We all know that herbs are good for us, but some of the healing effects can be highly underrated, especially when you consider herbs are far more than just flowering plants used for food and flavouring, or fragrant foliage in your favourite perfume.

Nature’s medicine, different species of herbs can be used to cure a variety of health conditions. Recent findings suggest some herbs can even be more effective than a pharmaceutical.

Indeed, a recent study found the smell of rosemary boosts our ability to recall past events and remember what to do in the future, thanks to a compound that gives the herb its distinctive scent.

Dr Mark Moss, head of psychology at Northumbria University, says the herb has a ‘drug-like effect’ and rosemary boosted long-term memory as well as the ability to do simple sums. It also improved ‘prospective memory’ used to carry out plans such as remembering to post a letter, and improved recall by about 15% in men and women of all ages.

While he doesn’t think it would help those who have dementia, rosemary can help healthy brains stay young for longer.

“There’s no guarantee of benefits, but I would be cautiously optimistic,” says Moss.

Nutritionist Nat Hawes, author of Natures Cures, Let Food Be Your Medicine, offers some other reasons herbs might make a useful addition to our well-being routines:

Black garlic

“Research suggests that aged black garlic has stronger antioxidant activity than non-fermented garlic. Its growing popularity as a food supplement comes from a combination of this higher antioxidant potential and a significantly reduced garlic odour. Research suggests black garlic works with the following conditions – diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, immunity, allergies.”   

Sage

“Sage is one of the longest-used and most important legendary herbs. It is related to rosemary - in the mint family - and the thujone compound in sage enhances concentration and attention span, and quickens the senses; hence, sage infusion is known as the ‘thinker’s tea’. Its properties also help to deal with grief and depression, and ailments such as anaemia, anxiety and stress, hay fever and liver disorders.”

[Related story: Like a bit of spice? 8 great health benefits of curry]

Oregano

“Oregano contains carvacrol, which is very effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and reduces the heart rate, mean arterial pressure and blood pressure. It is also a viable alternative to salt in meals, as oregano is sodium-free, and can aid with acne, digestive disorders and throat and mouth infections.”

Spearmint

“Spearmint is an effective remedy for conditions such as fatigue, headaches, nervous strain and stress, as well as respiratory problems and catarrh. It is also very helpful for digestive disorders, including flatulence, hiccups and nausea, as it relaxes the stomach muscles. On the skin, when used as cream or lotion, it can help to relieve eczema, dermatitis, fungal infections, hives and itching.”

Turmeric

“Turmeric is a powerful spice that has long been used in Chinese and Indian medicine. Curcumin is the bright yellow pigment [in turmeric] and can help to treat and prevent breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer and prevent it spreading. It has also been scientifically proven to be more effective at treating depression than many antidepressant drugs.”

Have you tried and tested any of these herbs? Let us know in the Comments section.