As the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once said, "Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food." Of all of the varieties of edible items found in nature, herbs are among the most long-standing and globally recognized for their multiple healing benefits. But these medicinal wonder-greens are more common that you might think: Some are the everyday items you're likely already using to enhance the flavour of your food. Add these to your pantry and, in addition to making your meals taste even better, you could also help to relieve your body from various ailments from stress, sunburn, coughs, indigestion, and more.
Parsley, the green jewel of the Mediterranean region, was first used as a medicinal plant by the Ancient Greeks. Incredibly nutrient-rich, this herb can help to regulate blood-sugar levels and its various compounds have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties. For centuries, parsley has been used to treat ailments such as kidney stones, and to control conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. Chewing on a sprig of parsley can help to freshen the breath, while a parsley face mask can be beneficial to acne sufferers.
An aromatic herb in the mint family, rosemary is another native of the Mediterranean. It was used as a ‘cognitive stimulant’ long before the positive effects of rosmarinic acid and other essential oils such as cineol, camphene, borneol and bornyl acetate, were properly understood. Even now, evidence suggests that rosemary can improve memory and relieve anxiety and depression through mechanisms that doctors are still trying to unravel. Traditionally, rosemary has been prized for its ability to aid gastrointestinal complaints, but today its usefulness in the fight against Alzheimer’s is being studied.
Sage could be said to be somewhat secondary to rosemary, due to the fact that many of its benefits are rooted in the rosmarinic acid that it shares with the other herb. Once upon a time, sage was used by ancient medicine men to ward off evil. Today, it is more widely used to ward off inflammation, degenerative diseases, various skin conditions and blood sugar issues. It is thought that sage might be effective in improving mental performance, in areas such as memory, alertness, and attention, and that it could help to correct chemical imbalances in the brain that cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Known to science as ‘mentha’, this distinctive-smelling herb has been freshening breath for thousands of years. The aroma activates the salivary glands and releases digestive enzymes that achieve a stomach-soothing effect, thereby working against gastric disorders and related nausea. The taste and smell of mint leaves have been linked to higher levels of the hormone that helps to fight depression – serotonin – in the brain. As a result, mint is often used in aromatherapy to stimulate endorphins and promote relaxation, and these effects are even stronger when the herb is eaten.
Between its seeds and leaves, coriander carries 11 essential oils and six types of acid (including ascorbic acid, or vitamin C), as well as many of the same minerals as the other herbs listed here. It has proven effective in treating everything from high cholesterol levels to mouth ulcers, anaemia and conjunctivitis. Coriander has also been found to have antihistamine properties and can lessen the severity of allergic reactions and reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as runny nose and sneezing.