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July 10, 2018

Note to readers: the content on this page has been adapted from an article featured on The Weston A. Price Foundation website and published in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation (Summer 2003). For the full article, visit their website at:https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/the-antioxidant-herbs/

Throughout history, herbs have been used for adding flavour to foods and for medicinal purposes. They are also known to be rich natural sources of nutrients and healing chemicals. In a recent study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, 27 culinary and 12 medicinal herbs were tested for their antioxidant properties and, in some cases, the antioxidant levels in herbs exceeded those found in fruits, vegetables, and berries (more widely known antioxidant sources).

Antioxidant activity is measured as ‘oxygen radical absorbance capacity’ (or ORAC). A higher ORAC score means more antioxidant power.

Here are 8 herbs that were found to be powerful antioxidants:

Sweet marjoram (Italian oregano)

Although many think of it as its own category, oregano actually belongs to the mint family. There are many varieties of oregano and sweet marjoram is a cross between two of them. This herb tastes both sweet and savory, and pairs well with vegetables, meats, eggs, and soups. ORAC score: 71.64

Greek mountain oregano

This is the most widely available variety of oregano, and its sharp peppery flavour is what most people think of when you mention ‘oregano’ – it’s the kind used in pizza, pasta, and Greek food. ORAC score: 64.71

European bay leaves

Bay leaves grow on a specific type of tree and belong to the same plant family as cinnamon, cassia, sassafras, and… avocado! Bay leaves can be used to add flavour to soups, stews, and even desserts. ORAC score: 31.70

Dill

This herb is actually a member of the carrot family and is native to Asia, though it can be found growing in most of Europe and North America nowadays. Dill seeds are used to make pickles and the fluffy green leaves pair well with a variety of foods. Dill is best used when fresh but turns quickly, so the next best option is to freeze it from fresh (chop it up, put it in a freezer-safe bag or container, and freeze until needed). ORAC score: 29.12

Winter savory

This herb is a woody perennial dating back to Roman times that grows well in many gardens. It pairs well with beans of almost any variety, meat, cheese, corn, and can be used to make herb butter. ORAC score: 26.34

Thyme

There are two main varieties of thyme: French thyme (narrow leaves with a stronger flavour that tends to be preferred in French) and English thyme (broad leaves and a milder flavour). This herb is versatile and can be used in sauces, on meats, in desserts, and even infused in red wine. ORAC score: 19.49

Rosemary

This herb is native to Mediterranean hillsides and cliffs, and it has a strong pine-like scent that pairs well with meat and potatoes. The active antioxidant in rosemary is “rosmanol” which is thought to have more antioxidant activity than tocopherol (a form of Vitamin E). ORAC score: 19.15

Garden sage

There are many varieties of sage, but most people are familiar with garden sage as the one used to flavour poultry and stuffing. Historically, sage has been used in sausage as a preservative and to add flavour, and it is also an ingredient found in some varieties of mouthwash. Sage also pairs well with squash and root vegetables. ORAC score: 13.28


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