Herbs are a steady constant in our kitchens. Where would our sage and onion stuffing recipe be without, well, sage? And a good tomato pasta sauce just wouldn’t be the same without basil. Yes, it’s good to have your kitchens well-stocked with an array of herbs, but their uses extend beyond cooking.
Traditionally, herbs have been used as medicinal sources and for many pleasing scents. With the expertise of plant supports supplier Suttons Seeds, we’ll be exploring eight of the best examples of multi-functional herbs.
Ginseng for the mind
A common herb along thousands of years of Chinese medicine, ginseng has been attributed as a cure for many ailments. 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. However, it has been claimed that anyone with heart disease should avoid this herb or consult with your cardiologist due to the reported side effects, such as heart palpitations and insomnia.
What was rosemary for again?
Rosemary’s scent comes from an essential oil that has also been accredited to improved accuracy and speed when it comes to mental tasks, says 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.
Shakespeare was ahead of science when he penned “rosemary is for remembrance”, it seems!
Echinacea: supporting your immune system
This herb has mild anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to a high level of 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:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Acid indigestion
- Gum disease
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, echinacea was very popular 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.
The roots of sage
Sage has roots in the Latin word ‘salvere’, meaning ‘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: more than just for cooks
Basil has pride of place among many a chef’s cupboard. 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: more than just basil!
This one’s a step up from regular old 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’.
This Mediterranean herb isn’t as strong as other herbs in the mint family. 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 helps to stimulate an appetite, thanks to its healthy dose of 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.
As you can see from this small selection, herbs have numerous health benefits to be aware of. 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!