It is common knowledge that herbs contain beneficial compounds, like antioxidants and phenols, that offer health benefits. No wonder many refer to herbs as medicinal plants. These people also use them not only as culinary herbs but also as herbal supplements to support their health and well-being. Due to this fact, it will be exciting to reveal extraordinary facts about herbs backed up by science.
Some of your favorite herbs are also useful for repelling pests and reducing mold in fruits. In addition, one of the interesting facts about herbs is that our ancestors have used them for thousands of years. Curious about the full explanation? Check out the following lists!
Table of Contents
- Awesome Facts About Herbs
- 1. Herbal Medicine Discovered 60,000 Years Ago
- 2. Medicinal Herbs Show Promising Growth In The U.S.
- 3. Coneflowers: The U.S. Popular Cold Remedy
- 4. Dandelion Improve Corn Yield
- 5. Parsley Maintains Bone Density
- 6. Sage May Support Oral Health
- 7. Curcumin Serves As Anti-Aging
- 8. Eating Rosemary Improves Memory
- 9. Basil Can Reduce Stress
- 10. Mosquitoes Repellent
- 11. Fenugreek Increases Breast Milk Production
- 12. Thyme Controls Mold In Fruits
- 13. Oregano Has Anti-Cancer Properties
- 14. Tarragon Used As Traditional Medicine
- 15. Natural Pesticide For Aphids
- Final Thoughts
Awesome Facts About Herbs
1. Herbal Medicine Discovered 60,000 Years Ago
What do you think of when you hear the word “herbs”? Some may immediately have the idea of culinary plants. Others will have a glimpse of folk medicine. None of them are incorrect.
In fact, according to the Oxford dictionary, herbs belong to plants where the seeds, leaves, flowers, stems, and roots are used in the culinary and health fields. In addition, they are also used as raw materials for making fragrances and essential oils.
Furthermore, all this time, we thought that humans first used herbs around 5,000 years ago, specifically by Sumerians who used thyme, laurel, and caraway as natural remedies. However, archaeologists have found an astonishing fact that the Iraqis used herbs more than 60,000 years ago.
In comparison, the Chinese used these medicinal herbs dating back 8,000 years ago. Even in the last 40 years, herbal medicine has gained more popularity because it is considered safer from side effects that may occur from drugs on the market.
2. Medicinal Herbs Show Promising Growth In The U.S.
We may not be surprised that Chinese, Egyptians, and Indians prefer to use specific herbs to maintain health or treat illness. This habit has been passed down from generation to generation and can be said to be ingrained. However, along with the development of these herbs, they gained significant popularity in the United States, which is known as more “modern”.
Data stated that about 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. takes more herbs than common drugs. In fact, a survey in 1997 revealed 42% of Americans used herbal products as alternative treatments for diseases, while 12% took herbal medicine.
From the economic perspective, the sales of herb products accounted for US$ 5.3 billion in 2012. This value increased 8% the following year, marking US$ 6 billion. This study also mentioned that the use of these traditional medicines mainly focuses on the treatment of chronic diseases. A few others take advantage of alternative treatments using herbs to maintain longevity and well-being.
3. Coneflowers: The U.S. Popular Cold Remedy
Echinacea species is one of the native perennial herbs in the United States. They grow wild in open woodlands or dry prairies, mostly in central or eastern North America. Among the various varieties, three types are the most common herbs in the states, which are E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida.
They are often used as research raw materials due to their health properties, like antioxidant activities.
According to a study, the sales of Echinacea marked around 10% of the total U.S. market of medicinal plants. At the same time, approximately US$ 300 million was spent to prepare the plant. Considering this fact, no wonder Echinacea stood as the sixth most popular herb in the U.S.
Moreover, it was estimated that approximately 2.3 million Americans used this herb in 2012 in various forms, including tablets, powder, juice, or extract. They use it as a natural remedy to treat colds.
One study stated that there was a decrease in cold symptoms on days 2 and 7 when research subjects were given freeze-dried, upper-part juice of Echinacea purpurea. This may be because this medicinal plant contains specific phytochemicals, such as caffeic acid, which acts as an antiviral.
4. Dandelion Improve Corn Yield
Familiar with dandelions? You will usually see them growing wild on the lawns in your garden. These native European perennial weeds also usually grow in meadows rich in potassium and nitrogen to boost their growth. Despite being a weed, Dandelion also belongs to an herb that has a million health benefits.
