There are few things better than relaxing in your own beautiful herb garden, enjoying the aroma of sage and lavender while sipping on a cup of mint tea. But why not change that up a bit? You could even find yourself sipping on a chocolate mint tea while taking in the scent of orange thyme. Rare herbs like this take the fun of an herb garden up a notch.

While herbs like parsley, basil and thyme are indispensable in the kitchen, you’ve probably already got them growing in abundance. Now it’s time to grow some more unusual herbs, herbs with exotic flavors, intrigue, and all sorts of medicinal benefits too.

1. Siberian chives

Siberian chives are similar to ordinary chives, but they have a buttery onion flavor and mauve flowers that can not only add flavor to a salad but can beautify it too. In your herb garden, they’ll provide months of color, and the round purple flowerheads are a great way to attract both bees and butterflies, while the plant’s scented foliage deters pests.

Use the flat leaves of Siberian chives just like you would use ordinary chives. You can also slice the hollow stems and add them to soups, potato dishes, Mexican fare, and of course, salads – they’re especially gorgeous this way. Just some of the health benefits they offer including strengthening the immune system, supporting heart health, boosting bone strength and improving vision.

2. Sweet cicely

Sweet cicely is native to the British Isles and used to be grown in kitchen gardens near the door for easy access. It’s also famously used by Carthusian monks to make the liqueur, Chartreuse. In the plague years, people used it to prevent infection. All parts of the plant can be used – it’s been used for centuries for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Sweet cicely has a similar taste to aniseed, and it also helps to reduce the acidity of other ingredients in cooking. It’s ideal for adding to something like cooked apples, as it adds a touch of sweetness which means you won’t have to use as much sugar.  You can cook the roots like you would parsnips and use them to flavor up soups and stews, and the leaves as a garnish or in salads.

This herb is especially good for the digestive system, when mixed into boiling water with a little finely chopped dinner, it creates the perfect concoction for relieving digestive issues like flatulence.

3. Toothache plant

The toothache plant does just what it sounds like – it makes your mouth go numb when you chew the leaves to help relieve the pain of an aching tooth. It has pretty yellow and red cone-shaped flowers, and its leaves have beneficial properties that are similar to echinacea, including boosting the immune system, relieving nausea and improving digestion. Its other rather unique in its appearance in that it has oddly-shaped flowers which resemble miniature eyeballs.

Spilanthes acmella, as it’s officially known also offers antibacterial and antifungal properties that make it a good purifying herb, used for disinfecting wounds and curing ringworm infections – it’s even been used as an antiparasitic and native remedy against malaria in the tropics. The flower buds and fresh leaves can be made into a tea, chewed or steamed and eaten as salad greens.

4. Epazote

Epazote is not something that’s easy to find in American grocery stores, and most people in the U.S. have never even heard of it, but it’s a dominant herb in Mexican cooking. While it’s most commonly considered to be an herb, and is popular for making a spicy tea, it can also be prepared like a leafy vegetable and used in chilies, egg dishes, tamales, quesadillas or soups. The flavor itself is unique, both minty and peppery, though some liken it to a citrus or tarragon-like taste.

Epazote contains an extensive array of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A,B and C, as well as calcium, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. It can help relieve cramping, bloating and constipation in addition to enhancing the immune system and protecting the body’s cells against free radical damage to lower the risk of a number of certain cancers and other chronic diseases.

5. Perilla

Perilla is relatively unknown outside of Japanese and Chinese cooking, but it makes an attractive addition to salads and a variety of other dishes. Its flavor is somewhat grassy with notes of anise or licorice, a bit like a blend of cumin and mint, though the real advantage is their size. You can do more with the bigger leaves than just chop them up and use them as a garnish. The leaves can be stir-fried with garlic and veggies, deep-fried in a batter of flour and eggs, pickled or marinated, or used as wrappers too.

Due to its strong smell, you can rub the leaves on your skin and clothes to repel ticks. The entire plant is very nutritious, loaded with vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C, containing nearly half the daily recommended amount. It also offers 23 percent of the daily suggested intake of calcium, while the leaves provide anti-inflammatory effects and help promote healthier cholesterol levels.

6. Chocolate mint

Here’s the one you’ve been waiting for – did you know that a chocolate mint herb even existed? It really does, and it’s just as scrumptious as it sounds. It smells like a peppermint patty, though the aroma is more chocolatey than the taste. It makes a fabulously indulgent tea, and it can be baked in cakes, added to mojitos and used to relieve digestive woes, just like ordinary mint. Its aroma, though pleasant to humans, repels pests like mice, mosquitoes, fleas and flies.

Use the essence of chocolate mint to make your own infused oil that can be added to a favorite homemade body scrub, face mask or other beauty products for added chocolate indulgence.

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