Monday, 20 May 2019

Potent Health Benefits of 15 Common Herbs and Spices

We use herbs and spices to enhance our food’s flavor. But often they’re doing so much more for us behind the scenes. Here are some powerful health benefits of 15 common herbs and spices.


If you have an herb garden, odds are you’re growing some basil. This aromatic herb adds a flavorful — and nutritious — punch to many recipes. “Basil is a powerful antioxidant and a rich source of calcium, potassium and iron,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “One teaspoon supplies 85 percent of your daily vitamin K intake.” Plus, basil is a popular remedy for nausea and bug bites, according to Healthline. And some research suggests it can help reduce memory loss, combat depression, support stroke recovery, lower blood pressure and more.


Cayenne and other chili peppers contain an ingredient called capsaicin. This gives them their spice — and some of their health benefits. “Capsaicin reduces the number of pain signals sent to your brain,” Johns Hopkins Medicine says. “The result? You don’t register as much discomfort.” This can help people with arthritis and nerve damage due to diabetes. Furthermore, research has indicated capsaicin can help with weight loss, and it might have anti-cancer effects, according to Healthline.


Cinnamon is an extremely versatile ingredient used in recipes from sweet pumpkin spicelattes to savory chili. And it offers a variety of health benefits, as well. “Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, a phytochemical that may fight viruses, lower blood sugar and ward off diabetes, lower cholesterol, and protect against neurodegenerative diseases,” according to Harvard Medical School.


Cloves probably make you think of the holidays. But you might want to start using them a little more frequently. “The spice is loaded with antioxidant power,” Harvard Health Blogsays. “Research comparing clove with more than 1,100 other foods found that it had three times the antioxidants of the next highest source, dried oregano.” Cloves also have natural anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. And one study found a compound in cloves was 29 times more effective than aspirin in preventing blood clots. 


Coriander is made from seeds that grow cilantro plants. And as a seed, it has a different nutrient profile from the leaves people also eat. “Cilantro leaves have much higher levels of vitamins, but lower levels of minerals,” Healthline says. “Conversely, coriander seeds have lower levels of vitamins, but far more minerals.” Still, the two share some potential health benefits. Some promising studies show they might help reduce inflammation, lower your risk for heart disease, lower blood sugar and fight infections. But more research still must be done on this plant.


Garlic is difficult to categorize, but it’s typically used like an herb or a spice. Regardless of what you call it, this is one seriously potent bulb. “Researchers have linked garlic intake with keeping blood vessels flexible, especially in women,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “In addition, studies suggest that eating garlic may reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.” Garlic also might be able to boost the immune system, improve brain and bone health, benefit athletic performance, reduce heavy metals in the body and more, according to Healthline.


Ginger long has been used as a remedy for upset stomachs, and research has verified its effects. “Studies have consistently shown that 1 gram or more of ginger can successfully treat nausea,” according to Healthline. “This includes nausea caused by morning sickness, chemotherapy and sea sickness.” Research also has shown ginger offers anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain and stiffness, especially for those with osteoarthritis. And one study found ginger decreased colon inflammation in people at risk for colon cancer.


Nutmeg is another spice you might only use seasonally but could benefit from year-round. “The spice contains various compounds that boost mood, help relieve pain, and relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure,” according to Harvard Health. “Some research suggests that a nutrient found in nutmeg may help slow cognitive decline in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and promote the recovery of brain tissue following a stroke.”


Oregano brings flavor to a variety of dishes — fresh, dried or as an oil. And even if you eat just a little bit, you’ll still get to enjoy some of its powerful health benefits. Oregano is high in antioxidants, which can fight diseases, such as cancer, and help decrease inflammation in the body, according to Healthline. Plus, test-tube studies have shown oregano has properties that fight bacteria and viruses, but more research still must be done to see how this could impact humans.


“Paprika can be made from any number of ground, dried red peppers, such as red bell peppers or chili peppers,” Harvard Medical School says. Thus, like cayenne, it’s also rich in capsaicin — which helps to reduce pain, among other benefits. Paprika also might decrease your risk for cancer and heart disease, help upset stomachs and boost the immune system.


It’s time to stop thinking of parsley as just a throw-away garnish. “This herb is a brilliant burst of green — chock-full of health benefits that you’ll miss out on if you banish it to the edge of your plate!” Cleveland Clinic says. “It offers vitamin A carotenoids, which protect eye health, and vitamin K, which not only preserves blood health but also prevents excessive bleeding.”


Peppermint is another herb that has a long history of medicinal use — especially for upset stomachs. And science has concurred with these applications. “Many studies have shown that peppermint oil can improve pain management in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS,” according to Healthline. “It appears to work by relaxing the smooth muscles in the colon, which relieves pain experienced during bowel movements. It also helps to reduce abdominal bloating, which is a common digestive symptom.” Plus, some research suggests aromatherapy using peppermint can have anti-nausea effects.


Rosemary has a wonderfully herbaceous scent that’s often used in aromatherapy to improve mood. And inhaling it can benefit your nose in some other ways, as well. “The active ingredient in rosemary is called rosmarinic acid,” according to Healthline. “This substance has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion.” Plus, the polyphenols in rosemary can “reduce bacteria responsible for bloating and poor digestion,” Cleveland Clinic says. And rosemary’s phytonutrients can boost the immune system.

14. SAGE

Sage is botanically known as “salvia officinalis,” which comes from the Latin word “salvere,” meaning “to save.” And that’s incredibly appropriate, as sage has been used since ancient times to save people from all sorts of ailments. Sage is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, and studies have linked it to improved brain function, a lower cancer risk and lower cholesterol, Healthline says. It also has antimicrobial properties that can improve oral health. And it might be able to reduce menopause symptoms, as well as blood sugar levels.


Turmeric has been gaining notoriety lately for its anti-inflammatory properties. “One of the components of turmeric is a substance called curcumin,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Research suggests it may reduce inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and depression.” It also is helpful for people with arthritis and other pain and swelling. And it might even have some cancer-fighting properties.

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