Many of my favourite foods are very healthy and nutritious: antioxidant-rich fruits, green veggies, slow starches, oily fish and grass-fed meats are daily superfoods in my diet.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked sources of amazing nutrients is healthy spices and herbs which come with powerful health benefits while injecting flavour into our main dishes. Today, I want to cover 7 of the most healthful herbs and spices that you can use in your home.
While we don’t often consume herbs and spices in large quantities, even small doses can be powerful providers of nutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, cancer-fighting constituents, vitamins, minerals, and more.
If you’re looking to step up your healthy living game with aromatic seasonings, you’re in the right place. These are my top picks for healthy herbs and spices with the most benefits. Make sure to check out my Guide To Culinary Herbs & Spices eBook here.
- 1. Turmeric
- 2. Ginger
- 3. Cinnamon
- 4. Sage
- 5. Parsley
- 6. Chilli
- 7. Cumin
- 8. Rosemary
- Eight of the World’s Healthiest Spices & Herbs You Should Be Eating
- 5 Spices with Healthy Benefits
- 5. Cayenne to Ease Pain
- Healthiest Ways to Use Spices
- Try this: Stewed Chicken
- Top 10 Spices for Grilling
- 1. Salt
- 2. Seeds
- 3. Paprika
- 4. Turmeric
- 5. Cumin
- 6. Garlic & Onion Powder
- 7. Chili Powders & Flakes
- 8. Cinnamon
- 9. Dried Herbs
- 10. Pepper & Peppercorns
- Mix Up Your Own
- 5 Healthy Seasonings to Add Incredible Flavor and Health Benefits to Your Food
- Plus There Are Many More Healthy Spices
- 5 Delicious, Plant-Powered Recipes Made with Healthy Spices
- Spice Up Your Life the Healthy Way
- 12 Essential Herbs
- The health benefits of herbs
- Top 1: Turmeric
- Top 2. Ginger
- Top 3: Rosemary
- Top 4: Garlic
- Top 5: Cinnamon
- Top 6: Nutmeg
- Top 7: Sage
- Top 8: Oregano
- Top 9. Cumin
- Top 10: Holy Basil
- Basil- Pain Relief
- Mint- Soothes Stomach Aches
- Oregano and Marjoram- Boosts Immune System
- Rosemary- Vision health
- Parsley- Strengthens Heart Health
- Dill- Reduce gas, cure hiccups and help with insomnia
- Sage- Reduce fever and may help Alzheimer’s
- Thyme- Lung Health, cough, bronchitis
- Cilantro- Detoxification
- Lavender- Stress Relief, Reduced depression, Acne treatment
- Schizandra berry
- Licorice root
- Rosemary and garlic
- Chili, jalapeño, and cayenne peppers
Turmeric has become a hot topic in health food-o-sphere and for good reason. While it’s known for being added to delicious curries, its uses are becoming increasingly more versatile. I love it because it is so easy to add to the diet, which simply makes it easier to reap the amazing health benefits of this super spice.
First and foremost, turmeric is an incredible inflammation fighter. It can even make a significant difference in individuals who suffer from rheumatic pain. This is because of the constituent curcumin – its active constituent and yellow bioactive compound, lending turmeric its colour.
Curcumin has a wide variety of biological interactions when consumed. Its anti-inflammatory benefits make it a good choice for healing leaky gut, improving digestion, and addressing autoimmune issues with inflammatory side effects.
Due to curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties, it has the ability to slow down inflammation-related ageing processes and diseases. Curcumin is also effective at increasing antioxidant capacity in the body. It’s one of the most concentrated antioxidant foods you can consume! This means an overall reduction of oxidative stress. Finally, curcumin can increase immunity with its antibacterial and anti-viral properties, protect against cancer and the development of tumours, and improve heart health.
One of the simplest ways to increase its bioavailability (or absorption by the body) is by using turmeric alongside a dash of black pepper. It may not sound palatable, but you likely won’t notice a huge difference, especially in savoury recipes or a blended smoothie/golden milk drink. This is due to black pepper containing piperine. The combination can boost bioavailability up to 2,000%
Try these turmeric recipes: My Anti-ageing Smoothie With Turmeric and my Healing Turmeric Zucchini & Coconut Soup.
Ginger is another versatile spice that is really easy to use. Fresh ginger and ground ginger are both beneficial. You can even use ginger essential oil. I especially like to use it brewed in teas. It’s commonly known as a powerful remedy for an achy belly, but its benefits extend far beyond that. For me, ginger is often a part of my daily routine. Did you know it’s closely related to turmeric?
Like turmeric, it’s also anti-inflammatory. This is why it’s so soothing for an upset stomach which can often be traced to a root cause of inflammation somewhere down the line. Ginger can decrease markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein.
Additionally, ginger can protect against stomach ulcers and treat menstrual cramps. It can also relieve nausea and diarrhoea. Ginger tea is great for relieving flu symptoms as well.
Raw ginger is relatively high in minerals like potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, and iron. Compared to other spices, it’s easier to get a substantial amount of vitamins from ginger because you can use the raw root which provides the most bioavailable source of these minerals. In terms of vitamins, you can get a vitamin B6 and vitamin C boost from the ginger. This may be why it’s so great for immunity.
Oh, it’s also a great prebiotic food for gut health!
Try this ginger recipes: Honey, Elderberry & Ginger Throat Lozenges
Cinnamon is another spice I find quite easy to use and lucky for me, it’s slightly sweet and pretty darn good for you.
I love its versatility and try to use it in savoury recipes as well. I especially love the ease of sprinkling some on raw or baked fruit for a healthy dessert or having some in a comforting and warming tea blend. Fresh ground cinnamon tastes best, and I also like to have sticks handy for brewing or grating which makes for absolutely explosive flavour. It’s one of my top 5 recommended spices for every kitchen.
Cinnamon is notoriously packed with antioxidant capacity. It’s actually one of the most concentrated sources meaning that even just a little cinnamon – around 1 teaspoon per day – can help you get a healthy boost. Antioxidants help slow the ageing process, reduce oxidative stress and rid the body of toxins. Like turmeric and ginger, cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory. If you really want to reap the benefits, have all three together. They just so happen to complement one another very well!
It’s also thought that cinnamon might be a good fighter of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It may protect the neurons in our brains, inhibit proteins connected to these diseases, and even improve motor function. Overall, cinnamon is an awesome food for the brain and body.
Cinnamon may aid in healthier skin, improve brain function, and fight infection. It’s great for managing blood sugar and insulin levels which is why I love adding it to fruits, sweet potatoes, oats, and other healthy carbs. Finally, cinnamon is a powerful cancer fighter. It may inhibit the growth of tumours, prevent DNA damage, and cell mutation.
Try this cinnamon recipe: Paleo Barbecue Sauce with Apples & Cinnamon
Sage is one of the most beautiful herbs, and it’s so simple to grow at home. It smells great and tastes even better. I love it fresh, but it also works its magic dried and ground for easy use, especially outside of growing season. It adds a certain depth to meals, and a crispy sage leaf garnish can turn an ordinary meal into something extraordinary. No – sage isn’t just for the Thanksgiving or Christmas table! Use it all-year-round for its awesome health benefits.
You can use sage to boost cognition, so whether you choose to consume it or inhale the scent of it, you can expect a brain boost. It’s been known to increase memory recall and retention, so it may be a superfood for the mind. This may also be linked to the potential for the sage to be a preventative food for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Sage is relatively high in vitamin K; just two grams provides 43% of the daily recommendation. It may also normalise cholesterol levels, treat symptoms of menopause, and improve blood sugar which is particularly helpful for those with diabetes. Lastly, like most herbs and spices, sage has anti-inflammatory properties as well as plenty of antioxidants. My mum always made a strong sage infusion for gargling in the mouth whenever we had a sore or inflamed throat or achy teeth. It works!
Try this sage recipe: Whole Roasted Chicken With Sage & Bacon Stuffing
Most leafy greens are fantastic for you, and parsley is no exception. This superfood really fits the definition because it is a concentrated source of nutrition, antioxidants, and more. Plus, it tastes amazing. It is extremely high in vitamin K, and a single half cup of parsley contains upwards of 500% of the daily recommendation.
Parsley also contains vitamin C, vitamin A, some folate (a B vitamin), and iron. It’s high in antioxidants which can reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress markers. It’s even considered a chemo-protective plant due to its properties being able to fight damage to DNA. Like most other herbs, parsley is high in minerals such as calcium.
If you’re feeling bloated, parsley’s anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful. Parsley even acts as a natural diuretic and stimulates the kidney which can help you shed some water weight and reduce bloating. Finally, it is both antibacterial and antifungal; parsley oil is great for the skin because it can fight bacteria and clear blemishes.
Try these parsley recipes: Garlic & Parsley Cod, Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Parsley Walnut Crumbs, or Georgian Salad.
Chilli is one of my favourite ways to spice things up. I love fresh chillis, ground chilli powder, and chilli flakes alike. Many spicy foods have unique health benefits – most notably, weight loss benefits – and chilli is no exception. Since this spice is derived from peppers, you also get many benefits from the veggie itself.
First and foremost, peppers contain even more vitamin C than an orange does. If you want some serious immune-boosting action, chillis are the way to go! In fact, chillis contain up to seven times the amount of vitamin C of an orange. Moreover, chilli contains vitamin A and vitamin E.
The capsaicin found in spices derived from the pepper is particularly beneficial. It helps to inhibit the neuropeptides associated with inflammatory processes that take place in the body, and it may reduce pain in individuals with symptoms from sensory nerve fibre disorders (arthritis, psoriasis, etc.).
You may already be familiar, but capsaicin can also reduce congestion and relieve a stuffy nose. It goes without saying that the spicier the pepper, the more capsaicin a.k.a. the more benefits you reap. If you can handle the heat, it may be worth the sweat.
Try this chilli recipe: Garlic Chilli mushrooms
Cumin is a staple seed or ground spice in so many recipes. Its warm and earthy flavour is perfect for deepening the flavour profile of many different types of cuisine. Of course, you know exactly what cumin tastes like if you’re a taco enthusiast (and who doesn’t love tacos?). It tastes great, and it’s great for you.
