Healing Herbalism: Antioxidants

The herbs listed in this article are highly valued for their antioxidant qualities and should be added to your diet! Either in teas, foods like salads or in supplement form.

Before we begin, let’s briefly look at what antioxidants and free-radicals are.

Antioxidants are the powerful nutritional allies that fight disease, cancer, and even the aging process. They are certain nutrients, minerals, phytochemicals, herbs, and enzymes that counteract the harmful effects of free radicals on the body. As the cells in your body burn food for energy, they also burn oxygen, a process that creates atoms, molecules, and portions of molecules known as free radicals. These toxic molecules contain unpaired electrons that bind to and destroy healthy cells, creating more free radicals to attack other healthy cells. This results in oxidative damage to cells and tissues. Free radicals also destroy and cause mutations in cells that render them unable to absorb the nutrients you need.

Free-radicals create “cell starvation” which, results in an inability to fight off disease.

Bilberry
Bilberry is a small edible dark blueberry of a low-growing shrub in Vaccinium family. Bilberry is scientifically referred as Vaccinium myrtillus. It is a close relative of blueberry, blaeberry, huckleberry and cranberry. The part used as an herb is the leaf portion of the plant.

This herb can lower blood pressure. It also protects the eyes; inhibits bacterial growth; has anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antiaging properties; and helps to lower blood sugar levels. The collagen-stabilizing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of bilberry extract make it helpful for the treatment of arthritis. Bilberry contains phytochemicals known as anthocyanidins, which studies indicate can provide up to fifty times the antioxidant protection of vitamin E and ten times the protection of vitamin C.

Burdock
Burdock, known as Arctium. Remember the small burrs that often get stuck on your socks when walking through a forest? Those small burrs come from the burdock plant. Burdock is also from the Asteraceae family. It is relative of the sunflower, when taken in combination with vitamin E, is extremely effective for eliminating harmful free radicals. It also helps to prevent cell mutation, which might otherwise lead to cancer.

The root is the most used part of the plant for its properties. Burdock purifies the blood and, when prepared as a tea, has proven beneficial for treating chronic skin conditions such as acne and eczema, and ridding the body of kidney stones and gallstones. It eliminates toxins, supports digestion, and is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and protein.

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Garlic
Garlic is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek and chive. Garlic is extremely effective at neutralizing the effects of free radicals. Garlic is a powerful antioxidant with an amazing array of healing properties. Its antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitic and antiviral properties can protect you against a wide variety of harmful, disease-causing microbes and organisms. Evidence suggests that organo-sulfurs found in garlic may help to prevent hardening of the arteries. It has been known to protect the body against cholesterol buildup, prevent blood clots, and lower high blood pressure.

Garlic’s sulfur compounds have the ability to reduce the formation of carcinogenic compounds, inhibiting the growth of different types of cancer, including colon cancer.

Ginkgo
Ginkgo biloba has a stabilizing effect on cellular membranes. It also has powerful antioxidant effects in the brain, retina, and cardiovascular system. Ginkgo has a stabilizing effect on cellular membranes. It also has powerful antioxidant effects in the brain, retina, and cardiovascular system. It is helpful for ordinary age-related memory loss, ringing in the ears, balance disorders, impotence and macular degeneration.

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Green Tea
Green tea from the Camellia sinensis plant is rich in flavonoids and other compounds that may possess potent antioxidant properties. Drinking as little as one cup of green tea each day appears to offer some protection against heart disease. Green tea is the dried, unfermented, leaves of the plant. The fermentation process, which produces black tea, destroys most of the polyphenols, making black tea less effective as an antioxidant.

Milk Thistle
Milk thistle, also known as silymarin is from the Asteraceae family. It produces a compound extracted from the seeds of milk thistle, have been used for centuries to treat diseases of the liver. This powerful antioxidant guards the liver from oxidative damage; protects the liver from toxins, drugs, and the effects of alcohol (cirrhosis) and the hepatitis B and C viruses; and promotes the growth of new liver cells. Also, silymarin increases levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant enzyme produced in the liver.

 

Tumeric
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. What gives turmeric its anti-oxidant nature is phenolic nature of its key ingredient, curcumins. Studies have shown that curcuminoids are very effective in scavenging free radicals and neutralize them. Other substances in turmeric help remove toxic byproducts that may contribute to the formation of cancer cells. It soothes inflammation by reducing levels of histamine, a body chemical that is released as part of the immune response. It is available as a powdered root, in capsules, and as a liquid tincture.

Grapeseed and Pine Bark Extracts
Both grape seed extract and pine bark are rich in flavonoids known variously as procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs) and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). These are naturally occurring substances found throughout plant life, and are concentrated in grapeseed and pine bark extracts. PCOs, which are highly water soluble and are rapidly absorbed by the body, help to promote cardiovascular health, balance body fluids, and strengthen capillaries.

They also are believed to provide certain benefits for people with arthritis and allergies. The antioxidant effects are 50 times greater than that of vitamin C and E. A major advantage of these molecules is that they are taken up into the cell membranes and protect against both water- and fat soluble free-radicals.

 

Balch CNC, Phyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness: Using Foods to Heal. Penguin Publishing Group.

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