Oregano and basil will perk up that tomato sauce you’re simmering and add zest to that grilled chicken. Did you know that oregano and basil also have strong antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities that can actually help boost your immune system? In fact, many of the herbs that are staples in your kitchen have medicinal properties, and healers have been using them for centuries. Here’s a closer look at four of those herbs.



Oregano owes its distinctive odor to the compounds carvacrol and thymol. When distilled as an essential oil of oregano, these compounds have been shown to inhibit the growth of E. Coli strains that are resistant to conventional antibiotics. Animal studies also suggest that oregano is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. In the Mediterranean region where the herb originated, oregano is a traditional folk medicine used to treat asthma, digestive ailments and colds.



Basil oils inhibit the growth of drug-resistant E. Coli, too. Basil also contains compounds that help fight inflammation, which means that eating basil may help lower the risk of inflammatory bowel, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic medical conditions that are associated with inflammation. Fresh basil contains significant amounts of vitamin A and K as well as calcium, iron and manganese. Folk healers use basil as a diuretic and as a treatment for a range of intestinal complaints.



“Rosemary, that’s for remembrance,” wrote Shakespeare, and modern science has proven the Bard right. Research teams have discovered that a concentrated whiff of rosemary can indeed boost concentration, speed, accuracy and other aspects of cognitive performance. The active ingredient in rosemary is a substance called carnosic acid, which has powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. As a folk remedy, rosemary has been used to promote hair growth, boost the circulatory system and alleviate muscle pain.



One team of scientists has found that tinctures of thyme are more effective at eradicating acne-causing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient in most acne medicines. Thyme also possesses fungicidal properties and is a common ingredient in indoor and outdoor pesticides. Like oregano, thyme contains carvacrol, a powerful antimicrobial. In traditional medicine, the hardy herb was considered particularly effective as a treatment for bronchitis and other pulmonary illnesses.