Culinary herbs are probably the most useful to herb gardeners, having a wide range of uses in cooking. These herbs, because of their strong flavors, are generally used in small quantities to add flavor. Parsley is used mostly as a garnish while sage is an important flavoring in pork sausage. Other popular culinary herbs include chives, thyme, savory, marjoram, mint, and basil.
Aromatic herbs have some novel uses. Most have pleasant smelling flowers or foliage. Oils from aromatic herbs can be used to produce perfumes, toilet water, and various scents. For home use, the plant parts are used intact, often to scent linens or clothing. When dried, many aromatic herbs will retain their aroma for a considerable period. Some common aromatic herbs include mint, marjoram, rosemary, and basil.
Ornamental herbs have brightly colored flowers and foliage. Valerian has crimson blossoms while borage and chicory are blue-flowered. Such herbs as variegated thyme, mint, lavender, and chives produce variegated foliage.
Medicinal herbs have long been thought to have curative powers. The most common preparation for medicinal remedies is infusion in hot water (similar to preparing tea). This method extracts the volatile components of the dried or green aerial parts of herbs and plants like flowers and leaves. Infusions may use single herbs or a blend and are drunk hot or cold. Other preparations containing the active ingredients are decoctions (simmer in boiling water), tinctures (dissolving in alcohol), syrups (mixing with sugar or honey), infusion with oils (using sunflower, almond or olive oil), essential oils (extracted with steam or pressure methods or by dissolving in solvents), ointments (simmer in waxes or fats), and creams (stable emulsions of oil and water)