All the seasons of beauty, sunshine, rain, heat, and cold but also allergies, colds and other common afflictions. In this article we’re going to talk about why herbs are so important when many are at their freshest, and then go through three big favorites.
So, what’s the deal, why are herbs nature’s medicine cabinet? Why do they help to clear the sinuses and improve overall immunity?
First and foremost, it’s all about terpenes. Or in other words the essential oil-based phytochemicals within these plants that determine how they taste and smell. Think of the differences in the way mint and thyme smell. These aromas are how the plants communicate and interact with the world.
Some use them to attract certain animals, birds for example, to help them spread and survive.
Some use them to keep pests away.
Some use them to deal with the sun’s radiation and funguses.
Take Myrcene for example, a monoterpene found in thyme, lemon grass, lemon verbena, bay, hops and parsley. It’s known to have an analgesic (reduces pain) effect and play a role in all these plants’ anti-inflammatory properties, along with antibiotic and antimutagenic. Next time you sniff an herb and sense lemon scent, keep this in mind like the Medicine Men and Women of old.
Remember, like plants we’re over 80% water which is why they’re own internal medicines typically translate into our biological systems. So basically, during the summertime go with dark to light green herbs and herbs with a more lemon (Sunny!) scent for their immune boosting compounds.
Essential Oil or Leaves?
Whenever possible integrate both more condensed herb-based essential oils (cooking and aromatherapy) and fresh leaves into your diet. Just make sure to wash them, buy organic, and try to grow your own! That said, let’s take a look at three other amazing summertime herbs.
1) Lemon Basil
Known as the “King of Herbs” in the west as its original Greek translation stands for king, basil is thought to have originated in India where it’s been cultivated for many thousands of years2. There are so many varieties now, most stemming from the sweeter basils but there are others like lemon basil which has an impressive mixture of terpenes.
- Pinene is responsible for the hint of piney evergreen scent.
- Citronellol which is also found in certain types of flowers like roses or geraniums.
Regal and renowned, rosemary has an unforgettable evergreen (Pinene again) aroma, a powerful essential oil and beautiful little blue/pinkish flowers. It’s name translates in Latin to mean “dew of the sea.” Thing is, most people either LOVE it or the odor is a bit too pungent. Thing is, you can usually purchase a small batch from supermarkets for $1-$3 and only a couple leaves go a long way.
Anyone that’s done their share of chopping rosemary leaves will tell you that the oil is deep green and easily stains fingertips. Along with terpenes, herbs have lots of healthy plant-based acids in them as well. Rosemary, delivers healthy doses of,
- Rosmarinic acid
- Caffeic acid
- Ursolic acid
- Betulinic acid
3) Aloe Vera
This one’s for the sunburns and insect bites! The cooling fresh gel of the aloe vera plant provides soothing moisturizing relief in a hurry whether you safely use the real thing or the more commercial varieties you can keep handy in the fridge. To really kick your aloe gel up a notch, consider adding maybe a drop of organic tea tree essential oil to provide an antiseptic boost.
Don’t Forget Smoothies
One of the easiest ways to toss herbs into your life without muss or fuss is through a few drops of essential oil or a couple leaves in your smoothies. Why not? It’s so simple! Plus, the blender should dice them and cut the plant’s skin a bit to release the oils for you. You might not even notice they’re in the smoothie, or, you can throw in a bushel and really douse your immune system with all those micronutrients along with the fruits and protein powders.
Once spring departs and summertime’s in the air, an inexpensive and effective way to boost immunity is through light to dark green herbs with a more lemon, or even evergreen, scents. For moisturizing and helping alleviate irritation from sunburns and bites, go with aloe vera.