While most people thing that spices and herbs simply add flavor to the foods we eat, few realize that for centuries the herbs and spices that we eat were also used to cure disease. Imagine going to the local apothecary and leaving with the prescribed packet of ginger. The same healing properties still exist in these herbs and spices today, and people can reap the benefits simply by eating great tasting food.
A common herb among Italian dishes, basil has a number of beneficial properties to add with its pungent, sweet flavor. It is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, as well as being a good source of magnesium and antioxidants. Medicinally, it is used to treat constipation, indigestion, diabetes and hypothyroidism (under active thyroid). Typically, the leaves of the plant are used and they are a great addition to a variety of dishes.
Cayenne pepper is a spicy addition to many different dishes. What gives cayenne pepper its spicy kick is a substance called capsaicin, which is what makes peppers hot. This same substance is also a highly effective pain reliever and is an ingredient in some over-the-counter pain relieving creams. It is also great for improving circulation, healing sore throats, and stimulating sweating to help relieve cold symptoms. Cayenne pepper is also an antiseptic, contains vitamin A and may also help reduce cholesterol levels. It works well in acidic sauces and marinades such as those with a vinegar or lemon juice base.
Cinnamon is a spice that is widely used in both sweet and savory dishes. It comes from the inner bark of a group of tree species called the cinnamomum, which are native to southeastern Asia and some African areas. In addition to being tasty, cinnamon has been shown to be effective in the management of diabetes as well as in the metabolism of fat, making it excellent for those who are trying to lose weight or manage their blood sugar. Cinnamon is also effective at treating colds, diarrhea, digestive problems, and bleeding problems, and improves circulation.
This spicy herb has a variety of uses. It is popular on salmon, added to vegetables or even mixed with cucumbers and yogurt for tzatziki sauce. The seeds of the dill plant are used to make dill pickles and other pickled vegetables. Dill contains calcium and iron, and the oils in the plant may help to neutralize carcinogens, which are substances that have been shown to cause cancer. Dill also has a number of beneficial healing properties for the digestive system and has been used since ancient times to treat heartburn and diarrhea. Due to the calming properties of dill, it is often used along with other calming herbs, like chamomile, to promote sleep and reduce stress. Because dill has a mild peppery taste, it has a wide range of uses and is particularly delicious on chicken and seafood.
Garlic is a staple in nearly every cuisine on earth. It is said to have a number of beneficial properties including being a highly effective antibiotic, anti-viral and anti-fungal spice as well as helping to lower cholesterol. Research shows that garlic also destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells. The same research shows that just one or two cloves of garlic per week is all that is needed for the cancer fighting benefits, and most people consume that in just a day or two. To reap the most health benefits from garlic, let it sit for at least 10 minutes after chopping it and before cooking it so that the phytochemicals can develop.
Ginger is a spicy herb that, like cinnamon, is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Ginger in its whole form is a gnarly root that can be sliced or grated into dishes, or sugared, dried and eaten like candy. It is excellent for treating upset stomachs and is still recommended to pregnant women today as a way to combat morning sickness. Ginger is also effective at treating gas and bloating, sore throats and colds. It is also anti-inflammatory and aids in digestion. Ginger is a staple in many baked goods and in many Asian dishes. It can also be consumed as a tea, which is especially helpful in the case of stomach upset.
Oregano is popular in several cuisines, but is most associated with Mediterranean cuisines of Greece and Italy. A study conducted by the USDA found that oregano has the highest levels of antioxidant activity when compared gram for gram with 27 other culinary herbs. Oregano is a rich source of vitamin K, iron and manganese. It also contains antibacterial properties and in centuries past, the oil of the herb was applied directly to wounds to prevent infection and aid healing. It also contains a healthy dose of fiber. Oregano can be added to soups, stews, pasta sauces or pizza.
Paprika is a spice that many people are unfamiliar with. We know it as the red stuff that is sprinkled on top of deviled eggs, but it has so many more uses and a number of health benefits. Like the super spice, cayenne, paprika contains capsaicin, which is an anti-inflammatory as well as a pain reliever. It is also a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to lower the risk of cancer. It can be added to a variety of dishes, including chicken, vegetables or even sprinkled on popcorn.
Rosemary is a distinctive spice that grows in a low bush. It is a great landscaping plant in addition to being a healthful addition to many different dishes. In research, rosemary has been shown to stop the gene mutations that lead to cancer. It has also been shown to help prevent damage to blood vessels that raise a person's heart attack risk.
Turmeric is an herb that is very popular in Indian dishes, but many people are unaware that turmeric is also what gives common deli mustard its yellow color. Turmeric contains curcumin, which according to the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Research has indicated that turmeric is not well absorbed through the digestive tract without the aid of black pepper, so be sure to use both spices together.
Better health is a perfect reason to add herbs and spice to one's life. Try these 10 super herbs and spices with health benefits and see what they can do for you.