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Herb Essentials for Health

Herbs are broadly defined as any plant or plant part used to promote health. They are full of flavour, low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals, making them a good addition to any meal. Historically, before herbs and spices were widely used in the kitchen, they were recognized and used for their medicinal properties in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China. Many edible flowers enhance health and are useful for their flavour too.

Herbs, edible flowers and spices offer a variety of natural, health-enhancing properties to be exploited. They guarantee a colourful, culinary adventure! If you have an underlying health condition, take medication or supplements, consult with your doctor before using herbal remedies to rule out adverse side-effects or reactions with medications and supplements.


“Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.”

Hippocrates



Health Benefits of Herbs & Spices: A to Z


Aloe Vera

  • Aloe vera is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties. The gel contains most of the beneficial bioactive compounds in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants.

  • Used topically to treat sores and burns, including sunburn.

  • Improves skin moisture and integrity.


Basil

  • Basil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties that boost the immune system.

  • Shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.

  • Boosts mental alertness and memory.





Calendula

  • Calendula possesses several antioxidants that boost immunity.

  • Used topically to soothe itchy, irritated, and inflamed skin conditions including acne, eczema and most rashes.

  • Dried flowers can be used to make a tea that promotes healing from infections and sore throat.




Chamomile

  • Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

  • A natural remedy for diarrhoea, stomach ulcers, nausea and gas, likely due to its anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Its calming effects can alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, and headaches or migraines.



Chives

  • Like onions and garlic, chives contain allicin, a compound that may lower cholesterol and blood sugar.

  • They contain several compounds with antioxidant powers, that protect against aging-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and from degenerative conditions like heart disease and cancer.








Coriander

  • Coriander is packed with fibre, iron and magnesium.

  • It may benefit heart health by promoting HDL cholesterol while reducing LDL cholesterol.

  • It may fight inflammation caused by skin ailments.

  • It may aid digestion and gut health.




Dill

  • Dill is a good source of vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin A.

  • It may benefit overall heart health; bone health & fight harmful bacteria.








Fennel

  • Fennel and fennel seeds provide important nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.

  • Fennel is rich in fibre, and its vitamin C content makes it a great immunity booster.

  • Known throughout history as an effective digestive aid, fennel can be eaten, prepared as a tea, and chewed in seed form.



Garlic

Garlic is one of the best herbs for all-around health:

  • It helps fight infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and is thought to be a powerful remedy for the common cold and flu.

  • It’s a well-known anti-inflammatory.

  • Offers antioxidant properties, which can boost the immune system and fight degenerative conditions related to aging.

  • Can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevent or eliminate plaque build-up in the arteries.



Ginger

  • Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of ginger’s medicinal properties, possessing powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

  • Ginger is a traditional remedy for nausea and vomiting, and can treat chronic indigestion by increasing the rate of stomach emptying.

  • Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties help relieve symptoms of arthritis, muscle pain, and cramps.

  • Can significantly reduce in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and blood triglyceride levels.

  • Can help protect against age-related decline in brain function.

  • Consumed as a tea, ginger warms the body from the inside and can help reduce fevers.



Lavender

  • Best known for its distinctive fragrance, which is known for its calming effects. It is commonly used in aromatherapy to help reduce stress, anxiety, sleeplessness and headaches.

  • Serves as a mild antimicrobial as well as an anti-inflammatory and anti-itch remedy.

  • When applied to the skin, lavender oils have shown positive results in helping with eczema, acne, sunburns, and diaper rash.

  • It repels insects.












Lemon balm

  • Lemon balm is a classic ‘feel-good’ herb, used for its calming qualities – it can ease symptoms of anxiety and stress,

  • It may aid digestion.

  • It’s a popular sleep aid for people suffering from insomnia, specifically when prepared in a tea with other calming herbs like chamomile.




Lemongrass

  • Lemongrass has anti-oxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • It can promote healthy digestion and is often consumed as a tea for its stomach-calming effects, including relief from cramps, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

  • It may help reduce blood pressure and regulate cholesterol

  • Its relaxing aroma makes it one of the most popular essential oils in the world, believed to reduce anxiety.



Mint

  • Mint is a good source of vitamin A and antioxidants.

  • Menthol, one of its primary compounds, helps relax muscles along the digestive tract and can relieve gas, cramps, bloating, nausea, and diarrhoea.

