10 Healthy Herbs and How to Use Them

Using a variety of herbs in your diet will not only please your taste buds, it will do wonders for your health and well-being.

Fresh herbs not only add flavor without calories, they may also serve up health benefits as healing foods. “Herbal medicine has been used as kitchen medicine for thousands of years, and while our body’s response to these natural treatments has not changed, we now have more global choices than ever,” says Steven Chasens, an herbalist and acupuncture physician at Coral Gables Acupuncture in Florida.

“There is no substitute for competent medical care and routine checkups. However, to avoid disease and live strong, a good diet and sensible eating is critical.” A basic knowledge of how food and herbs can help what ails you is key to your sensible eating plan, Chasens explains. Here are 10 healing herbs to add to your recipe rotation.

Rosemary for Heart Health

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Rosemary is an herb that may help prevent damage to blood vessels and aid with cardiovascular health, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, New York City-based author of The O2 Diet. The healing herb may also help with indigestion and memory function and reduce muscle and joint pain when applied topically. Rosemary’s active ingredient, carnosic acid or carnosol, might also prevent the spread of cancer, a study published in the journal Cancer Treatment Reviews found. A very strongly flavored herb, rosemary goes great with hearty foods, such as meat and potatoes. Butterflied rosemary chicken with pan juices is a tasty recipe to help add rosemary to your diet.

Parsley for Hypertension

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Parsley is high in antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and the chemical apigenin, which may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells several studies have found. It also has been shown to have heart-healthy effects, reducing high blood pressure. A quick way to put this healing herb in your diet is as a chopped garnish, but it can also play a starring role and add great flavor to dishes like this recipe for chicken creole, which cooks up in just minutes.

Ginger for Gastrointestinal Health

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Ginger appears to be effective for treating gastrointestinal disturbances, especially in relieving diarrhea or nausea caused by morning sickness during pregnancy and nausea and vomiting after surgery or after cancer patients’ chemotherapy treatment. A powerful anti-inflammatory, ginger has also been shown to reduce joint pain. In foods, ginger doesn’t have to be reserved for sushi — consider adding this healing food to your dessert, such as this recipe for berry ginger shortcakes.

Cinnamon for Stable Blood Sugar

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Cinnamon twig appears to have some antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. This healing food may also help treat gastrointestinal disturbances, including diarrhea and indigestion. Cinnamon seems to have antioxidant effects as well.

Glassman says that cinnamon is excellent for controlling blood sugar levels and has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Jazzing up carrots is as simple as adding cinnamon, like with this apple-glazed baby carrots recipe.

Garlic for Cancer Protection

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Garlic is most well-known for the healing herb’s potential anti-cancer effects, Glassman says, as well as its ability to slow other diseases, including hypertension and even the common cold. One of the most commonplace healing herbs, garlic is a great flavor enhancer in stews and soups, such as this quick-and-easy Asian pork soup.

Stinging Nettle for Joint Pain

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Stinging nettle, also known simply as nettle, appears to be effective in reducing the inflammation associated with arthritis. According to Susun Weed, an herbalist with the Wise Woman Center in Woodstock, N. Y., stinging nettle is great for controlling dandruff, making hair glossy, and improving overall hair health. It may also be effective in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that involves enlargement of the prostate. Weed suggests infusing stinging nettle in tea, but this healing food may also be used in soup, pesto, or this creamy polenta recipe.

Chives for Cancer Protection

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That tasty green garnish on your baked potato is rich in vitamins A and C, known for their antioxidant effects. The healing herb has also been shown to reduce the risk for gastric cancer. Sprinkling chives on salads and pasta is great, but cooking with chives is equally as delicious. Check out this recipe for blue cheese and chive potato salad to add more of it to your diet.

Coriander for Bad Cholesterol

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“Coriander may aid in lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol and increasing ‘good’ cholesterol,” Glassman says. “It can also help lower blood sugar levels as well.” This healing food also appears to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Coriander is a staple in many cuisines, from Indian to Thai. For a light dinner or lunch option, add this healing herb to roasted vegetables or a nourishing stew.

