by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Many of us grew up seeing parsley as the attractive green garnish on dinner plates. The vibrant taste and wonderful healing properties of parsley are often ignored in its popular role as a table garnish. Parsley is so much more than a pretty garnish or filler plant in the garden. Rarely as a youngster, did I see anyone actually eat this green or grow it in their gardens. Parsley was something reserved for fancy restaurant food. The unpopularity of this herb may be because of the ancient folklore associated with parsley and eastern Oregon being heavily settled by Irish, Welsh and Scottish emigrants. Add to this the herb has a reputation of being hard to grow from seed and propagate in gardens; traditionally mankind has attached vile forewarning s or stigma to foods that fell into the difficult to keep alive category.
‘Welsh parsley is a good physic’ – ‘Welsh parsley’ signified the gallows rope. In Surrey and in other southern English counties it was said, “Where parsley’s grown in the garden, there’ll be a death before the year’s out.”
While certainly not as dramatic as a death sentence, it was believed if someone cut parsley that they would be later crossed in love. in Hampshire, peasants feared giving away any parsley as it would bring ill-luck upon them. In Suffolk, it was thought sowing Parsley seed on Good Friday would ensure the herb coming up “double.” 
Originally, parsley came from Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean (Turkey, Algeria, Sardinia, and Lebanon). The herb has been cultivated since ancient times and was widely grown in most parts of Europe. Today, the plant is extensively used as a spice and cultivated all over the world.
The parsley leaves are best during the plant’s first year, and they can be picked at any time during the growing season. The leaves can be dried or kept frozen for later use. The root is collected in the autumn in the first year or in the spring of the second year of the plant’s life cycle. It should be used fresh, but can also be stored as other root vegetables, preferably in a cold place. 
Parsley contains two types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits. The first type is volatile oil components—including myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. The second type is flavonoids—including apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin.
Along with flavonoids (apiin), parsley contains glucosides, phthalide, furanocoumarins, carotenoids, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C and E, and minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, sulfur, copper and manganese. Studies have shown that vitamin K is vital in bone formation, protects against osteoporosis and is very beneficial for the circulatory system and the nervous system. 
Five grams of parsley covers the daily requirement of vitamin A, and 25 grams of the fresh herb cover the daily requirement of vitamin C. Parsley is an excellent source of dietary fiber and calcium which makes it a good option for those who are dairy free.  Some studies have suggested parsley may limit the harmful effects of carcinogenic substances. This is probably due to the chlorophyll content.
Parsley increases the secretion of digestive fluids improving digestion, better-quality nutrient uptake, and reduces gas. It may also be used as a remedy for colic and digestive pain for those with IBS and Crohns.
Parsley is a effective diuretic and has been used to treat fluid retention (edema) and to speed up the elimination of harmful toxins. German doctors, who are known to use medicinal herbs to great extent, often recommend a tea made from the seeds as a treatment for high blood pressure. 
Beta-carotene found in parsley works in the fat-soluble areas of the body. Diets with beta-carotene-rich foods are associated with a reduced risk for development and progression of atherosclerosis, diabetes, and colon cancer. Like vitamin C, beta-carotene may also be helpful in reducing the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. And beta-carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A, a nutrient important in maintaining eyesight and a strong immune system. 
A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed parsley inhibits the secretion of histamine, a substance produced in the body that is responsible for triggering allergy symptoms. The herb may, therefore, be helpful as a herbal remedy for hay fever. 
So let’s give Parsley some credit for more than it’s attractive appearance on our plates – Here is to green for health.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Poor air quality increases the risk of chest and sinus infections.
I have a small herb garden in my yard; it consists of those herbs that thrive on abuse. One such herb is Horehound. Some of you may be old enough to remember horehound candy drops; others may remember a nasty syrup that you were given as children for chest colds or coughs. For me, I have a recollection of a grandfather who carried horehound drops in his pocket. Apparently, I thought they were the “cat’s meow” as a three-year-old…. Proof that little kids will believe anything you tell them.