  • Menthol can provide some relief to cold and flu symptoms by subjectively improving breathing through the nose.

  • The aroma of peppermint essential oil has been shown to improve aspects of alertness and memory.










Nasturtium

  • The flowers and leaves contain a variety of minerals and health-promoting compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

  • The leaves contain vitamin C and can help fight infections. Nasturtium tea can help treat coughs, colds, the flu, and bronchitis.

  • When applied topically as a compress, nasturtium has been used to soothe minor skin irritations and muscle pain.












Oregano

  • Oregano contains thymol, the primary flavour component of thyme, which has antibacterial, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties.

  • Commonly used in cough medicines, where it helps break up phlegm, as well as in mouthwashes and toothpastes to fight infection and tooth decay.




Parsley

  • Parsley contains vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

  • It is particularly rich in a class of antioxidants known as flavonoids which may lower your risk of conditions, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.






Roses

  • Rose hips are loaded with the antioxidant vitamin C. Prepared as a tea, both petals and hips can help protect against cold and flu.

  • Rose tea is particularly rich in gallic acid, another antioxidant known to have anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects.

  • Rose petals gently tighten and tone the skin while their presence in aromatic essential oils nourish and soothe it.

  • Rose water has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that can help wounds, cuts and burns heal faster. It also has strong antidepressant and antianxiety properties.



Rosemary

  • Rosemary has been used throughout history to improve memory and alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

  • Its oil has been shown to stimulate hair follicles when rubbed onto the scalp, suggesting it may help counteract hair loss.













Sage

  • Sage is known to promote healthy digestion. It’s often consumed in tea form, used aromatically, or applied topically to treat various conditions, including inflammation, anxiety, and stress.

  • It may help improve memory, calm nerves, and boost concentration; it’s even being studied for its potential effectiveness in treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • It has antimicrobial properties that may kill microbes that encourage the growth of dental plaque.

  • It is shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels and raise HDL cholesterol levels.



Sweet Violet

  • The colourful flowers and tasty leaves lend a mild, fresh “green” flavour to tea, salad, and pesto.

  • Sweet violet has chemicals that help treat chest congestion by moistening dried-out tissues and thinning mucous, making it easier to cough up.







Thyme

  • Thyme is packed with vitamin C and is also a good source of vitamin A, copper, fibre, iron, and manganese. It also has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties.

  • In tea form, it can help manage respiratory illnesses like coughing, bronchitis and asthma.

  • It is a common ingredient in mouthwash and a popular ingredient in natural deodorants.



Turmeric

  • Turmeric has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

  • It can help ease inflammatory conditions like arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

  • It is effective at lowering LDL cholesterol.

  • One of its main compounds, curcumin, can contribute to the prevention of cancer.





Yarrow

  • Named Achillea after the Greek war hero Achilles, it was traditionally used for soldiers’ battlefield wounds.

  • Yarrow leaf extracts have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, both of which aid wound healing.

  • It may increase fibroblasts, which are the cells responsible for regenerating connective tissue and helping your body recover from injury.

  • Topically, it repels insects.



Zumbani (Fever tea)

  • Zumbani possesses analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities. It contains antioxidants and minerals such as copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron.

  • The lemon-flavoured, minty leaves are made into a tea, to treat coughs, colds and bronchial problems.

  • It is used to bring down fevers.

  • It can treat diarrhoea, rashes and headaches.

  • It is an insect repellent.


References

(2015). In L. Herman, Herb & spice companion. New York: Quarto Publishing Group.

(2016). In M. Groves, Body into balance: an herbal guide to holistic self-care. Massachussets: Storey Publishing.

(2017). In Z. Allaway, Indoor edible garden. New York: DK Publishing.

(2019). In M. Groves, Grow your own herbal remedies: How to greate a customized herb garden to support your health & well-being. Massachussets: Storey Publishing.

Gardener's Path. (2021, February 2021). Retrieved from Gardener's Path: https://gardenerspath.com/

Gardening Know How. (2021, February 21). Retrieved from Gardening Know How: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/

herbgardening.com. (2021, February 21). Retrieved from herbgardening.com: http://herbgardening.com/index.htm

Nutrition. (2021, February 21). Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition

Unsplash. (2021, February 2021). Retrieved from Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/


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