One of my greatest simple joys is having a constant supply of fresh herbs in my kitchen. For me, fresh herbs send the overall flavor of my food to the next level, and quickly become the highlight to many of my “famous” dishes. It’s easy to love herbs for their taste and versatility, but as it turns out, certain herbs can provide us with wonderful health benefits too. So next time you’re enjoying the herbs in your favorite dishes, take a moment to consider what they’re doing for your health!
Besides being known for its strong fragrance and taste, basil is abundant in vitamin K, is said to be rich in antioxidants and to have antibacterial properties. In addition, the healthy dose of magnesium in basil promotes cardiovascular health, by encouraging muscles and blood vessels to relax and improving blood flow.
Rosemary, aside from tasting divine in almost any food you add it to, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years to stimulate brain activity and alertness – consider using it for an energy boost instead of your daily coffee! Rosemary is also said to aid in digestion and to boost immunity.
Cilantro has been getting a lot of attention lately as a possible water filtration system for removing nickel and lead (read more about it here!) Just as cilantro is being used to filter water, it has been effectively used to help remove heavy metals and other toxins from the body. As a source of potassium and iron, cilantro helps control heart rate and blood pressure, and promotes red blood cell production.
Mint is a perfect addition to ice cream and tea, but for your health, peppermint can help settle the stomach and alleviate gas. Peppermint is rich in the antioxidants that support good vision, and can help eliminate toxins from your body as it cleanses your liver.
Versatile in its culinary uses, parsley is said to cool the liver and clear the eyes. Evidence suggests that parsley can help protect the eye from UV radiation damage, therefore protecting vision.
One of my favorite ingredients to home-brewed iced teas, thyme can help prevent infections by killing harmful bacteria. It is for this reason that thyme extract was used in mouthwashes and cough medicine to treat throat infections.
Oregano is known as a classic ingredient for Italian cooking, but for health, oregano is known as an antioxidant, capable of clearing out free radicals that age us and contribute to disease. It is also an effective broad-spectrum antibiotic and antifungal, capable of clearing yeast and fungal nail infections.
The wise are often called sages, so it may come as no surprise that the herb with the same name has long been used to prevent the loss of mental function. Sage has been found to increase oxygen to the brain and to help improve concentration, and is also said to decrease inflammation.
Since fresh herbs are so delicious AND healthy, why not make them a regular ingredient to your home cooking? Although many herbs are at their best during the summer months, most are still available in supermarkets. For finding herbs at farmer's markets (and your garden) before winter, you will find that various fall-friendly herbs such as cilantro, parsley and mint are still available.