Herbs can be like friends – they can support and comfort us, make a meal more fun and teach us new things. But just as important: Herbs are another tool in our immune building kit. Below are four vignettes on the power of herbs.
Oregano is a member of the mint family and has a very long history as a medicinal herb as well as being easy to use in the kitchen. Oil of oregano is known for being an immune and mood booster; relieving inflammation; having antibacterial, microbial and cancer properties; aiding in insulin sensitivity, allergies and gum health to name a few.
As you know oregano can be used is used in many ways and it is so easy to add to your VitaClay recipes. Consider also making zaatar, a lovely spice recipe ubiquitous throughout the Middle East. It is basically a mix of herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram) and earthy spices (cumin, coriander) with toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac and a little salt. So now you get the immune benefit of both herbs and spices. It can top anything and make it better. Sprinkle over hummus, yogurt, vegetables, or chicken. The list is endless.
Lemon balm is another member of the mint family and has a slight lemon/mint flavor. The tannins (yes, like tea and wine) and polyphenols deter some viruses. It has even been used intravenously to help normalize thyroid function in patients with Graves’ disease*. (Talk about the power of an herb!) And the terpenes can help people relax and fall asleep. It may also relieve indigestion and PMS symptoms. If you do not want to make a tincture, consider making a tisane or look for lemon balm tea from Traditional Medicinals. You may also add the leaves to salads, vinaigrettes, garnish seafood, or stir into sauces or soups. I think it would be great in a parsley and pistachio pesto.
Basil is nearing the end of its shining season now but it is still available for a host of goodness. Yes, another member of the mint family. I did not know I had a mint theme going until I wrote this. See, herbs can teach us.
Best known in the US for its use in Mediterranean fare, basil has a range of culinary and medicinal uses.
Known for its antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-cancer and antibacterial compounds as well as potential for reducing plaque formation on teeth. It can be made into a natural insect repellent or a toothpaste.
Other basil varieties include Thai basil and holy basil (aka Tulsi) – they taste different but all have the health properties. Holy basil has been used in Ayurveda for centuries to treat gastric, hepatic, respiratory and inflammatory disorders as well as a remedy for headache, fever, anxiety, convulsions, nausea and hypertension. It is still used today and it can easily be found in the tea section of the grocery store or an herb shop. I recommend Organic India Tulsi teas. Make some pesto (healthy oil and nuts) or a curry (turmeric and peppers)! Health and immune promoting foods that are also comfort foods at their best.
Many times, it has the misfortune of being the garnish on plates of steak or fish; however, this little herb is so much more than a natural breath freshener. Parsley has been used since ancient times in the areas of women’s health, high blood pressure and allergies but it is also known to help lower blood sugar levels – all of which increase inflammation. Lower inflammation and strengthen your immune system.
For basic nutrition, parsley is a nutrient powerhouse. One cup of parsley leaves contains 2 grams each of protein and fiber, and all essential amino acids; but the real benefits are in the vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A 5,055 IU 101% of RDA
Vitamin C 79 mg 133% of RDA
Vitamin K 984 mcg 1230% of RDA
Folate 91 mcg 23% of RDA
Iron 3.7 mg 21% of RDA
Potassium 332 mg 9% of RDA
Magnesium 30 mg 7% of RDA
It is not necessary to look for recipes that use the herbs you have. Simply add them to salads and sauces or make a pesto (another theme…its true pesto is one of my favorite things to make).
I hope this sampling of our herbal friends inspires you to try them out, meet new “friends” and include them in meals and more frequently. You do not need to get fancy, pretty much any herb can brighten a meal by just sprinkling it on.
Look at them as little sprinkles of immunity and happiness.
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