Thai Herbs in Cuisine

Thai food not only has naturally beautiful colors but it also has combinations of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. These are its special qualifications, which can give your body all the nutritious values and medical and herbal properties to prevent health problems and sometimes even help relieve problems.

Furthermore, Thai food is a way for families to keep their relationship healthy, and it is a sign of social status as well as a medium for beliefs and rites.

The culture of food decoration with fruit and vegetable carving shows the care that of Thai people take regarding food, and it also reflects the dimension of the cultural arts in local communities. So Thai food is a unique feature of Thai society and it is known worldwide.

Thai wisdom in terms of knowledge and a full understanding of the value of plants and their proper use in many ways, particularly in cooking, is a priceless heritage that belongs not only to Thai people but also to the world.

Herbal Drinks for Good Health

According to a dictionary published by the Royal Institute in 1982, an herb is a natural product from plants that can be mixed with other substances and used as medicine for medical treatment and toning up the body. So herbal drinks are beverages made from herbs, vegetables, and fruits, as well as other parts of the plant such as the bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, and roots, because with some kinds of plants, various parts can be cooked and used as medicine. Herbal drinks, processed from natural products, possess great nutritional value and medicinal properties.

Herbal drinks have in them the taste of nature, and they are very useful, thanks to all the vitamins and minerals in them, such as anti-oxidants to help prevent wrinkles, freckles, heart disease, blood clotting, arthritis, paralysis, cataracts, and a host of other health problems. What is more, the juice can improve your appetite, make your skin shine, and even make your hair look healthy. It also helps control fats in the system, so your body functions more efficiently, because nutrients in the herbal juice can help regulate the functions of the body and they help support the other nutrients that the body needs. Many of the drinks have fiber, too, which is good for the digestion.

When making herbal drinks, you should choose fresh ingredients, and with no bruises, because the freshness reflects the quality of the drink. As for fruits, they should be ripe and not pulpy. An important point to remember is that there is no need to peel the fruit or vegetables, because much of the valuable and highdensity nutrition is concentrated in the skin, especially in plants such as carrots, beetroot, and apples. These kinds of fruits are very appropriate for making juice. But of course, don't forget that all fruits and vegetables must be cleaned before you turn them into juice.

Three Easy Ways to Concoct Drinks from Herbs, Vegetables, and Fruit

There are several proven ways to get all the necessary goodness and flavor from different kinds of plants:

- Squeezing: You can make a delicious drink by squeezing orange, lemon, and sugarcane or other plants containing lots of water.
- Crushing: You can mix crushed fruits and vegetables with boiled water in order to reduce the concentration. Suitable fruits and vegetables for this method include Thai celery ( khuenchai), cucumbers, corn, Thai melon ( taeng thai), guava, carrots, and bitter cucumbers ( mara).
- Boiling: When you boil certain plants and vegetables, you can extract their color, their smell, and their nutrients. Plants suited for boiling include lemongrass, bael fruit, water chestnut, and roselle.

The nutritional value of fresh natural products is highly sensitive to change and will gradually deteriorate as soon as they react with fresh air. So you should drink the juice as soon as you finish making it, and you should make only enough for drinking in one day. Besides being made for drinking in the home, herbal drinks are now becoming an industry in the form of the One Tambon, One Product (OTOP) campaign, and they are exported worldwide. Some popular products are made from lemongrass, carrots, tamarind, tiger herb ( bua bok), black wild ginger, roselle, the noni fruit ( luk yo), and chrysanthemum.

Some of the five-star products under OTOP include pasteurized sugarcane juice from Grab Yai village, Ban Pong district, in Ratchaburi province; aloe juice made by the Ban Kasetpatthana Women's Cooperative Group of Ban Phaeo district in Samut Sakhon province; Indian gooseberry and bael fruit juice from Chaopraya Apaipubet Hospital in Prachin Buri province; juice that combines luk yo and wild honey from Muang district in Phitsanulok province; guava from the Green Friend Housewives Group of Talad Yai district in Phuket province; black wild ginger juice made by the Black Wild Ginger Juice Group of Lom Kao district in Phetchabun province; and grape and sugarcane juice from the Grape Juice Production Group of Wang Nam Khiao district in Nakhon Ratchasima province.

