The healing power of herbs
Herbs do more than add flavour and colour to your favourite dishes - their healing powers are pretty impressive too
According to the UK's leading organic herb grower Jekka McVicar the healing power of herbs is grossly underestimated: "We are what we eat. We don't doubt that fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts contain a range of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting properties, yet the nutrient content and medicinal properties of herbs are often overlooked."
With that in mind, here's the lowdown on herbs and how they may help.
What is a herb?
According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary, a herb is any plant where the leaves, seeds or flowers are used for medicine, flavour or scent. There are thousands we never see in supermarkets but could buy as plants in a garden centre or grow from seed to use at home.
To ease digestion
Often it is only when herbs are heated that their full aroma is released - that's what makes your mouth water. This aids the release of saliva, which prepares your stomach for food. It's the enzymes in saliva that trigger the digestive process, helping the body to break down fats and starches. If this doesn't happen before food reaches the stomach, then it isn't processed properly and digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhoea, wind and irritable bowel may result.
What to use:
Thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint
Herbs with anti-cancer properties
Many herbs contain flavonoids, nutrients widely available in fruits and vegetables and known to help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. According to Dr Winston Craig, Professor of Nutrition at Andrews University in the United States, flavonoids help vitamin C work more efficiently as an antioxidant, mopping up the free radicals that cause cancer.
What to use:
Onions, rosemary, sage, thyme, chamomile, dandelion, ginkgo, green tea, milk thistle