Dandelion tea is rich in potassium which improves blood flow for your kidneys. In addition, their antioxidant activity (400μg/ml), especially in the leaves, also suppresses inflammation.
Not only beneficial for humans, but it turns out Dandelion is also known to be able to improve crop yield. A study showed that covering corn fields with dandelions in the winter can protect crops from low temperatures.
They can also increase corn yield because they act as hosts for the Vesicular-arbuscular Mycorrhizal (VAM) function that takes up potassium from the soil. Potassium is beneficial to stimulate growth, thereby increasing yields.
5. Parsley Maintains Bone Density
You may be familiar with the notion that calcium is an essential mineral that supports bone health. But it turns out humans also need vitamins to optimize the work of calcium in maintaining bone strength. One of these vitamins is vitamin K, which you can get from parsley.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food database, this aromatic herb is loaded with vitamin K, consisting of about 1640μg/100g. Furthermore, vitamin K can strengthen your bones by supporting osteoblasts, bone-building cells. In addition, this vitamin helps activate specific proteins that can maintain bone density.
6. Sage May Support Oral Health
If you have dental cavities, sore throats, or infected gums, you can consider taking sage-based toothpaste or mouthwash. This herb contains antibacterial properties, which can help you cure those health issues.
A study tried to prove its antibacterial action against Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium that often causes dental cavities.
The research subjects were 70 schoolgirls living in the dormitory. Moreover, the results were quite interesting, showing that the use of mouthwash in the study subjects could reduce the number of colonies, from 3900 per plaque sample to 300.
Meanwhile, the control group (using mouthwash without sage) showed an insignificant reduction in the number of colonies, from 4400 to 4000.
7. Curcumin Serves As Anti-Aging
One of the many health benefits of herbs is anti-aging. And curcumin is an herb you can rely on to reduce signs of aging. This beneficial herb contains high antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals, one of the leading causes that can accelerate premature aging.
A finding mentioned that curcumin possesses a powerful antioxidant activity, having around 9.27µg/ml after being tested with the IC50 method. In addition, it can boost the potential of other antioxidant activities.
A scientific review also proves that curcumin exhibits anti-inflammatory action to slow down aging due to inhibiting NF-kappaB, an inflammatory-inducing gene.
8. Eating Rosemary Improves Memory
Rosmarinus officinalis, or rosemary, is a fragrant herb, having needle-like silvery green leaves and purple flowers that are attractive to adorn your herb garden. Because of the aromatic smell of the leaves, they are often used as culinary herbs to improve the aroma of cooking to increase appetite.
However, Rosemary is more than just an herb for your meals. They hide the potential to improve memory, especially for Alzheimer’s patients. A study stated that in average and impaired studied animals, Rosemary can improve cognitive abilities, including memorizing.
Another interesting study tried to spray rosemary essential oil on a group of Ukrainian children living in the city to test images and numerical memories. The male and female control groups without spraying had image recall scores of 7.1 and 7.3, while the numerical scores were only 5.8 for each gender.
On the flip side, those with rosemary spray showed an astounding score. Males and females scored 9.0 and 9.9 for image memories and 6.4 and 8.0 for numerics, respectively.
9. Basil Can Reduce Stress
Talking about herbal facts would only be complete with one of the most popular herbs worldwide, basil. Basil or ocimum basilicum is a culinary herb whose leaves are popular for adding flavor and aroma to various dishes.
In addition, the leaves are also the raw material for making essential oils as aromatherapy to promote a sense of relaxation.
This claim was proven by one study, which stated that basil essential oil could relieve Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress (CUMS) in mice as the research subjects. Another finding reported that taking 1200 mg of holy basil extract for six weeks can reduce general stress in treated groups by around 39%. It was due to the presence of eugenol that accounted for 683.90μg/ml.
10. Mosquitoes Repellent
Like most herbs, people cultivate mint for its fragrant leaves. Besides cooking, mint is also popular in bakeries and beverages. This herb is also an ingredient for making essential oils and sprays to repel mosquitoes, thanks to its menthol content. One type of mint that is known to be effective in killing mosquitoes is spearmint.
According to a scientific article, spearmint oil dilution with 30% water and 70% alcohol can effectively repel aedes aegyptii mosquitoes for 30 minutes. Apart from mosquitoes, this essential oil can also repel halyomorpha halys and linepithema humile.
However, you may need to add other substances, such as hexane. Another mint family, corn mint oil, can also reduce the bite of other insects, such as Mansonia mosquitoes, by 41%.
