Spices and herbs are often relegated to bit players when it comes to healthy eating, but many deserve more recognition for the nutrients they provide. They have been used for hundreds of years to heal people and now scientists are finally starting to substantiate these plants’ abilities to alleviate arthritis pain, reduce high blood sugar and cholesterol, and help with many other conditions. They’re even discovering amazing new powers in the best healing herbs, such as the ability to kill cancer cells and help problem drinkers curb their alcohol intake.
While small in size they pack more antioxidants and other healthy substances than meets the eye.
If you’re looking to round out your healthy lifestyle, you’ll want to stock up on the following herbs and spices and use them generously in your cooking, or use them on their own to enhance the absorption and benefits received.
When buying spices and herbs organic is best, as it means you’ll be avoiding pesticides and herbicides that find their way into conventionally grown products.
Turmeric is the root stalk of a tropical plant that’s part of the ginger family. One of the main components of the spice is a substance called curcumin which has potentially healing properties.
You can buy fresh turmeric in Chinese and Indian supermarkets. It’s widely available in a dried powder form in supermarkets. The spice is used in lots of Asian dishes, mustards and pickles.
It’s also available in supplements at chemists and health food shops.
Turmeric has been used for many thousands of years in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine for conditions including heartburn, diarrhoea, stomach bloating, colds, fibromyalgia and depression. Followers of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine also sometimes apply turmeric to the skin for ringworm and infected wounds as it’s said to have anti-bacterial properties.
Cinnamon is most often used in baking and making desserts, but it’s quickly becoming known that it also has several health benefits.
You can use cinnamon for its antiseptic properties which help cleanse the body of bacterias that shouldn’t be there, or as a way to improve your cholesterol levels. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and may be one way to help prevent cancer when taken in more concentrated doses as an extract.
Cinnamon has seen a rising trend in its use as a weight loss catalyst. It can help you regulate your blood sugar levels, as well as boost your metabolism, a combination that will aid in weight loss, all else being equal.
3. Chili Peppers
Chili peppers, despite their fiery hotness, are one of very popular spices known for their medicinal and health benefiting properties. The chili, actually, is a fruit pod from the plant belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), within the genus, capsicum. Capsaicin is being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. When animals injected with a substance that causes inflammatory arthritis were fed a diet that contained capsaicin, they had delayed onset of arthritis, and also significantly reduced paw inflammation.
Besides capsaicin, chilies contain antioxidants, including vitamin C and carotenoids, which might also help improve insulin regulation. A little chili pepper can really perk up an omelet, add heat to a black bean/sweet potato soup, or transform an ordinary salad dressing. So, spice up your meals with chili peppers.
Oregano may be one of the easier herbs to start using more of, because it goes so well with a vast number of food items. The amount of vitamins it contains is pretty impressive, and with it comes a good supply of antioxidants.
There are also minerals, fiber, and even omega-3 in oregano, but to get the most benefit from it you’ll want to go fresh. It’s recommended to start your own herb garden and include oregano as one of the seeds.
You shouldn’t rely on a spice like oregano to meet all of your antioxidant needs. But it can easily be added to a side of vegetables that contain their own vitamins and minerals, and then you’re getting a more complete spectrum of nutrients.
Parsley is an excellent of vitamin K and vitamin C as well as a good source of vitamin A, folate and iron. Parsley’s volatile oil components include myristicin, limonene, eugenol and alpha-thujene. Its flavonoids include apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol and luteolin.
The health benefits of parsley include controlling cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, along with helping prevent osteoporosis. Furthermore, it acts as a pain reliever with anti-inflammatory properties. It also provides relief from gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion, stomach cramps, bloating, and nausea, while helping to strengthen the immune system.
Parsley can be found throughout the year on the market. It is a cheap leaf that anyone can get a hold of. It is also a highly nutritious plant and has ample vitamins and antioxidants which can greatly improve our health.
It may not seem like you’re doing much by adding thyme to your dishes, but you could be adding time to your lifespan with this herb. The antioxidant value of thyme is impressive, and it can provide the same sort of benefits as those foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables.
It’s important to take in a good amount of antioxidants each day from a variety of foods, as it can help with everything from cancer prevention to heart disease, and adding more thyme to your diet can help protect the cells of your body from damage from free radicals.
Thyme also has anti-microbial properties, which helps to keep the body free of bacteria and harmful fungi that can be a detriment to your overall wellbeing.
Highly valued throughout the ages as a culinary spice, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. It is a hardy perennial belonging to the liliaceae family. Other members of this family include leeks, chives, spring onions and shallots, all distinguished by their pungent aroma and flavour.Many of the perceived therapeutic effects of garlic are thought to be due to its active ingredient allicin. This sulphur-containing compound gives garlic its distinctive pungent smell and taste. Luckily for us foodies, the action of chopping or crushing garlic supposedly stimulates the production of allicin, however it is thought that cooking garlic inhibits the formation of some of the perceived medicinal properties.
Its usage predates written history; Sanskrit records document the use of garlic remedies approximately 5000 years ago. Legend suggests that Egyptian pharaohs prized garlic very highly and slaves building the pyramids were given a daily ration to keep them fit and strong. Throughout history, garlic has been regarded as a well-trusted remedy: during epidemics such as cholera and tuberculosis and in World War 1 where it was used as an antiseptic applied to wounds to cleanse and heal and to treat dysentery caused by the poor sanitary conditions in the trenches.