Disease-Fighting Plants: 7 Delicious Herbs that Pack a Powerful Antimicrobial Punch
Adding herbs to your favorite dishes adds flavor, variety and color. Antimicrobial herbs provide all of that - PLUS they give your health a major boost.
Antimicrobial herbs have a unique ability to destroy and inhibit the growth of disease-causing microorganisms. This takes major stress off of your immune system, helping to stimulate it and thereby helping you to fight off a wide array of potential infections.
Antimicrobial herbs are capable of taking on a large variety of microorganisms, such as:
Other living organisms
You may already be familiar with the following antimicrobial herbs, but their potent disease-fighting properties may surprise you. We recommend they be added generously to your cooking!
1. Chili Peppers
Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which is what makes them so spicy (the spicier the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains). Capsaicin is also an anti-inflammatory compound that helps with pain relief and many other ailments.
Contrary to popular belief, chili peppers do not cause stomach ulcers. In fact, they help prevent them by killing bacteria you eat. They also contain vitamins C and A, which boost immunity and help fight off potential pathogens.
Did you know? Capsaicin is mostly in the chili pepper's seeds and white inner membranes. Taking these out will remove some of the pepper's heat, but it will remove some of its healing properties as well.
The active compound in cloves, eugenol, combines with other clove components to make this pungent spice highly anti-bacterial. It's also anti-inflammatory and the compound has been studied for use in preventing:
Toxicity from environmental pollutants
Digestive tract cancers
Because clove extracts are anti-bacterial (and provide a mild anaesthetic), they're used in the United States for dental procedures like root canal therapy and temporary fillings. They're also used in some sore throat sprays and mouth washes.
Did you know? Cloves are an excellent source of traditional nutrients too, including omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamin C and magnesium.
Allicin, one of garlic's healthy compounds (and the one that gives it its odor), has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties. When combined with the vitamin C in garlic, these compounds kill harmful microbes and fight diseases including:
Cold and flu
Garlic is also a potent antibiotic, fighting a wide range of pathogens, and studies show it even appears to fight antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Did you know? Along with being able to lower blood pressure, insulin and triglycerides, allicin may also help prevent weight gain. A study on rats -- published in the December 2003 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension -- found that rats' weights remained stable or decreased slightly when allicin was given along with a sugar-rich diet, while other rats' weights increased.
4. Mustard Seed
Researchers from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada found that the antimicrobial properties of mustard seed are so strong that when powdered mustard was added to hamburger meat, it killed E. coli bacteria.
The compound responsible for this effect is allyl isothiocyanate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that this potent compound can fight off not only E. coli but also listeria, Staphylococcus aureus and other foodborne pathogens.
Unfortunately, prepared mustard that is typically consumed in the United States does not contain this healthy component.
Did you know? Isothiocyanates in mustard seed have also been studied for their ability to inhibit the growth of existing cancer cells and protect against the formation of new ones.
Sage is a powerful antimicrobial that is known to kill fungi, including candida albicans, and other microbes such as salmonella. Sage leaf extract is also known to kill the microbe that causes gingivitis.
Sage is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It contains flavonoids, phenolic acids and oxygen-handling enzymes, all of which give it a unique ability to prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. Sage may be useful in fighting rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, bronchial asthma and atherosclerosis.
Did you know? Sage is also good for your brain. A study in the June 2003 Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior found that people given sage essential oil extracts had significantly improved recall abilities compared to those given a placebo.
Rosemary has both antibacterial and antifungal properties and is sometimes recommended to treat yeast overgrowth in the intestines.
Further, it is known to stimulate the immune system, increase circulation and improve digestion.
Did you know? Rosemary has been traditionally regarded as a memory enhancer. Students in ancient Greece, for instance, would put sprigs of the herb in their hair while studying.
Thyme contains volatile oil components that are known to fight a wide range of bacteria and fungi, including:
Recent studies have also shown that thyme can help prevent foods from becoming contaminated and even help decontaminate already contaminated foods. A study in the February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology found that thyme essential oil decontaminated lettuce contaminated with Shigella, an infectious organism that can cause diarrhea and intestinal damage.
Washing produce in a solution of just 1 percent thyme essential oil was also able to decrease the number of Shigella bacteria to undetectable levels.
Did you know? Thyme has been used for its antiseptic properties since the 16th century, both in mouthwashes and topically.