The reason I wanted to write about the health benefits of spices and herbs was the conversation I had with a friend of mine a few weeks ago.
He was diagnosed with high blood pressure and it got him really worried. When he told the news to his mother she told him to eat a few cloves of fresh garlic every day. He listened to her advice and several weeks later his blood pressure readings dropped, both systolic and diastolic. His story got me thinking of what spices I could introduce to my cooking, so I started reading and researching on the subject, and this is what I found out.
Even before people started cooking with herbs and spices they were appreciated for medicinal properties. Some of the spices were worth their weight in gold.
Researches state that all spices, that originate from herbs, are rich in phytochemicals and help you fight inflammation, have antibacterial and antiviral properties and reduce damage to your body cells. Also, by using more spices You can cut back on less healthy ingredients we use every day, like sugar, salt or fat. It is better to eat the herb or spice instead of taking it in the form of a pill unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
Here is the breakdown of some spices and herbs with mighty health benefits that you probably already have around the house and can start using right away.
1. Lower Your blood sugar levels with Cinnamon
We all have cinnamon in our kitchens, you can find this incredibly healthy spice in all sorts of recipes and baked goods. The powder originally comes from the bark of the tropical tree.
This popular spice has high antioxidant activity, lowers triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, and helps fighting inflammations. But the greatest health benefit of cinnamon is that it is effective in dropping of blood sugar levels by several mechanisms.
It is also a rich source of calcium, iron and manganese.
Traditional uses are in coffee, muffins, cookies and desserts. You can also toss it in your oatmeal or some other breakfast cereal, sprinkle it over roasted vegetables, yoghurt, cottage cheese. Likewise, stir it into protein shakes or in your milk for a soothing evening drink.
2. Peppermint relieves IBS pains
Mint has a long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy. Oily component of peppermint is responsible for its potent medicinal effects.
The traditional medicinal uses for mint are in calming digestive problems, like relieving IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) pains or reducing bloating. Used in aromatherapy it can alleviate nausea. Peppermint oil also repels mosquitos.
People usually consume it as a tea or a cold beverage, but it is also used in cooking for meat dishes and desserts. Peppermint essential oils are used in toothpaste, chewing gum and breath fresheners.
3. Boost your memory with Sage
In middle ages, sage was used to help prevent the plague, so it got its name from the Latin word Salvere, which means “to save.”
Several studies have shown that sage significantly improves brain functions and memory in healthy people, and in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is often consumed in a tea, but in cooking, it goes well with pork, chicken and beef – fatty meat in particular.
In Italy sage is often chopped, mixed with melted butter and stirred into pasta.
4. Holy Basil – Strengthens Your immunity
Holy basil is considered the sacred herb in India and is not to be confused with Thai or regular basil.
Indian basil boosts the immune system by increasing certain immune cells in your blood.
It also inhibits the growth of certain yeasts, moulds and bacteria. In India, it is used in treating anxiety and mild depressions, as well as in treating high blood sugar levels.
5. Natural aspirin – Ginger
This underground stem is used in several forms of alternative and folk medicine.
It helps with nausea, pain management, sore throats and colds, gas and bloating and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. In some mixtures, it is used as a relief for osteoarthritis pains.
Some researchers state that it had a similar effect as aspirin or ibuprofen.
It can be used in sweet and savoury dishes both, in all forms – grated, sliced or sugared.
Combined with honey it makes a wonderful tea. It is also used in soups, marinades and stir fry dishes.
Lately, it is popular in fresh juices and smoothies.
6. Cayenne pepper – Your fat burning rocket
Cayenne Pepper is rich with Capsaicin that makes it hot, that has been shown to increase fat burning and reduces appetite. This substance helps relieve aches and soreness. It also improves circulation and heart health. Many commercial weight loss supplements use it as the main ingredient.
In several animal experiments, it has also shown an anti-cancer potential, but these effects are far from being proven on humans.
Cayenne pepper is a type of chilli pepper that is used to prepare spicy dishes. It can be added to practically any dish, vegetable, meat or sauce.
7. Turmeric fights off Inflammations
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry, butter and cheeses and mustard their yellow colour.
Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric is the most important of several compounds with medicinal properties of this powerful spice.
Inflammation plays a major role in the majority of Western diseases, so turmeric is linked to a variety of health benefits.
Pain relief properties are equal to those of ibuprofen. Studies suggest that it can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, improve brain function, help fight Alzheimer’s and relieve arthritis.
It is a common ingredient in Indian foods, add it in pinches to curry dishes, sauces, soups, salad dressings and marinades.
You can mix it with honey to ease your cough, or add make a tea with honey and lemon.
8. Garlic for heart health and against vampires
The main use for garlic throughout history was not for cooking, but as a medicine.
Now we know that this was because of allicin, the compound responsible for the distinct smell of garlic.
Increase garlic in your diet if you are prone to getting common colds. Beneficial effects on your heart health are proven by convincing evidence.
Some studies have found it to be as effective as the blood pressure lowering remedy. It is a must for those with high cholesterol, supplementation of garlic reduces LDL levels for 10-15%.
Fresh garlic cloves are always the best, but minced, granulated and powdered garlic provides great flavour. You can put garlic in almost anything.
