Did you realise that herbs offer not only flavour to a meal but also a wide range of health benefits? We take a look at the top 10 herbs to add to your diet today.
Disease cannot survive in an alkaline environment, but instead thrives in an acidic one. Similarly, all disease begins with some form of inflammation. Basil- often referred to as the “king of herbs”- is highly anti-inflammatory thanks to its oils, such as eugenol, citral, and limonene, to name a few. These oils have also have anti-bacterial properties. Basil also contains several antioxidant compounds like orientin, vicenin–both of which have been shown in studies to prevent oxidative damage in the liver.
Commonly found in South Indian and Sri Lankan dishes, this spice is rich in nutrients that stimulate digestion. It is antispasmodic, helping to ensure that the intestines keep the food moving the way it’s supposed to.
Cardamom also counteracts excess stomach acid, stimulates bile production, and reduction of gastric juices. Keep in mind, proper digestion is the key to keeping the weight off, since better absorption of nutrients results in less feelings of hunger.
Coriander is full of essential nutrients to optimize metabolic processes, keep you full, and less likely to eat empty calories. It’s high in Vitamins A, C, and K- all of which your body needs everyday.
In addition, cilantro has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Stems and leaves contain antioxidants like quercetin and keampferol, while its leaves and seeds contain anti-inflammatory compounds like borneol and linalool. Research has found that rats with rheumatoid arthritis that were given cilantro extract had reduced swelling and less inflammation than the rats who received steroidal treatments.
A favorite in the dessert world, cinnamon is ironically good for diabetics. Recent studies show its promise in helping diabetic patients by improving the action of insulin. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 found that in healthy subjects, consuming 6 grams of cinnamon reduced the glucose response after a meal, most likely due to slowed emptying of the stomach’s contents.
Other studies have shown that cinnamon can lower triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. In addition, cinnamon is thought to have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, as well aid in the treatment of rheumatism, some menstrual disorders, ulcers, indigestion, and diarrhoea.
Ginger is a powerful digestive aid and antimicrobial herb. Ginger root is particularly potent, containing phenolic compounds like gingerols, zingerone, and shogaols, which help digestion by maintaining the tone of intestinal muscles and neutralizing excess acidity without abdominal irritation.
Traditionally, it has also been used as an anti-inflammatory and painkiller, helping to treat arthritis, chronic muscular pains, even respiratory issues from allergies. In a 2005 article published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, authors discovered that ginger modulates biochemical pathways related to chronic inflammation Other studies have shown that it may help relieve pregnancy-related nausea, motion sickness, migraine headaches.
This herb goes beyond flavoring: whether it’s consumed or applied topically, peppermint has various health benefits, due to its active ingredients: menthol, menthol acetate, and menthone. Peppermint is used as a digestive aid, remedy for colic, and provide relief for irritable bowel syndrome.
Researchers in Germany found that among healthy subjects, peppermint oil acts a digestive aid by having a relaxing effect on the gallbladder and by slowing down the transit time of food in the small intestine – where most of the absorption takes place. Peppermint is also high in dietary fiber- a must for any weight loss meal plan and great for bowel health.
It’s long been used as an antimicrobial and anti-fungal agent, but oregano is rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium- all of which support cardiovascular health and promote healthy metabolism. It’s also full of antioxidants like manganese, copper, Vitamins C and A, and beta carotene. According to scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, oregano has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 12 times more than oranges, and 4 times more than blueberries.
Oregano is also believed to be a digestive aid, acting on the motility of the gastrointestinal tract, and on the secretion of digestive juices. Lastly, it is an excellent source of dietary fiber- just 100 grams provides 107% of RDA, or 42.8 grams of fibre.
What once was believed to ward off bad influences, rosemary, as it turns out, may ward off unwanted weight. It’s full of B-vitamins, which play a significant role in the way your body metabolizes carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Without them, some metabolic processes may not work properly, if at all.
Rosemary also has antioxidant abilities, as it contains lots of Vitamin C (100 grams contains about 37% of the RDA), and the mineral manganese (100 grams contains 40% of the RDA). A study in Finland that was published in a 2006 volume of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research suggested that rosemary contained compounds that are able to counteract the harmful oxidation that occurs with heating extra virgin olive oil.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but a tiny amount goes a long way, both in flavor and in its health benefits. Studies have been published suggesting saffron’s role in the management of PMS, Alzheimer’s Disease and other neuro-inflammatory conditions, age-related macular degeneration, and depression- just to name a few.
A favorite among the French, this herb is popular for its antiseptic properties, helping to fight a variety of infections. Thyme is an immune-booster, as it’s loaded with Vitamins C and A. Researchers from the University of Brighton, East Sussex, found that thyme oil was affective in killing MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph aureus), which is otherwise resistant to regular antibiotics. Thyme is also loaded with B-vitamins just like Rosemary, offering the same benefits.
Add some herbs into your diet today.