Women

Grow Your Own Herbal Medicine

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Small but mighty, herbs are far more than a garnish.

They’re the Yorkshire terriers of the vegetable world: herbs may be small, but they make a lot of noise, nutritionally speaking. In fact, if you want to do one thing to improve your diet fast, adding a handful of herbs to your meals could make all the difference.

They’re the Yorkshire terriers of the vegetable world: herbs may be small, but they make a lot of noise, nutritionally speaking

They’re the Yorkshire terriers of the vegetable world: herbs may be small, but they make a lot of noise, nutritionally speaking

Herbs are packed full of ‘volatiles’: essential oils with disease-fighting antioxidant properties. While we’ve all heard about the antioxidant power of blueberries, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2003 found that herbs are higher in antioxidants than fruit, including berries, and some vegetables. You can tell this by just rubbing a lettuce leaf between your fingers - it goes sticky. Do this to a leaf of basil and you can smell the oil on your fingers.

Do this to a leaf of basil and you can smell the oil on your fingers.

Do this to a leaf of basil and you can smell the oil on your fingers.

These volatile oils have seen herbs prized for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. The ancient Romans used coriander as a preservative for meat; parsley is antibacterial; and mint tea is still commonly used as a digestive across Europe and the Middle East to this day. Dill, another digestive, has long been used in gripe water.

And modern science is catching up - research increasingly backs the use of herbs in protecting us against disease and easing discomfort. A study by the University of Adelaide demonstrated the effectiveness of mint in reducing the symptoms of lBS. Researchers found that mint activates anti-pain channels in the colon and reduces inflammation.

And modern science is catching up - research increasingly backs the use of herbs in protecting us against disease and easing discomfort.

And modern science is catching up - research increasingly backs the use of herbs in protecting us against disease and easing discomfort.

So, what’s the best way to use herbs to turbocharge your heath? The first thing to do is clear out those ancient jars of dried herbs lurking at the back of your kitchen cupbod, because they’re next to useless. In the same way that fruit and vegetables lose their vitamins the longer they’re stored, herbs are the most powerful at their freshest.

According to a report by the Agricultural University of Krakow, drying herbs reduces their vitamin and mineral content, with water soluble vitamins such as B and C especially affected. Freeze-dried and frozen herbs are handy, but for the best bang for your buck, always choose fresh cut or potted.

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