Throughout the month of May, we will be taking a closer look at ‘Plants with Benefits’ and the ways we are served so well by plants and gardens. These benefits might include nutritional value, ecological purpose, pollination, a calmed state of mind, and even increased home values. We’ll start first by looking at some common herbs and the surprising health benefits they bring to our dressings, seasonings, baked goods, and even cocktails!
Current research indicates that sage may be able to improve brain function and memory, especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In a 4-month study of 42 individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, sage extract was shown to produce significant improvements in brain function.
Rosemary contains rosmarinic acid, which has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion. In a study with 29 individuals, both 50 and 200 mg doses of Rosmarinic acid were shown to suppress allergy symptoms. The number of immune cells in nasal mucus also decreased, with reduced congestion.
Garlic contains allicin, which is also responsible for garlic’s distinct smell. It is often used to combat colds and flus, but it seems its health benefits may go even further. For those with high cholesterol, garlic supplementation appears to reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10-15%. Human studies have also found garlic supplementation to cause significant reductions in blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
A study looking at the effectiveness of thyme for acute bronchitis found that patients who were given extracts of dry thyme found that they had significantly better healing times than those given the placebo. Thyme is rich in plant phenols such as thymol and carvacrol which are powerfully anti-spasmodic, making them potent cough suppressants. Thyme benefits the digestive system as well. One of the active compounds, thymol, stimulates peristaltic muscle movements so that food is not held in the stomach for prolonged periods of time. Thyme is also a mood booster! Among the powerful compounds in Thyme, carvacrol has been found to increase levels of dopamine and serotonin – the neurotransmitters that regulate motivation, drive, and overall mood.
Mint has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. Mint plants contain rosmarinic acid. This has been studied for its effectiveness in relieving seasonal allergy symptoms. Mint also contains menthol, a natural aromatic decongestant that helps to sooth a cough or sore throat. It’s also a great way to ward off upset stomach, gas or indigestion.
Basil contains water soluble flavonoids called rientin and viceninare which can help to protect white blood cells. Basil has also been known to help fight free radical damage. Studies have been published in the journal of Nutrition and Cancerstating that basil contains phytochemicals which may be able to naturally help prevent cancer.
Eating a diet rich in leafy greens can protect your heart health. Evidence suggests that the phytochemicals in cilantro could protect your heart from oxidative damage. Studies have shown that cilantro can help balance, and even lower, blood sugar levels, giving another good reason to add it to salads and smoothies. Cilantro may also have anti-anxiety properties. One study in mice, for example, found that a cilantro extract is just as effective as anti-anxiety drugs like diazepam for reducing anxiety.
So as you can see, herbs are not only delicious, aromatic, and beautiful, but they give our bodies some pretty powerful health boosts! We sell all kinds of common and rare herbs at our nursery. High-quality plants from Proven Winners, Sara’s Superb Herbs, and Goodness Grows are for sale now, as well as Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds if you’d like to grow some herbs yourself.