Spice up your life
Herbs and spice are botanically classified as fruits and vegetables. They offer an even higher level of antioxidants since they no longer contain the water that makes up a significant part of fresh produce and additionally spices and herbs also are rich in phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, flavonoids and other phenolics, giving them more powerful disease fighting properties, vitamins, and nutrients than most fruits and vegetables.
Many studies have been done on the positive health benefits of spices, and results show that certain spices contain incredible levels of vitamins, anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants and natural pain killers. So just a small amount of spices and herbs in a normal healthy balanced diet could bring benefits.
Coriander is one of the oldest herbs and spices on record, it was mentioned in the Bible, and the seeds have been found in ruins dating back to 5000 B.C. The name comes from the Greek word koris, meaning a stinky bug. This is no doubt a reference to the strong aroma given off by the cilantro plant leaves when they are bruised. Coriander seeds have been used for thousands of years as a digestive aid. The herb can be helpful for some people with irritable bowel syndrome, as it calms intestinal spasms that can lead to diarrhoea. Coriander seeds yield cilantro which is also known as Chinese parsley, a staple herb in Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian cooking. Its essential oil appears to fight bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella. Studies in animals have shown there could be potential cholesterol-reducing benefits.
Cinnamon is one of the most powerful healing spices with its distinctive flavour contains antioxidants that can prevent tissue damage, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, fight bacteria and yeasts, and boost brain functioning. As little as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon a day could cut triglycerides and total cholesterol levels by 12 to 30 percent. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, shown to fight E. coli, among other types of bacteria. It also contains the super antioxidant glutathione and helps improve circulation. Recent research has shown that it’s rich in antioxidants called polyphenols—another reason it’s good for your heart. It’s also high in fibre and can reduce heartburn in some people.
Chilli peppers contain capsaicin, the oily compound which is the active ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter creams, ointments, and patches for arthritis and muscle pain; it’s also used for treating shingles pain and diabetes-related nerve pain. Chilli peppers have anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidants that strengthen the heart, fight off disease, and can even burn fat, apparently speeding up your calorie-burning furnace for a couple of hours after eating. Studies find that it also has some anticancer properties, and researchers are exploring its potential as a cancer treatment. In a study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, research showed that people with diabetes who ate a meal containing liberal amounts of chile pepper required less post-meal insulin to reduce their blood sugar, suggesting the spice may have anti-diabetes benefits.
Oregano is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin K, which is important for improving the body’s ability to fight off infections and for improving bone density and blood clotting. This herb has strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been traditionally used to treat gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders, urinary tract problems and menstrual cramping.
Parsley contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folic acid, and beta-carotene and studies have shown that it can fight cancerous cells and prevent harmful build up in the arteries.
Mustard is made from the seeds of a plant in the cabbage family, a strongly anticancer group of plants. It contains compounds that studies suggest may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Mustard was traditionally used in chest plasters to break up congestion and a mustard compress also brings more blood to the fingers of people with Raynaud’s disease, a circulatory problem that causes frigid fingers. Mustard is also said to stimulate appetite by increasing the flow of saliva and digestive juices. A bit of mustard powder added to a footbath helps kill athlete’s foot fungus.
The combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in cloves gives many health benefits, from boosting protection from heart disease to helping stave off cancer, as well as slowing the cartilage and bone damage caused by arthritis. Compounds in cloves, like those found in cinnamon, also appear to improve insulin function. Also good for toothache, by putting a couple of whole cloves in your mouth, letting them soften a bit, then bite on them gently with good molars to release their oil. Clove oil has a numbing effect in addition to bacteria-fighting powers.
Thyme has strong anti-bacterial and anti-microbial action, that is beneficial in the treatment of bacterial respiratory infections, acne and candida. This herb may also help reduce high blood pressure and may offer protection from breast and colon cancer.
Rosemary contains high levels of antioxidants and has anti-microbial properties too. It has been traditionally used to boost memory and concentration, and to relieve stress, making it a great herb for students. This herb can also improve circulation, ease indigestion, heartburn and wind, and can be used topically to help stimulate hair growth.
Nutmeg which is the seed of an evergreen tree and mace which is the covering of the seed, have strong antibacterial properties. It’s been found to kill a number of bacteria in the mouth that contribute to cavities. Nutmeg contains eugenol, a compound that may benefit the heart. The nutmeg’s active ingredient Myristicin has also been shown to inhibit an enzyme in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease and to improve memory in mice, and researchers are currently studying its potential as an antidepressant.
Sage is the herb known as a memory enhancer and has been shown in some lab studies to protect the brain against certain processes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. In at least one human study, a sage-oil concoction improved the mood of participants, increasing their alertness, calmness, and contentedness. In a British study, healthy young adults performed better on word recall tests after taking sage-oil capsules. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well as anticancer actions and shows potential as a diabetes treatment. It appears to boost the action of insulin and reduce blood sugar. As a result, sage is sometimes called nature’s metformin since it performs like the common anti diabetes drug. Some research has already suggested that sage supplements may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Cumin is high in iron and vitamin C so it will help support healthy immune function to fight colds and flu and other infections. It helps to improve digestion, and has anti-fungal properties. Cumin can also help the liver detoxify and can help relieve insomnia.
So by spicing up your dishes, you will avoid adding excess amounts of salt and sugar to your food and you could be adding years to your life, warding off illnesses like the cancer, high blood pressure, and even the common cold.