Cumin is a great seed for digestion. One of its main compounds – thymol – aids in the production of bile, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes. This can improve the efficacy of digestion, naturally, treat haemorrhoids or help prevent them, and reduce the severity of gas. Moreover, some of these benefits can be attributed to the fibre content found in cumin.
Vitamin E which is found in cumin acts as an antioxidant. Vitamin E is particularly good for healthy, glowing skin. It’s also pretty high in vitamin C, so like many spices on my list today, it can be a powerful immune booster. Lastly, cumin is anti-congestive, antiviral, and antibacterial meaning it’s great for warding off infection or clearing up the airways while under respiratory stress.
Try this cumin recipe: Mexican Naked Burrito Bowls
I’ve decided to add number 8 to this list.
Rosemary is a delightful, aromatic, and healthy herb I always save a spot for in my herb garden. It looks gorgeous, smells gorgeous, tastes great, and even has a few sneaky benefits to boot. In Roman, Greek, and Egyptian culture, it’s regarded as sacred. What’s not to love about this vibrant green plant? You can use it fresh, ground, or in essential oil, form to receive the benefits. However, fresh rosemary will have the most bioavailable nutrient profile.
In terms of vitamins, fresh rosemary contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and other B vitamins such as folate and thiamin. It’s also high in fibre. In combination with its anti-inflammatory properties, these properties make rosemary a great herb for gut health and digestion. Rosemary may actually increase bile flow which improves digestion overall, and conditions like IBS or Crohn’s disease. You can brew rosemary in a tea to treat an upset stomach or nausea as well.
Rosemary oil – one of my favourite essential oils – is fantastic for skin, hair, and sore spots. It’s a soothing remedy for dryness, dandruff, and healing of cuts and bruises. When using rosemary oil as a topical treatment, make sure to properly dilute any essential oils.
Oh, and did you know that rosemary has long been used as a cognitive booster? Perhaps adding a bit to the diet is the key to a little extra brainpower, focus, and mental clarity. Even just catching a lovely whiff can give me a little more energy!
Try this rosemary recipe: Beetroot & rosemary beef burgers
I hope you learnt more about the amazing health benefits of herbs and spices in this post. Sometimes, a little goes a long way, and I love these nourishing additions to my meals.
Eight of the World’s Healthiest Spices & Herbs You Should Be Eating
A sprinkle of cinnamon in your morning coffee. A handful of freshly chopped basil over pasta. You know how herbs and spices can wake up just about any food. But they can also do a lot to keep you well. Here are the health benefits of some of our favorite herbs and spices-plus delicious ways to use them.
Important: Some herbs in large doses can cause side effects or interact with medications. Use moderation, and tell your doctor about any herbal supplements you take.
Pictured Recipe: Turmeric Latte
May help: Ease inflammation, slow cancer, treat depression and other conditions
This golden spice delivers some solid-gold benefits. That’s thanks to its high amounts of curcumin, a powerful antioxidant. Studies show curcumin can help treat a range of health problems, from minor toothaches to chronic conditions like arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Researchers are also studying its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as colon, prostate and breast cancers. Results of a small clinical trial, published in 2014, boosted evidence that curcumin may be a safe and effective treatment for depression.
Related: Why Turmeric Is So Good for You
Pictured Recipe: Herbal Chamomile Health Tonic
May help: Soothe nausea, fight arthritis pain
Ginger is well-known for easing a queasy stomach. Studies show it can help soothe morning sickness, as well as nausea from surgery or chemotherapy. And while there’s no hard evidence it works, many people take ginger for motion sickness.
Ginger is also packed with gingerols, inflammation-fighting compounds which some experts believe may help fight some cancers, reduce osteoarthritis pain and soothe sore muscles. In one study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days had 25 percent less muscle pain when they exercised, compared to those who took a placebo. Another study found that ginger-extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis-related knee pain.
Related: Health Benefits of Ginger
3. Cayenne Pepper
Pictured Recipe: Chile-Lime Peanuts
May help: Tame appetite, boost metabolism
A dash of cayenne pepper with your dinner may give your weight-loss efforts a tiny boost, especially if you’re not used to spicy stuff. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, the compound that gives fresh chiles-and spices like cayenne and paprika-their kick. Studies show capsaicin bumps up the body’s metabolic rate, helping you burn slightly more calories. It may also stimulate brain chemicals that help tame hunger.
In a six-week study by Purdue University, 25 people-some spicy food fans, some not-had about a half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper with a daily meal. Those who didn’t eat spicy foods regularly were less hungry and had fewer cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. The researchers say it’s cayenne’s hot taste (especially for those not used to it) that leads to the benefits.
Related: Chile Pepper & Other Spicy Recipes
Pictured Recipe: Apple-Cinnamon Fruit Bars
May help: Reduce added sugars in your diet, control blood sugar
The American Heart Association recommends using sweet spices like cinnamon to add flavor instead of sugar and other sweeteners. Most Americans eat way too much sugar, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions.
Some studies suggest cinnamon may help lower blood sugar spikes for people with type 2 diabetes. Results have been mixed, though, so more studies are needed.
Related: Healthy Cinnamon Recipes
Pictured Recipe: Garlic & Parmesan Roasted Carrots
May help: Lower high blood pressure, boost immunity
With its potent bioactive compounds and other nutrients, garlic may be good for much more than warding off vampires. Treatments with garlic extracts, powders and supplements have been found to significantly lower high blood pressure. In one study of more than 200 people with hypertension, taking daily garlic supplements reduced blood pressure as effectively as the beta-blocker drug atenolol.
And, although some experts say the evidence is iffy, several studies suggest garlic supplements may help prevent colds and speed recovery.
Related: Healthy Garlic Recipes
Pictured Recipe: Iced Mint Green Tea
May help: Boost mood and improve focus, relieve IBS symptoms, ease nausea
Having a bad day? Brew a pot of peppermint tea. Research suggests the minty aroma may help lift mood and sharpen fuzzy thinking. Some studies suggest the scent may also soothe an upset stomach. In one small study, women who sniffed peppermint spirits after surgery reported much less nausea than those on a placebo or anti-nausea meds.
While more research is needed in those areas, multiple studies show peppermint oil can ease pain from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Experts think it works by reducing bloating and relaxing muscles in the colon.
Related: 4 Really Cool (and Surprising) Benefits of Peppermint
Pictured Recipe: Homemade Pizza Sauce
May help: Boost heart health, fight infections
These tiny but mighty leaves boast many nutrients, including vitamins K and E, calcium, iron, manganese and fiber. And oregano is sky-high in antioxidants. In fact, an analysis by the American Chemical Society found that just 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano has as much antioxidant activity as a medium apple and that oregano has 20 times more antioxidant power than many other herbs and four times more than blueberries, one of the richest sources of antioxidants around.
All that’s good news for your heart-and more. Antioxidants prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, helping fend off heart disease, stroke and cancer. Plus, oregano has phytonutrients that help fight infections.
Related: 6 Foolproof Herbs for Gardening Newbies
Pictured Recipe: Rosemary-Ginger Honey Simple Syrup
May help: Improve brain function and mood, promote hair growth
A member of the mint family, rosemary is prized both for its flavor and its fragrance. Studies show its woodsy scent helps improve concentration and may boost mood. Recent studies suggest that rosemary, even in the small amounts common in cooking, may help prevent cognitive decline in older people.
One other benefit for your noggin: Rosemary can fight hair loss. In one 2015 study, researchers compared rosemary oil to minoxidil, a common treatment for balding. The group that treated their scalps with rosemary oil had similar hair growth (and less scalp itching) over six months compared to those who used the medication.
Related: Healthy Rosemary Recipes
Watch: How to Make 3 Healthy Homemade Vinaigrettes
Some original reporting by Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.
5 Spices with Healthy Benefits
5. Cayenne to Ease Pain
Cayenne is a type of chili pepper that you’ll find in Southwestern American cuisine as well as Mexican, Creole and Cajun dishes. Cayenne peppers contain a substance called capsaicin. It’s what makes them spicy and also what can provide pain relief.
Capsaicin reduces the number of pain signals sent to your brain. The result? You don’t register as much discomfort. It works on pain caused by arthritis and diabetes-related nerve damage. You can apply creams with capsaicin directly on joints and muscles.
Lab research and studies in animals suggest that eating cayenne pepper can also help with something that causes a lot of internal pain: ulcers. Although people often associate spicy foods with stomach upset, capsaicin aids in helping reduce ulcers by restricting the growth of an ulcer-causing bacteria (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori), reducing excess stomach acid and increasing blood flow.
Meal tip: Use this spice anytime you want to add heat to your food. It’s great in chili, soups, stews and on meat. For a fun twist, add a dash to hot chocolate.
Healthiest Ways to Use Spices
Whether you use spices fresh or dried, you’ll still get beneficial compounds, says Vizthum. But, she cautions, “If you fry or grill food with spices, it decreases the antioxidants. However, microwave cooking, simmering or stewing foods with spices actually heightens the antioxidant levels of spices.”
If you’re tempted to take supplements to increase your dose of these beneficial compounds, it’s important to note that commercial supplements aren’t strictly regulated, which means you can’t be certain of what the pills actually contain. Certain third-party organizations do testing to verify quality and contents of supplements. If you’re thinking about taking a supplement, talk to your doctor or dietitian about what form and amount is right for you.
Regardless of the other health benefits, spices add flavor to food and can make healthy meals delicious and interesting. And, says Vizthum, “One of the biggest benefits of using spices is that they are a healthy way to get you out of an eating rut.” Enjoying your food is key to maintaining healthy habits for the long term. Be sure to talk to your doctor or a dietitian before changing your diet.
Try this: Stewed Chicken
We often associate cinnamon with sweet foods, but it works in savory dishes as well, like this stewed chicken. Vizthum suggests this sweet and savory recipe:
Top 10 Spices for Grilling
Learn how to fire up the best grilled flavor with our guide to the 10 best spices for grilling. Whether you’re new to grilling or you’ve mastered the skill, it’s easy to create your own signature grilling seasonings for everything from vegetables to fish and poultry. The smoky, sweet smells coming from your backyard are sure to bring in all the neighbors and friends! Here are our top 10 spices for grilling this summer.
