Herbs and their Medicinal Effects
Long before the advent of medicine, it had been discovered that many plants and herbs had medicinal properties. In ancient times, plants were not only important to eat but also to heal and stay healthy.
Nowadays, people still use this knowledge, and we find plants and herbs in homeopathy, food supplements, phytotherapy, and Ayurveda.
The herbs are also processed in teas to support, for instance, your digestion or a healthy sleep. Here, we will tell you more about the claims these herbs and plants are allowed to make.
The Proven Health Claims of Herbs and Plants
The difference between plants and herbs is in their application. Herbs are natural flavorings and edible. Not all plants are herbs, but herbs are plants. The effect of plants and herbs generally does not come from the whole plant but parts such as leaves, roots, or flowers. These are processed in supplements, medicines, or creams.
If the effect of the plants and herbs has not been scientifically proven, the claims may not appear on the packaging. That is a pity because it is difficult to tell what a plant or herb has to offer. The plants and herbs can support your body with various complaints.
The disadvantage of plants and herbs in health products is that people often think, “it doesn’t hurt to use it.” That idea carries risks because some plants or herbs have side effects and can influence the effect of other medicines, so they are not suitable for everyone.
Herbs and Plants that are Allowed to Use Health Claims
Many plants can improve your physical condition. They are used in food supplements and herbal medicines, and teas.
Supplements containing Echinacea increase the resistance so that pathogens such as bacteria and viruses have less chance, and you recover more quickly when you are ill.
St John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is found in many products that help maintain a good mood. St. John’s wort helps to improve your mood. If St. John’s Wort is included in a supplement, you should be aware that it can influence the effect of other medicines.
The root of valerian contains valeric acid. Valerian acid is a substance that has been known for centuries for its calming effect and is used to help with stress, anxiety, and nervousness. Therefore, many calming products you do not need a prescription are based on valerian.
Many plants in plant medicine have a calming effect, including passionflower. Passionflower has a calming effect on stress and anxiety, among other things.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is also known as a natural anti-inflammatory. This herb belongs to one of the most medicinal plants from Greek mythology and contributes to wound healing. Yarrow is also used to promote bowel movement and provide relief from colds.
Lady’s Mantle Plant
This plant is known as the lady’s mantle (Alchemilla) because in ancient times, women often wore cloaks, and the shape of the leaf resembles a cloak. The lady’s mantle plant helps with many female ailments, such as painful menstrual periods and menopause problems. In addition, a lady’s mantle builds up the condition of lubricants in joints.
Marigold (Calendula Officinalis) is a plant with medicinal properties that can be used internally and externally. Externally, marigold can be used for wound care such as scrapes, minor burns, and sunburn.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is widely used as a medicinal plant. Dandelions stimulate the appetite by their bitter substances and digestion. Roots and leaves improve the bile secretion and are slightly diuretic, which is favorable for kidney function.
In the past, young leaves were eaten in spring as a cleansing tonic. The root was used for all kinds of liver ailments, inflammation of the liver, gall bladder infection, and various complaints associated with the liver, such as fatigue and irritability.
Stinging nettle (Urtica) was used in the Middle Ages against rheumatic complaints. Nowadays, it is mainly used in supplements for skin and hair for both internal and external use.
It prevents and cures skin rashes, boils, acne, ulcers, and it prevents greasy skin and hair. This is mainly due to the high percentages of folic acid or B11, B2 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid), calcium, zinc, silicon, and sulphur.
Arnica is also known as the arnica flower and is used in creams and supplements to improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of bruises.
Chamomile is known for the tea that is drawn from its blossom. You can use this to rinse your mouth, for example, to relieve toothache. Chamomile is also used in ointments, as it is believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Aloe Vera can be used both internally and externally. Externally it is used for, among other things, dry or itchy skin. Internally, it is used to stimulate the appetite or remedy stomach problems.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is a well-known kitchen herb and a medicinal herb. It is used for joint pain and against stomach and intestinal complaints. The seeds of coriander are also used to combat bad breath.
Rue laurel (Ruta graveolens) is an herb that tastes very bitter and treats colds. Grapefruit is sometimes used in supplements or homeopathic medicines, but you can also buy it as an herb and make tea. Don’t be surprised by its bitter taste, because it is very intense.
What Exactly are Herbs?
To a botanist, an herb is a non-woody seed plant. So they can be annuals, biennials, or perennials, but not trees and shrubs. So to a botanist, Garlic Mustard is a herb, just like parsley and dill. Sage, rosemary, and bay leaf, on the other hand, are shrubs and, therefore, not herbs. According to a botanist, even the petunias in your plant pots in summer are herbs.
For a cook, herbs are plants (parts) added in small quantities to a dish to accentuate, refine or adjust the taste.
According to Wikipedia, a kitchen herb originates from non-woody plants, but we disagree entirely. In our opinion, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, etc., are indeed kitchen herbs!
What is the Difference Between Herbs and Spices?
The terms herbs and spices are often used together. However, there is a difference.
Herbs generally come from temperate climates and spices mainly from tropical climates. An herb often comes from a small green plant, and spices come from buds, cracks, fruits, and sticks.
The differences are so minor that it is logical that the terms are often used interchangeably. So don’t be ashamed if you accidentally call an herb a spice and vice versa.
What is the Difference Between Fresh and Dried Herbs?
Our spice drawer or cupboard is often filled with a mix of jars and bags full of herbs. Some have all the spice jars in one color, others in alphabetical order.
You might also have fresh herbs on your windowsill or in your garden. But what is the difference? And which herbs are best bought fresh and which are dried? Read all about the most common fresh and delicious dried herbs here.
Fresh vs. Dried Herbs
Fresh herbs, loose or as a plant, are generally more expensive than dried herbs. The loose version does not keep as long as a jar of dried herbs. Of course, you can put a plant in soil and let it grow.
In comparison with dry herbs, fresh herbs have a much stronger taste, which is also immediately released, so that you can use fresh herbs ideally at the end or as a finishing touch of your preparation.
Dried herbs have a more concentrated taste, so you use less of them compared to fresh herbs.
Dried herbs also need more time to release their flavor. That is why you better add them at the beginning of your dish so that the other ingredients can absorb the flavors well.
Conclusion on Herbs
Which type of herb or spices is better? In the end, it is the nature of the dish you are preparing that determines whether you better use fresh or dried herbs.
For pesto’s and salsa’s, tomato mozzarella and other salads but also for cocktails it is better to use fresh herbs. For marinades, however, dried herbs are ideal.
Add fresh chives to your dish, for example, as they are antiseptic and rich in vitamins A, B, and C and mineral calcium. Choose cumin to bring harmony to the digestive system, and coriander can also have this effect on the body.
Coriander is also anti-inflammatory and energizing. Turmeric (our favorite!) supports the immune system and protects against fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
So include these fresh herbs, roots, or spices more often in your cooking.