter. It’s recommended to use only the flower petals which can be dried or blanched and added to any dish.
This hearty “weed” has a long history in meals. For thousands of years its roots have been used in teas, while its leaves and stems have appeared in salads and a host of other dishes. The flower can also be eaten and is known for its pain-relieving qualities.
The flowers of dandelions support the liver and recent research suggests the flowers offer greater health benefits and antioxidant activity than the leaves.[v]
There are a lot of ways to prepare dandelion flowers from tossing them in a salad to frying them up and serving them as a side.
Violets offer a way to add edible beauty to a dish. They also provide a high-dose of vitamin C. Herbalists have traditionally used violets to soothe sore throats, ease coughs and improve digestion. They’ve also been used to support skin health by treating acne, dermatitis and other skin conditions.
Researchers have identified violet flowers are a great source of antioxidants.[vi]
Mallow flowers come from the variety of malva, all of which are related to the marshmallow. Like the more commonly used roots, the flowers also soothe mucous membranes and ease inflammation making it a way to support digestion. The flower has a bland flavor and typically takes on the character of the food and seasonings in the dish.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, mallow also has shown that it may help stabilize and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.[vii]
These flowers will add spice to a meal! They have a strong peppery flavor and work well in just about any dish. Nasturtium is known as an excellent source of vitamin C, but research shows its loaded with important minerals including zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium and iron as well as essential oils with antimicrobial and antifungal effects. It has also shown potential to help stabilize blood pressure.[viii]
[i] Olennikov DN, Kashchenko NI, Chirikova NK, Akobirshoeva A, Zilfikarov IN, Vennos C. Isorhamnetin and Quercetin Derivatives as Anti-Acetylcholinesterase Principles of Marigold (Calendula officinalis) Flowers and Preparations.International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2017;18(8):1685. doi:10.3390/ijms18081685.
[ii] Abudunia AM1, et al. Anticandidal, antibacterial, cytotoxic and antioxidant activities of Calendula arvensis flowers. J Mycol Med. 2017 Mar;27(1):90-97. doi: 10.1016/j.mycmed.2016.11.002. Epub 2016 Dec 20.
[iii] Kumar S1, et al. Identification of antimutagenic properties of anthocyanins and other polyphenols from rose (Rosa centifolia) petals and tea. J Food Sci. 2013 Jun;78(6):H948-54. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12135. Epub 2013 Apr 29.
[iv] Yang L1,2; et al. Analysis of Floral Volatile Components and Antioxidant Activity of Different Varieties of Chrysanthemum morifolium. Molecules. 2017 Oct 23;22(10). pii: E1790. doi: 10.3390/molecules22101790.
[v] J?drejek D1, et al. Evaluation of antioxidant activity of phenolic fractions from the leaves and petals of dandelion in human plasma treated with H2O2 and H2O2/Fe. Chem Biol Interact. 2017 Jan 25;262:29-37. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2016.12.003. Epub 2016 Dec 5.
[vi] Koike A1, et al. Edible flowers of Viola tricolor L. as a new functional food: antioxidant activity, individual phenolics and effects of gamma and electron-beam irradiation. Food Chem. 2015 Jul 15;179:6-14. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.01.123. Epub 2015 Jan 31.
[vii] Loizzo MR1, et al. Edible Flowers: A Rich Source of Phytochemicals with Antioxidant and Hypoglycemic Properties. J Agric Food Chem. 2016 Mar 30;64(12):2467-74. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b03092. Epub 2015 Aug 19.
[viii] Jakubczyk K1, et al. Garden nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus L.) – a source of mineral elements and bioactive compounds. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2018;69(2):119-126.