Edible flowers and their health benefits
Flowers aren't just pretty, some of them can be good to eat too
As we become more conscious about the food we eat, more people are starting to embrace the raw, the organic and even the vegan.
But we might be overlooking one key ingredient with its own host of health benefits - edible flowers, which bring more than just extra colour, flavour and texture to our food.
Here are the 10 most common edible flowers.
Medicinally, it is consumed to improve the quality of sleep and reduce anxiety because of its calming properties. Typically dried and brewed into tea, chamomile contains antioxidants and may be able to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and aid in digestion.
You can dry the flowers for tea or heat them to extract their flavours and bioactive compounds, as well as ingest them fresh.
The most popular edible species is the roselle, and the hibiscus is known for its medicinal and culinary uses. People in many cultures drink hibiscus tea to reap the plant's medicinal properties. Some studies have shown it may help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
You can eat the flower directly, but other popular ways of consuming it include making it into jams and relishes, or tossing it into salads.
These fragrant blossoms contain nectar that can be eaten from the flower, and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
The flower and its extract can be consumed or applied directly to the skin to treat different types of inflammation.
But even though the honeysuckle and its nectar are completely safe for consumption, the berries of certain varieties may be harmful, especially if consumed in large quantities.
That garnish you see on your chicken rice? It is not only edible, but also provides loads of micronutrients and antioxidants.
And it is not just the leaves that contain these benefits. Coriander flowers also help the body by maintaining blood sugar levels. They also contain minerals, fibre and K vitamins, which guard our heart and aid in blood clotting.
Coriander flowers have a particularly herbal taste, especially when brewed as tea, but they lend a cooling effect to spicy foods, which can prevent "heatiness".
Dandelion blossoms may be small but their petals provide various plant compounds that may contain potent antioxidants. They act as a diuretic and can help to relieve inflammation, stomach issues, bloating, gallstones, joint pain, eczema, constipation and treat appetite loss.
Every part of the dandelion can be eaten - from the flower to the roots. The roots are often used to make tea, while the leaves may be added as a salad or sandwich topping. You can also make wine or jelly with it, or cook them like you would your regular greens, like in a stew.
This woody, floral herb offers vitamin A that is necessary for eye and skin health, as well as essential nutrients such as calcium and iron that our bodies require.
Eating it can also help stave off osteoporosis and alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
And because of its natural calming properties, lavender may even help reduce anxiety and depression.
Roses are not only good for flavoured beverages, but are also rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
The flower may help alleviate headaches, constipation, indigestion and even arthritis. It is also a good stress reliever as it helps to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which is why it is commonly used in spas.
Mint - both leaves and flowers - contains menthol, a natural decongestant that makes it easier to expel mucus and phlegm by breaking it up. Menthol also helps relieve a sore throat, thanks to its cooling effect.
The common garden herb also helps with indigestion and bloating, and alleviates irritable bowel syndrome. Plus, it contains an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that can help to relieve seasonal allergies.
These vibrant blooms possess antimicrobial properties that can help with a range of health issues including asthma, skin problems, arthritis, high blood pressure and even epilepsy.
They usually have a light floral flavour with a mild grass undertone, although the taste may vary depending on the species.
This is typically dried for brewing herbal teas. It is used to treat a range of maladies, including muscle tension, fever, arthritis and rheumatism, because of the anti-inflammatory leaves and flowering heads.
Applied externally as a tincture, it can even heal bruises. Plus, chewing a few leaves a day may treat migraines.
This article was first published in Shape (www.shape. com.sg)