Health Benefits - Herbs
Sage is a herb native to the Mediterranean. It belongs to the same mint family as oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and basil. Herbs and spices can have extremely high antioxidant capacities and pack extra flavour into a meal.
The sage plant has grey-green edible leaves and flowers that can range in colour from blue and purple to white or pink. There are more than 900 species of sage around the world.
Sage appears to contain a range of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Sage can help protect the body's cells from damage caused by free radicals due to its high antioxidant capacity. Free radicals often cause cells to die and can lead to impaired immunity and chronic disease.
Alzheimer's treatment: A recent review of studies showed that species of sage could positively impact cognitive skills and protect against neurological disorders. Other studies have shown that sage can also improve memory in young, healthy adults.
Lowering blood glucose and cholesterol: Sage leaves have anti-hyperglycaemic and lipid-profile-improving effects in hyperlipidaemic type 2 diabetic patients. Another study concluded that sage might show benefit for people with diabetes to reduce glucose levels 2 hours after fasting.
Controlling inflammation: Although more evidence is needed to confirm this benefit, certain compounds in sage appear to have an anti-inflammatory action. One study investigated the effects of a range of these compounds on the inflammatory response in gingival fibroblasts. These are a common type of cell found in the connective tissue of the gums. Some of the compounds in sage helped to reduce this type of inflammation.
Thyme is a Mediterranean herb with dietary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have been used to treat a range of symptoms and complaints.
People have used thyme throughout history. The ancient Egyptians used thyme as an embalming fluid. In ancient Greece, they used thyme as an incense in temples and added it to bathwater. The Romans used thyme as a flavouring for cheese and alcoholic beverages. They are also supposedly offered it as a cure people for who were melancholic or shy. The Roman army introduced thyme to the British Isles when they conquered the land.
Hippocrates, who lived around 460 BCE to 370 BCE and is known today as "the father of Western medicine," recommended thyme for respiratory diseases and conditions. People grew thyme in gardens and gathered it in the countryside.
Thyme is thought to have antibacterial, insecticidal, and possibly antifungal properties. Thymol is one of a naturally occurring class of compounds known as biocides. These are substances that can destroy harmful organisms, such as infectious bacteria. Used alongside other biocides, such as carvacrol, thyme has strong antimicrobial properties. One study from 2010 suggests that thymol can reduce bacterial resistance to common drugs, including penicillin.
Colon cancer: A study carried out in Lisbon, Portugal, found that extracts of mastic thyme might protect people from colon cancers. Researchers in Turkey looked at the effect of wild thyme on breast cancer activity, and specifically how it affected apoptosis, or cell death, and gene-related events in breast cancer cells. They found that wild thyme caused cell death in breast cancer cells.
Yeast infection: The fungus Candida albicans (C. albicans) is a common cause of yeast infections in the mouth and vagina, a recurring condition called "thrush." Researchers at the University of Turin, Italy, found that thyme significantly enhanced the destruction of the C. albicans fungus in the human body.
The mentha, or mint, family refers to a group of around 15 to 20 plant species, including peppermint and spearmint. Mint has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. Learning how to use fresh herbs and spices such as mint to add flavour when cooking can also help to cut down on sodium intake.
Allergies: Mint plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid. This has been studied for its effectiveness in relieving seasonal allergy symptoms, revealing a promising natural treatment.
Indigestion and gas: Mint is a calming and soothing herb that has been used for thousands of years to aid with upset stomach or indigestion. Mint is thought to increase bile secretion and encourage bile flow, which helps to speed and ease digestion (and which may also support healthy cholesterol levels). Peppermint is also thought to relieve pain and discomfort from gas and bloating. Peppermint tea is a common home remedy for flatulence.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): The use of peppermint oil has been found to be an effective and safe treatment for those suffering from abdominal pain or discomfort associated with IBS.
Pain relief: Applying peppermint extract externally has been found to increase pain threshold in humans.
Oral health: Mint is a natural anti-microbial agent and breath freshener.
Basil, also known as Saint Joseph's Wort, is a herb belonging to the mint family. It is used in cooking and may have some health benefits. Basil's proposed benefits include reducing inflammation, and it is said to have anti-ageing and antibacterial properties.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is well known for its use in Italian cuisine. There are a number of types of basil, which differ in taste and smell. Sweet basil (the most commercially available basil used in Italian food) has a strong clove scent because of its high concentration of the chemical agent eugenol.
Studies have shown that basil "contains a wide range of essential oils, rich in phenolic compounds, and a wide array of other natural products including polyphenols such as flavonoids and anthocyanins." According to research, basil contains (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which may be useful in treating arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Fighting cancer: A review, published in 2013, investigated the potential for holy basil to prevent cancer. They concluded that thanks to the phytochemicals it contains, including eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, myretenal, luteolin, β-sitosterol, and carnosic acid, it may help prevent certain types of skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers. It appears to do this by increasing antioxidant activity, changing gene expression, triggering cell death, and slowing cell division.
