FEATURE - August 2018

4 Healing Herbs for Lifelong Health

 By Amy Hundley

 

Welcome to the world of herbs. You may not need to travel the globe to embrace the magical healing wonders of herbs because they can all be locally and kitchen home grown. Since herbs are nature’s medicine, why not enrich and care for your ever-evolving life? It’s time to cultivate long lasting great health and eat well with these four herbs.  

 

General Benefits

 

“Before the discovery of modern pharmaceuticals, both Americans and Europeans relied on herbs,” says William J. Keller, PhD, vice president of health sciences and educational services at Nature’s Sunshine Products in Provo, Utah.

 

For millions of people worldwide, herbs even in today’s society act as the medicine they depend on to stay healthy. 

 

In the culinary world, there’s an herb to complement nearly every dish. 

 

Herbs versus Spices

 

Though often used interchangeably, the two terms are actually very different in nature, literally. Herbs are the leafy, green parts of a plant. Spices, in contrast, are usually always dried, often ground, and are made of the other parts of the plant, including but not limited to seeds, stems, and roots. Overall, herbs have fresh, light flavors while spices tend to have stronger and more concentrated flavors. 

 

Four of the Healthiest and Healing Herbs

 

Sage

This sweet herb is native to the North American Southwest. It is characterized by texturized fuzzy, gray-green, and oval shaped leaves. Sage is a member of mint family which can be noticed by its vaguely minty aroma. 

 

Health Benefit—Historically, sage had a strong reputation for its healing properties, especially during the Middle Ages and was even used to help prevent the plague. Nowadays in the 21st century, current research reported in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics; indicate that sage may be able to improve brain function and memory, particularly in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe that sage has the saving power to inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine, the chemical messenger that declines in those with Alzheimer’s disease. To take it one step further, scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand led a four month study of 42 individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease; sage was shown to produce significant improvements in the participants brain function. 

 

In the kitchen—Sage pairs well with citrus fruits like lemon and goes nicely with vegetables such as peas, pumpkin, winter squash and tomatoes. Meal wise, it can be added to soups, risotto, baked chicken, and can even be topped to tomato sauce or added to butter for spreading onto pasta dishes. 

 

Mint

Historically used as a tithe in biblical times, mint is noticed by its erect, branching steams and oblong leaves.  It is arranged in opposing pairs on the steams, and the leaves are often covered in tiny hairs.

 

Health benefits—According to studies published in the British Medical Journal, mint has promising effects in management for improving pain with those who have irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. It appears to work by relaxing the smooth muscles in the colon, equaling pain relief. Due to the ingredient menthol and its powerful cooling sensation, mint can also soothe sore throats just like throat lozenges. 

 

In the Kitchen—It combines wonderfully when eaten with vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and peas. Mint is also great with meats like lamb and chicken and can be finely chopped or topped alongside yogurt. This herb is for you if you have a sweet tooth since it’s the only herb used in desserts and is a favorite flavor partner to chocolate. 

 

Rosemary

Native to the Mediterranean and brought to American kitchens from Europe during the early settlements, this herb’s leaves resemble pine needles that grow on a tough long steam. 

 

Health Benefits—Due to one of rosemary’s primary active ingredients, rosmarinic acid, it has been shown to subdue allergic responses and nasal congestion. A study from the University of Medicine at Kyoto, Japan, proves that when 29 individuals used rosemary daily, their overall allergy symptoms were suppressed. Furthermore the number of immune cells in the nasal mucus also decreased. 

 

In the Kitchen—Rosemary tops well on vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, onions and spinach. By having a fresh, mild flavor, this herb pairs nicely with lighter proteins such as chicken and lamb. Rosemary is especially delicious when combined with grains. To enjoy, simply sprinkle over olive oil along with salt to add flavor for dipping your favorite bread grain. 

 

Parsley

This herb was founded on rocky hillsides in Greece and is known as one of the most popular herbs in the United States. Parsley has a classic herb appearance with small bunches of bright green leaves that can commonly appear in two varieties-curly or flat.

 

Health Benefits-This herb is rich in vitamins A and C, two crucial nutrients that nature your skin. It also contains chlorophyll, a nutrient compound that helps remove toxins from the body. 

 

In the Kitchen—Parsley can be added to mushrooms, zucchini, and potatoes. Having a light, peppery flavor it is enjoyable in salads, soups, and pasta dishes. This herb can also pair beautifully when eaten with eggs, rice, pork, and fish.   

 

Safety, Storage, and Growing Care Tips

 

* When shopping for fresh herbs, choose those that are completely clean and free of soil. Once at home, cut off and trash any bruised stems or leaves. 

 

* Fresh herbs should always be refrigerated and can be kept in a plastic bag for up to five days.

 

* Dried herbs are very heat and light sensitive. Therefore, they should be stored in the pantry or closed in a kitchen cabinet/cupboard. 

 

* Herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow and can be a good place to start to set your sights in the gardening realm. 

 

* Since the kitchen is considered one of the central rooms of the house, this is the ideal environment for growing and displaying your culinary herbs. 

 

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Amy Hundley is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, licensed in both Kansas & Missouri and a published Freelance Nutrition Writer. She is currently practicing as a clinical RD and the world of freelance writing. Amy can be contacted for questions, comments, and writing requests at amyhundley05@gmail.com 

 

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