Eat Wild Thyme for a Wild Time!

Thyme, botanically known as Thymus vulgaris, is a perennial garden herb that has been employed since ancient times for medicinal and culinary uses.The World's Healthiest Foodsnotes that thyme has traditionally been associated with courage, with medieval women giving sprigs of thyme to knights going into battle; it has also been used as an herbal remedy for a host of ailments (PMS, Indigestion, Coughs..). It is an excellent source of iron and manganese, a very good source of calcium and a food source of dietary fiber.Since the 16th century, thyme oil has been used for its antiseptic properties, both as mouthwash and a topical application. Thyme tea, rich in volatile oils, minerals, beneficial phenols and flavonoids, is a healthy beverage choice. One of the popular culinary herb plants, thyme is native to Southern Europe and Mediterranean regions.

For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination. Research shows that both thyme and basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods.

Thymol has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. In particular, the amount of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes was increased after dietary supplementation with thyme.

In Lebanon we use green and dried thyme extensively.  Dried thyme mixed with sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt is called Zaatar.

It is the main ingredient in the most traditional breakfast food, namely the Man'oushi...or Zaatar pie, which is sold in every bakery and many street vendor carts.

Mom was certain to serve us Zaatar on mornings when we had exams at school.  She said it helped with memory.  Although she wouldn't have known science was behind her belief, she was right!

 (photo courtesy of Stephen Masry)

Culinary Tips

Green wild thyme makes a very healthy salad!  Serve it with grilled meats and fish, or accompanied by Feta cheese and tomatoes for breakfast.  I like to use it in place of Oregano in some pasta dishes.  Dry Zaatar is delicious sprinkled on yogurt, hummus and plain omelets.

You can find Zaatar at most Middle Eastern markets. Make sure you choose Jordanian or Lebanese Zaatar.  There are some inferior products out there that taste like dirt!

Amending Store Bought Zaatar

For each cup of store bought Zaatar (Middle Eastern Thyme mix) you will need:

  • 1 Tbs. dried Sumac (available at Middle Eastern markets in packets or jars) 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 2 tsp. toasted Sesame Seeds (even if there are some in the mix)

Mix all together and store in airtight jars in the refrigerator for 6 months, or freeze for up to 2 years.

Green Wild Thyme Salad

  • 1 bunch of green Wild Thyme, rinsed and leaves picked off stems
  • 1 very small Onion (yellow or white), finely chopped
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped organic Green Onion
  • Juice from 1 freshly squeezed Lemon
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt (opt.)

Mix all together in non-metal bowl.  Serve at room temperature for best flavor.

~ Sahtein! (double health) 

Artichoke - The Secret Warrior!

Native to the Mediterranean region, the artichoke is the edible flower bud of a thistle-like plant in the sunflower family. While its thorny leaves may deter us from approaching it; a treasure lies at its heart.

Although artichokes have been eaten for more than 3000 years. California produces 100 percent of the U.S. commercial artichoke crop, rivaled in popularity only in France and Italy.

Artichokes are a good dietary source of phosphorus, magnesium, iron, niacin, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2, and includes some folate, manganese, and zinc. Artichokes have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-genotoxic, liver-protective and hypoglycemic activities, as well as reducing cholesterol and ameliorating indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.

There are over 200 scientific articles on artichoke or one of its phytochemical. Researchers at the University of Georg-August in Germany showed that one of its phytochemical interfered with estrogen receptor which promoted the secretion of PSA in prostate cancer. Furthermore, this functional food possesses the ability to inhibit the angiogenesis related to cancer. Other studies demonstrated anti-proliferation and apoptotic proprieties and also inhibit inflammation.

In 2008, scientists from Rome showed that the edible parts of the artichoke had a “marked antioxidative potential” that protects normal liver cells from oxidative stress. It also reduced the viability of cancer cells and led to their programmed cell death, or apoptosis.  (Miccadei S, Di Venere D, Cardinali A, et al. Antioxidative and apoptotic properties of polyphenolic extracts from edible part of artichoke (Cynara scolymus L) on cultured rat hepatocytes and on human hepatoma cells. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60:276-283)

Artichoke extract has been shown to inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis in triple negative breast cancer cells in the laboratory. Flavone components of artichoke (apigenin and luteolin) have been shown to induce apoptosis across a variety of breast cancer cell lines.

So, artichoke seems like a healthy veggie choice!

You can simply steam or add artichokes to stews, but for those who can't do that every day and want a more consistent ingestion, there are supplements made from concentrated leaf extract. They are not expensive: on the Internet they sell for 5 to 10 cents per capsule.

A standard dose has not been established, but in studies on indigestion patients have taken one to two 320 mg capsules three times per day, preferably with meals.

Resources:

1. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(2):276-83. Antioxidative and apoptotic properties of polyphenolic extracts from edible part of artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) on cultured rat hepatocytes and on human hepatoma cells. Miccadei S, Di Venere D, Cardinali A, Romano F, Durazzo A, Foddai MS, Fraioli R, Mobarhan S, Maiani G. 2. Phytother Res. 2008 Feb;22(2):165-8. Growth inhibitory effect of ethyl acetate-soluble fraction of Cynara cardunculus L. in leukemia cells involves cell cycle arrest, cytochrome c release and activation of caspases. Nadova S, Miadokova E, Mucaji P, Grancai D, Cipak L.

~ Be Well.