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Facebook Premiere: Herbs To Help Your Gut

October 15, 2021 

Questions & Answers with Erin Holden, ARS Technician and Medicinal Herb expert  

Q. What are the best herbs for this area? Will the talk be recorded?

A. Herbs that do well in this area are mints, lemon balm, rosemary (most of the time!), fennel, and basil to name just a few.

Q. I am interested in growing more herbs next season, what are the top 10 recommendations based on nutritional value?

A. That's a difficult question to answer, especially since I don't usually use herbs based on their nutritional value, but on their medicinal actions. There are a couple of nourishing plants I'll recommend, along with diet shifts, if people need extra support. Nettles have a high mineral content, and oats are a good source of easily digested carbohydrates.

Q. What would the top herbs be to supplement more into the typical American diet?

A. I think that adding more culinary herbs to the diet in general would be beneficial. Herbs contain many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, and some, like garlic, are antimicrobial as well. So, adding anything is going to provide some health benefit – just experiment with different herbs to see what flavors you like.

Q. Are there any beneficial herbs for pet (dog) gut health?

A. Herbs can be a useful way to support pet gut health, you just have to be careful with dosage. Also, cats tend to be more sensitive to herbs that dogs and people can handle without issue, so it's better to have a base knowledge of herbal medicine, or invest in a book on veterinary herbalism, to make sure you're not accidentally causing harm.

Q. Mints, is mintiness mostly genetic, or can a weak stand of mint become more mighty without generational change?

A. That's a little out of my realm of expertise, but I do know that many compounds in plants that we use as medicine, the plants make in order to prevent disease or predation. So, the more stressed the plant, the more of those medicinal compounds will be produced. Plants that are given plentiful light, water, and are kept pest-free tend to not make as many of these compounds. I would guess the essential oils that give mint its mintiness fall into this category.

Q. What herbs help with weight loss?

A. Herbs play more of a support role in weight loss than actually causing weight loss. Diet and behavioral shifts are really what's going to drive weight loss, but, say for example someone is overeating when they're stressed out, herbs that help ease anxiety may be beneficial in helping someone out of that pattern.

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