9. Rosemary – Your Mighty Allergy Fighter
Rosemary has some strong anti-inflammatory effects that suppress allergy symptoms and also reduce nasal congestion. The substance that does this is called rosmarinic acid.
Rosemary has a very high concentration of the antioxidant carnosol, that may help with cancer treatment and cholesterol problems.
It is most often used in the soapmaking cause of its lemony and piney scent, and for its ability to rejuvenate blood vessels under the skin.
When you boil it in the water you can use it as an antiseptic.
In the kitchen, it is used to spice up meat dishes, mostly lamb, but you can add it to soups or vegetable dishes.
10. Fenugreek – Help for diabetics
Based on the available evidence, fenugreek can lower blood sugar levels, particularly in diabetics. It can improve the function of the hormone insulin.
It may also benefit cholesterol levels and increase milk production in breastfeeding mothers. Claims that it has an effect on levels of testosterone are inconclusive for the time being.
Seeds and leaves are commonly used in dishes from Central and Southeast Asia. The seeds are roasted and ground and mainly used as a flavouring in curries.
11. Cardamom – Potent toxin remover
Cardamom is the spice made of seeds of several plants native to Indonesia and India.
It is a great source of vitamins like vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin and minerals like manganese, iron and potassium.
Researchers have proven for cardamom to improve circulation, aid digestion, increase the metabolism and reduce spasms. It has diuretic properties that may lower blood pressure.
In alternative medicine, they use cardamom to remove toxins.
In the kitchen, use it to make chai, or add it to your coffee for a great distinct taste. It is a common spice for curry and rice dishes. Grounded cardamom is a great ingredient of a rub for your meat, cause it adds smokey flavour.
12. Cocoa – affordable health bomb
Mayas of Central America were first known to use cocoa, which was introduced to Europe by Spanish conquerors in the 16th century, and became popular as a medicine.
Cocoa powder is made by crushing the cocoa beans and removing cocoa butter, the fat.
Cocoa is rich in polyphenols – especially flavanols, that can improve your health in several ways.
Flavanol-rich cocoa may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, have a blood thinning effect similar to aspirin, reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol.
They support neuron production, improve mood and symptoms of depression and improve symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, boost brain function and blood flow to your brain.
Cocoa is easy to include to your diet with dark, cocoa-rich chocolate, hot/cold cocoa drink, smoothies, puddings, sprinkle over fruit or with granola bars.
13. Cumin – antioxidant on steroids
You might not know, but cumin is the second most used herb in the world after black pepper.
Cumin seeds are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. They improve digestion, build strong bones and improve eyesight. Cumin also lowers blood pressure, increases red blood cell count and may prevent various types of cancer.
Cooks most often use it in Mexican, Middle Eastern or Spanish dishes and in seasonings for tacos or chilli.
14. Star anise
Star anise aka. Chakra Phool is a great source of vitamins A and C and minerals like potassium, copper, iron and manganese.
These seeds improve the circulation and oxygenation of body parts, boost the immune system and alleviates cramps and reduce nausea.
Star anise has a liquorice-like, distinct flavour. It is usually used for culinary purposes in Indian, Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines. It is one of the main ingredients in popular masala chai.
You can use it with fish, chicken, in biryanis and other vegetarian dishes.
15.Parsley – Green treasure trove
Parsley is rich with vitamin C and folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins, then vitamins K and A, potassium and iron.
It reduces bloating, it is also a natural diuretic so it reduces water retention. Parsley helps you fight against allergies, chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
Folic acid in parsley helps protect your blood vessels, Vitamin K is essential for your bones. Vitamin C neutralizes the free radicals in your body. People also use Parsley oil to regulate menstrual flow.
The most common use for parsley is a garnish, but you can use it raw in salads, marinades and sauces. You can find cooked parsley in dishes likes quiche and soup.
16. Clove is a powerhouse of antioxidants
Cloves are aromatic flower buds of a tree originating from Indonesia.
They are high in antioxidants, have antimicrobial properties, fighting off bacteria like E. coli. Cloves compound eugenol may improve liver health.
Some compounds in cloves, like nigericin, may help regulate blood sugar.
They are also good for boosting the immune system, preserving bone health and preventing cancer.
In cooking cloves are versatile, so you can use them for sweet and savoury dishes and drinks.
It goes along great with various meats, especially beef and venison. It is a great addition to a meat stew or casserole, boiled rice, or chilli con carne.
Apples, oranges, plums go great with cloves. I can not imagine a mulled wine or warm punches without cloves.
17.Horseradish – superior to wasabi
Horseradish is s a root vegetable, a member of the mustard family, native to southeastern Europe, but is popular worldwide.
Horseradish soothes the nerves. It has the ability to increase urination and reduce inflammation.
This root boosts the immune system due to its antioxidant compounds. It also helps in stimulating healthy digestion, and Sinusitis.
Horseradish is commonly made into a sauce to serve with meats or fishes. It is grated and mixed with cream or mayonnaise if you want a milder version, or with oil, if you want a hot one.
So, we are at the end of this rather long post on the health benefits of herbs and spices.
Thank you for reading!
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