Herbs, such as cumin, sage and oregano, add aromatic, savory spice to dishes. Aside from culinary uses, these herbs are reputed to remedy a plethora of ailments -- everything from sore throats and indigestion to infertility and infections. However, just because something is labeled an herb does not mean it is always a benign substance. Cumin, sage and oregano can interact with prescribed and over-the-counter drugs, anything from pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin to diuretics and blood thinners, or can cause unpleasant side effects. Check with your doctor before embarking on an herbal regimen.
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Native to the eastern Mediterranean and India, cumin serves both cookery and medicinal purposes. Thought to have antibacterial properties and to encourage fertility, cumin may also inhibit blood clotting, and is prescribed as a diuretic and digestive aid. Cumin can decrease blood sugar, so use caution if taking blood-sugar-lowering diabetes medications. Similiarly, people on blood thinners and diuretics need to be careful combining these medications with cumin supplements. Cumin contains a substance called aflatoxin B1, linked to liver cancer.
For centuries, sage has seasoned foods and soothed hoarseness, coughs, sore throats and other respiratory ailments. Ancient Greek physicians used sage-infused water to staunch bleeding wounds and to clean sores and ulcers. Pregnant women should avoid using sage supplements and drinking sage tea because the herb can cause uterine contractions. Similarly, the oils in sage contain thujones, which can affect the nervous system or induce convulsions in large doses. Sage supplements should not be taken by people with epilepsy or seizure disorders.
Traditionally associated with Italian cuisine, oregano also is a potent antibacterial and anti-microbial. However, oil of oregano has been known to diminish the body's ability to absorb iron, so pregnant women and anemia patients should avoid this herb or add a iron pills to the daily supplement regimen. High doses of oil of sage could upset the stomach.
Herbal remedies can be as powerful as man-made drugs, and like prescription and over-the-counter medications, can induce side effects. Oil of oregano, cumin and sage are particularly strong, and will burn the skin and tender mouth tissues if dabbed undiluted on the body or taken directly. Contact dermatitis can also occur from applying undiluted oils to the skin. These oils must be well-diluted with water or carrier oils before using.