Bay Leaves for Sinus Relief

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There’s a reason why bay leaves are in so many cold-soothing stews. “Bay leaves contain an oil with the active ingredient cineole, which eases discomfort caused by sinusitis,” says Rovenia Brock, PhD, a nutrition expert and author. “Studies show that inhaling the essential oil can reduce inflammation and fluid buildup in the sinuses.”

In addition, bay leaves may play a role in preventing heart disease, treating arthritis, and supporting the immune system. Bay leaves are a great type of herb for adding flavor to stews, soups, and sauces. Using bay leaves in a basic pot roast recipe spices up the dish. Just remember to remove them before serving; they generally should not be eaten whole.

Dandelion for Digestion

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According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelion is considered a natural mild diuretic, which could make the herb helpful in treating poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Dandelion root may also improve gastrointestinal disturbances as well as liver and gall bladder function. “You can use any part of the dandelion — leaves, flowers, roots, even stalks — as medicine,” says Weed. “You can pick it at any time you wish. And you can prepare it as a tea, an infusion, a food, a vinegar, a tincture, or a honey.”

With the wide variety of types of herbs, options for adding healing foods to your meals are abundant. “Herbal medicine is people’s medicine,” Weed says. “It is easy, accessible, and generally safe. We know that drugs can damage our health, so instead reach for a nourishing or aromatic healing herb to help you maintain or regain health.”

Forests and passion: a hero’s guide to resisting climate change

With the launch of a major report by the Global Commission on Adaptation on 10 September 2019, we follow the story of an environmental hero from the Seychelles and their quest to adapt by harnessing the power of trees. #AdaptOurWorld

For many people, retirement is a chance to take a break. Not so for Victorin Laboudallon, a grandfather from the Seychelles who spends his days planting forests to fight climate change.

Wherever there’s a forest fire in the Seychelles, you can be sure you’ll find Laboudallon ready to fight back, armed with seeds and shovels.

“Protecting nature makes me very happy in life,” says Laboudallon. “We need to protect it as much as we can, so other generations can enjoy it like I did when I was a kid.”

Laboudallon, 65, has built a network of volunteers, from children to retirees, whom he calls upon to help him with replanting.

“If tomorrow we have another fire, we are ready to go back and plant.”

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Victorin Laboudallon provides a tour of his tree nursery on Praslin Island in the Seychelles.

Laboudallon is widely known across the Seychelles for his decades of environmental action and his big personality. While planting trees in the wet dirt, barefoot and laughing, he says his surname means “friend of the mud” in his local Creole language.

“I’m not somebody who lives under the big concrete. I live under the beautiful trees,” he says, pointing above at the iconic coco-de-mer palm.

The Seychelles is a nation of 115 islands—known for glistening beaches and stunning biodiversity—off the east coast of Africa. Here climate change is not a distant prospect, but a daily reality.

Sea levels are rising and many of the islands are low-lying. As the waters creep higher, the shoreline crumbles away and floods devastate people’s land. 

“We’ve got the sea rising,” says Laboudallon. “You can see places where there used to be houses. Now there are none. There is something on this planet going wrong.”

It’s unknown how the Seychelles will adapt. More than 16 per cent of the nation’s land is below 5 metres above sea level, yet a study in the journal Nature suggests Antarctic ice alone could increase sea levels by 15 metres by 2500. The waters of this tourist paradise are crystal-clear, but the future is anything but.

Nature enthusiasts like Laboudallon have taken matters into their own hands. While giving a tour of his tree nursery, he explains how different types of trees offer different services when adapting to climate change. For the Seychellois, mangroves are fundamental.

“If the mangroves are gone, the nation of Seychelles will be gone,” says Laboudallon. “Our protection for human life is the mangroves.”

Mangroves defend against the impacts of rising seas and coastal erosion by drastically reducing the height and force of the waves before they hit the shoreline. In fact, if all of today’s mangroves were lost, the global damage from flooding would be an extra US$82 billion per year.

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Seychellois farmer, Pierre Philoe, explains how mangroves protect his farm from intruding seawater that kills his crops. “The mangroves are important for all Seychellois people. If there’s no mangrove, there’s no life.”

This strategy of using nature—and the services it provides—to adapt to climate change is known as ecosystem-based adaptation. It’s often cheaper than concrete infrastructure. Not to mention that it simultaneously creates a space for nature.