Let’s start with the most critical and basic of all seasonings, salt. Salt is used to season food and intensify the flavors. However, there is a fine line between adding too much salt and making it taste salty, and adding enough to really pull out the seasoning making the food flavorful. The good news is that salt when adding during the cooking process acts as the best flavor enhancer over salting foods at the end, which can leave them tasting nothing but salty. Make sure when making your own grill seasoning blends that salt is a component of each one.
Think ground mustard, coriander, and celery seed. You may have seen them on the shelf but wondered how in the world to use them? Seeds are actually loaded with flavor, and grilling is one way to unleash that. When the seeds are ground their pungent flavor comes through, bringing a big flavor profile to foods. Of course, you can also use the whole seed — like fennel, dill or sesame seeds — letting the heat burst open the seeds to unleash the flavor.
Paprika is one of the most commonly used spices amongst all cuisine. It is a powder made from ground sweet red pepper pods that’s available in sweet, spicy and smoked varieties. Paprika has a light flavor, rich color and smooth texture that adds a depth of flavor and intensity that makes most dishes shine. It’s a little smoky, yet sweet and hot in a restrained way all at once. It pairs well with garlicky marinades, vegetable mixes, and even seafood rubs.
Turmeric may not be the most commonly used grilled spice but it definitely has a place to stand in the top ten. Turmeric has a vivid orange color and sharp earthy, rich and light flavor that adds a punch without overpowering any food, especially chicken. It’s a member of the ginger family and is a common ingredient in spice blends from the Caribbean, India, Indonesia and the Middle East. Turmeric is going to be best used in a rub specific to one of these varieties of cuisine, but it can also be used to simply add a pop of color.
While Cumin could have fallen into the seed category, we also had to mention its more common counterpart, ground cumin. It’s one of the most versatile spices used in the kitchen and grilling, which you’ve probably used in conjunction with chili powder and as the base of taco seasoning mixes. However, cumin has a much wider flavor profile than tacos alone. It is uniquely known for being both rich and hearty, warm and earthy with an edge of citrus accentuating the sweetness of root vegetables and enhancing the flavor or meats. If you’re looking for a little extra spin on your own flavor blend, cumin is a good place to start.
6. Garlic & Onion Powder
Different and yet the same, garlic and onion powder are critical elements for flavoring. Next to salt, these are used to provide nuttiness, zestiness, and sweetness to any seasoning blend. From vegetables to seafood and any type of red meat or poultry, garlic and onion powder are going to provide a flavor you don’t want to skimp on. On the flip side, it’s easy to overuse them. Add enough but not too much until you reach the desired flavor.
7. Chili Powders & Flakes
Not all chili powders and flakes are created equal. In fact, there is an array of different varieties coming from different types of dried peppers, each bringing with it its own level of heat and flavor. From chipotle pepper to cayenne pepper, usually a little goes a long way — unless of course, it’s the mildest form most commonly known as just chili powder.
Cinnamon may not be the most common of grilling spices but its one that serves a unique purpose. Characteristically, it is woody and earthy with a warming taste, making it slightly sweet and yet pungent. While cinnamon is most often used in baking, there is a delicate balance of using cinnamon to pull out the natural sweetness of foods, even meats. In small doses, cinnamon can be a great addition to BBQ rubs, Southwestern rubs, and smokier flavor blends.
9. Dried Herbs
Sage, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, basil, and oregano are common herbs you’ve probably experienced. While they come in the fresh form, the dried variety allows you the space to mix them together in a rub or a blend without the fear of it going bad. But you must note that while they each hold their own flavor profile, concentrating down the flavor of the fresh into the dried, they all tend to err on the side of bitterness, so use less of it than you would fresh. Make sure your dried herbs are as fresh as possible, as they definitely lose their flavor over time. To make sure they still have flavor, smell them — the aroma tells the story.
10. Pepper & Peppercorns
Next, to salt, pepper is the most commonly used spice in the world. While they are two totally different components, they function much the same. Pepper adds both heat and depth of flavor to nearly any dish, accentuating the other flavors in a dish. Pepper comes in varieties from finely ground to whole peppercorns that can be crushed and even used to create a thick, crispy coating on meat. The flavor is the same, but the texture may vary. Pepper or peppercorns combine well with citrus, garlic, spices and even seeds like coriander.
Mix Up Your Own
Now it’s your turn. Start mixing and matching different spices and herbs you like to uncover your own unique blend. We’ve given you a few examples to get yourself started, but take note: this process of making your own blend takes no more than five minutes, and it can be stored as long as you would any spice. Of course, as always, if you want all the flavor without any of the mixing, you can purchase taste-tested and approved Simply Organic Grilling Seasons. From vegetables to fish, poultry and meat, there is just enough variety to keep your taste buds entertained.
Works great with mixed veggies, on seafood or any cut of meat. It’s an all-around delicious seasoning.
Makes: 1 ½ cups
¼ cup Kosher Salt
¼ cup Ground Black Pepper
¼ cup Granulated Onion
¼ cup Garlic Powder
2 tablespoons Chili Powder
2 tablespoons Rosemary
1 tablespoon Ground Coriander
1 tablespoon Dill Weed
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Add to a glass storage container with a tight-fitting lid until use.
Burger & Steak Seasoning
Makes: 2 cups
¼ cup Kosher Salt
¼ cup Ground Paprika
¼ cup Cumin
¼ cup Garlic Powder
2 tablespoons Ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Dried Basil
2 tablespoons Dried Parsley
1 tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Celery Salt
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Add to a glass storage container with a tight-fitting lid until use.
Basic Chicken Seasoning
Makes: 2 cups
¼ cup Garlic Powder
¼ cup Cumin
2 tablespoons Ground Coriander
2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
2 tablespoons Salt
1 tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Add to a glass storage container with a tight-fitting lid until use.
Spices can add fabulous flavor. But new research is telling us that these five healthy spices can also fight Alzheimer’s, inflammation, cancer, migraine headaches, stomach problems, and type 2 diabetes.
By Ocean Robbins • Adapted from Ocean Robbins’ soon-to-be-released book 31-Day Food Revolution (February 5th, 2019). Get your copy here now.
Every culture is defined, in part, by the spices used in its cuisine.
In India, there’s cardamom and cumin. In Italy, there’s basil and oregano. In Mexico, there’s chili, garlic, and cilantro. In Thailand, there’s lemongrass, sweet basil, and galangal. And in North America, there’s a bit of everything in the culinary melting pot.
But what is North America most known for adding to the mix? Salt, sugar, and fat.
Not that North Americans don’t use spices. They’re just not what North American cuisine is typically known for. And speaking as a North American, I think that’s a shame.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live in Thailand to enjoy kaffir lime leaves. Or in Mexico to partake of green chilies.
Herbs and spices travel the globe. And they don’t just bring wonderful, mouthwatering bursts of flavor. They also bring stunning levels of nutrition.
Cooking with herbs and spices is an art form. Knowing which ones are especially good for you is science.
Learning about and using the following healthy spices can make a world of difference in your kitchen — and for your health.
5 Healthy Seasonings to Add Incredible Flavor and Health Benefits to Your Food
Turmeric is a flavorful addition to sauces, curries, stir-fries, and casseroles.
Popular in India for more than 5,000 years, it’s widely thought to be one of the primary reasons that country has one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric is known for its bright orange color. In fact, it’s sometimes used as a coloring agent. The orange comes from a polyphenol called curcumin, which is something of a miracle compound.
Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that curcumin may help prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, reduce unhealthy levels of inflammation, protect against heavy metal toxicity, and even lower heart disease risk.
The average daily intake of curcumin in India is thought to be about 125 mg — the amount found in about a half-teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Research has found low rates of certain types of cancer in countries where people eat 100 to 200 mg of curcumin per day over long periods of time.
If a half-teaspoon of turmeric seems like a lot, you might consider a curcumin supplement. My personal favorite (made by a company that also supports Food Revolution Network) contains a potent, absorption-boosting breakthrough. You can see more about it (and get a special discount offer) here.
And one more tip: You’ll get better curcumin absorption if you combine turmeric with some black pepper and/or a bit of (healthy) fat.
Garlic can be chopped, minced, blended, or eaten as a powder.
It’s delicious in pasta sauces, soups, and almost any savory dish. People at the annual garlic festival in Gilroy, California, have even been known to make garlic ice cream, though I can’t say I recommend it!
Garlic is known for helping to ward off the bad guys. But instead of hanging it over your doorway to scare away vampires, you can eat it to fight off certain cancers.
Researchers studied 41,387 Iowa women, tracking their consumption of 127 foods over five years.
The food found to be most highly associated with a statistically significant decrease in colon cancer was garlic. Women with the highest amounts of garlic in their diets had a 50% lower risk of certain colon cancers than women who ate the least.
Another study of 5,000 men and women, conducted in China over five years, found that a garlic extract was linked to a 52% reduction in stomach cancer rates, compared to a placebo.
Garlic has been rumored to help fight colds and flu. But is this folklore backed up by real-world science?
A team of researchers studied 146 participants, giving half of them a garlic tablet and half a placebo tablet, every day for three months.
The people who took the placebo reported cumulatively catching 65 colds. The people who took the garlic reported only 24. And for those garlic-takers who did catch a cold, the symptoms ended 20% sooner. (For other immune-boosting foods, read this article.)
Ginger is one of my favorite spices. It has a refreshing, clean, invigorating flavor. I love it in soups, stir-fries, casseroles, salad dressings, smoothies, stews, and desserts.
If you like, you can mix ginger powder or ginger tea with sparkling water and stevia for a healthy, homemade ginger ale.
Ginger can be used to treat stomach problems, including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, diarrhea, nausea, and loss of appetite.
It has potent anti-inflammatory properties. And some people find it very useful in relieving pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and menstrual cramps.
As if all that weren’t enough, ginger has also been found to be extraordinarily effective in the treatment of migraines.
If you’ve ever suffered from a migraine, you know that it’s way more than a headache. Migraines make normal activities impossible for an estimated one billion people worldwide. And migraines are responsible for billions of dollars in health care costs.
But could a natural remedy like ginger really work as well as drugs, with fewer side effects?
In 2014, a double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial was published in Phytotherapy Research. Researchers studied 100 people experiencing moderate to severe pain from migraines.
Half the study participants were given one-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger, and half were given a standard dose of sumatriptan, also known as Imitrex — one of the top-selling, billion-dollar drugs in the treatment of migraines.
