It was tough to limit the spices and herbs we use to just 10 since every herb and spice has some medicinal benefit. Here are the ones we most frequently add into our daily dishes. See how you can incorporate them into your daily diet, too.
- Parsley: Parsley is a well-known diuretic so it works well to relieve the bloating associated with menstruation or after a heavy meal. Research shows that it is high in carboxylic acid which can bind to heavy metals like mercury and remove such toxins from the body. It contains high levels of chlorophyll and works as a great breath freshener and blood builder. It is a powerful therapeutic aid for the optic nerves, brain and sympathetic nervous system. I grow lots of it in my garden to keep plenty on hand for my green smoothies. Just add a handful anytime you make your green drink. It will add value to your health!
- Dill: Dill has been used to soothe the digestive tract and treat heartburn, nervous stomach, colic and gas for thousands of years. In fact, the word dill comes from the Old Norse word dilla, meaning to lull or soothe. Scientists found that dill’s limonene works just as well as prescription antibiotics at killing harmful intestinal bacteria such as E. coli.
The curative effect of the seeds are significant because of it’s potent essential oils. Research has shown that dill seed has significant gastric mucosal protective effects so it can benefit people with IBS and those who produce excess acid leading to reflux.
- To help with bloating, gas or even insomnia, try this simple remedy: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of crushed dill seeds. Steep for 5-15 minutes, strain and drink after a meal or before bedtime.
- Another tip to reduce gas and bloating: I enjoy adding freshly chopped dill to my cabbage slaw or into my sauerkraut because it reduces the gas that is often caused by cabbage. I also add it along with parsley and cilantro into a herbal pesto because of its diuretic and other healing qualities.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon contains a compound that kills a variety of illness causing bacteria, including E.coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus Aureas. Research shows that cinnamon can also stop the growth of the Asian flu virus. Cinnamon helps lower blood pressure and regulate menstrual cycles. In addition, cinnamon has a tranquilizing effect that helps reduce anxiety and stress. Today, scientists are exploring its role in helping to regulate blood sugar and lowering cholesterol in heart patients. A good dose is about 500mg or ¼ tsp. a day to get see the benefits for blood sugar regulation. Add it to your smoothie, oatmeal, anything you’re baking, even lamb dishes.
- Garlic: Garlic is a natural antiseptic and powerful cancer fighter with numerous other health benefits. It helps lower cholesterol, reduces plaque, lowers blood pressure, and reduces hardening of the arteries. Try adding a few cloves to your baked chicken, bone broths and fermented sauerkraut to incorporate these healing properties into your diet.
- Fennel: Get rid of persistent flatulence with this healing herb. Fennel is a great remedy reducing digestive air movement and can be taken in many forms (extracts, capsules, oils) of supplements as well as cooked into tasty dishes. I add the fronds and/or seeds to my sauerkraut or cabbage slaw to ease digestion. Don’t forget to add the fronds it to your herbal pesto and try grating the bulb into a salad.
- Ginger: A classic home remedy for nausea, in fact, researchers have found that ginger is more effective against motion sickness than most commonly used over the counter medications. Ginger is used as a pain reliever and it helps lower LDL cholesterol. It is also a powerful antioxidant capable of banishing free radicals. It may also help lower blood pressure, reduce cancer risks, regulate blood flow, relieve pain, and ease arthritis. Ginger is a wonderful digestive aid which stimulates saliva flow and digestive activity, settles the stomach, relieves vomiting, and eases pain from gas and diarrhea.
- Turmeric: This common healing herb contains a chemical known as curcumin which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body, making it a great choice for those suffering from arthritis, tendonitis, and other auto-immune conditions. Also connected as a potential healer of ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease and colon cancer, turmeric is often prescribed by natural health practitioners in doses of ¼ tsp. or 500 mg. 2-3 times daily. Turmeric is also packed with antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, and may help prevent cataracts. There is significant research going on in the cancer community because of its potent chemicals known to kill cancer cells. We use it in our curries or add it to our quinoa for it’s color (i.e. “poor man’s saffron”).
- Black Pepper: Black pepper is one of the oldest and most commonly used spices. It has a stimulating effect on the digestive organs and produces an increased flow of saliva and digestive juices. Black pepper can help relieve indigestion as well as flatulence. It also helps improve absorption and utilization of curcumin (turmeric) which the body normally does not absorb very well. The Journal of Medicinal Food reports that black pepper has potential immune-modulating and anti-tumor activities. Another recent study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that oil and oleoresin extracts of black pepper had strong antioxidant effects coming from its active ingredient, piperine. Piperine protects against oxidative damage, lowers lipid peroxidation in animal models, andenhances the bioavailability of a number of therapeutic drugs and plant chemicals.
- Oregano: Oregano is a powerful natural antiseptic. It contains 19 chemical compounds with antibacterial actions as well as four compounds that soothe coughs. In addition, oregano helps soothe stomach muscles, making it a good digestive aid, and it helps lower blood pressure.
- Rosemary: One of the potential cancer fighting herbs, rosemary is a fragrant, savory choice for all kinds of delicious dishes. Cooking red meats at high heat can create heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are carcinogenic. But pair rosemary which has two big-name antioxidants, and you could help to fight off cancer. Rosemary is also believed to fight breast cancer.
UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library of Herbs and Spices Los Angeles, CA 90095-1798
Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J., Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, New York 1971.