For conservationists like Laboudallon, this is a win-win. Communities can adapt to climate change while protecting biodiversity. It is no longer a choice between people or nature. Considering the Seychelles’ economy is inextricably dependent on ecotourism, ecosystem-based adaptation is seen as a promising approach.

“Year after year, we are seeing more evidence of how nature can protect us from climate disasters,” says Jessica Troni, Head of the Climate Change Adaptation Unit at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “In a major report, the Global Commission on Adaptation states that restoring mangroves for flood defences is 2–5 times cheaper than engineered structures.”

Back at a mangrove reforestation site, Laboudallon enthusiastically explains there’s even more to these trees than meets the eye. Mangroves not only protect the land from the sea, but also protect the sea from the land.

After the fire season comes the monsoon, which washes all the ash and debris from the forests into the ocean. The layers of dirt fall on the reef like a deadly blanket.

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Beyond adaptation, planting mangroves also tackles the causes of climate change, as these forests absorb 10 times more carbon dioxide per acre per year than rainforests.

“It sits on the surface of the coral and kills it. Then the fish are gone,” says Laboudallon. “Mangroves are used like a strainer. They stop all the debris coming from the hill, making sure only clean water goes out to sea.”

“Mangroves also provide a breeding ground for fish,” he says. “If the population of mangroves is still in good health, then fishermen are in good health.”

This power of mangroves to protect both the land and coral, whilst generating income for local fishermen, is precisely why UNEP refers to these trees as a ‘super solution’ to climate change.

Under a global adaptation project called Ecosystem-based Adaptation South, or EbA South, the government of Seychelles has been working with leaders like Victorin Laboudallon. Funded by the Global Environment Facility, the project is using nature to defend against climate impacts in three ecosystems—coastal habitats in Seychelles, dry deserts in Mauritania and mountainous forests in Nepal.

Projects like these are vital for the transfer of lessons on ecosystem-based adaptation. For instance, in the Seychelles crabs were eating the mangrove seedlings planted by the project. Using plastic tubing to protect the trees resulted in litter sprawled across the landscape when floods washed them away.

Applying the approach of nature-based solutions, local tree planters began using biodegradable tubing made from sugarcane. Through the project these lessons were transferred to other regions of the world.

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Victorin Laboudallon uses compostable tubing made from sugarcane to protect the mangrove seedlings from crabs.

EbA South was executed by the National Development and Reform Commission of China, through the Chinese Academy of Sciences. By increasing collaboration between countries in the global south and sharing solutions for adaptation, the project is seeking to create the next generation of Victorin Laboudallons.

The official International Day for South-South Cooperation is celebrated on 12 September.

Back on Praslin Island, Laboudallon is getting ready to go home after a long day of tree planting. His efforts have been widely recognized in his home country, having received national awards and honours.

With a smile he tells me there’s even a local species of fern named after him—Ptisana laboudalloniana. It turns out they’re both quite rare.

What to Eat for Glowing, Younger-Looking Skin

Searching for the secret to healthy, radiant skin? Look no further than your kitchen. When it comes to getting a gorgeous glow, the foods you eat are just as important as the creams or lotions you slather on your face, says Anthony Youn, MD, a plastic surgeon based in Troy, Michigan. And certain nutrients can help you save face more than others. “Antioxidants are crucial when it comes to maintaining a youthful glow,” he says. “They fight off free-radical damage that can cause skin to age prematurely.” 

Other complexion savers include vitamin A, lycopene, and fiber. Luckily, they’re easy to incorporate into your diet. Read on to discover which foods will make you glow from the inside out.

