Health-promoting properties of common herbs.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep ;70(3 Suppl):491S-499S. PMID: 10479221
Department of Nutrition, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI 49104-0210, USA. [email protected]
Herbs have been used as food and for medicinal purposes for centuries. Research interest has focused on various herbs that possess hypolipidemic, antiplatelet, antitumor, or immune-stimulating properties that may be useful adjuncts in helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. In different herbs, a wide variety of active phytochemicals, including the flavonoids, terpenoids, lignans, sulfides, polyphenolics, carotenoids, coumarins, saponins, plant sterols, curcumins, and phthalides have been identified. Several of these phytochemicals either inhibit nitrosation or the formation of DNA adducts or stimulate the activity of protective enzymes such as the Phase II enzyme glutathione transferase (EC 220.127.116.11). Research has centered around the biochemical activity of the Allium sp. and the Labiatae, Umbelliferae, and Zingiberaceae families, as well as flaxseed, licorice root, and green tea. Many of these herbs contain potent antioxidant compounds that provide significant protection against chronic diseases. These compounds may protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, inhibit cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase enzymes, inhibit lipid peroxidation, or have antiviral or antitumor activity. The volatile essential oils of commonly used culinary herbs, spices, and herbal teas inhibit mevalonate synthesis and thereby suppress cholesterol synthesis and tumor growth.