Herbs are essential for cooking delicious meals, but many of them also contain powerful anti-aging properties that can help maintain a healthful glow and may even help guard against disease. They are easy to purchase fresh most of the time, but that can quickly become expensive. You may find it more economical (and fun) to grow your own. Herbs are easy to grow in a garden, container or window box. If you have a friend that is also interested in growing herbs you can each pick 2 or 3 different herbs to grow and share your harvest.

Many herbs are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body protect against the free radicals which we are exposed to every day in the environment via pollution, stress and even processed foods. Free radicals cause cell and tissue damage, which is believed to be one of the main causes for cancer, aging, auto immune diseases and a variety of other diseases. Antioxidants are necessary for good health and to prevent premature aging, however no studies have shown that taking specific antioxidant supplements in pill form are safe. There are recommended daily allowances, but there are problems in determining what is actually the proper amount of antioxidants to take to prevent harmful interactions and or toxicity. For example, high doses of betacarotene or Vitamin C or even Vitamin D can be very harmful. Due to this, we prefer to supplement with antioxidants found naturally by eating fruits, whole grains, beans, vegetables and herbs. If you vary your diet to include a wide variety of natural foods, you also eliminate the need to supplement with pills.

Here are some easy herbs to grow that provide the greatest anti-aging and health benefits:

Dill – this is a relatively easy herb to grow, plant after the last frost in spring and it will be ready for harvest in four to six weeks. Dill is rich in the phytonutrient quercitin. Quercitin acts like a natural booster to your sunscreen because it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet rays. Adding Dill to your soups, salads and eggs will make these foods more delicious but it does not mean you can skip the sunscreen.

Basil – another easy herb to grow from seed or small plant, it needs at least six hours of sun and soil that drains well. Basil has anti-inflammatory compounds beta-caryophyllene and eugenol that can help relieve symptoms that are caused by inflammation (i.e. cramps, headaches, arthritis). These effects are also anti-aging since many studies suggest that aging is a direct result of inflammation. Basil also has antioxidant properties that can help protect against premature aging. Another benefit is basil has strong anti-bacterial properties, historically the leaves had been used directly on wounds to prevent infection. Add liberal amounts of basil to your salads, sandwiches, sauces and, of course, tomato dishes.

Rosemary – easy to grow especially from a small plant or cutting, needs plenty of sun and well drained soil. Rosemary is loaded with antioxidants that protect the skin against free radicals. Often used in anti-aging skin creams and products because it helps skin tone and collagen generation. It can also help with respiratory congestion, next time your lungs are sinuses are congested, try boiling fresh rosemary in a pot of water and standing over the pot with a towel draped over your head, inhale the steam deeply (this same treatment is also said to relieve migraines). Add rosemary to soups, sauces, chicken and meat dishes.

Oregano – an easy to grow herb from seed or small plant, similar to rosemary and basil. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that oregano has the highest amount of antioxidant activity of all the fresh herbs tested. Oregano also has strong antimicrobial properties that help eliminate the growth of bacteria. Add oregano to soups, sauces, salads, meat and poultry dishes.

The above is just a small sampling of the wonderful herbs and spices you can try, tarragon, turmeric, garlic, aloe, coriander, mint, fennel and so many many more herbs and spices have wonderful flavors and beneficial compounds and effects. Herbs have been used medicinally and to enhance the flavors of foods throughout human history. I hope this will encourage you to try different herbs to enhance your dishes and bring variety to your meals. It will also provide your body with a natural and much needed source of antioxidants and other phytonutrients to keep you feeling and looking young and healthful.

By Bethann

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