Nutritional Therapist London UK Jill Barber Life To The Power Of Food
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It's a family affair for the Mint family

Now the weather has turned it’s a good time to get into the garden and what could be better than growing a few herbs. They’re easy to grow in a window box if you’re tight for space. As well as looking & smelling beautiful, they’re delicious in food and what’s more they are good for us.

Many common herbs are members of the mint family, one of the most useful medicinal and culinary herb families. The reason being is the valuable oils that are produced by fine hair-like glands on the surfaces of leaves and stems. The family includes basil, rosemary, thyme, which are discussed today. Other members of the mint family are marjoram, oregano, lemon balm, sage, spearmint and savory.

A study last year determined the total antioxidant activities of 10 typical herbs and spices, as they analysed the concentrations of individual polyphenolic contents. Considerable variations were observed among spices in terms of their antioxidant profiles. Rosemary and oregano came out top in tests of DPPH free radical scavenging ability and ORAC value.

Technically, a herb is a plant that does not have a woody stem and the term herb is also used to describe the plant part that is used for medicinal purposes. A spice on the other hand is a plant product that has aromatic properties. But these terms can be interchangeable as herbs can be used to flavour food and spices can be used for medicinal purposes.

Peppermint/Mint has a strong, fresh, green, minty aroma. It cools, refreshes and stimulates. It’s one of the most useful medical and culinary herbs. It contains rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant.  It is a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic.  Peppermint or fresh mint tea can aid digestion after meals for some people. It is ideal for digestive troubles such as nausea and flatulence. Mint has a calming effect on the smooth muscle of the digestive tract

Peppermint oil can be used to ease intestinal cramping and may also increase the flow of bile from the gallbladder there by aiding fat digestion. Go for munt tea after a meal in a restaurant. At home you can pour boiling water over a teaspoon of dried leaves or fresh and leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes to relieve stomach complaints. IBS sufferers may find peppermint helpful too. Add to a footbath, or in a massage blend for the digestive system.

Basil has an anise-like, herbal aroma. The most common variety is sweet basil. It has many of the same properties as mint and in China the herb is used for spasms of the intestinal tract, kidney ailments and poor circulation. It is used to invigorate and refresh the mind. The volatile oil has been shown to show anti-bacterial properties. Make your own pesto using a tablespoon of basil, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan. Use in burners during studying or in massage blends for the digestive system.

Research studies have shown basil to contain two water-soluble favonoids. orientin and vicenin that protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and free-radical damage.

Rosemary has a strong, fresh, herbal, woody aroma. The word Rosemary means’ ‘dew of the sea’, and it does have a pine-like flavour which is combined with a rich pungency.

Rosemary has mainly flavonoids and high rosmarinic acid and is considered to be more of a stimulant that the other herbs in the mint family. It is such a good antioxidant it is used by the food industry as a natural alternative to synthetic preservatives. Rosmarinic acid has been shown in studies to reduce inflammation. It’s been shown to be stimulating and invigorating and refreshes and clears the mind. The tea is wonderful for digestion.

Thyme has a penetrating pine, citrus, minty and flowery aroma. A Mediterranean native it has been used since ancient timed for its culinary, aromatic and medicinal properties. The most important compound is thymol. It was even used as an effective embalming agent by the Egyptians to preserve their deceased pharaohs.

Thyme oil has been shown to possess antispasmodic and antibacterial properties, and applied topically it is said to have strong antifungal properties. It also contains flavonoids, which increase its antioxidant capacity, and is a good source of manganese. Thymol has been found to protect and increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes. Dried or fresh thyme can be used in many recipes, store fresh thyme in the fridge wrapped in a damp kitchen towel.