We all know that fresh herbs are where it’s at when cooking, but aside from being superior flavor-wise, our common cooking herbs have a surprising number of health benefits when regularly included in our diets. All of the following are easy to grow in a home garden of any size and add interest to our meals and are one of the many things we can consume to help keep us healthy.
When taken orally, oregano is used to help respiratory tract infections including influenza and the common cold, UTIs, gastrointestinal disorders, and even menstrual cramps. Oregano is high in vitamin K which promotes bone growth and density. It also contains high concentrations of anti-oxidants and is an effective anti-inflammatory.
When used topically, the essential oil of oregano has anti-bacterial properties. It is used in a wide variety of skin conditions from acne to dandruff, but it has been proven by Western medicine to be effective against multiple strains of Listeria bacteria, a common food pathogen and the Himalayan variety is even strong enough to kill MRSA and its effectiveness is not diminished by heating the oil in boiling water.
Conditions that oregano has been used to relive throughout history (but Western medicine may not have studied) include cold, muscle pain, acne, dandruff, bronchitis, toothache, bloating, headaches, heart conditions, allergies, intestinal parasites, fatigue, ear ache, menstrual cramps, and as an insect repellant.
Basil is a member of the mint family and in addition to being simple to grow and a wonderful addition to Italian, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, has many additional health benefits. There are a number of varieties of basil, all with different flavor profiles ranging from sweet, to citrusy, to peppery. In fact, holy basil is used as a healing herb in Ayurvedic and Tamil healing traditions. Western research has studied some specific aspects of holy basil and has found that extracts reduce inflammation and swelling; has anti-aging properties; is effective at combatting free radicals in the liver, brain and heart; and is high in anti-oxidants. Additionally, early studies suggest that holy basil may be helpful with anxiety and stress and even decrease blood sugar in people with Type 2 Diabetes.
Topically, basil oil has been found to have antibacterial properties. It has been used to treat ringworm; it can restrict the growth of bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli (E-coli); and even stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Historically, thyme has been used through the ages to aid with a wide range of chest and respiratory conditions including cough, chest congestion, and bronchitis. The volatile component in the oil of thyme provides some pretty amazing benefits. Thymol significantly increases the anti-oxidant protection of cellular membranes. It has been found to protect and increase the healthy fats on a cellular level. Thyme is high in flavonoids, making it an excellent anti-oxidant.
Here is yet another herbal oil which is a highly effective antimicrobial. Studies have shown it to be effective in combatting a variety of bacteria including Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei. What is remarkable about the oils in thyme was not only can it prevent contamination, but it can decontaminate previously contaminated foods as well and it is as simple as washing the affected food with a 1% solution of the essential oil.