11. Fenugreek Increases Breast Milk Production
Trigonella foenum-graecum or Fenugreek is one of the crucial herbs almost always included in Indian meal recipes. Their leaves and seeds are popular for their tangy, bitter, aromatic odor. Aside from being a food ingredient, Fenugreek is also well-known among breastfeeding mothers as they are believed to boost breast milk production.
Luckily, that’s not only a myth! This claim was backed up by scientific evidence from several studies, mentioning that Fenugreek can increase breast milk volume. A study conducted experiments on 25 breastfeeding mothers by giving herbal supplements a mixture of Fenugreek, ginger, and turmeric for 4 weeks. In the second week, they noticed an increase in milk volume of 49%, while in the fourth week, it increased to 103%.
In addition, another study said that as many as 122 participants claimed to feel an increase in breast milk production after taking Fenugreek during breastfeeding. Scientists are still debating the mechanism of action of Fenugreek. However, they assumed that Fenugreek contains a phytoestrogen that mimics estrogen to boost breast milk production.
12. Thyme Controls Mold In Fruits
Perhaps, having thyme in your kitchen as a flavor enhancer to make your meals more salivating is common. But do you know that thyme can be a natural disinfectant to control molds? A study reported that spraying thyme oil on guava fruits reduced the gray mold growth of Botrytis cinerea by around 90.4%.
This result was much more effective than the application of saccharomycopsis fibuligera yeast, which can only suppress growth by 48.52%. It is possible due to the content of p-cymene (36.5%), thymol (33%), and 1,8-cineole (11.3%) as antifungal properties in thyme.
13. Oregano Has Anti-Cancer Properties
It may not be the most surprising fact about herbs because most medicinal plants have antioxidants that can have anti-cancer properties, including oregano. However, not all of them have been proven through scientific experiments and published in journals.
Fortunately, a study has demonstrated that oregano is indeed helpful in slowing the growth of cancer in cancer patients. It can even kill the cells of adenocarcinoma colon cancer. How is it possible? Well, the scientist revealed that it may be due to the content of carvacrol which dominates oregano. Apart from being anti-cancer, this phenol also shows potential as an anti-tumor agent.
14. Tarragon Used As Traditional Medicine
Americans call Artemisia dracunculus L. as Tarragon, while Asians are more familiar with the popular name “Mugwort”. Its leaves and stems are used to impart flavor and aroma to various dishes around the world. In France, for example, Tarragon provides a distinctive taste from French Dijon mustard and sauce. Meanwhile, Americans add this herb to seafood, eggs, chicken, tartar sauce, and vinegar.
Besides being included in culinary uses, Tarragon has also long been cultivated for traditional medicine. A report found that this herb was widely used by Arabic as a natural anesthetic to reduce sores and aching teeth. People in Azerbaijan took this aromatic herb to treat carminative and epileptic.
In addition, native Americans chewed the leaves to treat heart palpitations, while the roots could reduce heavy menstrual flow. All the benefits mentioned are closely related to Tarragon’s nutrition facts, which are rich in bioactive compounds. It includes coumarins, phenolic acids, and flavonoids. Because of these ingredients, you can currently find Tarragon essential oil on the market.
15. Natural Pesticide For Aphids
Basil is one of the most popular herbs you can find in almost all American meals. Apart from adding to the taste and aroma of food, Basil also has many health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, reducing stress, and preventing certain cancers. But apparently, this herb is also useful as a natural pesticide.
A study found that the bacillus species Ocimum basilicum and Ocimum gratisimum can deter pea aphids. In this experiment, pea aphids preferred to land on broad bean plants (62%) compared to O. basilicum (32%). Meanwhile, 23% of pea aphids settled on O. gratisimum. Smaller than the visitation to the broad bean plant, which is around 32%.
This result may be due to its estragole, citronellal, nerolidol, and limonene volatile compounds, which insects hate. Of course, it will benefit gardeners and farmers who often deal with pests.
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Discussing facts about herbs is always interesting as these plants, which we often use for cooking, turn out to have a million other benefits that we may not know about. Most of them contain high antioxidant activity, which of course, possess health benefits.
Knowing the above herbal facts, you can start incorporating them into your diet or using them to preserve fresh fish or meats. However, too much is never good. You must be aware of the side effects. Besides, you definitely don’t want the taste of your food to be too “bold”, do you?