Herb-secrets from the Ikarian blue zone diet for a healthier and longer life

Photo by NordWood Themes

Icaria, also spelled Ikaria, is a tiny Greek island in the Aegean Sea, considered one of the world’s top five “Blue Zones“. A blue zone, namely a place where the population regularly lives to an advanced age, can be found also in the Italian island of Sardinia, in Okinawa Japan, in Loma Linda California and in Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.

In particular, an April 2009 study indicated Ikaria as the location with the highest percentage of 90-year-olds on the planet, where nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Ikarians “have about 20% lower rates of cancer, 50% lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia. 

In general and according to the Danish Twin study, longevity is 80% due to healthy diet and lifestyle, and only a 20% is due to genetics. Moreover, the risk of dying from a top killer disease (such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s) increases exponentially as we age. But this is in not the case with a blue zone like Ikaria, where people live healthy and happy even when in their 90s. 

So, what is happening in that island? 🚣🏻🌝

To address this issue, the Ikaria Study, a small-scale survey by the University of Athens School of Medicine, investigated the diet and lifestyle of Ikarians over age 80, and they found that the Ikarian diet includes olive oil, red wine, fish, coffee, herbal tea, honey, potatoes, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, and a limited amount of meat, sugar and dairy products, except goat milk. The data showed also that people on Ikaria achieved successful aging by reducing emotional and cognitive dysfunction while sustaining physical activities throughout old age.

In another study that was published on February 2020 (The Blue Zones as a Model for Physician Well-Being) the author highlighted 5 domains that shape a happy blue zone:

– physical health, 

– purpose in life, 

– financial stability, 

– social connectedness, and 

– community support. 

In other words the message from this article was: Do what you love! Enjoy your life!”

But while it is impossible to apply this message when you are stuck in a traffic jam and have a student loan, there is a little blue zone secret to add in your everyday routine that comes directly from Ikaria. And what’s that? Well, the miracle of “magic” herbs while enjoying your herbal tea even stuck in traffic with a loan waiting you at home.  

So, today we are going to talk about some of the health benefits of Ikaria’s native herbs and herbal teas:

1) Mint (Mentha) has among the highest antioxidant values of any food. The term “mint” is an umbrella term for the Mentha plant family that includes spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, apple mint, pineapple mint and more.

You would be surprised to know but right now 182 clinical trials are studying the effect of mint on cancer, hypertension and many more diseases. 

Mint’s anti-inflammatory effects may help alleviate some symptoms of allergies and colds. It calms the digestive tract and improves digestion and some say it helps irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Moreover, essential oils found in mint (as well in thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and cloves) were found to possess strong antibacterial properties against several food-borne bacteria and fungi. 

2) Rosemary stimulates the immune function and improves circulation, particularly to the brain and digestion. Its anti-inflammatory benefits have been used to ward off asthma attacks in traditional medicine. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) extracts have been reported to have several and important biological properties, such as hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, antioxidant, antiproliferative, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antidepressant.

For example, carnosic acid and some of the diterpenes abundant in rosemary (and sage) appear to exert anti-obesity effects (including body weight and lipid-lowering effects).

Right now 107 clinical studies are investigating the effects of rosemary on: immune system and related disorders, obesity, cardiovascular disease, allergic rhinitis, urinary tract infection and many more.

Rosemary, oregano, marjoram and thyme are culinary herbs derived from members of the Lamiaceae plant family, which also includes basil, mint, sage, lavender and others. So, let’s talk about sage now.

3) Sage (or Salvia officinalis) is a medicinal plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family. It is an aromatic herb native to the Mediterranean region but now widely distributed throughout the world, and has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of seizures, ulcers, gout, rheumatism, inflammation, dizziness, tremors, paralysis, diarrhea and hyperglycemia.

In general, Sage helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and also preserves memory and cognitive function.

The aim of this review was to summarize published clinical trials assessing effectiveness and safety of sage in the enhancement of cognitive performance, and results indicated that S. officinalis exerts beneficial effects by enhancing cognitive performance both in healthy subjects and patients with dementia or cognitive impairment. 

4) Finally, the herb Dandelion (Taraxacum) is well known for its liver-cleansing benefits. It also builds bone strength, stimulates insulin production and helps flush the kidneys. 

Emerging evidence suggests that dandelion and its constituents have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities that result in diverse biological effects. This review provides a comprehensive analysis of the constituents of dandelion, an assessment of its pharmacological properties and a description of relevant studies that support the use of dandelion as a medicinal plant. 

In particular, the acute anti-inflammatory activity of dandelion was assessed by investigating the protective effects of a methanolic root extract in terms of inhibitory activity (86% inhibition) against leukotriene B4 (a bad guy! that initiates and amplifies inflammation) produced by leukocytes in response to inflammatory mediators. 

Moreover, other authors have shown an anti-inflammatory activity of leaf extracts of Dandelion in the central nervous system, as indicated by a significant suppression of both tumor necrosis factor alpha (involved in systemic inflammation) and interleukin-1 (a key player in the regulation of inflammatory processes) production by primary cultures of rat astrocytes.

All the above are just very few herbs used in Ikaria or around the world for keeping people healthier and yes happier. By taking control of your body’s inflammation and by protecting your body from oxidative stress while using herbs, you automatically make your self more efficient, more active and also happier. And remember your body is for a lifetime, your loan not, so take care of your body first. ⚖

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to monitor your inflammation levels!

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