Herbs - Grow Your Health

May 11, 2022

"You are what you eat."

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Last week, a few days after our latest Spring storm, I stopped at one of our local greenhouses. The sights and smells were uplifting. It had me thinking about spring and about the upcoming growing season. Although I have never been much a gardener, I do appreciate plants and flowers. Some of my fondest family memories are from spending time in my Baba's Garden and helping with my mom's gardens at home. My wife has some awesome house plants, and she has a good collection Aerogarden herbs growing in the kitchen. I love to cook so it is awesome to have fresh dill, basil, and mint right off the plant.

There is no doubt eating fresh vegetables from good soil that are not doused in chemicals will keep you healthier longer. You are what you eat after all. Also having certain herbs on your "grow list" can take "growing your health" a step further.

While leafy sprigs of parsley garnish an egg dish nicely, of the mint leaves look and taste great in a glass of water and the basil topping your salad cannot be replicated, these herbs all contribute more than color and flavor. They are also rich sources of valuable nutrients. While not always proven in a lab, we have known for generations some of these herbs likely prevent and fight diseases. They also add unmatched flavor to dishes, which help you cut down on salt, sugar and "unnatural" flavoring agents added to food to make it taste somewhat decent. There is also a common theme, fresh herbs contain a variety of antioxidants. Here are a few ideas for your garden this year.

Mint (Peppermint) has been used for centuries to treat digestive issues like indigestion, gas, and bloating. Many over the counter stomach and acid reducing medications are mint flavored. It also has some anti-inflammatory effect and its main component in menthol an ingredient commonly used in topical pain relief.

Parsley, an extremely easy to grow herb may help with fluid retention and edema. It does this while not interfering with your electrolytes. As a dark leafy green it also has some good antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As a bonus, it will also freshen your breathe.

Fresh Oregano goes great in soups, Mexican salads, homemade burgers and on pizzas. Traditionally it was believed to help fight infections and we do know it contains vitamin E, making it a great herb to use if you are suffering from a cough or cold.

In addition to adding oregano to your pizza Basil is another must add herb. It also goes great on Salads, and if you also grow tomatoes caprese is a must. Basil is thought to have cholesterol-lowering benefits, is high in antioxidants, and may also have some antimicrobial benefits. It is also known to have to flavonoids which may protect white blood cells. Remember, antioxidants, such as those found in basil have been shown to help fight cell damage caused by free radicals. Basil and oregano also contain phytochemicals which some researchers say may help prevent certain cancers from developing.

This summer forget the beer-can stuffed chicken and stuff it with fresh herbs instead. Thyme is high in vitamin C, thyme is also a good source of vitamin A and manganese. This all gives it good antioxidant capabilities. Thyme too has antimicrobial characteristics and adding it to meat may decrease the chances of microbial contamination. Remember to save your broth from the cooked bird and you will capture any nutrients lost in the cooking process.

If you are roasting chicken, rosemary is another go to herb to stuff it with. My mom also makes some killer moose and beef roasts using rosemary sprigs. A good source of calcium, iron, and vitamin B6, rosemary contains compounds that offer both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

If you have a garden, it is going to have weeds, so one of them must be dill. Dill is super easy to grow, and it comes up fast. Even I can grow dill. Dill is a cousin of cumin and bay leaves and is known to contain good amounts of antioxidants. Previously we have covered the importance of antioxidants protecting against a wide variety of diseases.

Speaking of weeds Cilantro is packed with antioxidants, cilantro is a good source of vitamins A, C, K and E, and may reduce inflammation. It goes great with tacos on Mexican night and is awesome with salads. Just be cautious when using it at dinner parties. Some people have taste buds which interpret its flavor to taste like soap.

Other honorable mentions include sage and chamomile. I personally add sage right into my pan when frying my pickerel in butter. While it tastes great, antioxidants help fight any free radicals created in chemical reactions of the cooking process. I might have to look for Chamomile, as I did not know it could be grown at home. It does make a great tea to help you relax and calm the nerves right before bed.

The best way to start incorporating herbs into your diet is to start growing them or buy them at the grocery store and experiment which ones you prefer in certain dishes. Add them to bland foods which normally need sweet and salty sauces or spices. And always remember to grow your health.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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