Eat These Herbs to Reverse Aging
*I am not an herbalist. This is information anyone can apply!
Read the bold and bullet points if you’re short on time!*
Think about the time in your life when you felt pretty darn good. Nothing was stiff when you woke up in the morning, your skin was smooth and bright, you had energy to get through the day and even do something in the evening, you could be active and not ache. Think about where you are now. Maybe injuries, sun, smoking, stress, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, chronic conditions, or just plain old aging has changed you. You’re a little slower, a little creakier, your skin is dull, your body is flabby, your gut doesn’t process food efficiently, or your doctor is telling you that your labs are not looking as good.
You see, over time, we start to accumulate damage from all the ways our bodies were stressed beyond their capacity to heal. If you haven’t been intentionally eating, exercising, sleeping, relaxing, and supplementing throughout your life, then all the ways we’ve neglected ourselves starts catching up with us. And for those like me with a chronic inflammatory condition such as autoimmune disease, IBS, depression, endometriosis, infections, etc, that process is greatly accelerated. My doctors were always looking at my labs and symptoms when I was in my twenties saying, “I was expecting you to be a post-menopausal woman.”
Our lifestyle is full of insults to our biology. Pollution in the air, plastics in our food, pesticides on our lawns, toxins in our home and beauty products, stress from a fast-paced lifestyle, sleep deprivation, nutrient-poor convenience foods, pro-inflammatory meals out, medications, a sedentary job, and even social isolation all damage our cellular health. They produce what’s called free radicals, which disable enzymes, causing the cell to slow down and not work as well. Free radicals also poke holes in cell membranes and cause the immune system to be constantly working to fix it, which is called inflammation.
But not all is lost! Some people age well, and do not experience these symptoms. How? Part of it could be their genes, which allow them to make extra quantities of compounds that go in and heal the damage, making them resilient. But another way is through consuming herbs! Herbs are loaded with compounds that act as a trifecta in healing the damage that can accumulate with aging:
- They contain antioxidants, which neutralize the free radicals
- They contain compounds which speed up detoxification, allowing us to eliminate the things creating free radicals
- They contain anti-inflammatory compounds, letting the immune system know it’s safe to calm down, keeping the body in balance
We all know fruits and vegetables are good for us and will help protect us against the diseases of aging like cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. But herbs are super-concentrated sources of the good stuff in fruits and vegetables! If you’re trying to heal as quickly as you can, you’ll want to implement these in your daily diet.
HOW DO HERBS HELP?
Herbs have a long history of being used to heal every malady known to man. Many, if not most, of our modern-day medications are based off properties discovered from herbs. But what I’m always most interested in is what does science and research say about it. Have they been proven in human clinical trials to actually make a difference in outcomes? Read below for the answer or skip to the next section if you’re not a nerd like me!
SUMMARY OF RESEARCH
Review study explains cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurological diseases occur mostly because of damage from free radicals. It lists many herbs which protect against this free radical damage: ginseng, ginkgo, nuts, tomato, curcumin, melatonin, antioxidant vitamins, carnitine, and CoQ10. It concludes: “Functional foods and nutraceuticals constitute a great promise to improve health and prevent aging-related chronic diseases.” (1)
Neurological diseases of aging such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are affected by many different things going wrong in the body, so holistic treatments such as herbs are the most promising to treat or prevent. (2)
Comprehensive 2012 review article found that the most evidence for using herbs to prevent aging was on brain health, sexual health, and wrinkles. It included the graphic below. (3)
Research supports the use of garlic, onion, mint, ginger, parsley, licorice root, and green tea to prevent increased cholesterol levels, tumor growth, damage to LDL cholesterol, and protect against viruses, cancer, and inflammation (4).
HERBS TO FOCUS ON (5)
- Spices: thyme, oregano, coriander, cloves, and cinnamon. These spices are not only very high in antioxidants, but their oils have anti-microbial compounds that can keep bad bacteria, yeast, and viruses at bay.
- Roots: ginger and turmeric. Ginger is known for its gut-settling properties, and both are known for reducing pain and arthritis as well as medications do. There’s pretty much nothing turmeric can’t help with, whether it be depression, colitis, or cancer. Read here for a lamb curry recipe using spices and roots.
- Culinary herbs: rosemary, cilantro, parsley, and basil. Cilantro is known for protecting the liver from heavy metals, as well as improving skin health and decreasing anxiety (6). Parsley is great for urinary tract health and blood sugar (7).
MAIN TAKEAWAY: All of these herbs have evidence of improving cholesterol and glucose markers, preventing and slowing cancer, speeding up detoxification, and decreasing inflammatory symptoms like infections, pain, and gut conditions. In addition, they help improve digestion and normalize the passage of food through the intestines. (8)
HOW TO USE
- Spices: while fresh is always best, studies actually show that the dehydrated spices hold up pretty well and in some cases can have a stronger effect. So feel free to use either! Oregano and thyme are perfect in Italian cooking: think zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, bean pasta. Mix them into either a lemon olive oil sauce or tomato sauce.
- Roots: One of my favorite ways to get these herbs is in tea. Trader Joe’s makes a wonderfully delicious Ginger Turmeric tea with orange essential oil. Yogi brand has a strong Ginger tea that will get rid of nausea and get the GI tract moving. You can also chop off a piece of the root and boil it with lemon juice to make tea at home. I’ll add the powders to my smoothies, and anything I make with coconut milk (curry sauce, soups, crockpots, or casseroles). You can blend the root right into a sauce using a blender, without having to peel or grate.
- Culinary herbs: Rosemary goes great with potatoes or chicken (just sprinkle the leaves onto the food before putting in the oven and eat whole). My favorite go-to for the rest are making a pesto. So easy and adaptable! Here’s the basic structure. Buy 1 bunch of parsley (flat leaf is more mild than curly) or cilantro/coriander, or 1 package or 2 plants of basil. Fill a large bowl with water and hold the bunch by the bottom of the stems. Then dump upside down in the bowl and swirl around to clean. Ta da! Clean in 5 seconds. Break off the bottom of the stems and throw the bunch in a food processor. Add juice from 1 medium lemon, 1/4 cup nuts or seeds (pine nuts, walnuts, or hemp seeds are my fav), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (for dairy-free creamy and savory flavors), and seasoning to taste (garlic, salt, pepper). You can also add 2 tbsp olive oil or 1 can olives. Sometimes I’ll make this with kale or arugula instead.
Adding herbs will enhance your health in every way possible: mood, energy, digestion, pain, skin, and preventing diseases of aging. Add them to every meal, use sauces and curries, and drink them in tea!
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- Functional foods, herbs and nutraceuticals: towards biochemical mechanisms of healthy aging. ://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10522-004-2566-z
- Anti-aging herbal medicine—How and why can they be used in aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases? ://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163709000695
- A Systematic Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Anti-aging Herbs in Animals and Human. https://scialert.net/fulltextmobile/?doi=ajava.2012.621.640#t1
- Health-promoting properties of common herbs ://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/70/3/491s/4714940
- Phenolic antioxidants from herbs and spices.
- Cilantro—Culinary Herb or Miracle Medicinal Plant? https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/act.2012.18507
- Parsley: a review of ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and biological activities. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627214600182
- A Reason to Season: The Therapeutic Benefits of Spices And Culinary Herbs. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550830706003533