The results? Both worked equally fast.
Most participants started out with moderate or severe pain. After taking either the drug or ginger, they were either in mild pain or completely pain-free. The same proportion of migraine sufferers reported satisfaction with the results, whether they took sumatriptan or ginger.
But with ginger, there were substantially fewer negative side effects. With sumatriptan, some people reported dizziness, a sedative effect, vertigo, and heartburn. The only adverse side effect for ginger was that two of the ginger-taking participants reported an upset stomach.
If you want to try the natural migraine remedy, mix 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger in water at the first sign of a migraine. Drink it, and see if your headache lessens or goes away within half an hour.
Compared to sumatriptan, ginger not only spares you the side effects — but it also comes at about 1/3,000th the price. And it just might do the job.
Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices in the world. It’s made from the inner bark of a genus of a tree called Cinnamomum.
When strips of it dry, they curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. The sticks can also be ground to form a powder. This mild-mannered, delectable spice can flavor drinks, baked goods, oatmeal, stir-fries, and dishes both savory and sweet.
For thousands of years, cinnamon has also been prized for its potent medicinal properties. It’s loaded with polyphenols and other antioxidants.
Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid-lowering, and cardiovascular-disease-lowering superstar.
Whoever knew that such a sweet spice could be so potent a healing force!
5) Hot Peppers
Hot peppers look a lot like bell peppers, but with one major difference. They contain a compound known as capsaicin, which is colorless and odorless — but definitely not flavorless!
Capsaicin is so intensely spicy that many people can tolerate hot peppers only in small amounts. The capsaicin that brings peppers their heat is also a powerful medicine.
Chili peppers aid digestion by promoting salivation, boosting the stomach’s defense against infections, increasing digestive fluid production, and helping to deliver enzymes to the stomach.
In a 2017 study conducted on mice, researchers found that the capsaicin in hot peppers was able to alter the composition of gut bacteria, promoting more beneficial strains.
This, in turn, led to lower levels of chronic inflammation and obesity.
In another study, 16,179 human participants were tracked for an average of more than 15 years. After factoring out demographic, lifestyle, and clinical characteristics, the people who consumed hot peppers had a 13% lower rate of mortality throughout the study. Put in plain English, people who ate more hot peppers were more likely to live longer.
There are many varieties of hot peppers, and their level of capsaicin ranges from mild to intense. Some people love the spiciness, but others, especially children, may not. Here’s a tip: Instead of mixing hot peppers into a whole dish, you can arrange them on top or serve them separately.
A word to the wise: When you chop hot peppers, be careful to wash your knife, cutting board, and hands with soap afterward, and be sure not to touch your eyes before you’ve washed your hands. I’ve learned from personal experience that capsaicin can burn eyes (and other sensitive parts of the body!).
Plus There Are Many More Healthy Spices
Turmeric, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and hot peppers barely scratch the surface in the wonderful world of healthy spices. Your spice cabinet is a virtual pharmacy of medicinal compounds.
Nutmeg, cloves, basil, dill, oregano, thyme, sage, parsley, fennel, and many other healthy spices and herbs contain substances that could help fight cancer and heart disease, reduce inflammation, stabilize your blood sugar, fend off dementia, and add culinary delight to your menu.
5 Delicious, Plant-Powered Recipes Made with Healthy Spices
Now that you know about the top five healthy spices, how do you use them?
Here are five recipe ideas that are useful in a variety of ways:
Savory Turmeric Sauce from MindBodyGreen
Sauces make delicious meals fabulously easy! Simply add them to sauteed or roasted veggies, a bed of greens, or grain or lentil bowls, and you have a quick and delicious dish. This sauce (which includes healthy spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic) is creamy and packed with flavor and nutrition.
Turmeric Vegetable Broth from The Domestic Dietician
This broth is full of gut-healing and immune-boosting ingredients. Packed with veggies and seasonings, this flavorful recipe also includes three healthy spices: garlic, ginger, and turmeric. You can drink this broth as is, add veggies, or use it in other recipes.
Homemade Hot Sauce from PlantPlate
Add a kick of heat to anything you want with your very own hot sauce made in your kitchen. While store-bought varieties often contain loads of salt and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients, this hot sauce — which you can make with multiple kinds of hot peppers — is salt-free and naturally sweetened with dates. And it also includes fresh garlic.
Naturally Sweetened Cinnamon Sauce from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen
This super simple sauce can be made in five minutes and paired with coffee, drizzled over apple slices, or added to non-dairy yogurt or whatever you want. All you need are dates, cinnamon, and warm water.
Raw Applesauce from Glue & Glitter
Spicy and naturally sweet, this applesauce doesn’t need to be cooked and comes together quickly. Made with fresh ginger and ground cinnamon, you can enjoy it for breakfast, as a snack, or mixed into other recipes.
Spice Up Your Life the Healthy Way
Healthy food can be delightfully flavorful without unhealthy ingredients, like loads of salt and sugar.
Herbs and spices create dishes that engage the senses. And they’re packed with health-boosting, disease-fighting nutrients.
Tell us in the comments:
What are your favorite healthy spices?
What are your favorite recipes featuring these healthy spices?
How else do you add flavor to food in a healthy way?
- 10 spices to improve your digestion naturally — and help keep your gut happy
- How to stay healthy and fight cancer with parsley
12 Essential Herbs
Then there are the herbs and spices in your kitchen. Before refrigeration, Blumenthal explains, they were mainstays of food preservation. Most culinary herbs and spices are useful not just for seasoning, but because they have antimicrobial properties that retard spoilage.
Using Herbs Safely
In the United States, herbal medicines are not regulated as strictly as pharmaceuticals because they are treated as foods, not drugs. Some critics contend that herb users are flying blind, but extensive research is available on many herbs. Two good sources for learning more about the latest research on herbal medicine are the American Botanical Council and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
It’s also helpful to know that the number of adverse reactions attributed to herbs is relatively small. The American Association of Poison Control Centers publishes an annual review of the nations toxic exposures. In 2003 the most recent year for which complete figures are available acetaminophen (used in Tylenol and other painkillers) killed more than 100 Americans. For the same year, only seven deaths were blamed on the misuse of herbs. Although these deaths are tragic, it would be a mistake to suggest that medicinal herbs are a frequent cause of death.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations strict regulation of drugs in no way guarantees their safety. University of Toronto researchers reviewed serious drug side effects among U.S. hospital patients from 1966 to 1996. The study did not look at overdoses or prescription errors, just at serious side effects from drugs taken as prescribed. The researchers estimated that more than 2 million hospital patients a year suffer serious side effects, and that more than 100,000 of them die.
“All medicines should be used cautiously, and that includes herbal medicines. Just because theyre natural doesnt mean they’re safe,” Blumenthal says. Some of the world’s most potent poisons are herbal — for example, poison hemlock, which looks like parsley, and Amanita death cap mushrooms.
To use herbs safely, always take the following steps:
- Tell your doctor which herbs you take and why. Do not substitute an herbal medicine for a prescribed medication without consulting your physician.
- Pregnant women, children and those with chronic medical conditions should not take herbs or drugs without consulting a medical professional.
- Do not duplicate drug effects with herbs. If you take a pharmaceutical antidepressant, don’t take an herbal antidepressant, too.
- Find out about any potential side effects before you begin taking the herbal medication. When using commercial preparations, follow the directions on the label.
- Some herbs should not be taken before surgery because they slow blood clotting. Stop taking anticoagulant herbs notably garlic, ginkgo, ginseng and white willow at least two weeks before surgery.
Herbs for Wellness
Some herbs are beneficial to almost everyone when taken regularly. They include the following:
Garlic for Cholesterol Control and Cancer Prevention. Researchers at Penn State University gave men with high cholesterol either garlic or a placebo. The herb lowered their total cholesterol by 7 percent, which reduced their risk of heart attack by 14 percent. The majority of garlic studies show that garlic reduces cholesterol and helps prevent heart disease.
Garlic also helps prevent several types of cancer. In the Iowa Womens Health Study, researchers followed 41,387 middle-aged women for five years. Those who ate the most garlic had the lowest risk of colon cancer. In general, fruit and vegetable consumption helps prevent cancer, but in this study, of all the plant foods analyzed, garlic yielded the greatest preventive benefit. Other studies show that garlic also helps prevent prostate, esophageal, stomach and bladder cancer.
Dosage: Most studies have used approximately the equivalent of one clove a day. Garlic works best when its raw or only slightly cooked. Garlic supplements are another option (deodorized brands are available); they have similar cholesterol-lowering effects. Follow label directions.
Cautions: Garlic impairs blood clotting. If you notice increased bruising, stop taking it and consult a doctor. Stop taking medicinal doses of garlic two weeks before any planned surgery.
Ginkgo for Mental Sharpness. Ginkgo increases blood circulation through the brain, and it is best known for its potential to slow the progression of Alzheimers disease. Ginkgo also enhances memory in healthy adults of all ages, according to several studies. In one, the greatest memory enhancement occurred in those taking 120 milligrams once a day.
Dosage: Ginkgo leaves contain only trace amounts of the medicinal compounds. Use commercial preparations, which concentrate these compounds. Look for standardized extracts that contain 24 percent flavonoid glycosides. Take 120 milligrams daily.
Cautions: Ginkgo has an anticoagulant effect, so stop taking it at least two weeks before any surgery or if you notice bruising. Otherwise, side effects are rare, though upset stomach, headache and allergic reactions are possible.
Tea for Heart Health and Cancer Prevention. For centuries, tea was just considered a mildly stimulating beverage, but no longer. Both black and green tea are high in antioxidants, which help prevent both heart disease and cancer. A five-year Dutch study of 3,454 older adults showed that compared with nondrinkers, those who drank two cups of tea each day had a 46 percent less risk of heart attack.
Drinking tea also reduces cholesterol and improves survival odds after a heart attack. University of California at Los Angeles researchers surveyed 1,100 Asian women, half of whom had breast cancer. They found that those who were cancer-free drank the most tea. Japanese researchers have discovered that as breast cancer survivors tea consumption increases, their risk of recurrence decreases. Tea also appears to protect against cancers of the colon, rectum, pancreas and esophagus.
