POWER PLANTS

HOLY BASIL

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Holy basil is a sacred herb within Ayurveda—the centuries-old medicinal practice from India—and has been called upon for thousands of years to help combat stress. Nowadays, we understand that it works by lowering cortisol levels in the body, says acupuncturist Jill Blakeway, director of the YinOva Center in New York City.

“Holy basil is often used in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen—a class of herbs that help your body deal with stressors,” she continues. Which is what helps make “tulsi”—the Hindu name for holy basil—Ayurveda’s perfect antidote to the hectic pace of the modern world.

But holy basil’s benefits don’t stop at stress-busting. “I’ve also seen it pretty widely used to treat common ailments like an upset stomach or even a seasonal cold,” says celeb nutritionist and beauty-foods evangelist Kim Snyder. “It’s thought to work because the chemical compounds it’s comprised of can help decrease inflammation and pain.”

Holy basil has a more peppery, clove-like taste than its familiar Western counterpart, sweet basil, though the two are closely related. And like sweet basil, it can be used to flavor all types of savory dishes—just think more along the lines of spicy stir-frys and soups than Italian pasta sauces.

But the herb may be at the height of its stress-squashing abilities when it is enjoyed slowly, as part of a relaxing daily tea ritual. There are plenty of ready-made blends available online or in health food stores, or you can brew your own by steeping fresh or dried leaves. Then simply sip. Breathe. Repeat.

COCONUT

coconut2Coconut oil, often cold-pressed from the fruit, has been the indisputable breakout ingredient in the nutrition and beauty worlds for the last few years, winning fans who adore it for being a total wellness multi-tasker.

“People used to think coconut oil was unhealthy, because it contains saturated fats, but now we know that these saturated fats are different to those found in fatty meat,” saysacupuncturist Jill Blakeway, director of the YinOva Center in New York City. “Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are metabolized differently in the body and are a great source of energy.”

MCTs have even been shown to increase energy expenditure in the body, she says, which means coconut oil can aid in weight loss. Plus, the oil contains something called auric acid, which gives it antimicrobial properties, Blakeway says “making it a good plant to ward off infections”

From a culinary perspective, coconut oil makes an awesome alternative to olive oil because it can handle up to 450 degrees of heat, giving it a high smoke point (i.e., the point at which the good compounds in an oil begin to break down and potentially problematic ones can begin to form). Try it in stir-frys, or to pan sear lean proteins. It also comes in handy in everything from baked goods to bulletproof-style coffee.

And beauty aficionados are enamored with it. “Coconut oil is by far my favorite beauty product, and I use it wherever I can,” says celeb nutritionist and beauty-foods evangelist, Kim Snyder. “It’s super hydrating, so it’s great for use on dry, irritated skin.”

Who should use it? “Everyone, everywhere,” she raves. It’s also a hair conditioner, star makeup remover, lip balm, and body scrub (when mixed with sugar or salt). No wonder so many wellness gurus love to use and recommend coconut oil.

ROSE HIP

rosehip

Rose hip—the fruit of the wild rose bush—just sounds so much more romantic than your everyday produce, evoking images of lush, overgrown gardens at a Downton Abbey-esque estate. But it’s also a straight-up superfood, packed with more vitamin C than oranges.

“In the UK, during the Second World War [when citrus was scarce], people made rose hip syrup from the fresh hips to supplement their vitamin C levels and help keep them healthy,” says Tipper Lewis, lead herbalist at the famed British natural health emporium, Neal’s Yards Remedies.

Rose hips are also a known inflammation-buster, so much so that they’ve been used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic inflammatory disorder), explains acupuncturist Jill Blakeway, director of the YinOva Center in New York. “Research has shown [rose hip] to be helpful at reducing the pain, inflammation, and swelling associated with the joints,” echoes Lewis.

“It’s thought to be a substance called ‘GOPO’—a galactolipid—that has the main effect, so if you’re buying rose hips [for inflammation], make sure they contain this substance.” Meaning buy it in whole or pure dried forms.

The fruit itself can taste a bit sour, so Lewis recommends trying it in tea, which is “tart and sweet at the same time.” Infuse fresh or dried hips in hot water, just like you would any tea, Lewis recommends. Or for a refreshing summertime tonic, soak rose hips in cold water overnight, then sip, letting the anti-inflammatory benefits (and yes, the Downton romance) wash right through you.

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