A Little Kitchen Witchery
BY GRETCHEN HEIMSOTH
I make magic in my kitchen!! Think I am kidding? The love I infuse in my food and herb garden provides me with an abundant supply of little, fragrant green soldiers, and there is some serious alchemy. Many Generals to name in this culinary army, rosemary, thyme, the powerhouse oregano, cumin, garlic, cloves, the list is endless. We are going to focus on four common kitchen herbs. It may be a little counter-intuitive, but dried herbs offer higher antioxidant values than their fresh counterparts. Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation (think rust) from free radicals (a host of angry molecules we get bombarded with from food sources and environment) in our cells. We use a scale to rate a food’s antioxidant value; it is called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC scale. A plant’s essential compounds start to degrade from the time picked to the time you use them. This applies mostly to store-bought herbs. If you are growing fresh herbs, pick right before use for peak benefit.
Rosemary– Most of us are familiar with rosemary’s pine-like, minty-citrus aroma. Some of the compounds that lend this herb to be so beneficial are carsonic acid- showing in studies to protect the brain from free radicals. It also contains rosmarinic acid, camphor, caffeic acid, and a host of others. These compounds are showing to be anti-inflammatory and potentially anti-cancer. Studies have shown rosemary essential oil can stimulate hair growth. Rosemary has one of the highest ORAC values of 165,280.
Oregano. It is a powerhouse of beneficial compounds! One teaspoon of dried oregano can provide 8% of your vitamin K! It contains the compounds carvacrol and thymol, which are antibacterial, have killed cancer cells in test tube studies, and have even rendered norovirus inactive in another study, showing anti-viral capacity. Carvacrol is an anti-inflammatory compound. Poultry growers have turned to oregano oil in place of conventional antibiotics in the process of raising poultry to prevent different infections. It has an ORAC value of 175, 295!
Thyme. This herb is a multifaceted healer. Anti-microbial, anti-fungal natural insecticide, anti-cancer potential, assist with respiratory stress, soothing inflamed skin. Packed with vitamin C and A. It’s also rich in thymol, occurring at a higher concentration in thyme then oregano. Thymol is in a class of naturally occurring compounds known as biocides. These compounds can destroy harmful organisms, such as infectious foodborne bacteria. A university team in South Korea showed that thymol was effective in killing tiger mosquito larvae. Researchers at the University of Turin found that it could kill candida Albicans, the cause of common yeast infections. Thyme is rich in many biologically active compounds. Borneol, linalool, myrcene. Before modern antibiotics, thyme was used to medicate bandages. Thyme has an ORAC value of 157,380.
Cloves, an antioxidant powerhouse, coming in on the ORAC scale at 290,283! Known for its spicy, sweet aroma, the plant can thank that trait to its rich abundance of the compound eugenol. It makes up the bulk of cloves essential oil makeup, but the plant also contains an abundance of flavonoids, the pain killer methyl salicylate, organic acids, and terpenes. Cloves are antibacterial, showing in studies the capacity to kill E. coli bacteria. Cloves are beneficial in an oral care regimen because of this bacterial killing ability. In one study, showing the ability to stop two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease. Cloves helped make up the famed thieves oil used during the plague, which has been studied and shown to be effective at killing pathogens. Humans have long known of the power of this plant.
Herbs are an affordable, easy, and tasty way to add some nutritional bang to your diet! The herbs profiled here are some of the most powerful common ones but grab for any herbaceous host and know you will be exposing yourself to some beneficial compounds as well some heavy-handed flavor!!