Green Tea

Green tea

Polyphenols found in green tea are some of the most powerful antioxidants out there, according to Dr. Youn. To up your polyphenol intake, try switching out your morning cup of coffee for green tea, which contains 24 to 45 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce (oz) cup. Or pour green tea over ice for a healthy alternative to soda or juice.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey

All honey offers some benefits for your skin, but manuka honey, produced by bees in New Zealand that pollinate the manuka bush, may be the best. “The antioxidants in manuka honey are exceptionally good at binding to free radicals and reducing them,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “And that’s important since free radicals that come from the sun destroy collagen and elastin, which keep skin smooth and supple.” Manuka honey can be found at most natural food markets. To reap the benefits, stir it into a cup of green tea, or drizzle it onto plain yogurt. 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Cukes are 96 percent water — one of the highest of any vegetable — which means they’re great at keeping you hydrated. “I always take cucumber slices with me on planes so I can eat them while I’m up in the dry, high-altitude air,” says Josie Maran, founder of Josie Maran Cosmetics. “They help my skin retain moisture so it stays healthy and hydrated.” Cucumbers are easy to incorporate into meals: Simply add a few slices to salads, sandwiches, and wraps for a hydrating boost.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, which works like an internal protector to help shield your skin against sunburn and the aging effects that come with sun exposure. To work more tomatoes into your diet, try cooking up a zesty sauce made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil (spoon it on top of whole-wheat spaghetti or baked spaghetti squash). You could also roast a batch of grape tomatoes drizzled with olive oil for a simple yet tasty side dish.

Salmon

Salmon

The unsaturated fats found in fish, called omega-3 fatty acids, reduce inflammation and make your complexion look clearer and more even, says Dr. Gohara. They also reduce the risk of skin conditions associated with inflammation, such as rosacea and eczema, which cause redness and dry patches, respectively. The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat two servings of fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, trout, and herring, once a week. If you’re vegan or not a fan of the fish, reach for walnuts, which are also packed with omega-3’s. 

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Here’s a reason to add this Thanksgiving staple to your menus all year long: “Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A — a powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage and is anti-inflammatory,” says Youn. One serving of sweet potatoes contains about 4 grams of fiber and a whopping 377 percent of your daily vitamin A requirements, according to the USDA. Try them baked and topped with a spoonful of protein-packed Greek yogurt, suggests Alexis Wolfer, founder of TheBeautyBean.com and author of The Recipe For Radiance: Discover Beauty’s Best-Kept Secrets In Your Kitchen. 

Berries

Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavanoids, which help neutralize free radicals from your body, helping to slow down the aging process, says Gohara. Keep a bowl on your desk or kitchen counter to encourage healthy snacking all day, or blend frozen berries into your morning smoothie.

Water

Water

Sipping lots of H2O keeps your skin hydrated, making it appear smoother and more supple. If you struggle to drink enough or don’t like the taste, try flavoring your water with fruits or veggies. “I infuse my water with blueberries, cucumber, basil, and strawberries, and it helps me drink more water throughout the day,” says Moran. Recommendations for daily water intake depend on your gender, body size, activity level, temperature, and health conditions. In general, most people do well with roughly 73 ounces for women and 100 ounces for men per day. A great way to ensure you’re drinking enough is to check your urine color: A light lemonade color indicates that you’re well hydrated. You should always drink more when it’s hot out or when you exercise.

And One to Avoid: Sugar

Sugar

Consuming too much refined sugar (from soda, candy, or other sweets) can trigger the process of glycation, whereby sugar molecules bind to collagen fibers in your skin, making them stiff and deformed, says Youn. “This creates advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which  damage your skin and cause it to age prematurely,” he explains. So to keep your skin looking young, skip processed sugars and stick to the natural kind found in fruits and vegetables.    

Go Green for Better Health

From avocados to Brussels sprouts to green tea, a surprising number of green foods can help fight disease and protect your health. Why don’t you give green eats a try?

12 great green foods

Everyone knows veggies are a must in any healthy diet — the phrase “eat your greens” has been drilled into us since childhood. But fewer than 10 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies, a 2009 study found, and fewer still choose the dark green vegetables that boast a myriad of disease-fighting health perks.

Even if you’re not a fan of dark green produce (we recommend you give it a second chance), you can still reap tons of health benefits from a variety of green veggies, fruits, and other foods you should be eating — but probably aren’t. Read on and see why the rest of your pantry will go green with envy.

Avocados: Protect Your Eyes

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Avocados do contain a lot of fat (about 23 grams in a medium-sized fruit), but it’s the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated kind that nutrition experts love. Avocados also contain lutein, an antioxidant that protects eye health, and they’re rich in vitamin E. Research shows that people who get the most vitamin E from their diet (not supplements) have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Avocados are a wonderfully versatile addition to salads, tacos, soups, and sandwiches.

