Food

Beyond Cooking: The Secret Power of Herbs

September 7, 2018

Chances are, you’re no stranger to herbs and their place in many staple meals. Thyme or rosemary for chicken, sage in stuffing, basil for tomato dishes, there are traditional pairings of herbs and meals. But what else can herbs do, other than bring a zing to your meal?

Well, herbs have been used across the ages to treat and remedy all sorts of problems. Some have been dismissed as incorrect or superstition, but there’s plenty of natural herb-based uses that still hold up today! Join crocus bulbs supplier Suttons Seeds as we look at the benefits of herbs.

Ginseng

Ginseng is a popular element of Chinese medicine, featuring in remedies for all sorts of issues. With Panax ginseng the most widely studied of this species, it has been found to boost our mood, enhance our memory and increase concentration. As a natural detoxifier, it’s also said to boost our immune system and treat imbalances in our body, including blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels and hormones.

If you have heart problems, make sure to check with your cardiologist before using ginseng, as it has been known to cause insomnia and heart palpitations.

Rosemary

Rosemary has been touted to help enhance memory, according to research by Northumbria University. The main chemical constituent in the herb is 8-cineole and by simply smelling rosemary, we are said to be able to score higher on tests and function better on a daily basis.

“Rosemary is for remembrance”, or so Shakespeare wrote, and it seems like this is true in more ways than symbolism!

Echinacea

Echinacea has mild anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being high in flavonoids. It is said to hold immune-boosting qualities that promotes the activity of the lymphocyte cells that help eliminate viruses from the body. Promoters of the herb use it to combat an array of ailments, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Acid indigestion
  • Gum disease
  • Migraines
  • Diphtheria
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Flu
  • Tonsillitis

Echinacea was a popular treatment option in North America and Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.  It first was used as a treatment for the common cold, after a supplement maker from Switzerland believed it could prevent common colds after finding out Native American tribes in South Dakota used it for this reason.

Sage

The word ‘sage’ derives from the ‘salvere’, which is Latin for ‘to save’. And it certainly had a life-saving reputation in the Middle Ages, with many using it as a way to try to prevent the plague. However, recent research found that the herb may be able to improve our brain’s functionality and memories, especially in people who have Alzheimer’s disease as sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine — something which drops in sufferers of the disease.

Basil

Basil is a super-popular herb in the kitchen. However, the plant also has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that can halt osteoarthritis. Currently, it’s being used to combat digestive disorders and is the subject of studies looking into its anti-cancer properties. The essential oils found in basil are a good source of vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s also said that the oil can enhance dull-looking skin and hair when massaged into the skin, provide relief from the common cold and improve digestion.

Holy basil

This basil isn’t your average basil plant. Holy basil is considered to be a sacred herb in India and has been linked with reducing blood sugar levels. It has also been used to combat anxiety and any anxiety-related depression, with one study finding it increases certain immune cells which are found in our blood. However, as these studies have been relatively small, it’s anticipated that more research will be carried out to discover the herb’s true ‘powers’.

Spearmint

This Mediterranean herb has a softer taste than other mints. Its leaves carry menthol and is rich in many antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin A and vitamin C. It can help battle flatulence and hiccups, due to it relaxing your stomach muscles. Other benefits spearmint is used for includes relieving itching, dermatitis and hives when it’s used as a cream or lotion. It can also be used in aromatic therapy to help reduce head pains, fatigue and stress.

Tarragon

Tarragon is known to bring an appetite, with its phyto-nutrients. In its fresh form, it is one of the highest antioxidant value food sources in common herbs. Studies have found that it helps to lower blood sugar levels and compounds found in the herb can inhibit platelet activation and prevent adhesion to the blood vessel wall. This can help prevent clot formation inside blood vessels in your heart and brain, which can protect from heart attacks and strokes. In dentistry, tarragon has been used as an antiseptic for toothache complaints, while tarragon tea is thought to help cure insomnia.

You can see how herbs have more uses than just in the kitchen. Studies will continue to be carried out to firmly understand all the positive aspects of the herbs available to us. So, now is as good a time as any to head to your local supermarkets and stock up on those all-important herbs!

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