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Health Benefits of Herbs

By: Kate Bradbury - Updated: 1 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Herbs Health Antioxidants Chemical

Medical research is only just discovering the immense power of herbs. They have been used to provide remedies for ailments for thousands of years and their health properties are written about in journals dating back to 3000 BC.

As well as providing specific remedies for certain complaints they also contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like all fruit and vegetables. These are known to prolong health and prevent ageing and diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Importance of Antioxidants in Food
Eating food containing plenty of antioxidants helps neutralise damaging free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are hazardous molecules that can destroy cells in our bodies. This damage causes premature ageing and leads to the onset of diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Free radicals are found in pollutants such as car exhausts and smoke, but they are also produced when the body converts food into energy. Eating food with plenty of antioxidants reduces the potential of free radicals to damage our cells and keeps us healthier and younger looking.

The most common antioxidants are found in vitamins, for example vitamins C and E. Most antioxidants found in herbs, however occur as phenols, polyphenols and flavonoids. These are large families of antioxidant compounds. The genetic differences between the herbs and the number and ratio of different phenols, polyphenols and flavonoids gives certain herbs special powers for treating certain ailments. For example Ginkgo has a chemical makeup that works on blood vessels in the brain. Echinacea has different chemical structures; these improve the function of disease-fighting immune cells.

Specific Health Properties of Herbs
The following herbs are known to improve our health in the following ways:
  • Echinacea – it boosts the immune system and can offer resistance to colds and influenza.
  • Garlic – it thins the blood and lowers cholesterol. It can also help you resist disease.
  • Ginkgo – it preserves the function of the brain and slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • St. John's Wort – it works as an antidepressant and has fewer side effects that prescribed anti depressants.
  • Milk Thistle – the complex antioxidant properties of milk thistle benefit the liver and help the body eliminate toxins. In Europe it is used to treat cirrhosis of the liver and liver disease caused by alcohol.
  • Chamomile – this herb can remedy an upset stomach and aid sleep. But it can also improve the skin if taken topically.
  • Thyme – it improves the immune system, promotes perspiration and eases sore throats and coughs. It has mild antiseptic properties.
  • Sage – this herb calms the nerves, improves digestion and eases lung congestion and coughs.
  • Rosemary – this improves circulation, stimulates the liver into eliminating toxins from the body, eases joint and headache pain and relieves cold symptoms.
  • Mint – it eases stomach and digestive problems, relaxes the mind and can ease headaches.
Eating herbs alone won’t prevent you from getting cancer or disease. But eaten as part of a balanced diet, herbs will play a vital role in our health and have done for thousands of years. Whether you want a natural solution to a headache or stress, or you want to boost your immune system or improve the health of your liver, there is a herb that has evolved to do the job.

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