Many herbs and spices offer potent healing powers and health benefits. However, many of the bottled spices found at the grocery store have been irradiated, not to mention that they have generally been hanging around on the shelf for quite awhile, which nullifies the health benefits (and, in many cases, the flavor and aroma).
To enjoy the health benefits of herbs and spices, it is best to either grow them at home, or buy them organic and fresh from a natural grocery store or farmers market.
Herbs and spices are a healthier alternative for flavoring food than salt. Refined (“table”) salt may make individuals more prone to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and heart disease.
It can accumulate in body’s tissues, potentially damaging kidney fibers and arteries, hardening the urinary tract, and promoting headaches, pain and tightness. If salt must be used, try mineral-rich sea salt or kelp instead.
Love to mix your herbs? Try a fun combo of fresh ones like basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley in our Sicilian pasta salad!
Or, try making a fermented drinking vinegar at home, with herbs and fresh fruit.
The medicinal use of ginger dates back to ancient times, according to early medical texts in India, China, Greece, Rome and the Middle East. Traditionally, ginger is used for treating flatulent colic and indigestion.
Ginger may be used as a natural treatment for dyspepsia, and a motion sickness preventative.
It’s also known for its beneficial properties in the treatment of morning sickness during pregnancy, for stimulating the appetite, and as a treatment for bronchitis and rheumatic discomforts.
In clinical trials, ginger was found effective for the prevention of seasickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
Onion is beneficial for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, lowering blood clot risk, and cleansing the blood and lungs.
Parsley has a mild flavor that is good for use in soups, stews, and salads, and it make a bright, pretty a garnish (just remember to eat it, rather than leaving it on your plate!).
Bright green parsley, which is a rich source of chlorophyll, is recommended as a powerful breath freshener.
Medicinally, it is good for indigestion as well as treating ailments of the lungs, liver and spleen, and it may help to fight infections of the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract.
This herb is a superior medicinal food, containing high levels of fiber, carotenoids, vitamin C, folate, and other antioxidants.
The leaves and stems also contain generous amounts of calcium and boron, helpful for preventing osteoporosis. Parsley also contains substances similar to those found in broccoli that may act as a cancer preventative.
Rosemary is from the mint family and it is often used to flavor stews, potatoes, soups, vegetables, and lamb dishes. It has a preservative effect when mixed with food that spoils easily.
Medicinally, it helps to prevent food poisoning, fight infection, and ward off headaches.
According to Dr. James Duke, author of “The Green Pharmacy,” rosemary leaf contains dozens of powerful antioxidant compounds, and several compounds that prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain, which may be beneficial for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Rosemary is also recommended for preventing and fighting cataracts, as the herb is known to contain at least four anti-cataract compounds.
The antioxidant benefits of rosemary may also improve vascular disorders, and this can be obtained by regularly drinking rosemary tea, or using generous amounts of the fresh herb in cooking. Read more about rosemary.
Sage has a warm, bitter flavor that pairs well with salads, pickles, and cheeses, as well as various types of meat, particularly turkey. Medicinally, it is good for alleviating canker sores, bleeding gums, sore throats, and lung ailments. Sage contains active volatile oils, tannins, and resin.
Sage leaves also contain ursolic acid, which has antibiotic properties. Herbalists sometimes use sage to treat tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, and throat problems, and a tincture of the herb may be used as a gargle.
One teaspoon of thyme in one cup of water, sweetened with one tablespoon of honey and taken three to four times daily, is said to be good for helping to treat infectious bronchitis, and diarrhea. Read more about cooking with this extraordinary herb.
Turmeric belongs to the same plant family as ginger, and was commonly used in traditional Oriental remedies as a stomach tonic and blood purifier. Turmeric has been used to treat digestive disorders, cardiovascular conditions, and certain cancers.
In addition, the turmeric plant contains numerous volatile oils known to exhibit strong antibiotic properties. For this reason, turmeric is often used topically for certain skin conditions and minor injuries, as a means of preventing bacterial infection.
The active constituent in turmeric is curcumin, which offers the following medicinal and therapeutic properties:
- Acts as an anti-inflammatory by lowering histamine levels, offering relief of arthritis pain
- Acts as an antioxidant, protecting the liver from certain toxins
- Promotes healthy circulation by inhibiting blood platelets from sticking together
- Induces the flow of bile, which breaks down fats
Note: Individuals with stomach or gallbladder conditions should not take turmeric in supplement form. Pregnant women should also avoid taking large amounts, as it may pose a risk of miscarriage. Supplemental use is not recommended while breast feeding. Always seek the advice of a medical professional prior to using any form of supplements.
Find more about growing your own herb garden over on Gardener’s Path.
- Prescription for Dietary Wellness; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC and James F. Balch, M.D.; 1998.
- Anti-aging Manual: The Encyclopedia of Natural Health (3rd ed.); Joseph B. Marion; 2005.
- The Green Pharmacy: Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs; James A. Duke, Ph.D.; 2003.
The staff at Foodal are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!