Note: Both green tea and black tea come from the leaves of the same plant. Drying the leaves produces green tea. Fermenting them yields black tea. Both green and black tea help prevent heart disease and cancer, but for reasons that remain unclear, only green tea has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Dosage: One to four cups a day, or as much as you can tolerate. A cup of tea has approximately half the caffeine of a cup of instant coffee, and one-third the caffeine of a cup of brewed coffee.
Cautions: Tea contains caffeine that may cause insomnia and irritability.
Herbs To Treat Common Complaints
Although herbal medicine is not the answer for every ailment, herbs can be used effectively to treat many health conditions, including those below.
Black Cohosh for Menopausal Discomforts. For 40 years, Europeans have used black cohosh to treat hot flashes. During the past decade, this herb has become popular in the United States. Several studies have questioned its benefit, but a clear majority have shown that black cohosh is effective. Its also safe for women who cant take hormones, such as those with a history of breast cancer.
Dosage: Products vary, so follow the label directions.
Cautions: Side effects are rare, but may include stomach distress. Black cohosh should not be used by pregnant women.
Cranberry for Urinary Tract Infection. Cranberry juice and the dried berries and extract prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall long enough to cause infection. Many studies confirm cranberrys value in preventing urinary tract infection. Canadian researchers gave 150 women one of three treatments: cranberry juice (three cups per day), cranberry tablets (three per day) or a placebo. A year later, the women who took cranberry had experienced significantly fewer infections than the placebo group. Cranberry juice and dried cranberries are available at supermarkets. Capsules containing cranberry extract are available at health food stores and most pharmacies.
Dosage: If you use cranberry juice cocktail, drink at least three cups a day. If you use dried cranberries, munch on a handful or two a day. For commercial cranberry extract, be sure to follow the label directions.
Echinacea for Colds. The root and sometimes the aboveground portions of this daisylike flower have been shown to bolster the immune system and help the body fight colds. Some studies have shown no treatment benefit, but most show that echinacea minimizes cold symptoms and speeds recovery. The most comprehensive investigation of echinaceas cold-fighting effectiveness was a University of Wisconsin analysis of nine studies. Eight showed significant treatment benefit milder symptoms and briefer colds.
Dosage: Take the dosage recommended on the product label. Typical directions are to take it several times a day at first, and then taper off as you begin to feel better. Echinacea is available in teas, capsules and tinctures.
Cautions: A mildly upset stomach is possible with the tincture. Echinacea is safe for most people, but because it stimulates the immune system, it is not recommended for those with auto- immune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and several others), or for transplanted-organ recipients. It should also be avoided by those allergic to closely related plants, such as chamomile and ragweed.
Ginger for Motion Sickness and Morning Sickness. Australian researchers gave 120 pregnant women either a placebo or capsules containing 11/2 grams of ginger powder. From the first day of treatment, the ginger group experienced significantly less nausea. Several studies show that the herb also wards off motion sickness. Danish researchers tested it on 80 naval cadets in heavy seas. Compared with those who took a placebo, the ginger group experienced 72 percent less seasickness. To keep motion sickness at bay, take a capsule containing 1,000 milligrams of powdered ginger root about an hour before you embark, and every two hours during your journey.
Dosage: Start with 1,000 milligrams. If that doesnt provide sufficient relief, try 1,500 milligrams. You can also brew ginger tea using 2 teaspoons of fresh grated root per cup of boiling water, or drink ginger ale just check the label to make sure it contains real ginger and not artificial flavoring.
Cautions: Some people report heartburn after taking ginger capsules.
Horse Chestnut Seed Extract for Varicose Veins. Because of genetics, aging or long periods of standing, the walls of leg veins can weaken. Blood pools in the calves and fluid leaks into surrounding tissue, causing unsightly varicose veins. Horse chestnut seed contains a compound (aescin) that strengthens vein walls, which decreases this fluid leakage. Several studies show that its an effective treatment for varicose veins. German researchers gave 240 people with varicose veins either compression stockings or horse chestnut (50 milligrams of aescin twice a day). After 12 weeks, both groups experienced equal relief.
Dosage: Studies showing benefits have used 50 milligrams of aescin once or twice a day.
Cautions: Horse chestnuts from the tree are toxic: Ingestion has killed children. Commercial extracts are detoxified and safe.
Milk Thistle for Liver Disease. Mainstream medicine doesnt have any miracle drugs for liver disease (hepatitis, cirrhosis), but milk thistle seeds can help. They contain three compounds collectively known as silymarin that have a remarkable ability to protect and heal the liver. Italian researchers have shown that milk thistle speeds recovery from hepatitis. Several studies have shown that the herb helps treat alcoholic cirrhosis. Milk thistle also helps prevent liver damage from powerful drugs. Most remarkably, this herb has been shown to treat Amanita mushroom poisoning better than mainstream medical treatments. Swiss researchers analyzed 452 cases of mushroom poisoning. Among those who received standard treatment, 18 percent died. But among those treated with silymarin, the death rate was only 10 percent.
Dosage: A typical recommended dosage is 140 milligrams of silymarin three times a day.
Cautions: Side effects are rare, but can include headache, stomach distress, nausea, hives, itching and joint pain.
St. Johns Wort for Depression. While some studies suggest otherwise, the vast majority show that St. Johns wort, in capsules or tablets, works as well as Prozac and Zoloft for relieving mild to moderate depression. Researchers in Montreal gave 87 depression sufferers either the herb (900 to 1,800 milligrams/day) or a standard dose of Zoloft (50 to 100 milligrams/day). After 12 weeks, both groups showed the same mood elevation based on standard psychological tests. However, the herb caused fewer side effects. Furthermore, a German study shows that the herb is as effective as Prozac but with fewer side effects. Twenty-three percent of those in the Prozac group experienced significant side effects, but in the herb group, only 8 percent reported serious side effects.
Dosage: Follow label directions. Studies showing benefits have used 600 to 1,800 milligrams/day. Most studies have used 900 milligrams/day.
Cautions: St. Johns wort can cause an upset stomach, increases sensitivity to sunlight and reduces the effectiveness of birth control pills. It also interacts with many other drugs, possibly reducing their effectiveness. If you take medication regularly, its important to consult your physician or pharmacist before using St. Johns wort.
Valerian for Insomnia. Valerians centuries-old reputation as a sleep aid has been validated by many studies. It often works as well as a pharmaceutical sleeping aid. German researchers gave 202 chronic insomniacs either valerian or a pharmaceutical sedative. After six weeks, both treatments were equally effective. But unlike many sleeping pills, valerian is not addictive.
Dosage: Follow label directions.
Cautions: Raw valerian root smells and tastes terrible. Use a commercial preparation. Some include other safe tranquilizing herbs such as hops or lemon balm.
Vitex (chaste tree berry) for PMS. Ripe seeds from Vitex angus castus, also called chaste tree, help balance levels of estrogen and progesterone, which minimizes the mood swings, breast tenderness and bloating of premenstrual syndrome. Many studies have found that chaste tree is effective. When 1,634 German PMS sufferers took the herb for three months, 93 percent reported relief from mood upsets. In tests that recorded two other popular PMS treatments, Prozac and vitamin B6, chaste tree worked almost as well as the popular antidepressant and better than the vitamin.
Dosage: Available in pills, capsules and tincture. Follow label directions.
Cautions: Some women report stomach distress, headache and increased menstrual flow. Should not be used by pregnant women.
For more information about medicinal herbs, including free access to extensive reference information from the American Botanical Council, go to Herbs for Health.
The health benefits of herbs
As a passionate food lover as well as a nutritionist, I’m always searching for that sweet spot where delicious and healthful meet. Herbs hit it perfectly. These luscious leaves — parsley, basil, cilantro, mint, thyme, oregano, rosemary and the like — not only add enticing aroma, fresh flavor and vivid green color to food, but also have remarkable health benefits. When you move beyond thinking of herbs as mere garnishes and start to see them as major culinary players, a whole world of healthy taste opens up to you.
Herbs have been used since ancient times for their medicinal properties, mostly concentrated into teas and tinctures. More recently, their healthful value as a food ingredient has been realized. For one, herbs add a burst of flavor to food, allowing you to cut back on salt without sacrificing taste. And several herbs, including parsley, have significant amounts of the essential vitamins A, C and K.
But the true power of herbs lies in their wealth of protective polyphenols — plant compounds with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Piles of studies show that polyphenols in herbs help combat such diseases as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and more. Polyphenols are anti-microbial, so they can help protect us from harmful bacteria as well. Although many of the studies on herbs’ effects have involved concentrated solutions of the leaves’ active components, there is evidence that their benefits still apply when they are cooked and eaten as part of a regular meal, too.
Buying and storing
The best way to have fresh herbs at your fingertips is to grow them yourself, in your garden or in pots on your windowsill. This way, all you need to do is snip as desired, and the beauty and scent of the plants will be a natural reminder to use them.
When buying cut herbs, make sure the leaves are not wilted or yellowing — they should be bright or deep green, depending on the variety, and perky looking. To store them, wash and pat or spin dry in a salad spinner, then wrap them in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag or an airtight container.
U.S. Botanic Garden Horticulturist Adam Pyle explains the benefits of potted herbs and demonstrates how to pot dry and moist herb gardens. (Adrian Higgins and Sandi Moynihan/The Washington Post)
Regardless of how carefully you select or refrigerate them, fresh cut herbs are highly perishable. The tenderest leaves, such as basil and cilantro, will usually not last more than a week in the refrigerator. Firmer types such as parsley and oregano will keep a bit longer, and hearty rosemary and thyme will last a couple of weeks. To preserve them longer, chop them and place in ice cube trays with stock or water. Freeze; then transfer the herb cubes into a plastic bag and keep frozen to add to soups, stews and sauces.
Although fresh herbs offer a clean, bright flavor and springlike appeal, don’t write off dried, which have upsides of their own. Dried herbs are easy to keep on hand, and they are at least as beneficial as fresh, if not more so, because the drying process actually concentrates the polyphenols and flavors. When buying dried herbs, get them in small quantities that you can use up in less than a year, because their flavor fades with time. And keep in mind that, as a rule, if a recipe calls for one tablespoon of a fresh chopped herb, you can generally substitute one teaspoon dried.