Horehound is a garden mint with green and white leaves and a distinctively bitter taste. It is native to Asia and Europe but is naturalized in North America. Although the herb grows in a wide range of climates, the best quality is produced in the desert heat. Its primary use has been as an expectorant and is a common ingredient in cough medicines.
The name may suggest a breed of dog, but that is misleading. “Hore-” does mean hoary (gray or white) in Old English, but “-hound” is not canine; it is simply an old name for the herb. The generic name Marrubium is the name by which the Romans knew the herb, and vulgare means common.
Horehound has been used to make lozenge candies that are believed to help heal sore throats, improve your appetite and relieve intestinal gas. Horehound is also recorded as one of the “bitter herbs” eaten at Passover.
Horehound contains a variety of nutrients that are needed for the immune system to work they include; Examples include B-complex vitamins, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Horehound primarily acts on your lungs. The late herbalist and naturopath, Dr. William Mitchell Jr., noted that horehound serves as a respiratory stimulant, expectorant and cough suppressant. It reduces the thickness of the mucus in your lungs and your bronchial tubes, which makes it easier to expel the mucus. According to the University of Michigan Health System, because of Horehound’s ability to loosen bronchial secretions and expel mucus, this herb may be especially useful in treating bronchitis.
This herbal remedy is prescribed by natural health care practitioners and some medical doctors for a broad range of health problems. The University of Michigan Health System states horehound may be useful for increasing your poor appetite, treating your coughs and reducing your indigestion by aiding the gallbladder in its function. Other conditions that horehound may help include sinus inflammation, hay fever symptoms, and abdominal swelling. Horehound is also known to increase immune system activity.
Horehound is used to make cough medicines for people whose upper respiratory symptoms are caused by acid reflux. The marubiinic acid in the herb both stimulates the release of phlegm and stimulates the release of gastric
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
It has finally happened – winter and the cold bite of it’s breath has found many of us. Cold weather also brings with it high calorie foods and sedentary habits. With the glut of holiday commercials highlighting decadent sweets, beverages, and hot food we are subconsciously lead down a dangerous path – one that is no less dangerous than the gingerbread house of fables.
When we are inactive our metabolism shifts also to a slower speed, one designed to conserve resources necessary for survival. This down-regulation effects our thyroid a glad that governs body temperature and plays a role in blood pressure and circulation.
There are herbs and foods viewed historically as beneficial during the winter months that help keep the dangers of a downregulated metabolism in check. Herbs most commonly thought of as heat generating and metabolism boosting are garlic, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, and tea.
Although the use of plant extracts is no longer a significant aspect of medical care as practiced in Western populations, it is still popular in large numbers of the world’s population, particularly in Asia and Europe. However, for medicine, as practiced in Western countries, one observation that appears to be forgotten is that many of the pharmaceutical agents currently prescribed appear to have been derived from natural compounds found in traditional medicinal plants.
Tea derived from the plant Camellia Sinesis can be classified as green tea, oolong tea, or black tea, depending on its level of fermentation. Green tea has been shown to reduce cholesterol and fasting blood glucose levels in the general population. Additionally, small trials suggest there may be specific benefits to the diabetic population. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing chronic illnesses in America, and winter may be the tipping point for many who become sedentary due to worsening weather.
For those who are unable or do not like hot and spicy, take heart there are herbs available to you also that are effective in improving metabolism and blood sugars. Many of them are perfect for tossing into warming broths or stews.
Rosemary helps normalize blood sugar levels naturally. It promotes weight loss as well, which is a double boon for many people with diabetes who struggle with weight issues. Research conducted in Jordan to study the effects of rosemary on lipid profile in diabetic rats proved that rosemary has no significant influence on serum glucose level and lipid profile of normal rats. However, when rosemary extract was administered to diabetic rats for four weeks, their blood sugar levels reduced by 20%, cholesterol levels by 22%, triglyceride levels by 24%, and LDL by 27% while HDL increased by 18% respectively.
