We’re foodies. We admire za’atar for its taste and flavor-elevating qualities first and foremost. It’s quite possible, though, that za’atar’s benefits stretch beyond just satisfying our stomach. While we’re turning to it for its delicious, earthy flavor, it turns out it’s been historically lauded as a brain food and medicinal remedy.
In Palestine, for example, it is common for children to eat za’atar before school to increase concentration. Packed with antioxidants, it helps power your noodle and aid memory due simply to the boost of blood and oxygen to the brain. Additionally, it is said to increase energy, helping you stay alert and active.
For centuries, those on the Mediterranean side of the Middle East have used za’atar to fight parasites and GI ailments. Its medicinal prowess was pushed even further by the Spanish Jewish philosopher Maimonides in the 12th century. He often prescribed it to patients as a bit of a panacea to treat several ills.
Everyone’s inclination to za’atar as a health and brain booster wasn’t misguided; much of za’atar’s components have direct health benefits according to recent studies. Sumac, thyme and oregano all contain flavonoids that assist in dietary processes and are terrific sources of antioxidants. Sumac also possesses properties that help fight fungi, viruses and is an anti-inflammatory.
As mentioned, we’re foodies, not doctors, so take any medical advice with a grain of (sea) salt. But just as we’re drawn to its unique flavor, we’re delighted by its storied—and studied—health history. Makes us feel even better about eating it.