Superfoods are a wonderful addition to any diet, but let’s turn the spotlight away from the cacao beans, adaptogenic mushrooms and goji berries for a quick second and make some noise for the common herbs you’ll find growing in gardens and on countertops across the country.
Did you know the superfood category extends beyond plants from far off places and encompasses the ones found all around us? These five native herbs are actually packed with a higher antioxidant content than most vegetables and leafy greens. This study shows how one teaspoon of fresh herbs like marjoram, thyme or oregano chopped into your meal can potentially quadruple the antioxidant content of, say, a regular lettuce and tomato salad.
In her kitchen apothecary, cancer survivor and cannabis journalist Sharon Letts incorporates these common herbs in her medicinal therapies to elevate the antioxidant content of her food and enhance the effectiveness of cannabinoid therapy. Upping the dosage or concentration of certain herbs boosts their medicinal properties and might increase their effectiveness to therapeutic levels.
Here are five herbs that natural health enthusiast Sharon Letts recommends for treating infection, calming the nervous system, and increasing the number of potent antioxidants in the diet.
Sharon calls chamomile “one of the most underrated superfoods on the planet,” due to its ability to calm her nerves and instantly treat her panic attacks. She quotes studies demonstrating the plant’s ability to raise endorphins and create dopamine in the brain for an overall sense of wellbeing useful for treating depression. Amazingly, Sharon’s homemade chamomile-cannabis oil concentrate capsules have effectively replaced Valium for her. The essential oil of the delicate herb is also found in botanical skincare products often under the name German or Roman chamomile oil.
Sharon creates an alternative recipe to her cannabis concentrate oil where she uses two cups of chamomile flower to two cups of cannabis flower. The plants fused in coconut oil can help relieve depression and anxiety, and the chamomile flower also takes the edge off the potent THC.
Divinely scented, pinene-containing rosemary is a beautiful perennial bush that’s found in the mint family, Lamiaceae, alongside oregano, thyme, sage and marjoram. Similar to the rest of these herbs, rosemary boasts a powerful antioxidant profile. Rosemary, like oregano, also hosts antimicrobial properties. For the home apothecary, use an infusion or dilute the essential oil for a stimulating hair tonic that increases blood flow to the scalp initiating hair growth. Rosemary also improves cognitive function and memory. Try putting the essential oil in a diffuser or drink the herb-infused water. Traditional European wise women (or people) dried sprigs of fresh rosemary then burned the bundle as a smudge stick. Folks believed the smoke would purify the air, clear away stagnation and ward off negative energies. Rosemary bushes grew around the threshold of their homes for culinary and medicinal uses as well as for spiritual protection.
We all know of a pizza joint called Oregano’s because of the herb’s prized status in Italian cooking. But did you also know about the herb’s impressive antibacterial and antiviral properties? Oregano is a potent antioxidant and, of course, is a staple in the kitchen spice rack. Grow your own at home and try chopping the fresh leaves straight into your salad. Make an oregano-infused olive oil or create a therapeutic tincture from a more concentrated oil. No time? Find the common oil of oregano tincture at your local health food store or supermarket and keep it on hand for its potent antiviral effects. Anytime you feel something coming on, reach for the oregano oil! The herbal medicine cabinet is incomplete without this ailment fighter. Because of the oil’s amazing strength, this therapy is best used on alternating days and not consistently for long periods of time. Although the fresh or dried herb can be used daily.
This unsuspecting weed will not allow you to pass her by unnoticed. Quite literally, she will stop you in your tracks with an alarming sting or burning sensation on exposed skin as a result of the little chemical-containing, hair-like structures on its leaves and stems. So definitely don’t eat this plant in its fresh, raw state!
In alignment with homeopathy, histamine-containing stinging nettle might actually help treat allergies, such as Sharon’s hay fever, which makes this plant especially intriguing! Drink a tea made of the dry herb or prepare the fresh leaves into cooked meals. You can also use the plant as an herbal therapy, thanks to its beneficial compounds, or administer it topically via a practice called urtication. Flogging or whipping the skin (like you would a sexual sinner in the days of old) with stinging nettle elicits a histamine reaction on the skin. Anecdotally, this practice treats allergies and autoimmune issues, and musculoskeletal concerns including muscle weakness. Stinging nettle may function as a liver cleanser and its diuretic properties can help reduce the water retention that can occur as a result of air travel. The mineral content of the prolific weed makes it an excellent addition to your meal. (Remember, cooking nullifies the sting!) Try replacing spinach with the leaves of this delicious plant in a spinach and ricotta lasagna and enjoy a boost of iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Nettles also contain high levels of protein and vitamins A, C, and K.
Although calendula and common marigolds are both beautiful, sun-loving plants from the sunflower family, they should not be mistaken for each other. Calendula ranks high in the list of plants with beneficial healing properties; many incorporate it into their regimens as an herbal tea or as a skin care remedy. Similar to the previous herbs, calendula is chock full of antioxidants whose edible flowers can brighten up your meal. Whether you apply calendula topically or consume it internally, it’s its wound-healing properties that render it such a desirable treatment for the skin. Create a simple calendula skin salve by infusing a carrier oil, such as olive oil, with the flowers and then combining the oil with beeswax. Pour into small tins or jars and apply generously on dry, irritated skin. You might also ingest the flowers internally in combination with other emulsifying herbs such as marshmallow and licorice root to ease digestive disturbances associated with leaky gut. Emulsifying herbs help to soothe inflamed skin by providing a beneficial coating made from mucilage that protects the surface and dampens inflammation. Sharon picks fresh calendula flowers straight from her garden and uses them in the kitchen in salve-making for added anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits.
Sharon began her professional career as a gardener at the age of 24 in Southern California, where she designed flower beds for high-end homes. Called one of the most prolific and informative writers in the space, for the past ten years she’s written for just about every cannabis publication and platform, penning patient profiles, telling successful stories of healing with cannabis.