Oregano is considered one of the best herbs to lower blood sugar levels. A Mexican study on “Inhibition of Advanced Glycation End-Product Formation by Origanum majorana L. In Vitro and Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats” revealed that that oregano alleviated oxidative stress under diabetic conditions through the inhibition of lipid peroxidation. Oregano may also prevent and delay the onset of renal damage.
Sage can have Metformin-like effects, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Sage has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, as one of the essential herbs to reduce blood sugar. A word of warning – taking high doses of sage along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low, a condition called hypoglycemia. Monitor your blood sugar carefully.
Marjoram, a lesser-known herb that lower blood sugar, is high in polyphenols, and aids in stabilizing blood glucose levels. A 2012 study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Alternative and Complementary Medicine found Marjoram reduced the formation of Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products. AGE is responsible for many of the complications associated with diabetes, like damage to arteries and eyes. Sprinkle marjoram on your dinner to help add variety in flavor or use as a substitute for oregano in cooking.
Fenugreek, in multiple studies, shows that Fenugreek seeds help lower blood sugar by slowing down the process of digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine. This action is similar to the prescription drug Acarbose.
When we return to old-school cooking from scratch, the food is not only more satisfying but also restorative making it possible to pass through winter healthier.
To herbs and your Health
The study was published in African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 6 in 2012.
Griggs B. Green Pharmacy: A History of Herbal Medicine. 1st ed. London: Robert Hale; 1981.
Evans J.L. Diet, botanical, and nutritional treatments for type 2 diabetes. 2003. http://www.endotext.com (accessed July 7, 2010)
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
An effective detoxification program will not ask you to make any dramatic lifestyle and dietary changes. Healthier food and lifestyle choices are generally made on a subconscious level. Once the body begins to eliminate toxins, it will naturally start craving foods that will nourish it at an optimum level. That said, there are undoubtedly many things you can do to maximize the benefits of the cleanse you’re on from day one, and certain foods will help maintain the benefits of the detox for much longer.
A detox diet is a short-term diet, often 3- to 21 days, focused on removing toxins from the body. Although detoxification is ongoing in the body, toxins and stress prevent us from doing it optimally, which eventually affects our health. A detox diet allows our bodies to focus on self-healing, with the goal being to raise energy levels, stimulate digestive health, clear headaches, remove bloating, improve concentration and mood, avoid getting allergies, regain our natural ability to ward off colds and flu and prevent premature aging and disease.
In natural health writings from the 1900’s, it was common to see articles on digestive cleansing with tonics, enemas, fasting, and herbs. Detoxification has been practiced for centuries by many cultures around the world — including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
The sad but undeniable truth is many are living in an environment toxic to their bodies, take a look at the following information:
How does detoxification work?
Basically, detoxification means cleaning the blood. It does this by removing impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph, and skin. However, when this system is compromised, impurities aren’t properly filtered, and every cell in the body is adversely affected.
Many health ailments–headaches, exhaustion, and muscle cramps–are coming from toxicity. Toxins have been implicated in everything from increased risk of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease to mental retardation and cancer.
A detox program can help the body’s natural cleaning process by:
10 ways to detoxify
Eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined and artificial sugars, fake fats found in margarine, and unfiltered tap water all of which act as toxins in the body and are obstacles to detoxifying. Also, minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products (cleansers, shampoos, deodorants, and toothpastes), and substitute natural alternatives.
Stress triggers your body to release stress hormones into your body affecting every metabolic pathway necessary for detoxification. While these hormones can provide the “adrenaline rush” to win a race or meet a deadline, in large amounts, they create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. Consider cutting out the news at dinner and bedtime add music that is around 60 beats per minute to calm the central nervous system throughout the day, all these are simple and effective ways to relieve stress.
People who are exhausted with low blood pressure may have adrenal weakness or fatigue. A detox diet is usually done after the adrenal glands have been replenished.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
One of the magical things about this time of year are the smells – cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice, ginger, fruit fillings and festive colors swirled around on cookies. Many of these powerful aromas stimulate memories and affect brain chemistry in positive ways.
