The herbs rosemary and thyme
Rosemary and Thyme feature in many recipes at the heart of the Mediterranean diet. Both are native herbs to countries around the Mediterranean and have been used for culinary, aromatic and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Capable of nourishing our senses as well as our stomachs, they are wonderful examples of food for better health.
Named from the Latin Rosmarinus, meaning “mist of the sea”, it remains one of the most common herbs in Italian cooking, particularly prized in the preparation of roast lamb.
High in antioxidants, rosemary contains carnosic acid, which has received considerable attention in food science and biomedicine for antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Indeed, according to the Journal of Food Science, adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduces the formation of cancer-causing agents that can develop during cooking. Meanwhile rosemary has also shown positive results as an anti-tumour agent and could have anti-proliferative effects on leukaemia and breast carcinoma cells.
When it comes to our senses, the ancient Greeks believed rosemary could strengthen memory, so it’s interesting to read researchers at Kyoto University, Japan, found rosemary may significantly reduce brain aging, while other research has found rosemary to be generally good for the brain.
Thyme can be used in a wide range of dishes, being suitable for lamb, beef, pork and fish – or simply add a whole extra dimension of flavour to oven roast vegetables.
Thought to have antifungal, antibacterial and insecticidal properties, historically it has been used for a wide range of ailments – it was even believed to help offer protection from the Black Death. Forms of thyme include fresh and dried herbs and essential oil.
Thyme has featured in a wide range of research. For example, it’s been reported researchers at the University of Belgrade looking into high blood pressure found that an aqueous extract obtained from wild thyme reduced blood pressure in tests on rats, with the findings capable of having implications for humans.
Thyme is often used with olive oil to preserve olives, so a Portuguese study the antimicrobial activity of essential oils extracted from a range of aromatic plants, including thyme oil. The thyme oil showed potential as a natural preservative of food products against several common foodborne bacteria that cause human illness.
Meanwhile researchers in Turkey looked at the effect of wild thyme on breast cancer activity, and specifically how it affected apoptosis, or cell death; they reported that wild thyme could induce cell death in breast cancer cells.
Both herbs are ubiquitous when it comes to Mediterranean cooking, especially with lamb, but two of my favourite dishes are:
- Thyme honey with Greek yoghurt for breakfast – genuine nectar of the Gods
- One of my favourite Just Routine recipes – Chicken in Orange and Rosemary Sauce
NOTE: Before embarking on any supplementations always consult with your doctor. High doses of rosemary supplements could cause pregnant women to miscarry.
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