10 ways to herb up
While there are plenty of inspiring herb-centric recipes from all over the world to explore — think of pesto, tabbouleh salad, chimichurri sauce — you don’t need any special instructions or culinary skills to get more herbs into your life. You can simply add them to foods you are already making. Here are 10 ways to get you started:
●Add chopped fresh or dried parsley or dill to your scrambled eggs.
●Tuck a few leaves of mint and/or basil into your ham or turkey sandwich.
●Pile fresh cilantro leaves onto your turkey or veggie burger.
●Toss handfuls of fresh tender herbs — parsley, basil, cilantro, mint — into your basic green salad, treating them more like a lettuce than a seasoning.
●Add a generous pinch of dried oregano or thyme to your vinaigrette-type salad dressing.
●Mix a handful of fresh Italian parsley or dill into your boiled or mashed potatoes.
●Rub a mix of dried rosemary and thyme onto your chicken breast before grilling.
●Muddle fresh mint or basil leaves in a glass then fill with iced tea or sparkling water and a twist of citrus.
●Spruce up jarred pasta sauce with a handful of fresh chopped basil leaves.
●Stir fresh basil, parsley or mint leaves with grilled zucchini or sauteed green beans.
Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author. She blogs and offers a biweekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com. She also writes weekly Nourish recipes in The Washington Post’s Food section.
^ Chat April 23 at 1 p.m. Join Krieger for a live Q&A about healthful eating.
Your arsenal of home remedies is about to get a lot spicier with these best healing herbs. Though herbs have been used for hundreds of years to heal, 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.
“Herbs and other natural remedies can be as effective as traditional treatments, often without the same negative side effects,” says Roberta Lee, MD, medical director of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
Here are 10 superhealers you’ll want to add to the all-natural section of your medicine cabinet—and even to your favorite recipes. Folding one or two of them into your cooking every day can yield big benefits.
Turmeric: Ease arthritis
A heaping helping of curry could relieve your pain. That’s because turmeric, a spice used in curry, contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory that works similarly to Cox-2 inhibitors, drugs that reduce the Cox-2 enzyme that causes the pain and swelling of arthritis, says Lee.
It might also: Prevent colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. According to a small clinical trial conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, curcumin can help shrink precancerous lesions known as colon polyps, when taken with a small amount of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in onions, apples, and cabbage. The average number of polyps dropped more than 60% and those that remained shrank by more than 50%. In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers at UCLA also found that curcumin helps clear the brain of the plaques that are characteristic of the disease.
Maximize the benefits: For general health, Lee recommends adding the spice to your cooking whenever possible. For a therapeutic dose, James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy, suggests 400 mg of curcumin extract three times daily, right in line with what subjects in the colon polyp study took (480 mg of curcumin and 20 mg of quercetin, three times a day).
Cinnamon: Lower blood sugar
In a recent German study of type 2 diabetics, taking cinnamon extract daily successfully reduced blood sugar by about 10%.
It might also: Lower cholesterol. Cinnamon packs a one-two punch for people with type 2 diabetes by reducing related heart risks. In another study of diabetics, it slashed cholesterol by 13% and triglycerides by 23%.
Maximize the benefits: To tame blood sugar, study subjects took 1 g capsules of standardized cinnamon extract daily, while those in the cholesterol study took 1 to 6 g. But keep in mind that a large amount of the actual spice can be dangerous, so stick with a water-soluble extract. Terry Graedon, PhD, coauthor with her husband, Joe, of Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy, recommends the brand Cinnulin PF.
Rosemary: Avoid carcinogens
Frying, broiling, or grilling meats at high temperatures creates HCAs (heterocyclic amines), potent carcinogens implicated in several cancers. But HCA levels are significantly reduced when rosemary extract (a common powder) is mixed into beef before cooking, say Kansas State University researchers. “Rosemary contains carnosol and rosemarinic acid, two powerful antioxidants that destroy the HCAs,” explains lead researcher J. Scott Smith, PhD.
It might also: Stop tumors. Rosemary extract helps prevent carcinogens that enter the body from binding with DNA, the first step in tumor formation, according to several animal studies. When researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fed rosemary extract to rats exposed to dimethylbenzanthracene, a carcinogen that causes breast cancer, both DNA damage and tumors decreased. “Human research needs to be done,” says study author Keith W. Singletary, PhD. “But rosemary has shown a lot of cancer-protective potential.”
Maximize the benefits: To reduce HCAs, Smith recommends marinating foods in any supermarket spice mix that contains rosemary as well as one or more of the spices thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, or parsley.
Ginger: Avert nausea
Ginger can prevent stomach upset from many sources, including pregnancy, motion sickness, and chemotherapy. “This is one of Mom’s remedies that really works,” says Suzanna M. Zick, ND, MPH, a research investigator at the University of Michigan. A powerful antioxidant, ginger works by blocking the effects of serotonin, a chemical produced by both the brain and stomach when you’re nauseated, and by stopping the production of free radicals, another cause of upset in your stomach. In one study of cruise ship passengers traveling on rough seas, 500 mg of ginger every 4 hours was as effective as Dramamine, the commonly used OTC motion-sickness medication. In another study, where subjects took 940 mg, it was even more effective than the drug.
MORE: The Smoothie Cure For Gas And Bloating
It might also: Decrease your blood pressure, arthritis pain, and cancer risk. Ginger helps regulate blood flow, which may lower blood pressure, says Zick, and its anti-inflammatory properties might help ease arthritis. Ginger extract had a significant effect on reducing pain in all 124 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, in a study conducted at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Miami. Those same anti-inflammatory powers help powdered ginger kill ovarian cancer cells as well as—or better than—traditional chemotherapy, at least in the test tube, found a study by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Although further testing is needed, Zick and the study’s authors are excited about its prospects: “Our preliminary results indicate that ginger may have significant therapeutic benefit for ovarian cancer patients.”
Maximize the benefits: For nausea, ginger is best taken before symptoms start, at least 30 minutes before departure, say the Graedons. They recommend capsules containing 500 to 1,000 mg of dried ginger every four hours, up to a maximum of 4g daily.
Holy Basil: Combat stress
Several animal studies back holy basil, a special variety of the plant you use in your pesto sauce, as effective at reducing stress by increasing adrenaline and noradrenaline and decreasing serotonin. This is no surprise to Pratima Nangia-Makker, PhD, a researcher at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, whose mother and grandmother relied on a tea made from the leaves of holy basil to relieve indigestion and headaches.
It might also: Inhibit breast cancer. First in test tubes and then in mice, a tea made of holy basil shrunk tumors, reduced their blood supply, and stopped their spread, found Nangia-Makker, who plans to study the effects in humans.
Maximize the benefits: For stress relief, try holy basil extract from New Chapter or Om Organics, widely available in health food stores. To aid in breast cancer treatment, Nangia-Makker advises drinking this tea daily: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 10 to 15 fresh holy basil leaves (other varieties of basil won’t work) and steep 5 minutes. Remove the leaves before consuming. If you are being treated for breast cancer, be sure to check with your doctor. You’re unlikely to find the plants at your local nursery, but you can order them and organic holy basil seeds from Horizon Herbs.
St. John’s Wort: Soothe your worries
You probably know that research has confirmed this herb’s power to relieve mild to moderate depression and anxiety as effectively as many drugs—without a lot of the side effects.
It might also: Help you snooze more soundly. St. John’s wort not only contains melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles, but it also increases the body’s own melatonin, improving sleep, says a report from the Surgeon General. (These 20 ways to sleep better every night can also help.)
Maximize the benefits: For both mood and sleep problems, author Duke recommends a supplement containing at least 0.3% hypericin (the active phytochemical) per capsule or 300 mg of the extract to be taken three times daily. Warning: St. John’s wort has been shown to interact with several prescription medications, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking it.
Garlic: Lower cancer risk
High consumption of garlic lowered rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers, says a research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A Japanese clinical trial also found that after a year of taking aged garlic extract supplements, people with a history of colon polyps saw a reduction in the size and number of the precancerous growths detected by their doctors.
It might also: Provide cardiovascular benefits. Garlic contains more than 70 active phytochemicals, including allicin, which many studies have shown decreases high blood pressure by as much as 30 points. Garlic may help prevent strokes as well by slowing arterial blockages, according to a yearlong clinical study at UCLA. In addition, patients’ levels of homocysteine, a chemical that leads to plaque buildup, dropped by 12%.
Maximize the benefits: Crushed fresh garlic offers the best cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits, says Duke. But you’ll need to down up to five cloves each day. Try Kyolic aged garlic extract capsules (1,000 mg), the product used in many of the studies.
3 More Superhealers You Should Know About
1. Andrographis: Shorten Summer Colds Andrographis does a great job of relieving upper-respiratory infections, such as colds or sinusitis, says new research. A study in the journal Phytomedicine reported that the herb eased symptoms such as fatigue, sleeplessness, sore throat, and runny nose up to 90%.
Maximize the benefits: Lee and the Graedons recommend Kan Jang (available at ProActive BioProducts), an herbal extract produced by the Swedish Herbal Institute and used in several of the trials.
2. Sea Buckthorn: Reverse vaginal dryness Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is very effective for hydrating mucous membranes and alleviating vaginal dryness. It contains palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid found in human skin that helps moisturize and heal it.
Maximize the benefits: Lee suggests up to four capsules a day of Supercritical Omega 7, a sea buckthorn supplement by New Chapter. It’s available at health food stores.
3. Kudzu: Curb problem drinking A group of moderately heavy drinkers in their 20s voluntarily cut their beer consumption in half after taking capsules containing the Chinese herb (also called Pueraria lobata) for a week, according to a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Researchers say the kudzu more quickly allows alcohol to get to the part of the brain that tells you that you’ve had enough.
Maximize the benefits: Participants took capsules with 500 mg of kudzu extract three times daily.
3 Rules For The Safest Self-Healing
Natural substances often work like drugs in the body, say Joe and Terry Graedon. They suggest following these precautions.
Rule: Don’t assume it’s safe. Herbs are not regulated by the FDA for safety or efficacy. So search the label for a seal of approval from the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) or CL (Consumer-Lab.com), which indicates it has been approved by certified academic laboratories. For a fee, you can research particular products at ConsumerLab.com.
