Certainly, you have heard about free radicals and oxidative stress. The oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when the formation of the free radicals overwhelms the ability of the body to neutralize or eliminate them. It leads to many serious diseases such as diabetes, premature aging and heart problems.
The biggest enemies of the oxidative processes are the antioxidants, which strengthen the immune system and neutralize the free radicals. The human organism has its own antioxidant systems, which protect it from the harmful effects of the free radicals.
However, we can also take antioxidants through the food. Natural sources of antioxidants are fruit, vegetables and herbs.
The food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry put some synthetic antioxidants in their products.
These are butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA, E320), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT, E321), tert-butilhidrohinon (TBHQ, E319) and esters of gallic acid (E310 – E312).
When these synthetic antioxidants appeared, the question about their safety for human health was often raised. Due to the bad toxicological reports of synthetic antioxidants, we recommend to use only natural antioxidants.
Natural antioxidants from herbs and spices
A large number of herbs contain chemical compounds that have antioxidant properties. The natural antioxidants can be found in many parts of the plants, such as seeds, leaves, roots and bark.
The most important groups of natural antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are tocopherols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, terpenoids and carotenoids.
The active components in the herbs with antioxidant effects are polyphenols and phenolic acids.
Here are for example, rosmarinic acid in the rosemary, sage and oregano, flavonoids, cirsimaritin and genkwanin in the rosemary and sage. Also, there are the natural pigments as capsaicin in peppers and terpenes in the rosemary and sage.
Some herbs from the Lamiaceae family, such as rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme, can be used in the food industry. Not only that they protect the food from oxidation, but they contain numerous healing properties as well.
The rosemary leaves (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) and rosemary extracts are used not only as a spice, but because of their antioxidant properties as well. The rosemary is known as the plant with the strongest antioxidant effect.
The compounds in rosemary that have the highest antioxidant activity are carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid. The antioxidants in the rosemary are able to stop the oxidation process by adding hydrogen to the free radicals.
The sage (Salvia officinalis L.), is one of the most commonly used healing herbs. Besides being used for healing, the sage is used as a spice as well.
Together with rosemary, it has the strongest antioxidant activity among the plants. The antioxidant activity of the sage is attributed to the presence of phenolic diterpenes, phenolic acids and flavonoids.
The thyme (lat. Thymus vulgaris) is a healing herb rich in essential oil, due to which it has antifungal, antiseptic and antioxidant effect. The essential oil from the thyme leaves is used in perfumes, soaps and toothpastes.
In addition to being used in cosmetics and phytotherapy, the thyme is used as a spice as well.
Studies have shown that the active components in the extracts of thyme, especially eugenol, carvacrol and thymol, have a better antioxidant effect than the synthetic antioxidants BHA and BHT, and the vitamin E.
The oregano (Origanum vulgare L.) is used as a healing herb in the traditional medicine due to its strong antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties.The components responsible for the antioxidant activity of the essential oil of oregano are thymol, carvacrol and thymoquinone.
The joint effects of components of the essential oil of oregano play a very important role. Studies have shown that an extract of oregano slows down the lipid oxidation.
The basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is used in the traditional medicine due to its antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. In cooking, it is used as a spice, and in cosmetics it is a source of essential oil.
It has been discovered that rosmarinic acid, as the main component of basil, has a stronger antioxidant activity than vitamin E.
How to use the herbs
The best way to use the good effects of the herbs is to add them in your everyday diet.
They have better effect if you add them to the meals by the end of the cooking, because with the cooking the herbs lose their valuable nutrients and healing properties. You can also use the powder in capsules, tinctures or pure essential oils of the herbs.
You should ask a phytotherapist or aromatherapist about the application and dosing of these products.
It is believed that the antioxidants…
Protect cells from free radicals
Slow down the aging process
Give energy to the organism
Protect against many diseases such as cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.