Healthy eating doesn’t just start and end with the main ingredients you use. Herbs and spices not only lend heightened flavor profiles to a dish, they also lend a load of amazing health benefits as well. While the list of healing herbs and spices is vastly expansive, I’ve included twelve of the most common, versatile and easy to obtain herbs and spices that most people can find readily at their grocery store, natural food store and farmers markets across the states, as well as most other countries around the world.
When using herbs and spices, choose organic as much as you can, and only purchase in quantities that you’ll use within 3-6 months. Herbs and spices that sit in the back of your kitchen shelf for years on end will have lost most of their flavor, and the compounds within each of the herbs and spices that provide you with all those healing health benefits will have long since dissipated. So, choose organic and fresh, and purchase in quantities that are relative to the frequency that you’ll be using them. Below is just a smidgen of the wide range of health benefits each of these herbs and spices has to offer.
Black Pepper – Curbs Heartburn: When black pepper stimulates the taste buds, it increases the stomach’s secretion of hydrochloric acid. This substance is necessary for the digestion of food, and speeds the breakdown of proteins and other food components to prevent heartburn and indigestion.
Cayenne – Eases Congestion: This peppers fiery capsaicin impedes the action of substance P, a neuropeptide that’s linked to inflammation in the sinuses. Additionally, capsaicin thins mucus so it can more easily be cleared from nasal passages.
Cinnamon – Prevents UTI’s: German researchers discovered that cinnamon’s antimicrobial oil ‘cinnamaldehyde’ kills 99.5 % of E.coli bacteria (a leading cause of UTI’s) in the urinary tract. The spice has also been shown to eradicate Candida albicans, the bug behind most yeast infections.
Cloves – Rev Up Metabolism: The trace mineral manganese in cloves enhances thyroid function by speeding the conversion of the inactive hormone thyroxine to the active triiodothyronine. This results in faster fat burn, extra energy and a brighter disposition.
Coriander – Lowers Cholesterol: These seeds increase the activity of plasma lecithin cholesterol acyltransferase, an enzyme that is responsible for the breaking down of cholesterol so it can be flushed from the body. Researchers in India report that this can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 60%.
Cumin – Boosts Energy: Smoky tasting cumin is rich in iron, a mineral that effectively combats fatigue by stimulating the production of red blood cells. Plus, cumin’s anti-inflammatory compound ‘cuminaldehyde’ inhibits the buildup of harmful protein deposits in the brain, giving you a natural boost of mental energy as well.
Curry – Soothes Achy Joints: The curcumin in curry inhibits the body’s production of prostaglandin E2, an inflammatory compound that over-sensitizes nerves. According to German researchers, this blunts joint and muscle pain as effectively as prescription medications, without the dangerous side effects.
Fennel – Relieves Bloating: Fennel’s antispasmodic compound ‘anethole’ hinders painful contraction in the intestinal muscles. Research at St. Petersburg State Medical Academy in Russia suggest that eating fennel seeds both before and after meals, can soothe chronic stomach cramps and bloating by up to 65%
Garlic – Enhances Immune System Function: This favorite pungent herbs contains allicin, a powerful antimicrobial compound that naturally stimulates immune cells to do their job in fighting and preventing infection, illness and disease. Studies prove over and over again, regularly consuming garlic not only helps you get over common illness such as colds and flu’s in half the time, they also help you from catching one in the first place.
Ginger – Effective Nausea Relief: The compounds gingerols and shogaols found in ginger posses heat-inducing properties that work to calm intestinal muscle spasms. Medical research has proven that ginger works as effectively as motion-sickness drugs in alleviating and preventing nausea, without dangerous side effects.
Mustard Seeds – Improve Sleep Quality: Sharp, spicy mustard seeds are a good source of tryptophan. This amino acid is a necessary precursor of melatonin, a hormone that binds to the sleep-regulating sites in the brain, quickly normalizing the body’s natural circadian rhythm (sleep and awake cycle).
Paprika – Soothes Headaches: Most people are surprised to learn that this spice is high in pain-relieving salicylic acid, the active ingredient found in aspirin. Research shows that a daily serving (1/4 teaspoon) of this spice may alleviate chronic low-grade headaches better than a standard dose of aspirin, and without the dangerous side effects and rebound headaches that are typical of frequent aspirin users.
Herbs and spices don’t just add flavor to your favorite vegetarian and vegan dishes, these (any so many more) healing herbs and spices offer a whole lot of health and well-being as well.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews