by Dr. Michael E. Rosenbaum, MD
So what’s the big deal about organically grown herbs and food? Is it really good for you? Sure, organic crops have less pesticide, herbicide and fungicide residues than conventional crops. And because of this, when you eat organically, you expose yourself to less toxins. But the health benefits of organic produce go far deeper than just that.
Starting with the soil, we’re about to take a deeper look at why organically grown herbs and foods are so much more nourishing for your body.
The Secret In The Soil: You Are What You Eat!
Talk to any organic farmer and you soon learn that everything starts with the soil. Why? Well, let’s take the expression, “You are what you eat.” Most of us understand that what we eat changes the chemistry of our bodies.
It’s the same thing with plants. The nutritional value of the plants you eat and the powerful chemistry of the herbs you use are integrally linked to the food they take up from the soil.
If you look at a chunk of good soil in your hand, you’ll notice that it probably wasn’t what you expected . . .It’s not just dirt. It’s alive!
Well-tended organic soil is teaming with helpful microbes, held together by a complex web of sophisticated chemistry. Synthetic fertilizers don’t contain the thousands of unique molecules and dozens of trace minerals housed in good organic compost. When this lynchpin of organic agriculture is added to soil, it makes the soil a distinctively rich environment for plants to eat and grow.
In 2004, researchers at the University of Texas published a landmark study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition. They looked at 43 different fruits and vegetables, comparing nutritional data collected in 1950 and 1999.
It turns out the fruits and vegetables we eat today were consistently lower than the ones from half a century ago in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin C levels.
While a number of factors contribute to this decline, the researchers pointed to declining soil chemistry as a major part of the problem.
Research conducted by William Albrecht in the 1967 also showed the connection between conventional fertilizers and declining nutritional value. In his study, soybeans grown with conventional fertilizers produced more soybeans but were lower in calcium and phosphorus than soybeans grown without the conventional fertilizers.
So essentially speaking, what we’re eating is losing its nutritional value when it’s not raised on healthy soils.
Certified organic farming requires the use of complex organic fertilizers—manure and compost. In contrast, conventional farming usually uses no more than a simple three-component fertilizer containing varying ratios of only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
While these two studies do not specify that food and herbs grown in organic soils are distinctive nutritionally, they underscore that the care put into tending the soil in organic farming can make a difference. But this difference between organically raised plants and conventionally raised plants doesn’t end with the soil.
How Organic Plants’ Defensive Chemistry Helps You
Many nutritionists contend the only nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce is the different levels of pesticide residues; organic has less pesticide residues.
However, they’re wrong. The Organic Farming Research Foundation has drawn from dozens of studies to show organically grown foods have significantly higher levels of antioxidants and other unique compounds than conventional foods.
For example, one study showed that organic peaches had at least 129 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown peaches. And organically grown pears had as much as 315 percent more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts. Our bodies use these plant compounds to fight off damage. And plants do the same thing. To fend off fungus, bacteria and viruses, plants produce their own defensive chemistry. However, when pesticides and fungicides do this work for them, plants don’t have to take on this protective work as much.
Organic farmers help out a little with natural, organically approved sprays. But their main defensive maneuver against plant disease is to build plants’ own health and internal defenses. By providing nourishing soil and good cultivation methods, they try to create the best environment for growing healthy, strong plants. And when these plants are strong enough to defend themselves, they also produce high levels of compounds your body can use to defend you!
What This Means For Organically Grown Herbs
As this growing body of research shows, plant nutrition is a complex process. Farming in partnership with the complex chemistry of plants and soil—the method used by organic farmers—may yield the best nutrition ever.
I suspect these findings extend to herbs as well. For example, one of my favorite herbs is the adatogenic herb eleuthero, which works exceptionally well in helping us deal with stress. Researchers attribute its role in helping us manage life’s challenges to the special chemistry it developed to survive the Ice Age and thrive in Siberia’s harsh climate.
While there isn’t yet specific research available comparing organic eleuthero to conventionally-grown eleuthero, there may be similar biochemical differences. It may be that the same exceptional nutrition fostered in organically grown food supports a whole other level of powerful nutrition in organically grown eleuthero. Without manmade defenses and with a complex soil to feed on, organic eleuthero and other organic herbs may offer a whole other level of therapeutic benefits.
Now that you have some of the facts as to why organically grown produce really is better for you than conventionally grown products, I hope you will take the plunge (if you haven’t already done so) and compile some of your own qualitative research on how organic products can benefit your life and your health!
Davis DR et al. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 23: 669-682 (2004).
Albrecht, William A. Soil Reaction (pH) and Balanced Plant Nutrition. Paper prepared for an illustrated lecture in Alamosa, Colorado, August 31, 1967.
Benbrook, C. Elevating antioxidant levels in food through organic farming and food processing. Organic Center State of Science Review. Organic Research Center. January 2005.
Dr. Michael E. Rosenbaum is a 35-year veteran and widely recognized pioneer in the field of nutritional medicine, alternative healthcare and medical acupuncture. As one of America’s most respected experts in natural health and healing, Dr. Rosenbaum has been a frequent lecturer to professional medical groups and has participated in numerous television and radio talk shows. He is also an esteemed member of the Sun Chlorella Advisory Board, which helps guide the medical innovation behind Sun Chlorella products. Visit his website at drmichaelrosenbaum.com. You also can download a free copy of “Why Didn’t My Doctor Tell Me This?” at sunchlorellausa.com/why-didnt-my-doctor-tell-me-about In this eye-opening report, five pioneering natural health experts reveal nutritional secrets that can change your life.