Rule: Talk with your doctor. It’s best to tell him if you’re considering supplements. Some herbs can interact with certain meds, including those for high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression, as well as blood thinners and even OTC drugs.
Rule: Don’t overdo it. More isn’t necessarily better—and could be dangerous. Always follow dosing instructions.
MORE: 25 Healing Herbs You Can Use Every Day
Nancy Kalish Nancy Kalish is a New York-based writer specializing in health, fitness, and beauty.
Please Note: This article is to be considered as general information. Please consult with your relevant health care professional in relation to the use of these herbs.
Herbs and spices is at the foreground of our history. These have been integrated into our rich culture and tradition for many centuries. There are lots of herbs and spices that contain powerful plant compounds that can heal, ease pain, prevent various diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and even fight off cancer, heart disease and other common and critical illnesses.
Ancient Egypt had used herbs and spices to preserve their mummies. Also, it was recorded that Chinese and Korean junk boats traded herbs and spices in 500 B.C. This trading had expanded throughout Europe, Asia and eventually, in the Americas. Europe suffered during the Dark Ages, however, other regions highly profited from the herb and spices trading empire such as the Indonesian, Arab, Chinese and Indian traders. Europe had eventually joined the spice trading during the Crusades, which further flourished the spice and herb trading. The East India Company founded by a Dutch in the 1600s became one of the most powerful herbs and spices trading companies in history.
Today, we are still using the original herbs and spices traded during the middle ages such as turmeric, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Since then, dozens of new spices have been discovered, each with its own wealth of benefits.
The following are the top 10 herbs that are a great addition into your daily recipes:
Top 1: Turmeric
Turmeric is certainly the most powerful herb on the planet. It is from the ginger family that is primarily grown in India, China and Indonesia. It contains various compounds with medicinal properties. For example, turmeric contains Curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
Turmeric is one of the top most herb frequently discussed and mentioned in medicinal herbs in all of science. Dr. Axe of draxe.com shares the following benefits of Turmeric:
Medical intervention generally includes the following medications to slow and prevent blood clotting:
Unfortunately, for people with conditions that are treated by these drugs (i.e. deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism), this approach may not always be the wisest decision. Ibuprofen overdose is one such common problem. In addition to common side effects like excessive bleeding and hemorrhage, the risks associated with anticoagulants abound and include everything from back pain to headaches to difficulty breathing. Additionally, ever since several groundbreaking studies in the mid-1980s, the curcumin in turmeric has been suggested by researchers as actually being a better option for those with vascular thrombosis.
Although few studies have been conducted on humans, dozens of research trials have proven that turmeric is especially effective in correcting depression symptoms in laboratory animals. To address this issue, the journal Phytotherapy Research published the results of an amazing, innovative study this past year. The study took 60 volunteers diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), such as manic depression, and split the group to determine how patients treated by curcumin fared against fluoxetine (Prozac) and a combination of the two. Not only was it discovered that all patients tolerated curcumin well, but they discovered curcumin was as effective as Prozac in managing depression. According to the authors, “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe therapy for treatment in patients with Mild Depression.
Arguably, the most powerful aspect of curcumin is its ability to control inflammation.
The journal Oncogene published the results of a study that evaluated several anti-inflammatory compounds and found that aspirin and ibuprofen are least effective, while curcumin, is among the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world.
d. Arthritis management
Because curcumin is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reducing characteristics, Turmeric is also effective in Arthritis management.
e. Cancer treatment
Turmeric is reported to help naturally treat cancer.
f. Diabetes management
For lowering blood sugar and reversing insulin resistance there’s arguably no better natural treatment than adding turmeric into your diet.
g. Gastrointestinal treatments
Oftentimes, people with digestive and stomach complaints become intolerant to medical interventions because the stomach flora is already compromised and drugs can literally tear up the mucosal lining. An in-depth analysis of all the studies evaluating curcumin’s ability to manage inflammatory bowel disease found that many patients were able to stop taking their prescribed corticosteroids because their condition improved so dramatically by taking curcumin!
h. Cholesterol regulators
A study done by Drugs in R & D found that curcumin was equal or more effective than diabetes medications at reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the treatment of high cholesterol.
One of the more widely accepted properties of curcumin in scientific communities is its ability to manage pain.
In a 1999 breakthrough clinical study, it was found that curcumin has the ability to cure chronic inflammation of the eye. Typically this condition was only treated with steroids but today it’s common for medical doctors who practice functional medicine to prescribe curcumin instead. What cannot be overstated, however, is that although statistically “comparable” to steroids in managing and reversing chronic disease, “The lack of side effects with curcumin is its greatest advantage compared with corticosteroids,” as stated by the authors in the above study out of K.G. Medical College.
Top 2. Ginger
Ginger was first grown by the Chinese and Indians. It was also the top herb that prompted the opening of the herb and spice trade routes around the world.
Ginger is a famous spice used in various ways of alternative medicine. It has a very long history of use in various forms of traditional/alternative medicine.
The following are the health benefits of ginger:
- Can treat many forms of nausea, especially morning sickness, chemotherapy and sea sickness
- Reduce muscle pain and soreness
- The anti-inflammatory effects can help with osteoarthritis
- May drastically lower blood sugars and improve heart disease risk factors
- Can help treat chronic indigestion
- Ginger powder may significantly reduce menstrual pain
- May lower cholesterol levels
- Contains a substance that may help prevent cancer
- Ginger may improve brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s disease
- The active ingredient in ginger can help fight infections
Top 3: Rosemary
Rosemary is an herb native in the Mediterranean regions. Greeks believed that Rosemary is effective in enhancing memory and brain function. Traditionally, this plant also became famous as a symbol of fidelity, and it was once burned as incense at wedding parties throughout Europe. European judges also burned rosemary to protect them from the illnesses that prisoners exposed them to.
The active ingredient in Rosemary is called Rosmarinic Acid. This substance has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion.
Organicfacts.net – reports the following health benefits of Rosemary:
- Improves mood and stress
- Strengthens the immune system
- Antibacterial potential
- Soothes the stomach
- Breath freshener
- Stimulate blood flow
- Pain reliever
- Detoxify the body
Top 4: Garlic
Garlic is so popular that it is used in almost every cuisine in the world! Garlic has been used for more than five thousand years ago. It was known that the Egyptians fed garlic to workers as they build the pyramids. This powerful herb was also given to Olympic athletes in Greece. Also, it was used in many cultures to increase production and strength among laborers.
Garlic has many well-known benefits such as its anti-infection and overall power to boost the immune system. It has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal properties allowing it to stand against infections. Garlic is also very effective in treating skin infections caused by bacteria, virus, fungi or yeast by simply rubbing raw chopped garlic on the affected area.
The following are the health benefits of Garlic:
- Powerful cancer fighter
- Fights inflammation, protecting against numerous conditions
- Treat toothache and earache
- Repel mosquitoes
- Great for cough
- Home remedy for stuffy nose or nasal congestion
Top 5: Cinnamon
Cinnamon is an extremely tasty spice. It is available in every supermarket around the world. It has been prized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Cinnamon is made from the inner bark of trees and has been known for its health benefits since Ancient Egypt.
The following are the health benefits of Cinnamon:
- Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
- Has a Powerful Anti-Diabetic Effect
- Cinnamon May Have Beneficial Effects on Neurodegenerative Diseases
- May Cut the Risk of Heart Disease
- Cinnamon May Be Protective Against Cancer
- Cinnamon Helps Fight Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Top 6: Nutmeg
Nutmeg grows on an evergreen tree with the scientific classification Myristica fragrans. It is a native plant from Indonesia. It is a delicate and slightly sweet spice that is largely used in cuisines around the globe.
Fresh ground nutmeg with a whole seed grater
Nutmeg is known to impact health in various ways because of its nutritive content of vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds related to the essential oils. These beneficial components include dietary fiber, manganese, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, copper, and macelignan.
The following are the health benefits of Nutmeg:
- Pain reliever
- Promotes digestive and brain health
- Detoxify the body
- Oral health (It kills bacteria that cause bad breath)
- Help lower blood pressure and circulation
Top 7: Sage
Sage has been known since the Middle Ages due to known for its powerful healing properties. It is an evergreen shrub with woody stems and blue or purple flowers. They are commonly found in the Mediterranean region. According to research, Sage or Salvi officinalis has lots of resemblance to Rosemary. In fact, they are even referred as “sister herbs”.
Sage has been used as a medicine for many centuries. It was traditionally used for the treatment of snakebite, protection from evil, boosts female fertility and many others.
Today, modern science and technology had discovered that Sage is more powerful and offers a lot of health benefits such as the following:
- Cognitive Boosts (stimulate brain function, increase recall abilities and memory retention)
- Help eliminate cognitive disorders ( Alzheimer’s and dementia)
- Strengthen the immune system
- It has Vitamin K (Vitamin K is a crucial element in developing bone density and ensuring the integrity of our bones as we age)
- Treatment for skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, acne)
- Diabetes Management
- Assists in digestion
Top 8: Oregano
Oregano is best known as “pizza herb”. It’s a famous herb that has been used to improve or enhance the flavour of their food. However, Oregano offers a wealth of health benefits. It’s an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It is rich with vitamins A, C, and E complex, including zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and niacin.
fresh green oregano
Below are the health benefits of Oregano:
- Treats the Common Cold
- Breaks up Nasal Congestion
- Treats Flu Virus
- Relieves Menstrual Cramps
- Kills Intestinal Parasites
- Improves Heart Health
Top 9. Cumin
Cumin is a flowering plant that is native from the Mediterranean Region to Pakistan and India. The seeds are used in the cookeries of many different cultures around the globe. Cumin is most famous as a condiment or spice in the Indian Subcontinent and some other Asian, African, and Latin American countries. It is scientifically known as Cuminum Cyminum and it belongs to the family of Apiaceae.
cumin seeds in a wooden spoon
Cumin is also known for its rich health benefits such as the following:
- Assists in digestion
- Improve immunity
- To treat various illnesses such as insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils.
- Treating cancer
- Has the powerful effect in preventing diabetes
Top 10: Holy Basil
Holy Basil is also famously known as tulsi. Its scientific name is Ocimum Sanctum and is absolutely one of the top medicinal herb.
The following are the known benefits of Holy Basil:
- Oral care
- Relief from respiratory disorders
- Treatment of fever, asthma, lung disorders, heart diseases and stress.
