Check Your Herb IQ

What breath-freshening herb also helps deter head lice?

What herb is cherished by parents of hyperactive children and blonds alike?

True or false? You should not plant herbs next to vegetables.

After a trip to the oral surgeon, you might want to chew the leaves of what herb?

What fruity herb might you use to whiten your teeth?

True or false? If you want to lose weight, you should spice your food with coriander.

1. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) leaves are familiar natural breath fresheners, but did you know that you can use the seeds as a folk remedy for killing head lice? Infuse 1 teaspoon of crushed seeds in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes, strain, and use as a hair rinse.

2. Chamomile (Chaemomelum nobile) tea settles restlessness in children and relieves insomnia in people of any age. You can also use an infusion of chamomile as a rinse to enhance fair hair.

3. False. Herbs make great companions to vegetables in an organic garden. For example, blue borage flowers (Borago officinalis), when grown next to beans, attract bees that pollinate the vegetables. Plant chives (Allium schoenoprasum) alongside rose bushes to deter black spot. Set catnip (Nepeta cattaria) between rows of carrots to protect against carrot root fly, and plant extra basil (Ocimum basilicum) next to tomatoes to distract aphids (the pests prefer basil to tomatoes).

4. Oregano (Origanum majorana) can ease toothaches and frayed nerves, as well as cold symptoms, headaches, and insomnia.

5. Fresh wild strawberries can help remove plaque and discoloration from teeth. Rub your teeth with the fresh fruit and let stand for five minutes. Rinse with warm water and baking soda, and voilà! You've got whiter teeth.

6. False. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) stimulates the appetite. If you don't mind eating amply, add the heat-sensitive larger leaves (also called cilantro) only at the end of cooking as a condiment or a garnish.

—Pamela Emanoil

Source: New Book of Herbs by Jekka McVicar (DK Publishing, 2002).