The Antioxidant Herbs - Used for Millennia to Add Flavor to Our Foods, Culinary Herbs Are Also Natural and Abundant Sources of Healing Chemicals

By forristal, linda joyce | The World and I, May 2002 | Go to article overview

The Antioxidant Herbs - Used for Millennia to Add Flavor to Our Foods, Culinary Herbs Are Also Natural and Abundant Sources of Healing Chemicals


forristal, linda joyce, The World and I


They're robust, tangy, and pungent. They're perfect for soups and stews, accents on pizza and in cheese dips and even desserts. And now we learn they are good for us, too. What a bonus! U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists recently carried out a scientific study on twenty-seven culinary and twelve medicinal herbs. The study revealed that many popular herbs are a great natural source of natural antioxidants, compounds that play an important role in neutralizing free radicals. In fact, the total phenolic contents of many herbs in the study were higher than those reported for berries, fruits, and vegetables. Although we might have to eat more herbs to get the equivalent total amount of antioxidants consumed in fruits and vegetables, supplementing an otherwise balanced diet with herbs may be beneficial to our health.

Some of your favorite herbs might be on this list. In decreasing order of antioxidant activity, they include several oreganos and their cousin hardy sweet marjoram, rose geranium, sweet bay, dill, thyme, rosemary, and sage. The culinary herbs with the highest antioxidant activities are the oreganos, which belong in the mint family (Lamiaceae). In fact, this study showed that their extremely high phenolic content and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (or ORAC) make their total antioxidant activities higher than _-tocopherol (found in vitamin E).

Though there is some taxonomic confusion about oreganos, by far the most widely available variety is Origanum vulgare spp. hirtum, or Greek mountain oregano. This is the European oregano of commerce, what the Greeks call rhigani. Greek mountain oregano, with an ORAC of 64.71, is known for its pepper-flavored leaves that add a magnificent punch to pizza, spaghetti sauce, and classic Greek cuisine like dolmas-- flavorful tidbits of meat, rice, and spices rolled up in grape leaves. It is an asset, in fact, a staple, in any proper garden. Since it is a woody perennial, it will overwinter in many climates. My Greek mountain oregano has its own revered planter in my backyard and provides me the security of knowing I'm getting the real thing. (I won't dwell on how I first planted an ornamental oregano and wondered why it didn't have the wonderful aroma I'd heard about!)

It is their aroma that sets the oreganos apart. In fact, several herbal sources and experts recommend that it's better to view oregano as a class instead of any one species as a flavor. Indeed, the main commonality, the one thing that makes any plant an oregano, is the flavor and scent that come from the essential oil carvacrol, a simple phenol they contain in varying amounts. What capsaicin is to peppers, carvacrol is to oregano; it imparts the savory, pungent, warming sensation to the tongue. Carvacrol is not specific to oreganos and can also be found in monarda and sweet marjoram. In addition to carvacrol, high levels of rosmarinic acid contribute to the oreganos' antioxidant capacities.

Origanum x majoricum, commonly known as both hardy sweet marjoram and Italian oregano, has a slightly higher antioxidant activity than Greek mountain oregano (with an ORAC of 71.64). The x between the two scientific names indicates that it's a cross between Origanum vulgare and Origanum majorana, or sweet marjoram. Because it's a cross, Italian oregano tastes sweet and savory at the same time and is thus a versatile herb that can be used to season meats, eggs, soups, and vegetables.

European bay (ORAC 31.70) is the leaf of the tree Laurus nobilis and is in the same family of plants as cinnamon, cassia, sassafras, and avocado. (Just for the record, California bay is a different, more pungent species.) Run your finger down the stem of the leaf to release the odor--a mixture of balsam, vanilla, nutmeg, and a touch of citrus. Susan Belsinger, a nationally known herb specialist, uses bay in desserts, flavoring herbed syrups or puddings and custards. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Antioxidant Herbs - Used for Millennia to Add Flavor to Our Foods, Culinary Herbs Are Also Natural and Abundant Sources of Healing Chemicals
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.