Even going close to a Tulsi plant alone can protect you from many infections. A few leaves dropped in drinking water or foods can purify it and can kill germs within it as well. Even smelling it or keeping it planted in a pot indoors can protect the whole family from infections, coughs, colds and other viral infections.
Nowadays, these herbs are found in every market around the world. In fact, every cook and almost every family has an herb and spice rack in their own homes. Certainly, we have advanced from the days where herbs are only accessible for kings! Today, herbs are cheap and it’s no longer elegant, exclusive and rare. Interestingly, some of the herbs and spices that we use every day have a long and atrocious history. Well, this only proves that we should not take for granted the health benefits these herbs can give us.
Any chef worth his salt will tell you that most dishes can benefit from a dash of herbs. Whether its chopped parsley sprinkled on top of a plate of pasta or a sprig of rosemary stewed with meat and potatoes, herbs breathe new life into every kind of food. Their benefits extend far beyond the last bite of your meal. Many popular herbs are also brimming with health benefits. No wonder they’ve been used since ancient times for everything from sleep aids to fever reducers. We’ve listed the top 10 healthiest herbs and gone over why you should be eating them.
Basil- Pain Relief
Basil is a strong anti-inflammatory herb that can help with achy joints and even arthritis. Used medicinally for centuries, this herb is a staple in the healthy Mediterranean diet. Research conducted in the U.K. found that, when taken orally, concentrated extracts from two types of basil – Ocimum americanum and Ocimum tenuiflorum – reduced joint swelling by up to 73% within just 24 hours- as effective as many artificial drugs with side effects!
These two breeds of Basil are found growing in Southern Asia and India, and are often used in Ayurvedic medical treatment; the leaves are slightly smaller than that of the Sweet Basil found in the western hemisphere. Researchers note that while all basil contains the eugenol for pain relief, it is found in higher quantities in the Easter variety.
Mint- Soothes Stomach Aches
In this case, peppermint, and it’s healing menthol oil. Menthol is known to be a strong antispasmodic- it calms the constriction of the muscles, particularly those of the digestive system- and is often given to colonoscopy patients in order to stop the painful cramping. Menthol also encourages bile to be secreted by the liver and flow into the duodenum, promoting better digestion.
Oregano and Marjoram- Boosts Immune System
Oregano (and its cousing Marjoram) is a powerful herb, known for being an immune booster, antifungal, AND antibacterial. The active agent in oregano is rosmarinic acid, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown in studies to support immune system health. Oregano has one of the highest antioxidant activity ratings, with 42 times the antioxidant strength of apples! The other two powerful phytochemicals present in Oregano are carvacol and thymol, both potent antimicrobials.
Rosemary- Vision health
In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Dr Stuart A. Lipton and his colleagues found that a particular component of the herb rosemary, called carnosic acid, promotes eye health. It does so by boosting the production of antioxidant enzymes in cells, and lowering levels of free radicals.
Besides working to slow down and treat macular degeneration, carnosic acid from rosemary also has the potential for use in the treatment of some forms of dementia as well.
Parsley- Strengthens Heart Health
A little garnish of parsley every day can go a long way in protecting your body from cardiovascular issues like strokes, atherosclerosis, and coronary attacks! Parsley is so heart-healthy because it generates the important B vitamin of folic acid. This acid can help you to reduce homocysteine, which although naturally occurring in the body, can damage blood vessels when found in high levels.
Luckily, the folate (or folacin) seen in parsley helps convert homocysteine into harmless molecules- reducing the risk of coronary issues. BONUS: the high levels of chlorophyll found in this herb also reduce halitosis- so next time you’re suffering from bad breath, grab a spoonful of raw Parsley and chew on it!
Dill- Reduce gas, cure hiccups and help with insomnia
Anyone who has ever had the hiccups knows how distracting and uncomfortable they can be. Worry not, dill can help! Hiccups are usually caused by trapped gas or allergies- and dill can help with both due to it’s carminative and sedative properties. As a carminative, dill forces trapped gas down through the digestive tract, and allows it to leave the body in a safe way.
The vitamin-B complex and flavonoids present in the essential oil of Dill activates the secretion of certain enzymes and hormones which have calming and hypnotic effects on the brain and body, thereby helping people get a good night’s sleep. This calming sedative effect also helps alleviate hiccups caused by allergies, nervous disorders, or hyperactivity.
Fresh tied sage
Sage- Reduce fever and may help Alzheimer’s
Common sage, Salvia officinalis has a peppery taste and has been used for centuries to flavor food. For centuries, Chinese medicine has been using a different species of sage, Salvia miltorrhiza, due to it’s healing and medicinal powers. Sage tea has been used to reduce fever and promote sweating.
In the first century C.E. Greek physician Dioscorides reported that the aqueous decoction of sage stopped bleeding of wounds and cleaned ulcers and sores. He also recommended sage juice in warm water for hoarseness and coughs.
Today, new research is emerging showing that sage can help with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting the loss of the acetylcholine messenger in the brain, which is often found in reduced quantities in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Researchers in Iran have shown that extracts of Salvia officinalis improve cognitive function in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and may reduce agitation. Also, in 2003, researchers at Northumbria University in the U.K. found that healthy adults who had taken Spanish sage oil had a higher word recall than the other participants.
Fresh branches of thyme
Thyme- Lung Health, cough, bronchitis
While thyme was never a major medicinal plant in Europe, oil of thyme and the dried herb have been found in official medical records since the sixteenth century in England, Germany, and France. Thyme oil has been shown to have antispasmodic, expectorant, and carminative properties and was traditionally applied to relieve the pain of dental caries. It has long been employed to help treat acute bronchitis, laryngitis, whooping cough, gastritis, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. When steeped in baths, it has been used to help relieve rheumatic pains and aid the healing of bruises and sprains.
Cilantro is more than just a flavorful addition to Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes! It has been shown in studies to be effective in toxic metal cleansing by having its chemical compounds bind to toxic metals and loosen them from body tissues. This is particularly effective when the herb is used in juicing, as certain other foods help the released toxins evacuate the body naturally. A 2005 clinical study conducted by The Optimal Wellness Test Research Center in Nevada demonstrated that heavy metal chelation using cilantro and chlorella can naturally remove an average of 87% of lead, 91% of mercury, and 74% of aluminum from the body within 42 days.
Lavender flower bunch
Lavender- Stress Relief, Reduced depression, Acne treatment
Lavender, native to the Mediterranean, has been used both internally and by olfaction, for centuries as a treatment for anxiety and depression, as well as for mood imbalances such as anxiety, insomnia, and gastrointestinal distress. Scientific studies show that lavender reduces the severity of depression when taken concurrently with an antidepressant.
Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders. Studies also suggest that massages with essential oils, particularly lavender, result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, better concentration, and reduced anxiety.
In one study, people who received a massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than those who received a simple massage without lavender oil. So stock up on lavender oil and diffuse it in your bedroom oasis for increased relaxation and a break from daily stress!
You only have to flirt with the idea of healthy eating to know a little about superfoods; even if it’s just enough to feel guilty about the lack of #kale in your Chipotle. If you’re a total rookie, you only need to understand that they’re a seriously hyped, wondrous group of edibles—such as #kale, #chia, and #acai—that wellness insiders promise can basically solve all of your life issues. Whether you’re stressed out, struggling to get a full night of sleep, or fighting off an illness, there’s a superfood for that.
The latest items to earn super status are herbs, a food group wellness insiders are touting as the next ultra-healthy ingredient, and one that’s primed to trend in a major way during 2016. Perhaps you’ve spotted #superherbs on Instagram lately, or noticed wellness blogs hail the tasty ingredient as brilliantly potent, but this isn’t any health fad—even experts agree herbs have their benefits.
Lee Holmes is a holistic nutritionist and Instagram sensation, meaning she completely gets social media wellness trends. According to her, the buzzy “superherb” term is being used to describe particularly nutrient-dense herbs. “Superherbs are super powered immune-boosting herbs that are high in nutritional value and originate from all over the world. They contain properties that can aid natural healing in the body,” she explained.
Ahead, we’re breaking down seven superherbs tipped to trend this year—and every single one’s packed with health benefits. Yep, even some of your everyday, garden-variety herbs boast potent health properties.
If you’ve never tasted it, think of a subtle but slightly sweet flavor, and you’re halfway there. Holmes explained that this Chinese herb can help stimulate the immune system (because winter), help out with any niggling digestion issues, and give your metabolism a kick. “Astragalus helps to reduce stomach acidity and increase the body’s metabolic rate. It’s also a good herb which can promote the elimination of waste material and help digestion,” Holmes explained.
If you’re looking for a post-holiday detox, consider adding schizandra berry to your next smoothie. “It’s a liver cleanser and antiviral herb used in Chinese medicine,” Holmes explained.
Probably the most timely of the bunch, licorice root is the MVP of immune-boosting superherbs thanks to a substance called glycyrrhizin. “Glycyrrhizin has been shown to be effective against various flu viruses,” Holmes said. She also warned that licorice can interfere with some medications, so it’s a smart idea to check with your doctor before eating it regularly.
Turmeric started having a major moment in 2015, with celebrities like Karolina Kurkova swearing by the healthy herb. It turns out that the buzz is completely valid: Turmeric is intensely anti-inflammatory and packed with antioxidants.
Rosemary and garlic
Chances are you already eat both of these common herbs regularly—well, good, because according to dietitian Marie Spano, they might actually be able to help prevent cancer when used alongside cooked meat. “When used in a marinade or incorporated into ground beef, chicken, or turkey patties, both herbs help decrease the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds produced during cooking that are known as cancer-causing compounds in animals, and suspected human carcinogens,” she said.
Ginger’s a great herb to eat when you’re exercising heavily, as it can help the body to recover after a big workout. “Just two grams of ginger consumed daily will help decrease muscle soreness due to hard bouts of exercise. Plus, ginger is essential for calming an upset stomach or motion sickness,” Spano elaborated.
Chili, jalapeño, and cayenne peppers
According to Spano, spicy foods like chili, jalapeños, and cayenne are herbs you want when trying to lose weight. “The active compound found in hot chilis, jalapeños, and cayenne stimulate calorie burning,” Spano said.