A Nutritional Introduction To Common Herbs
Using herbs in cooking goes back centuries, but what many people may not know is that the medicinal use of herbs is also ancient. Herbs have been long used to combat certain ailments that now have pharmaceutical fixes. While the use of herbs medicinally is not as traditional now as it used to be, many people are looking for more holistic ways to take care of their body. One great way to help improve your overall health is by using herbs. They can be made into teas and cooked into food to not only enhance the flavor, but your health as well.
Herbs contain essential oils, unique antioxidants, and vitamins that the body needs to run properly. While some are more common than others, many herbs you may use on a regular basis are doing more for your health than you may think. So, what are the most commonly used herbs, and what are their health benefits?
What are the most common herbs?
Basil and parsley are arguably the most well-known of all the herbs. However, coming in at a close second are others such as mint, rosemary, dill, cilantro, and thyme. These herbs are staples in many kitchens, and most people have at least a few dried varieties sitting on their spice rack. The flavors these herbs bring can make or break a dish – and they can also lend a helping hand towards healthy living.
According to written reports that date back thousands of years, one of the first herbs to be used medicinally was thyme. Laurel and caraway were also used during that same period; however, thyme seems to have stuck around as one of the most widely used herbs.
What are the nutritional benefits of herbs?
The various nutritional benefits of herbs have been shown to help everything from brain function to gastrointestinal disorders to immunity. The following list of herbs and their benefits is sure to have you running to the market and searching recipes to find out how you can incorporate them into your diet!
There are over 600 different varieties of mint, but the most notable are peppermint and spearmint. The health benefits of peppermint are vast, and research has shown that those who experience stomach upset or have a gastrointestinal disorder can benefit from having more peppermint in their diet. Mint works by helping to smooth muscle in the colon. This helps to regulate the bowel and reduce pain. Peppermint has also shown to help reduce feelings of nausea.
Spearmint, another popular type, has been shown to help relieve gastrointestinal upset, reduce oxidative stress because of its high antioxidant compounds, help balance hormones in women, and improve memory.
Holy basil is different than regular basil. Considered sacred in India, it can help protect the body against infections by decreasing bacteria, yeast, and mold growth. Research has also shown that it can help to boost the immune system by increasing immune cell count in the bloodstream.
For those with high blood sugar, fenugreek may be helpful at managing levels. Studies have shown that because it contains the plant protein 4-hydroxyisoleucine, it can help to improve how insulin functions in the body, thus improving the management of blood sugar levels. This is especially helpful for people with diabetes.
Rosemary is a popular herb used in cooking, but it can also help relieve nasal congestion and symptoms of allergies. Research has found that rosmarinic acid, the active ingredient in the herb, can help suppress allergic responses in the body as well as congestion of the nasal passages.
Sage was a popular healing herb in the Middle Ages, and for good reason. Research surrounding the use of sage as a medicinal aid has found that it can help improve brain function and memory in people with diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This is because sage can inhibit the breakdown of a chemical messenger in the brain known as acetylcholine – the levels of which drop in people with Alzheimer’s.
Oregano is rich in antioxidants, and research has shown that it has the potential to help fight bacteria. It may also have anti-cancer properties. Other health benefits include its potential to help reduce symptoms of viral infections as well as inflammation in the body.
Dill is a great flavor to add to many dishes, but it also has many health benefits. According to research, dill may have the ability to kill potentially harmful bacteria in the body, increase bone health because of the nutrients it contains, and help ease menstrual cramps.
Aside from parsley’s impressive nutritional content, the herb can go a long way when it comes to medicinal use. Studies have found that parsley can battle oxidative stress because of its antioxidant content and support bone health because of its vitamin K content.
Cilantro contains high amounts of fiber, manganese, magnesium, vitamins C and K, protein, and iron, making it a nutritional powerhouse. Vitamin C is known to help keep the immune system running as it should, and protein helps the body repair and build muscle mass.
Using any or all of these herbs in your meals will help to improve overall health and give you some of the nutrients your body needs. It can also help take anything you cook from bland to amazing in an instant!