Turmeric: "Kha-min" in Thai - Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and provides yellow colouring for Thai food. The rhizomes contain a 3-4% volatile oil with unique aromatic characteristics. Turmeric's therapeutic properties manifest as a carminative, antiflatulence and stomachic.

Sweet Basil: "Ho-ra-pha" in Thai - Sweet Basil is an annual herbaceous plant, the fresh leaves of which are either eaten raw or used as a flavouring in Thai cooking. Volatile oil content varies according to different varieties. Therapeutic properties are as carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, digestant and stomachic agents.

Marsh Mint: "Sa-ra-nae" in Thai - The fresh leaves of this herbaceous plant are used as a flavouring and eaten raw in Thai cuisine. Volatile oil contents give the plant several therapeutic uses, including carminative, mild antiseptic, local anesthetic, diaphoretic and digestant properties.

Lemon Grass: "Ta-khrai" in Thai - This erect annual plant resembles a coarse gray-green grass. Fresh leaves and grass are used as flavouring. Lemon grass contains a 0.2-0.4 volatile oil. Therapeutic properties are as a diuretic, emmanagogue, antiflatulence, anti flu and antimicrobial agent.

(No Common English Name): Krachai in Thai - This erect annual plant with aromatic rhizomes and yellow-brown roots, is used as a flavouring. The rhizomes contain approximately 0.8% volatile oil. The plant has stomach ache relieving and antimicrobial properties, and therapeutic benefits as an antitussive and antiflatulence agent.

Kafffir: "Ma-krut" in Thai - The leaves, peel and juice of the Kaffir Lime are used as a flavouring in Thai cuisine. The leaves and peel contain a volatile oil. The major therapeutic benefit of the juice is as an appetizer.

Hoary Basil: "Maeng-lak" in Thai - Hoary Basil is an annual herbaceous plant with slightly hairy and pale green leaves, eaten either raw or used as a flavouring, and containing approximately 0.7% volatile oil. Therapeutic benefits include the alleviation of cough symptoms, and as diaphoretic and carminative agents.

Galanga: "Kha" in Thai - Greater Galanga is an erect annual plant with aromatic, ginger-like rhizomes, and commonly used in Thai cooking as a flavouring. The approximately 0.04 volatile oil content has therapeutic uses as carminative, stomachic, antirheumatic and antimicrobial agents.

Ginger: "Khing" in Thai - Ginger is an erect plant with thickened, fleshy and aromatic rhizomes. Used in different forms as a food, flavouring and spice. Ginger's rhizomes contain a 1-2% volatile oil. Ginger's therapeutic uses are as a carminative, antinauseant and antiflatulence agent.

Garlic: "Kra-thiam" in Thai - Garlic is an annual herbaceous plant with underground bulbs comprising several cloves. Dried mature bulbs are used as a flavouring and condiment in Thai cuisine. The bulbs contain a 0.1-0.36% garlic oil and organic sulfur compounds. Therapeutic uses are as an antimicrobial, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, anti flatulence and cholesterol lowering agents.

Cumin: "Yi-ra" in Thai - Cumin is a small shrubbery herb, the fruit of which contains a 2-4% volatile oil with a pungent odour, and which is used as a flavouring and condiment. Cumin's therapeutic properties manifest as a stomachic, bitter tonic, carminative, stimulant and astringent.

Chili: "Phrik" in Thai - Chili is an erect, branched, shrub-like herb with fruits used as garnishing and flavouring in Thai dishes. There are many different species. All contain capsaicin, a biologically active ingredient beneficial to the respiratory system, blood pressure and heart. Other therapeutic uses include being a , carminative and anti flatulence agent, and digestant.

Lime: "Ma-nao" in Thai - Lime is used principally as a garnish for fish and meat dishes. The fruit contains Hesperidin and Naringin , scientifically proven antiinflammatory flavonoids. Lime juice is used as an appetizer, and has antitussive, anti flu, stomachic and antiscorbutic properties.

Shallot: "Hom,Hom-lek,Hom-daeng"in Thai - Shallots, or small red onions, are annual herbaceous plants. Underground bulbs comprise garlic-like cloves. Shallot bulbs contain a volatile oil, and are used as flavouring or seasoning agents. Therapeutic properties include the alleviation of stomach discomfort, and as an antihelmintic, antidiarrhoeal, expectorant, antitussive, diuretic and anti flu agents.