Friday, November 16, 2012

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and...Moringa?

I wrote this post for the #foodchem carnival, hosted at CENtral Science. Thanks again, Rachel!

Ahh, November! Chilly winds, smells of wood smoke in the air - along with the start of the NFL season - mean it must be near time to celebrate Thanksgiving. Don't know about you, but this season calls to mind three heartwarming, folksy tunes:

1. "We Gather Together," almost the banner song of the Pilgrim Hymnal.
2. "Alice's Restaurant." Yes, it's hokey and hackneyed, but darnit, it's a tradition! And #3...

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme |
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.

Simon and Garfunkel, 1966 (and a bunch of Scots-men* and -ladies afore that). The haunting imagery of so many aromatic spices brings me back home: warm cardamom, sweet cinnamon, dark clove, tangy lemongrass. Certainly chemistry enough to wet your whistle: each spice carries a wealth of compounds to cure whatever ails you. Rosmarinic acid (sage, rosemary) for neuroprotection, thymol (thyme) to ward away bugs, trimyristin (nutmeg) for skin creams, or menthol (mints) to dull the pain.
Rosmarinic acid. How come all the good plant
products have Michael acceptors?
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Speaking specially for the parsley (one of my favorites), I can tell you that its dried leaves contain more iron than just about any other spice; we verified this by thiocyanate titration in undergraduate lab. Since then, I've admitted to placing parsley on just about every food: breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Moringa leaves, drawn using moringa leaves!
Credit Jenna Turner, NGM
Every decade seems to have a spice of choice for the medically inclined. Ginseng (memory loss) ruled the eighties, followed by curry powder (anticancer) in the '90s, then green tea and later pomegranate juice (antioxidants). Well, make way for a new spice on the block: moringa. According to this month's National Geographic, moringa leaves, which hail from India, may pack more nutritional punch than any of your standard spices - high in iron, calcium, potassium, even protein. I'll wait 'til I see it on menus at local restaurants, but it's always fun to speculate what the next "in" food will be.

A restful and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

*It's come to my attention in proofs and comments that the song in fact hails from Yorkshire (Northern England), meaning I've just alienated roughly 1/4 of the British Isles. My sincere apologies; perhaps next time Simon and Garfunkel reunite, they can sing Loch Lomond or something....


  1. Scots? Scots?!

    Scarborough's in Yorkshire, you daft ha'porth!

    1. I came to say the same thing.

  2. Link to NatGeo article please..


    Here -- I had to go find the link. Grumble! Grumble...

  4. Lots of people want to experience the health benefits of Moringa but they don’t have access to fresh leaves or seeds. It is good to know that the powder can also supply many of the nutrients that are found in the plant when it is fresh.

    Women who are pregnant should always speak to their doctor before using it. Some physicians do not think of it as a food that should be consumed too often during this stage. If a woman wants to know whether to use Malunggay during pregnancy she can get good advice from her gynecologist.