Reducing the effects of oxidative stress: An adaptogen is a herbal medicine that helps the body adapt to stress; ginseng is perhaps the most well known. Basil may also fall into this category.
Anti-ageing properties: basil also has properties that might help prevent some of the harmful effects of ageing. In one study, basil extract was effective at killing off harmful molecules and preventing damage caused by some free radicals in the liver, brain, and heart.
Reduce inflammation and swelling: Basil may help reduce inflammation. One study, presented at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's annual event, found: "Extracts of O. tenuiflorum (Holy basil) were shown to reduce swelling by up to 73 per cent, 24 hours after treatment." These effects on swelling were similar in extent to those seen with the drug diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory medication.
Antibacterial properties: Lab studies have demonstrated that basil has antibacterial properties; this may be because of the volatile oils it contains, which include estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. Basil restricts the growth of numerous bacteria, including Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This could mean that adding fresh basil to a salad not only adds flavor, it also helps reduce the number of harmful bacteria on the plate.
Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. It is used as a culinary condiment, to make bodily perfumes, and for its potential health benefits. Rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender.
Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.
Improving digestion: In Europe, rosemary is often used to help treat indigestion. In fact, Germany's Commission E has approved rosemary for the treatment of indigestion.
Enhancing memory and concentration: According to research outlined in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, the aroma from rosemary can improve a person's concentration, performance, speed, and accuracy and, to a lesser extent, their mood.
Neurological protection: Scientists have found that rosemary may also be good for your brain. Rosemary contains an ingredient called carnosic acid, which can fight off damage by free radicals in the brain. Rosemary might be useful for people who have experienced a stroke. Rosemary appears to be protective against brain damage and might improve recovery. Some studies have suggested that rosemary may significantly help prevent brain ageing. The therapeutic ability of rosemary for the prevention of Alzheimer's shows promise.
Cancer: Research published in Oncology Reports found that "crude ethanolic rosemary extract (RO)" slowed the spread of human leukaemia and breast carcinoma cells." Another study, published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, concluded that rosemary might be useful as an anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour agent.
Protection against macular degeneration: A study revealed that a carnosic acid, which is a major component of rosemary, can significantly promote eye health. This could have clinical applications for diseases affecting the outer retina, such as age-related macular degeneration.
Preventing cancer: Flavonoids are naturally-occurring plant compounds that can counter disease-causing agents in the body. Myricetin is a flavonoid found in parsley and other plants. It has been shown to help prevent skin cancer. Parsley contains one of the highest concentrations of myricetin per 100 grams. Studies have shown that parsley and other green herbs and vegetables can block the cancer-causing effects of heterocyclic amines. These are chemical compounds that have cancer-causing qualities. Apigenin is a natural chemical found in parsley. In a 2015 review, it was shown to decrease tumour size in an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Protecting against diabetes: The myricetin present in parsley has also been examined for use in the treatment and prevention of diabetes. Studies have demonstrated that myricetin can lower blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance. It also appears to provide anti-inflammatory effects and remove excess fat from the blood.
Improving bone health: Low vitamin K intake has been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Consuming an adequate amount of vitamin K may improve bone health by improving calcium absorption and reducing the excretion of calcium in the urine. In a recent meta-analysis, subjects with the highest levels of vitamin K experienced 22 per cent fewer fractures than those with low levels. Ten sprigs of parsley are enough to reach the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.
Oregano is a Mediterranean herb that is used for cooking and medicinal purposes, ranging from treating infections to repelling insects. The name of the herb comes from the Greek words "oros," meaning mountain, and "ganos," meaning joy. It typically grows around 50 cm tall and has purple leaves around 2 to 3 centimetres in length.
It is believed to contain potent antioxidants and to have anti-bacterial properties.
Hippocrates used it as an antiseptic.
Antibacterial properties: Oregano oil contains an essential compound called carvacrol, which has antimicrobial properties. The herb has shown antimicrobial activity in a number of studies. One group of researchers found that Origanum vulgare essential oils were effective against 41 strains of the food pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. Another team from India and the United Kingdom (U.K.) reported that the essential oil of Himalayan oregano has strong antibacterial properties that may protect against the hospital superbug, MRSA. "We have done a few preliminary tests and have found that the essential oil from the oregano kills MRSA at a dilution 1 to 1,000. The tests show that the oil kills MRSA both as a liquid and as a vapour and its antimicrobial activity is not diminished by heating in boiling water." Prof. Vyv Salisbury, the University of the West of England, Bristol. The project won an award from the United Nations in 2008.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Scientists from Germany and Switzerland identified an active ingredient in oregano, known as beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP), which may help treat disorders such as osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. E-BCP is a dietary cannabinoid.
Protecting against cancer: Research published shows that oregano exhibits anticancer activity. The scientists concluded that Origanum majorana could help prevent and treat breast cancer by slowing or preventing its progression.
In 2014, food scientists discovered that the popular culinary herbs oregano, rosemary, and marjoram contain compounds that may have the potential to manage type 2 diabetes in a similar way to some currently prescribed drugs.