Unexpected Health Benefits of Common Cooking Herbs

April 14, 2021

We all know herbs add mouthwatering flavor to our cooking, but we often overlook their stunning nutritional value. Packed with antioxidants and essential nutrients, herbs can do so much more than just season our food. 

Oregano is loaded with antioxidants that help prevent disease.  

When we think of foods packed with antioxidants, fruits and vegetables usually get all the credit. However, according to a report from the American Chemical Society, oregano actually has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples and 30 times more than potatoes. Oregano even beat out blueberries—one of the most famously antioxidant-rich foods—with 4 times more antioxidant activity. These numbers were calculated using fresh oregano, so consider keeping a pot on your windowsill and adding a few freshly picked leaves to any dish that could use a healthy kick.

A diet rich in antioxidants is essential for good health because antioxidants prevent and eliminate free radicals, toxic substances commonly caused by environmental stressors such as exhaust, pesticides, and pollution. If free radicals build up, the body can suffer oxidative stress. This leads to cell damage and diseases such as heart failure, cancer, diabetes, and even rheumatoid arthritis. 

Rosemary improves cognitive performance and stimulates hair growth. 

Rosemary is a spectacularly fragrant herb with a rich and pleasurable aroma. In fact, it smells so good that the scent of rosemary has been shown to positively influence cognitive performance. Research published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology found that smelling rosemary can improve our concentration, cognitive speed, performance, accuracy, and even our mood. 

In addition to this herb’s amazing aroma, rosemary oil has also been shown to stimulate hair growth. In a study of rosemary oil as a treatment for androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness), men who applied diluted rosemary oil to their scalp twice a day for six months experienced the same increase in hair growth as men who used Rogaine. In addition to their impressive hair regrowth, the men who applied rosemary oil also experienced less scalp itching than those who used Rogaine, which suggests that this treatment is a better option for sensitive skin. 

Thyme is loaded with vitamin C to boost the immune system. 

Vitamin C is so important to our immune system that a lack of this essential nutrient can actually make the body more susceptible to illness. Citrus fruits are known for being loaded with vitamin C, but fresh thyme actually contains more vitamin C than an orange. 

Here’s the breakdown: Fresh thyme contains 160.1 mg of vitamin C per 100g, while an orange only contains 53.2 mg per 100g. This means that fresh thyme has 201% more vitamin C than an orange. For reference, the recommended daily amount of vitamin C is between 75 to 90 mg per day for adults, and the upper limit is 2,000 mg a day. If you’re feeling a little run down, try incorporating fresh thyme into your meals. 

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