If you garden in the Phoenix area this time of year, you likely have a bed or two full of basil, sage, oregano, and other herbs. Of course, herbs are delicious, but you may be surprised that some plants and herbs in your own yard, or nearby, can help you feel better and assist in preventing illness.
Traditionally speaking, Native peoples and cultures around the world have used plants and herbs for healing and in ceremonies for hundreds of years and continue to do so today. Nanibaa Beck, a Navajo, says her grandmother used piñon tree sap to treat swelling. There's also an old Polish tradition of treating colds and flu with raw garlic and buttermilk (ew) and an English tradition notes parsley root for urinary tract problems. Here are some plants you may have in your garden and some ways to use them to benefit your health.
Sage- A great use for sage is throwing it on top of your campfire or backyard fire pit, because it can help to keep the bugs away. Use of many herbs, including sage, is thought to control blood sugar and some cultures place sage leaves on skin irritations to soothe skin.
Parsley-Almost every part of the plant, seed, flower, leaves and root has some history of preventing illness. It is high in vitamin B and potassium, which are thought to help prevent cancer. NYU's medical center says "Parsley's traditional use for inducing menstruation may be explained by evidence that apiol and myristicin, two substances contained in parsley, stimulate contractions of the uterus." So, there you have it.
Rosemary- The University of Maryland notes that long term daily intake of rosemary prevents thrombosis. If you trust the folks at WebMd, they note that rosemary was used for digestion problems, including heartburn. It also smells amazing and is easy to make into a tea.
Basil- A plant native to Asia, basil's benefits are wide ranging, depending on which study you rely on. According to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester, basil helps with aging, effective at preventing damage caused by some free radicals. Fresh basil is a source of vitamins A and K. Low vitamin A lower your ability to see at night and vitamin K promotes tissue growth and prevents bruising.
Mint- Mint is soothing and as a tea it can help relieve a headache and sooth hiccups. As with many herbs, it's thought to aid digestion, which makes it perfect for the holiday time when we're all indulging a bit.
Oregano- Oregano has many anti bacterial uses, and many people use oil of oregano to prevent colds in the wintertime. But be sure to dilute and use it wisely -- too much can be a bad thing. With more antioxidants than blueberries on a per gram basis, you might just add it to a soup or green smoothie. Chewing and eating the leaves is also thought to relieve menstrual cramps.
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