Herbs of health

Nowadays, herbs are usually found in the kitchen cupboards more than the medicine cabinet. Bolstering chicken with thyme, elevating spaghetti Bolognese with basil, herbs have been trusted to work their wonders on our cooking for ages.

So why not take a look at what else they can do?

We’re joined by Suttons Seeds, retailers of a range of vegetable seeds, to take a look at the other benefits to keeping your cupboards stocked at the ready with all kinds of herbs!

Ginseng

Chinese medicine has featured Ginseng as part of a cure for a whole range of problems. 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.

For those with heart disease, ask your cardiologist before using ginseng, as its side effects include heart palpitations.

Rosemary

In a study of various essential oils, scientists at Northumbria University discovered the memory-improving benefits of rosemary. 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.

As Shakespeare wrote: “rosemary is for remembrance”. It looks like this might be for more than merely symbolic!

Echinacea

High in flavonoids and with mild anti-inflammatory properties, you might not have heard of echinacea before. 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

Between 1920 and 1930, the herb was a go-to remedy in Europe and North America. 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

Sage shared its roots (linguistically, that is) with the Latin word ‘salvere’, which means ‘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

A common sight in any kitchen, basil is adored by chefs around the world. 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 fancy sounding herb isn’t the same as normal basil. 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 subtler-tasting mint herb comes from the Mediterranean. 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

Boasting a huge amount of phyto-nutrients, this herb encourages an appetite. 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.

Obviously, herbs can be far more beneficial than just a garnish. 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!