Last article we talked about the different types of polyphenols in foods…this time we are going to talk about them with regard to herbs. In general, phenolics have a benzene ring which makes them aromatic and contribute hugely to color, taste and flavor of foods and herbs. medicinally, they hare recognized as anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, and anti-hepatotoxic (protect your liver from toxins). The isoflavonoids tend to be phyto-estrogens whereas others are anti-microbial.

Herbal medicine has long known about the polyphenols and the different medicinal properties:

  • anti-diabetic aka hypoglycemic
  • anti-hepatotoxic
  • anti-hypertensive aka hypotensive
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-microbial
  • anti-neoplastic
  • anti-oxidant
  • anti-spasmodic
  • cardio-regulator (regulates as opposed to just increase or decrease)
  • cholagogue (increases bile production)
  • diuretic
  • estrogenic
  • immuno-modulatory (regulates as opposed to just increase or decrease)
  • increase membrane integrity
  • regenerates connective tissue
  • sedative

Due to the broad range of medicinal actions, polyphenols can have huge beneficial impacts on the cardio system (heart, arteries, veins), hepatic system (liver and gallbladder), renal system (kidneys and bladder), adrenals, thyroid, muscular, nervous and immune systems.

Some kitchen herb examples are:

  • Cayenne – analgesic and circulatory
  • Cinnamon – anti-diabetic/insulin resistance, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-plaquing in the brain, regulates  cholesterols, 
  • Cloves – anti-bacterial, anti-cancer (interferes with cell signaling in cancer cells, turns on apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells), anti-microbial, antinociceptive (analgesic), anti-oxidant, 
  • Garlic – antiatherosclerotic,anticoagulant, antihypertensive, anti-microbial, hypoglycaemic (anti-diabetic), hypolipidaemic,
    and hepatoprotective – 23 polyphenols
  • Ginger – anti-inflammatory, decreases nausea and vomitting, increases gastric enzymes and stool motility, reduces menstrual cramping
  • Hawthorne – cardio tonic and hypotensive
  • Hops – bitter, hypnotic, anti-spasmodic
  • Rosemary – anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive, anti-oxidant, anti-thrombotic, antiulcerogenic, hepatoprotective, inhibits lipid oxidation,  improving cognitive deficits,  hepatoprotective 
  • Sage – anti-cancer, anti-diabetic/obesity, anti-depressant, anti-oxidant, cardio-protective, neuroprotective, immune regulator (lupus),  with over 160 polyphenols
  • Turmeric/curry – anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant – 3 types of powerful curcumoid polyphenols

Herbal medicine was used throughout history and is still predominant in most of the world. Written histories of herbal medicine go back 5000 years but archaeological research indicates that  medicinal plants date back to the Paleolithic age, approximately 60,000 years ago. That is a long history. Current research is simply validating what different medical practitioners have known for 100’s of years.  Once again establishing that Western Conventional Medicine is barely coming out of the Dark Ages.

The inclusion of herbs and spices into your day to day diet is hugely beneficial, as indicated above. However, when using herbs and spices for medicinal purposes, we should approach them with some precautions. For instance, if a herbal medicine is not taken properly, certain polyphenols can inhibit iron absorption or inhibit various types of enzymes. While some polyphenols can have a beneficial impact on a particular system, organ or biochemical process, others may have the opposite effect.  In addition, different doses can have different effects. Also, different combinations can have different effects.

Consequently, when working from a medicinal perspective, it is always best to do your research and consult with an expert in the field.

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