Hijacking Plant Chemistry: 4 Healthy Herbs for the Body

Hijacking Plant Chemistry: 4 Healthy Herbs for the Body

July 18, 2017

Hijacking Plant Chemistry: 4 Healthy Herbs for the Body

Plants are chemistry wizards. Before synthetic drugs, big pharma and excessive use of prescriptions in healthcare plants were using solar power to create amazing chemical concoctions. Since plants don’t have legs, arms, mouths or claws they use their ninja-level chemistry skills to protect themselves, stay healthy and communicate. We call the beneficial chemicals they produce polyphenols.

Consider, that plants basically lie around sun bathing all day, every day. They can’t move into the shade when they’ve had enough. Sun exposure has lots of health benefits for us Wise Apes but, overexposure to UV rays can cause cellular damage and inflammation; also known as sunburn. To protect themselves against sunburn plants use antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Many of these polyphenols can work anti-inflammatory and antioxidant wonders for us too.  Science is increasingly appreciating these benefits, especially as we uncover the inflammatory roots of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and alzheimer's disease.

There is a tight relationship between oxidative damage and inflammation with oxidative damage capable of triggering inflammation directly through genes. This means that the benefits of plant polyphenols often include both oxidation-blocking and inflammation-blocking properties. Let’s check out 4 plants and their polyphenol arsenal.

 

Mint

Mint deserves better than toothpaste and candy canes. We talk about it a lot here at Wise Ape. It’s one of the hard working herbs in our Chocolate Hustle tea. We’ve also covered some of it’s many benefits from aromatherapy to muscle relaxer. When it comes to anti-inflammatory polyphenols mint has a whole crew.

  • First up, luteolin which inhibits the inflammatory enzyme COX-2 and reduces systemic inflammatory markers.
  • Mint also contains rosmarinic acid, which scavenges free radicals and increases secretion of the anti-inflammatory IL-10. Rosmarinic acid is also found in rosemary, which is where the name comes from.
  • Another mint polyphenol is ferulic acid, which reduces oxidation of lipids.
  • Menthol is also found in mint, which has been shown to decrease inflammatory mediators released from monocytes (immune cells).

The bottom line: Together the mint polyphenols are a powerhouse of oxidation blocking, anti-inflammatories AND they stimulate your body's own anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

 

Rosemary

Rosemary, like mint, has a crew of beneficial polyphenols. This is not surprising considering mint and rosemary are related. Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb and has several polyphenols that carry her name.

  • Similar to mint, rosemary also carries rosmarinic acid, which blocks free radicals and promotes anti-inflammatory signaler IL-10.
  • There’s also rosmanol, which is part of a family of polyphenols found in rosemary that includes carnosol, carnosic acid and epirosmanol; each of which inhibits pro-inflammatory signalers and protects our cells lipid membranes from oxidative damage.

The bottom line: The rosemary team of polyphenols puts free radicals in their place and, when it comes to inflammation, blocks your body's bad signals and increases the good signals.

 

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle is another Mediterranean herb with a long history of medicinal use. It’s claim to fame is liver support. Silymarins are the family of polyphenols found in milk thistle that are responsible for many of its benefits.

  • Milk thistle scavenges free radicals.
  • Increases your natural antioxidants.
  • Decreases systemic markers of inflammation.
  • Milk thistle may also block toxins from binding to your liver cells.

The bottom line: Milk thistle is the place to turn for antioxidant benefits combined with liver support.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is a wise, experienced spice. As our post on Ayurvedic herbs noted, this beautiful yellow Indian spice has been used medicinally for a long time. It’s active polyphenol is curcumin. This compound is a versatile player when it comes to quashing oxidation and inflammation.

  • Curcumin blocks inflammatory enzymes such as COX-2.
  • Scavenges oxidative chemicals.
  • Stimulates your body’s own antioxidants like glutathione.
  • Curcumin also helps block oxidation of fats.

The bottom line: Turmeric has you covered with anti-inflammatory and oxidation blocking effects while, at the same time, boosting your body's natural antioxidants.

 

Evolve your nutrition, every little bit helps. Harness the chemical superpowers of herbs and spices for yourself by utilizing these herbs into your next meal, soup, or tea.

 

Wise Ape Tea: Join the tribe!

Sources:

Asghar Z, Masood Z. Evaluation of antioxidant properties of silymarin and its potential to inhibit peroxyl radicals in vitro. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2008 Jul;21(3):249-254.

Carlsen, M. H., Halvorsen, B. L., Holte, K., Bøhn, S. K., Dragland, S., Sampson, L., … Blomhoff, R. (2010). The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutrition Journal, 9, 3. http://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-3

Juergens UR, Stöber M & Vetter H. The anti-inflammatory activity of L-menthol compared
to mint oil in human monocytes in vitro: a novel perspective for its therapeutic use in
inflammatory diseases. European Journal of Medical Research (1998); 3 (12): 539-545

Lam, P., Cheung, F., Tan, H. Y., Wang, N., Yuen, M. F., & Feng, Y. (2016). Hepatoprotective Effects of Chinese Medicinal Herbs: A Focus on Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Oxidative Activities. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 17(4), 465. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17040465

Rubió, L., Motilva, M.-J., & Romero, M.-P. (2013). Recent Advances in Biologically Active Compounds in Herbs and Spices: A Review of the Most Effective Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Active Principles. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 53(9), 943–953.

Serafini, M., & Peluso, I. (2016). Functional Foods for Health: The Interrelated Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Spices and Cocoa in Humans. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(44), 6701–6715. http://doi.org/10.2174/1381612823666161123094235

Wyss-Coray, T., & Rogers, J. (2012). Inflammation in Alzheimer Disease—A Brief Review of the Basic Science and Clinical Literature. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, 2(1), a006346. http://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a006346