Smokin’ the Herb

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Posted October 10, 2007 in Mind Body Spirit

 This week, the Weekly wants to push herb on you—we want you doing as much of the good green stuff as you possibly can.

That’s right—we’re talking about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. We’ll even heat things up by including spices, like cayenne and nutmeg, in the mix—awww yeah!

While it’s common knowledge that herbs and spices add extra flavor to your food, these small leaves and tidbits from fragrant, aromatic plants also have a wealth of health benefits. Many of them have been found to play a role in preventing and managing heart disease, cancer and diabetes, amongst many other perks, including even helping to manage weight. Here are a few of our favorites:

Parsley. Available fresh year-round, parsley is the world’s most popular herb. An excellent source of vitamins C and A (specifically, the powerhouse anti-infective beta-carotine), parsley’s unusual oils and flavenoids have been shown to inhibit tumor formations, help neutralize carcinogens such as cigarette smoke, and increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood. It’s time to start eating the garnish (it will also freshen your breath at the end of your meal), or try adding chopped parsley to bean salads or fish entrees.

Mint. This cool and refreshing herb can soothe your tummy, relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, stop the growth of various bacteria and help asthmatics breathe easier. A fantastic source of manganese as well as vitamins C and A, mint will enhance a simple glass of cold water, bring comfort in a warm cup of tea or make a fresh fruit salad unique.

Cinnamon. Most of us take for granted this naturally sweet spice that complements our cookies and oatmeal, but many centuries ago it was considered a delicacy that only kings and the very rich could afford. Much more than tasty, however, the essential oils of cinnamon bark are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, can help prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets and may significantly help people with diabetes by improving their ability to respond to insulin. Studies have even found that just sniffing some cinnamon boosts brain activity, so try tapping a little into your coffee or adding a spoonful to your smoothie, and breathe deeply.

Turmeric. With a peppery, slightly bitter flavor, turmeric is one of the key components in curry, as well as the ingredient that gives ballpark mustard its bright yellow color. Long accepted as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicine, it has been used to treat numerous ailments, including flatulence, menstrual pain, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises and chest pain. The key pharmacological agent is actually the yellow/orange pigment, curcumin. Numerous studies have found curcumin’s effect to be comparable to potent drugs such as hydrocortisone or Motrin, without the toxic side effects. It has also been found to help people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cystic Fibrosis and a variety of cancers, as well as improve liver function and maybe even prevent Alzheimer’s. Dig into a good yellow curry, add it to lentils, or give salad dressing a kick.

You can easily grow your own fresh herbs in a pot on the windowsill, or try an AeroGarden, the dirt-free system that allows you to grow them in only water and air. If you choose to grow something else green and leafy with the hydroponic system . . . well, hey, that’s up to you.

 

Much of the info for this piece was found on the extensive World’s Healthiest Foods website, a non-profit, unbiased, science-based organization that looks at food and nutrition in depth. For a complete breakdown of health benefits as well tantalizing recipes, check out the site at www.whfoods.com.

 


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