Spices add zest to your food and zing to your life. Good to you and good for you. Today, natural remedies are a cottage industry. As people become weary of expensive and leery of experimental treatments, more of us are looking to the past to live conscientiously in the present. Evidence abounds of the beneficial properties of spices dating back to BC for everything from AD to ED. How did we survive and stay healthy back in the day without medical specialties and prescription drugs? Well, spices were grown, honed, and revered for their medicinal properties.
Many international cuisine from traditional to fusion dishes rely heavily on spices not only for fragrant flavor and colorful presentation but most importantly or a myriad of health benefits. You can experiment with spices with your home cooking. It’s fun; it can be inexpensive (if you go to an international market); it can help soothe what ails you, and perhaps defend against future maladies. And, not the least of all seasoning with spices greatly reduces the use of salt – that alone is beneficial to your health.
I like to combine spices to create my own blends which I use to sweeten cold and hot drinks, create savory salad dressings and marinades, and season main dishes.
Here are the best healing herbs and spices. All are packed with flavor and health efficacy.
Capsaicin, the oily compound in cayenne, is the active ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter creams and patches for arthritis and muscle pain. Cayenne is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s also a metabolism booster, speeding up your calorie-burning furnace for a couple of hours after eating. One study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people with diabetes who ate a meal containing liberal amounts of chile pepper required less post-meal insulin to reduce their blood sugar, suggesting the spice may have anti-diabetes benefits.
A natural antiseptic. The odor comes from allicin, the sulfur compound believed to be responsible for most of the herb’s medicinal benefits and what gives garlic its bite. When eaten daily, garlic can help lower heart disease risk by as much as 76 percent: it moderately reduces cholesterol levels (between 5 and 10 percent in some studies), thins the blood and thereby staves off dangerous clots, and acts as an antioxidant. Strongly antibacterial and anti-fungal, garlic can help with yeast infections, some sinus infections, and the common cold. It can even repel ticks.
Helps relieve Alzheimer’s disease symptoms: Participants were given either placebo or sage extract for four months in a study of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.Compared to the placebo group, those who were given sage extract showed an improvement in cognition, and they also presented less agitation. Some studies have even shown that sage can help boost memory in young and healthy adults. Sage also can assist in lowering cholesterol and blood glucose. Research also showed participants given sage leaf extract had lower fasting glucose, HbA1c, total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL (bad cholesterol), but higher HDL (good cholesterol) after three months of treatment.
It’s potent anti-inflammatory properties come from curcumin — the pigment that gives turmeric its yellow-orange color, and which is thought to be responsible for many of its medicinal effects. a general immune system booster due to its high antioxidant capacity. Turmeric is 5 to 8 times stronger than vitamins C and E, and even strong enough to scavenge the hydroxyl radical, which is considered by some to be the most reactive of all oxidants.
One of the most potent anti-inflammatories with anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. Beneficial against muscle pains from injuries, arthritis and rheumatism. It also contains eugenol and its mild anesthetic benefits are useful for toothaches, gum pain and sore throats. Also offers relief from respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, and eliminates intestinal parasites, fungi and bacteria. Clove oil has a numbing effect in addition to bacteria-fighting powers. In test tubes, cloves also killed certain bacteria that were resistant to antibiotics.
This root has played a major part in Asian and Indian medicine for centuries, primarily as a digestive aid. Today researchers are most excited by ginger’s ability to combat inflammation. Several studies have found that ginger (and turmeric) reduces pain and swelling in people with arthritis. It may work against migraines by blocking inflammatory substances called prostaglandins. Ginger is still good for your stomach, too. It works in the digestive tract, boosting digestive juices and neutralizing acids as well as reducing intestinal contractions. It can also protect against atherosclerosis by lowering cholesterol levels and preventing the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL).
Most of the health benefits of fenugreek are due to the presence of saponins and fiber that it contains. The benefits of fenugreek include relief from anemia, loss of taste, fever, dandruff, stomach disorders, biliousness, respiratory disorders, mouth ulcers, sore throat, diabetes, inflammations, wounds and insomnia. Some fenugreek uses for men include treating hernias, erectile dysfunction and other male problems, such as baldness. That’s because it may increase sexual arousal and testosterone levels.
Fennel is a source of vitamin B-6, which plays a vital role in energy metabolism by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. These smaller compounds are more easily utilized for energy within the body. Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. Collagen, the skin’s support system, relies on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution and smoke. Vitamin C also promotes collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like fennel decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality.
Basil also is considered one of the healthiest herbs. It’s best when fresh, exuding a sweet, earthy aroma that indicates not only the promise of pleasantly pungent flavor, but an impressive list of nutrients. vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, is one of them. Just two tablespoons of basil provides 29 percent of the daily recommended value. Basil also provides vitamin A, which contains beta-carotenes, powerful antioxidants that protect the cells lining a number of numerous body structures, including the blood vessels, from free radical damage. This helps prevent cholesterol in blood from oxidizing, helping to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke.
The active components in rosemary are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic in nature. This represents a three-pronged attack against many different diseases and pathogens that could threaten the immune system or damage the integrity of the body. Antioxidant compounds form a secondary line of defense behind the body’s own immune system, and rosemary contains a significant amount of those powerful compounds. Rosemary is specifically powerful against bacterial infections, particularly those in the stomach. H. pylori bacteria is a common and very dangerous pathogen that can cause stomach ulcers. Similarly, rosemary is linked to preventing Staph infections, which kill thousands of people each year.
Thyme contains many active principles that known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties. The herb contains thymol, found scientifically to have antiseptic, and anti-fungal characteristics. The leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for red blood cell formation.
Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional.