Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices have been playing a huge role in improving our overall health for decades. They help in the faster healing of wounds, act as nutritional supplements, and deliver a host of benefits. Herbs lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, have anti-inflammatory properties, strengthen the immune system, prevent Alzheimer’s disease and prevent various types of cancer.
Herbs eliminate nutritional deficiencies which restore the correct functioning of the body. They rectify various problems rather than supressing them. Also, it is said that that herbs nourish every part of the body with their vitamin and mineral content. Basically our body needs certain essential dietary nutrients which our body cannot produce to meet everyday demands of life and herbs provide us with most of the necessary components for a healthy life. Normally herbs are used as flavouring additives to culinary dishes, however they are now used in many medicinal practices in most countries.
So what are herbs? Herbs are plants that are known for their scent, flavour, medicinal benefits. Herbs are usually used in foods, for making medicines, for pest control and for spiritual purposes. Since ancient times, the culinary and medicinal values of different herbs have been appreciated by almost every part of the world and among different cultures. Different herbs can be classified into different categories depending on their scientific family and genus. The two most popular type of herbs are Chinese and medicinal herbs.
Chinese herbs: In China, their well-respected medicinal systems have praised herbs for their innumerable health benefits. They are considered to be the most powerful method in ancient times and many people from different countries relied on Chinese herbs alone to cure many diseases. In those days, herbs were often associated with miracles and magic. Chinese herbal medicine date backs to over thousands of years to approximately the rule of the Han dynasty. According to this system, Chinese herbs can be categorized into its five main tastes:
- Spicy herbs treat cold and respiratory problems effectively and also improve blood circulation.
- Sweet herbs improve the functioning of the spleen, they can also relieve pain and boost immunity.
- Bitter herbs ad the cardiovascular system while treating constipation and asthma.
- Sour herbs treat liver disorders and help in the digestive process.
- Salty herbs promote the health of kidneys.
Medicinal herbs: medicinal herbs treated most of the health ailments when there was no use of intricate medicinal instruments and drugs. These herbs worked wonders with their juices, extracts, barks, leaves, flowers, and sometimes the entire plant. They have been populaly known as medicinal herbs and their applications were passed through many generations. However, before using any herb for medicinal reasons, it is essential to know about the plant and the related research. For instance comfrey was used as an anti-inflammatory agent for treating bruises, sprains and other wounds, bladder wrack being a good source of iodine, and was used in many medications for thyroid conditions, aloe vera was used for minor burns, kava-kava treated depression and anxiety, while milk thistle treated a host of liver diseases.
Health benefits of herbs:
Strengthens the immune system – herbs are rich in antioxidants, phytosterols, vitamins and other nutrient substances that equip the body to fight against toxins and germs. They help and bosting the immune system as well. In fact, you can call herbs as ‘medicines’ when taken in small doses. These immune-boosting herbs are elderberry, garlic, ginger, onion, hibiscus, cinnamon and goldenseal.
Anti-inflammatory properties – the essential oils present in some herbs, like ginger root, have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. These herbs inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), which facilitates inflammatory reactions in your body. This is the reason why herbs are excellent natural remedies for conditions like inflammation, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis also inflammatory bowel ailments like ulcerative colitis.
Reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels – some herbs have positive effects on the pancreas, thereby balancing blood sugar levels. They have reportedly controlled may cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Fr instance, fenugreek, bilberry, and cayenne pepper extracts are said to be good blood sugar-stabilizing herbs. Herbs like psyllium, fenugreek, and liquorice can result in a noteworthy reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure levels, thereby preventing various coronary ailments.
Prevent Alzheimer’s disease – many herbs have antioxidant, anti-amyloid and anti-inflammatory properties, which can effectively prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In Europe, the Ginkgo herb has been used widely to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Prevent cancer – since ancient times, especially in Chinese medicine, herbs were extensively used for treating cancer symptoms. In fact, herbs also help soothe the aftereffects of chemotherapy. Researchers at memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre have shown through a number of studies that gastric, hepatoma, colon and breast cancer cells can be effectively destroyed by many medicinal herbs like oldenlandia, scutellaria, taraxacum and phragmites. These herbs purify blood and prevent cell mutations that usually lead to cancerous growths. The volatile oils derived from certain herbs emit cytotoxicity action against pancreatic, prostate, endometrial, and colon cancer cells. However, the selection of herbs to cure cancer should be strictly done under the supervision of a medical practitioner.
Skin care – for ages, herbs have shown significant benefits when it comes to natural skin care. Amongst the innumerable herbs found all over the globe, some common herbs like neem, turmeric, aloe vera, and holy basil assure radiant and healthy skin. If you mix the powdered form of holy basil, neem, mint leaves and a pinch of turmeric powder, it will eventually fade any dark spots on your face. Chamomile oil, when applied topically, helps repair damaged skin tissues. Tea tree oil is a great herbal extract used in cosmetics like face washes and creams for oily skin, as it has the ability to control oil secretion from the pores. Aloe vera is extensively used in manufacturing skin products, as this herb gives a smooth and youthful touch to the skin. Basil leaves are also an important ingredient for skin care products, particularly in India.
Hair care – Like skin care, hair care has also become a prevalent practice through herbal applications. Massaging your hair with jojoba oil stimulates the bountiful growth of your hair. There are many more herbs like gotu kola, horsetail, ginseng, and marigold extract that similarly stimulate hair growth. If you use cooled chamomile tea as a hair toner, it will give you a natural blonde hair colouring effect. With the application of lemon juice, you can enhance the colour effect as well. Aloe vera juice or oil regenerate hair cells, thereby repairing damages and also soothing the scalp with a cooling sensation. Fenugreek enhances blood circulation to the hair roots. Ivy burdock cleanses hair and also cures scalp problems like itchiness and dandruff.
Dental care – Herbal toothpaste is now widely available in the market, which often ensures a perfect set of teeth and gums for you without any side effects. Some tooth cleaners on the market contain harsh abrasives, whiteners, detergents, or bleach that can cause harm to your teeth over the long term. Thus, opting for herbal methods for natural dental care is a wise choice. There are numerous herbs that, when used directly on the teeth and gums, give wonderful results. For instance, rubbing sage leaves on the teeth and gums cleans them instantly and makes the texture smooth. If teeth stains are a problem for you, rub alpine strawberry over the teeth. Bad breath can also be easily eradicated by using lavender water, fresh parsley or mint tea as an herbal mouthwash. For toothaches, clove oil is probably the most effective and readily available medicine. For a healthy mouth and gums, herbs like alpine strawberry, lavender, thyme, sage, neem, fennel, parsley, aloe vera, and mint are found to be very effective and are widely used in the manufacturing of herbal toothpaste, mouthwashes, and teeth whiteners.
Herbs have a number of benefits for your body – the healing properties of herbs vary, but usually most of them are carminative (cure gastric issues), diaphoretic (control water retention), lipolytic (help in weight loss), anti-spasmodic, analgesic (relieve pain), deodorant, aphrodisiac (increase sexual drive), antiseptic, digestive, and stimulant when taken in correct dosage.