Most people know a thing or two about herbs from various recipes. With the rising popularity and the many benefits of the Mediterranean diet, it’s easy to see why herbs are a pantry staple.
But the Greeks have been harnessing the power of herbs for several millennia and know some secrets that you might be surprised to learn about.
Read on to learn some fascinating facts about Greek herbs!
1. Hippocrates prescribed them as medicine
Hippocrates (450-380 BC), also known as the Father of Medicine, was among the first to popularize herbs such as oregano, thyme, mint, and dittany for their health benefits.
In his lifetime, he documented over 200 herbs including their qualities, collection methods, and how they contributed to keeping the body in balance. His patients benefited from his wealth of knowledge and passion for herbalism.
2. Studies now show that they truly nurture our bodies
Hippocrates’ robust theories on herbs were later confirmed by modern science. For example, we now understand that lemon verbena (“louiza” in Greek) supports muscle recovery after exercise  and helps you sleep better .
Rather than relying on prescription medications, incorporating more herbs into your diet may be a holistic and effective solution.
3. They helped ancient Greek warriors win battles
Even if you don’t have battles to go fight, why not harness the power of ancient Greek warriors by eating more herbs?
After all, they won the Battle of Marathon on a field of fennel plants and believed thyme symbolized bravery.
4. Believe in luck? Greek herbs can serve as lucky talismans
Beyond their roles in food and medicine, herbs throughout Greek history have been used in weddings, funerals, wars, celebrations, and more.
5. They may help you live longer
Dittany, lemon verbena, oregano, sage, fennel seeds, marjoram, and pennyroyal mint are all high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are powerful compounds that can fight off damage to your cells and organs. After all, there’s a reason why people living in the Mediterranean are known for their longevity.
6. Greece’s climate makes their flavor and nutrient profiles unbeatable
Herbs already get an “A” for their health benefits. The Mediterranean diet is constantly ranked among the healthiest diets in the world, thanks in part to the many herbs and spices that it consists of.
Meanwhile, Greek herbs get an “A+” for their enhanced flavor, aroma, and nutrition. Greece’s consistent and sunny climate paired with meticulous farming results in better-tasting herbs. Yes, there’s a drastic difference between your $1 oregano and Greek oregano.
7. They’re more than just for sprinkling on foods
You might be surprised to learn other ways to enjoy Greek herbs aside from adding them to your favorite recipes:
- Add them to hot boiling water to drink as an herbal tea – try adding lemon or Greek honey to lightly sweeten your drink.
- Infuse overnight in cold water with freshly sliced fruits so that your water doesn’t have to be boring.
- Use as natural ointments for your skin – helps treat minor wounds and cuts.
- Freshen your breath by using them as a natural mouthwash.
The bottom line
Greek herbs aren’t just pretty condiments on food. They can help fuel our bodies, keep us healthy, and taste delicious. It may take some time to try all of the herbs on Hippocrates’ list, but you can start incorporating some herbs like oregano, thyme, sage, and dittany into your regimen today.
- Buchwald-Werner S, Naka I, Wilhelm M, Schutz E, Schoen C, Reule C. Effects of lemon verbena extract (Recoverben®) supplementation on muscle strength and recovery after exhaustive exercise: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Jan 23;15:5.
- Afrasiabian F, Mirabzadeh Ardakani M, Rahmani K, Azadi NA, Alemohammad ZB, Bidaki R, Karimi M, Emtiazy M, Hashempur MH. Aloysia citriodora Palau (lemon verbena) for insomnia patients: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of efficacy and safety. Photother Res. 2019 Feb;33(2):350-359.
About the author
Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian based in Indianapolis. She obtained her bachelor of science in nutritional science at Cornell University and her MBA at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. She is the founder and CEO of a nutrition communications firm called Pink Pamplemousse LLC, where she creates engaging nutrition and wellness content for clients. She has also coached clients on various health conditions including heart disease, obesity, digestive issues and diabetes over the last seven years. Follow Chrissy on Instagram (@thepinkpamplemousse).
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