All of these spices that add to the flavor of the winter holiday season have a warming quality, and in medieval times they were valuable for their food preservation effects. Known as “pie spices,” these flavors are indeed wonderful compliments to pies and other baked goods, but they’re also excellent companions to root vegetables, roasted meats, sauces, gravies and more. When flavoring, it helps to think of allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg as sweet; cardamom, cloves, ginger and star anise as pungent; and coriander as peace-making.
The flavors we call Spices’ come from the volatile oils they contain in the seed, berry, and bark. These oils dissipate when they are left out in the open air or a bad quality storage containers. Spices should be stored in airtight and tinted glass containers away from light, heat, and humidity. Whenever possible, buy small quantities and grind your whole spices to ensure fresh flavor.
According to A Guide to Buying and Cooking with Winter Spices
Ginger has been flavoring foods and beverages from antiquity forward. Ginger is versatile with a range of flavors from fresh, zingy and lemony to spicy and hot. It is one of the oldest Asian spices. Gingerbread, as we know it today, descends from Medieval European culinary traditions. Ginger cookies feature prominently on Northern European Christmas tables. Of all the Christmas pastries, the gingerbread cookie was one the one most loved by early American children. A large part of gingerbreads popularity hinged on gingerbread being cheap, and easy to make; a small batch would yield many cookies, and gingerbread dough stood up well under the vagaries of both brick-oven and cook-stove baking.
Cloves are the dried flower buds of a tree native to Indonesia. This aromatic spice is found in kitchens across the globe. The word clove comes from the Latin clavus, which means “nail.” Its “nail heads” can be spiked into foods for a dramatic presentation. Ground cloves lose their volatile oils quickly, so it’s best to grind your own in a coffee grinder. Use pungent cloves sparingly when cooking. They are perfect for roasted meats, baked beans, split pea or bean soups, citrus, stewed and baked fruits, desserts, and pickles.
Allspice is the cured berry of an evergreen tree found in Jamaica. When buying this spice look for dark, red-brown spheres with a rough surface. You should hear the inner seeds rattle when shaken. Ground allspice should be rich, dark brown, highly aromatic but not musty, and a bit oily, never dry. When using them for cooking select whole berries to avoid adding a brown tint to foods. Try allspice in sweet baked goods, Jamaican jerk seasoning, tomato and barbecue sauces, seafood, red meat and curry blends.
Cardamom is called the “Queen of Spices” in its native India. It comes in brown and green forms. Green cardamom is the traditional winter spice. Cardamom pods should be whole, slightly oily and lime green, not pale.
The flavor of cardamom is perfect for sweet and savory foods, especially curries and rice, and citrus. Ground cardamom loses its volatile oils and flavor rapidly. For the best flavor add whole pods, slightly bruised, to dishes cooked with liquids (remove pods before serving). Or split pods to remove the sticky, black seeds and grind seeds in a coffee grinder.
Star Anise as winter spices is beautiful and has a strong licorice flavor. Popularized in the 16th century, it is a relatively new spice to many parts of the world coming from China, Vietnam, India, Japan and the Philippines. Look for whole, reddish-brown stars with little splits that contain a shiny brown seed. When popped, the seed should release a strong, spicy aroma. Ground star anise should be fine and dark; purchase it in small quantities to retain freshness. Star anise pairs perfectly with many savory Asian dishes, most famously Peking duck. It also works well with pork.
Do It Yourself Spice Blend
—Adapted from The Spice and Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill
This blend is the popular way to flavor fruitcakes, shortbread, sweet pies and all kinds of delectable pastries. Mix the following ground spices together:
4 teaspoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cassia
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon green cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
To impart a deliciously aromatic, sweet spice flavor to cakes, biscuits, cookies and pastries, add 2 teaspoons of mixed spice per cup of flour to the dry ingredients. Fruitcakes, mince pies, and rich or sweet foods require up to twice the amount if a distinct flavor is wanted.
Happy Holiday Season filled with Spice, laughter, and love.