Top 10 Herbs & Spices for Health & Healing
Many foods have healing or disease fighting properties, as well as being a great way to add extra colour, depth and flavour to meals, without increasing the calorie content. Here's my top ten...
1. Basil - Basil is a very effective anti-inflammatory herb with extraordinary healing benefits that work for arthritis, allergies, and inflammatory bowel conditions, to name a just a few. In addition, basil helps fight harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning including: Listeria, Staph, and E. coli O:157:H7.
Basil is also an excellent source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that prevents free radical damage. Free radical damage is one of the primary causes of heart disease, cancer, and many other serious health conditions, as well as aging. Because of its dark green colour, it
is an excellent source of vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, which is good for the bones. It is also a great source of iron, manganese, vitamin C and potassium. Use both fresh basil and dried basil generously in your foods to maximize it's benefits.
2. Cinnamon - This ancient spice has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice.
Cinnamon is highly effective at helping to stabilize blood sugar levels, making it very effective for those with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). In one study of people with type 2 diabetes, just two teaspoons a day reduced blood sugar as much as 20-30%, as well as lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Cinnamon also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and helps relieve pain and stiffness in muscles and joints, including arthritis. Cinnamon has a positive effect on brain function, and smelling cinnamon, or chewing cinnamon flavored gum, can possibly help improve memory and attention. Cinnamon also reduces inflammation in blood vessels that leads to atherosclerosis and heart disease, as well as having antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Try cinnamon in your smoothies, yogurt, healthy baking recipes, oatmeal, mixed with berries, or as a healthy addition in your coffee or tea.
3. Cayenne - This hot spice not only heats up your dishes, it heats up your body and can raise your metabolism, helping you burn fat faster. And an interesting research study showed that when a person consumed an appetizer with red pepper flakes, they ate 15% less food. And for those of you who avoid cayenne because you think it bothers your stomach, cayenne pepper is actually healing to stomach tissues, it stimulates digestive enzymes, and helps prevent stomach ulcers. Just don’t eat it on an empty stomach
Cayenne reduces LDL blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and decreases the formation of harmful blood clots, all of which prevent heart attacks and strokes. And, cayenne is a very effective anti-inflammatory and pain remedy for everything from headaches to arthritis and sore muscles, as well as clearing nasal congestion and boosting immunity.
4. Cloves - Cloves have a unique sweet and spicy flavour, but also contain powerful natural medicine. Cloves have strong antiseptic and germicidal ingredients that help fight infections, relieve digestive problems, and arthritis pain. One of cloves’ best known uses is its ability to relieve tooth and gum pain
5. Cumin - Cumin is another spice that is especially high in antioxidants, but cumin is known for being especially good for digestion. It stimulates the gallbladder and pancreas to secrete enzymes and bile that break down food into usable nutrients your body can use. Cumin also helps detoxify the body, and is highly effective for respiratory disorders like asthma and bronchitis.
Cumin, like cinnamon, helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which means cumin is great for diabetics or pre-diabetics, and it means less chance of weight gain and excess body fat. Cumin has been proven to work as well as some commonly used diabetic drugs at regulating insulin and glycogen. Cumin is also a very good source of iron, vitamin C and vitamin A, which benefit the immune system.
6. Turmeric - Turmeric’s yellow-orange pigment, curcumin, is the main active ingredient in this super spice. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory benefits are actually comparable to drugs like hydrocortisone and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines like Advil and Motrin. But, unlike the drugs, curcumin is not toxic at all.
Curcumin is more effective slowing down the development of Alzheimer’s disease than many medications, because it decreases inflammation and oxidation in the brain. This spice also speeds up the recovery time from strokes as well. Turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin, are also highly effective against diseases like irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, and arthritis. Turmeric also improves liver function, lowers homocysteine and prevents heart disease.
Most importantly, turmeric is one of the most potent anti-cancer spices that helps protect you. Turmeric and it's derivatives are currently being studied in alternative cancer treatments. Using black pepper along with turmeric (I use this combo in my eggs almost daily) helps to increase the absorption of turmeric's curcumin in the body.
7. Rosemary - Rosemary contains active ingredients that are potent antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory agents. Rosemary has long been known to improve concentration, boost memory, and lift depression. Rosemary also strengthens the immune system, improves circulation, stimulates digestion, and fights cancer, as well.
Rosemary is highly effective for respiratory problems including asthma, chest congestion, and respiratory infections. While rosemary adds a delicious savoury flavour to meat dishes, it also helps digestion by stimulating the gallbladder to release bile as well. Rosemary will protect your body against harmful carcinogenic toxins and prevents colon cancer, stomach, breast, and lung cancer.
8. Ginger - Ginger is VERY powerful for your health! Ginger contains over 25 different antioxidants, which makes it extremely effective at fighting free radicals in many different body systems. Ginger is best known for its ability to reduce nausea and vomiting, as well as motion sickness. In fact, ginger may even be more effective than Dramamine, one of the most common drugs used for motion sickness. And because ginger does not have harmful side effects like many drugs, it is very good for nausea from pregnancy. Studies actually show that just 1 gram of ginger before surgery is more effective than the standard anti-nausea medication given for post surgical nausea and vomiting.
Ginger is also a soothing remedy for sore throats from colds and flu because of its antiviral properties. Ginger also helps coughs and is an effective expectorant. Try a tea made with hot water simmered with a few slices of ginger and a small amount of honey and lemon for a soothing tonic when you are sick. Because ginger is such a strong anti-inflammatory, it helps reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, and muscle aches. Ginger also fights cancer, reduces cholesterol, and prevents blood clots that lead to strokes or heart disease
9. Oregano - This herb contains an oil that is a very potent anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral agent, rosmarinic acid (also found in rosemary). Oregano oil has been used to treat a wide range of conditions from bacterial and viral infections, to parasites and stubborn fungal infections. Although the oil of oregano is most often used for medicinal purposes, the herb itself can provide many of the same benefits when consumed regularly. Oregano also relieves inflammation, internal or external, and can offer relief from allergies, aches and pain, without side effects
10. Thyme — Thyme’s active ingredient is known for treating bronchitis, sore throats, chest congestion, laryngitis and asthma. Thyme is so effective it is often an ingredient in cough drops and mouthwashes to treat inflammation and infections. Thyme is also effective as a soothing stomach aid to relieve gastritis, indigestion and colic.
Here are some other health benefits of some of the most popular herbs and spices:
• Rosemary, turmeric, ginger and basil are powerful anti-inflammatories.
• Cumin, turmeric, and sage help fight dementia.
• Cayenne, cumin, coriander and cinnamon help to regulate insulin and blood sugar, aiding fat loss.
• Lemon grass, nutmeg, bay leaves and saffron have a calming effect.
• Garlic, mustard seed, hawthorne, and chicory are excellent for the heart.
• Basil and thyme help your skin become softer and smoother.
• Turmeric, garlic, basil, cinnamon, thyme, saffron, garlic and ginger boost the immune system.
• Coriander, rosemary, cayenne, allspice and black pepper can help banish depression.
There are 3 specific spices that I personally believe are so powerful that I always use them in daily meals... and those are: Turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Spice up your life a bit, and enjoy all of those super health benefits!
Note: Always check with your pharmacist & doctor to be sure certain herbs and spices don’t interfere with medications you may be taking—and check with your doctor before you make changes to medications.