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The Health and Beauty Benefits of Herbs

Updated on September 8, 2012

Most of us use herbs for cooking, but did you know that many of them are packed with health and beauty benefits? Not only can herbs make your dishes tasty, they can help keep you looking younger longer and help with certain health issues. Herbs are available everywhere in dried form and fresh herbs are being made available in many produce sections. Many herbs are extremely easy to grow, so if you have been thinking about starting a container garden, why not start one and grow herbs that can actually serve several purposes. Growing herbs are great for many reasons, they help perfume the air, you can use them to flavor dishes or make delicious teas and some of them have special properties that help alleviate a variety of physical conditions and symptoms.

Herbs have been used throughout human history. Before modern medicine, herbalists made concoctions using herbs and other natural products to create medicines to treat people. Modern medicine has created stronger medicine, but many of the old-fashioned remedies are still effective and helpful. Herbal remedies can be powerful, so do not overdose on any specific herb. As with any food, if you are going to incorporate herbs into your diet, eat reasonable amounts of it. If you have a specific health condition or are taking medications to treat a health condition, you should consult with your doctor to see if you would benefit from trying a herbal remedy.

You may not know that some of the most common herbs provide fantastic health, beauty and anti-aging benefits. So many recipes call for herbs but many of us skip using them because we do not have them on hand, maybe after learning about some of their beneficial properties, you might decide to grow them or keep them on hand.

Parsley – most of us see a sprig of parsley as the thing you move out of the way before you begin to eat the meal. Parsley is not just a garnish. Parsley imparts a fresh flavor to foods and is packed with Vitamin C, which helps keep our immune system repair the body from damage or injury, Vitamin A, which helps trigger the immune response within our body. It is also high in Vitamin K which helps our blood clot when we are injured, there have been studies that suggest that Vitamin K may help maintain strong bones in elderly people. It is important to note that if you take blood thinning medications or anticoagulants, you may need to limit foods that are high in Vitamin K. Parsley contains several other anti-oxidants, these anti-oxidants help the body find and destroy free radicals throughout the body. Parsley also has anti-inflammatory properties, so if you suffer from any inflammatory condition (these conditions usually have a name that ends in “itis”) you would benefit from adding a handful of parsley to some of your dishes.

Parsley is easy to grow, but because it requires hot temperatures for the seed to germinate you may find it easier to purchase a small parsley plant. Plant it in a deep container, keep the soil moist and place the container in a spot that gets at least 5 hours of sun each day. Did you know that the parsley roots are also edible? Many areas of Europe eat parsley roots. They look very much like parsnips or white colored carrots and they taste similar to them too. Use them in soups, stews or roast them with other winter vegetables.

Aloe Vera – this plant has been used throughout history to treat a variety of skin problems like burns, psoriasis, skin rash, sunburn and blisters. It is rich in Vitamin E, Vitamin C, potassium, zinc and calcium. You can find aloe vera in all kinds of health, beauty and bath products. Apply the gel directly to the skin to help prevent wrinkles and stretch marks.

Aloe vera is an easy plant to grow, it does not like cold weather so it does well indoors near a sunny window. Plant it in a wide container, because the root system spreads outwards. Do not overwater aloe vera, let the soil go dry before watering the plant.

Aloe is a wonderful plant to have on hand, immediately after an injury or burn, take a piece of a leaf and open it to reveal the gel inside, apply this gel directly on the burn or abrasion. If you like to juice, add the green part of the leaf to your juicer for refreshing aloe vera juice. It is important to note, if you have a deep wound, do not apply aloe vera gel in the wound, see a doctor about it first. Also, aloe vera is a powerful laxative, so if you decide to drink the juice limit yourself to one or two ounces to see how your body reacts, too much aloe vera juice can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea in some people. If you suffer from any medical conditions such as diabetes, speak to your doctor about adding aloe vera juice to your diet.

Rosemary – this herb is a must have for making delicious poultry dishes, but did you also know that it is loaded with antioxidants? The beauty industry uses rosemary extracts in skin products because it has powerful rejuvenating effects. Rosemary also has medicinal properties. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. Steeping the leaves in hot water creates a rosemary tea that is helpful with upset stomach. The steam created by boiling the leaves in water is said to help relieve congestion. It may even improve brain function, a recent study published by Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology suggested that rosemary has powerful aromatherapy properties. The study involved having a group of people perform mental tasks involving speed and accuracy before and after being exposed to the scent of rosemary oil. Researchers measured the blood levels of the participants and found that a certain compound 1, 8 cineole, a chemical component of rosemary, present. The higher amount of that component, the better the participants scored. The complete effects are still not understood, but it would not hurt to take a sniff of rosemary before you need to concentrate on a task.

Rosemary is difficult to grow from seed and is best to grow from an established nursery-grown plant. It likes hot weather and needs at least 5-6 hours of sunlight and soil that drains well. Start incorporating rosemary into some of your dishes, it works well in soups, sauces, chicken and meat dishes.

There are so many different herbs out there that you can incorporate into your diet. Experiment with different flavors, it will help you add variety to your dishes while at the same time providing you with health and beauty benefits. If you have a green thumb, grow herbs instead of regular houseplants. Herbs make beautiful house plants, many of them flower and have pleasing scents. Some of them even help repel pests. I hope you give herbs a try.

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