Nopales: Lower Your Blood Sugar

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Nopales are another popular south-of-the border green. Also known as nopalitos or prickly pear, they’re a type of cactus leaf packed with fiber, as well as vitamin C and other disease-fighting antioxidants. Nopales are an especially healthy option for people with diabetes; research shows the cactus leaves can lower blood sugar levels.

Kale: Fight Cancer

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Kale belongs to the powerhouse family of greens known as cruciferous veggies (a fancy word for the cabbage family). All cruciferous vegetables contain cancer-fighting plant compounds and vitamin C. Kale in particular also has bone-boosting vitamin K, vision- and immune-boosting vitamin A, and even anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Brussels Sprouts: Reduce Blood Pressure

brussel sprouts reduce blood pressure

Another potent cruciferous veggie, Brussels sprouts have vitamins A and C as well as birth-defect fighting folate and blood pressure-balancing potassium. Not into Brussels sprouts or kale? Consider such other cruciferous veggies as broccoli, arugula, and bok choy. To make Brussels sprouts more tempting, try roasting them.

Kiwi: Fill Up on Fiber

kiwi for fiber

Research shows kiwifruit is surprisingly nutrient-dense. According to the California Kiwifruit Commission, this fuzzy green fruit provides 230 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C (almost twice that of an orange), more potassium than a banana, and 10 percent of the recommended daily allowances of vitamin E and folate. It’s also a good source of filling fiber. Slice some kiwi into your cereal, yogurt, or salad for a refreshing health boost.

Edamame: Cut Your Cholesterol

edamame cuts your cholesterol

These soybeans are a longtime Japanese diet staple. A complete plant-based protein, edamame is a good protein source for vegetarian and vegan diets. While some experts caution that you should avoid soy supplements and processed soy foods because soy’s estrogen-like effects may contribute to health problems, whole soy foods like edamame are a smart and healthy choice. When eaten in place of fatty meat, soy may lower cholesterol by reducing saturated fat intake.

Green Tea: Try a Health Super Hero

green tea for antioxidants

Reams of studies have deemed green tea — with its potent antioxidants — a health panacea; it’s been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and more, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Steep a cup in the morning to start your day on a super-healthy note.

Basil: Calm Inflammation

basil calms inflammation

Herbs — loaded with vitamins and antioxidants — are underrated health foods. Basil in particular is a good source of vitamin K and iron; fresh basil leaves also boast anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Snip some leaves into salads, pasta, or any Italian dish.

Seaweed: Get Your Minerals Here

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Seaweed — another Japanese cuisine mainstay — is gaining popularity in the West, in part because it’s chock-full of minerals. Seaweed is a solid source of iodine (essential for thyroid health), packs a healthy dose of iron, and has unique anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Select a seaweed salad appetizer or sushi rolls made with nori next time you order Japanese food.

Green Beans: Stabilize Your Blood Sugar

green beans stabilize your blood sugar

Also called string beans, green beans are a common side dish in Southern cooking. They’re loaded with fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, making them an excellent choice for people with diabetes.

Green Pepper: Load Up on Antioxidants

green pepper for antioxidants

Colorful red, yellow, and orange peppers may get more health accolades for their cancer-fighting lycopene, but green peppers can certainly hold their own. They’re a good source of many important nutrients, including vitamin C, beta carotene (a type of vitamin A), folate, and vitamin K. Dip them in hummus for a healthy snack, add them to salads for extra crunch, or toss into stir-fries or Mexican dishes. Try them in this Beef Fajitas recipe.

Asparagus: Eat Right for Your Gut

aspargus for digestive health

This springtime vegetable is rich in vitamins K, C, A, and folate; it also has a number of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Asparagus is famous for a healthy dose of inulin — a “prebiotic” that promotes digestive health — and is high in fiber (about 3 grams per cup) and protein (4 to 5 grams per cup). Fun fact: Asparagus’s amino acid called asparagine, which helps cleanse the body of waste, is responsible for the odd-smelling urine some people experience after eating it.