Classification of economic important herbs – Part 2
All plants have essential oils, which are extracts of the volatile oils found in the plants. The volatile oils are the medically active components of the plants. These essential oils give the plant a peculiar aroma by which the plant can be distinguished. All aromatic herbs have a pungent taste and have been widely used therapeutically for their healing properties. Aromatic herbs are also used as perfume flavours. They are commonly divided into two categories: stimulants and nervines.
Stimulants: They function by stimulating the body to produce more energy and to increase in alertness. Stimulant herbs also boost the functions and activities of the gastrointestinal, circulatory and respiratory systems. Herbal Examples are cayanne pepper, ginger, peppermint and sage.
Nervines: As the name implies, nervines have a calming and healing effect on the nervous system. They also have a soothing effect on the respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems. Examples in this category include chamomile, lemon balm, marshmallow and valerian.
Classification of herbs by taste
It is actually more common to classify Herbs by their taste as we have found out. The aromatic herbs are recognised by the peculiar pungent taste of the volatile oil that it may contain. Other tastes that herbs can possess are the sweet, salty and sour tastes.
Salty: As expected, mineral salts are the active components of the salty herbs. These herbs supply such minerals as magnesium, potassium and silica to the body. Examples of salty herbs are Horsetail, nettle, dandelion, kelp and Alfafa.
Sweet: Examples of herbs that have a sweet taste are ginseng, licorice and stevia. Stevia is actually an organic sweetener. The active components of this group of herbs are fructans, polysaccharides, saponins and glycosides. These sweet-tasting herbs stimulate and boost the immune system, strengthen and help the body to adapt to stress.
Sour: This sour taste of this category of herbs is conferred on them by the acidity of their active components. These components are ascorbic acid, citric acid and malic acid. Flavonoids are also found among them.
Otherwise known as nutritive herbs, culinary herbs have active components that are nutrients; they are food indeed and consist of the macronutrients and micronutrients. Common examples of these are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals. Apart from being classified as food, they also exhibit some medicinal effects such as diuresis, fibre and ulcer protecting mucilage in the stomach. Herbal examples of nutritive herbs include asparagus, banana, berries, broccoli, camu camu, papaya, pineapples and wheat gem.
Health benefits of herbs and spices
Having classified the herbs and spices, we can now begin to look at the common herbs and spices found in this country, their health benefits and their uses. In countries like India where these herbs and spices have been part of their diet, certain diseases caused by food have been very rare. Researchers have found that the major reason why it is so, is because of their high rate of consumption of these herbs and spices. It is my hope that we Nigerians will one day make our locally sourced herbs and spices a part of our daily diet.
This is one plant with numerous curative properties. It was used as a remedy against female infertility. The leaves of Sage have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. Sage is able to improve the mood and help to preserve the memory. Also, it can improve some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. By its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial properties, sage can soothe sore throat.
In the ancient times it was used to alleviate stomach disorders and in the form of essential oil, it is used as a bactericidal agent. It lowers cholesterol levels, and against type 2 diabetes it has been found to be effective. It enhances mental focus, preserves memory and fights bacteria in meat. Indeed, it can prevent meat from getting spoilt.
In the form of essential oil, Basil stimulates the appetite and digestion, and if used on skin it alleviates the itch of insects’ bites.
As infuse or tisane, thyme is widely used to heal respiratory infections, cough, asthma, and bronchitis. It has an antiviral action also.
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