Nature has given us countless numbers of herbs and spices we can use to enhance the flavor of our food and delight our palates. Most of those same plants also provide many health benefits that we may not know about or which are still being discovered.
Here are some health benefits of herbs and spices commonly found in home kitchens, restaurants, and cookbooks everywhere. Which ones do you use most often, and did you know about their health advantages?
- Sweet basil leaves contain eugenol, citronellol, and linalool, essential oils that have anti-inflammatory properties. This can help balance acid and restore healthy pH levels, which in turn aids digestion.
- These oils also may help reduce the risk of heart disease, inflammatory bowel conditions, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- The antioxidants in sweet basil, including orientin and viceninare, may strengthen the immune system, protect cellular structure, and slow the impact of skin aging.
- The use of basil leave essential oils may help manage anxiety and depression. In fact, basil is considered to be an adaptogen, which means it helps the body reach internal balance and manage stress.
- Basil may help people with diabetes because it may slow the release of sugar in the blood. The essential oil also may reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
- If you have digestive problems basil essential oil may reduce bloating, water retention, and acid reflux.
- Did you know bay leaves are a rich source of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium? One way to enjoy these nutrients is in bay leaf tea: steep 1 tablespoon crushed bay leaves in 8 ounces of boiled water for 5 minutes.
- Bay leaves contain enzymes that may calm indigestion and improve digestion by facilitating the breakdown of proteins.
- Certain organic compounds in bay leaves contain enzymes that may assist in relieving bloating, gas, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Bay leaves may enhance digestion and boost nutrient absorption.
- Cardamom is related to ginger, which is likely why it can be used to help with digestive problems, such as nausea, bloating, heartburn, gas, and more. Drinking a cup of cardamom tea very slowly can relieve stomach issues.
- Try chewing on cardamom leaves or seeds to eliminate bad breath.
- Cardamom is a powerful diuretic. Drinking cardamom tea can help the body eliminate toxins and waste via the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract. One cup a day is suggested.
- The anti-inflammatory properties of cardamom may help protect against chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, and asthma, among others.
- If you want to drop a few pounds, be sure to add a dash or two of cayenne pepper to your dishes. Cayenne may help reduce your appetite as well as boost metabolism.
- You’d think ingesting a hot spice like cayenne would cause stomach ulcers, but it actually helps. The capsaicin helps kill the bacteria that can be the culprits in stomach ulcers.
- Ease cold symptoms by adding a dash of cayenne to your hot tea.
- If you are experiencing arthritis pain, try using a cream that contains capsaicin, the active compound in cayenne.
- Either as a powder, tea, cinnamon stick, or essential oil, a daily dose of cinnamon can help manage type 2 diabetes by regulating blood sugar and reducing blood pressure. That’s because cinnamon contains compounds that can imitate the effects of insulin.
- A face mask made with 3 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon may help stop the bacteria that can cause acne. Combine the two ingredients, apply to your face, and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. Repeat several times a week.
- Make a cinnamon mouthwash to freshen your breath. Boil 5 cinnamon sticks in 8 ounces of water for 5 minutes. Cool and use as a mouthwash. The secret ingredient is cinnamaldehyde, which can kill oral bacteria.
- Cinnamon has antioxidant powers, which may help reduce oxidative stress that can damage cells and result in disease.
- A compound called cinnamate in cinnamon may help reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood. Although research is ongoing, some studies show that cinnamon may help.
Coriander leaf (cilantro)
- Coriander leaves are rich in vitamin A, which can help improve vision. This vitamin is joined by vitamins C and E as well as carotenoids, all antioxidants that may be effective in managing vision problems such as conjunctivitis and macular degeneration.
- To help manage diabetes symptoms, enjoy a small glass of coriander juice with fresh lemon juice. The protein and fiber in the leaves may control appetite and regulate blood sugar levels.
- Your bones will appreciate the calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium in coriander leaves. Add the leaves to salads and sandwiches to help boost bone density.
- Stomach problems such as ulcers may be remedied by ingesting coriander leaves, which have anti-inflammatory properties. The leaves also can boost the levels of gastric mucosal secretions, which protect the stomach wall from damaging acids.
- You may improve liver function and help with liver problems such as jaundice if you enjoy coriander. The leaves are rich in alkaloids and flavonoids that can help eliminate toxins from the body.
- Cumin has demonstrated antibacterial and antiviral effects, which may be helpful during cold and flu season, as well as year-round.
- If you want some weight loss help, try adding cumin to your diet. A study found that overweight women who consumed less than a teaspoon of ground cumin daily experienced weight loss, reduced body mass index, and a lower percentage of body fat than those not taking cumin.
- Cumin may help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Individuals who took cumin essential oil daily showed a significant reduction in pain, bloating, nausea, and painful bowel movements.
- Indigestion and flatulence also can be relieved by adding cumin powder to the diet.
- Want better cholesterol numbers? Taking less than a teaspoon daily of cumin powder may reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
- Cumin essential oil has been shown in one study to reduce blood sugar levels as well as complications of diabetes.
- The fern-like leaves of dill contain components that help fight free radicals and are also chemoprotective, which means they may neutralize certain carcinogens, such as benzopyrenes found in smoke.
- Boost bone health by including dill in your diet, as it’s high in calcium and also contributes to magnesium and manganese levels.
- Dill volatile oil has antibacterial properties. A cup of dill tea several times a week may help reduce bacterial overgrowth.
- Chew on this: munching on fennel seeds may help keep your blood pressure in check. That’s because they are very rich in potassium, a mineral that works to control blood pressure and heart rate.
- If water retention is a problem, then drinking fennel tea may help. Fennel is a diuretic that helps flush out excess fluids and toxins.
- Certain oils in fennel, including anethole, estragole, and fenchone, can help with bloating, indigestion, and constipation because they have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. A daily cup of fennel tea may help with these symptoms.
- Fennel seeds are a source of vitamin A, which is critical for good vision.
- You may know ginger as a spice that helps relieve nausea and motion sickness, but it also is a natural anti-inflammatory, which can help relieve arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia, and other inflammatory conditions.
- Did you exercise just a little too much? Ginger can help relieve joint and muscle pain associated with exercise. Add ginger to your post-workout meal for the most benefit.
- You can ward off indigestion, bloating, and gas if you enjoy a cup of ginger tea after eating. The spice can help your stomach empty faster.
- Are you suffering from menstrual cramps? Ginger to the rescue! Research has shown that using ginger can ease pain from menstrual cramps as effectively as ibuprofen.
- Need to lower your cholesterol levels? Adding a few tablespoons of powdered ginger to your diet daily may help bring those levels down.
- Ginger can offer some blood sugar control by reducing fasting blood sugar levels and promoting healthy ones.
- Your digestive system will thank you after you drink 2 to 4 cups of marjoram tea. It’s said to calm the stomach, increase the efficiency of digestion, eliminate flatulence, soothe stomach cramps, and relieve diarrhea and constipation.
- Marjoram has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, which means it may be helpful in fighting food poisoning, flu, common cold, staph infections, measles, and mumps.
- For better heart health, marjoram tea can be your friend. It may lower blood pressure, reduce the accumulation of cholesterol in your blood vessels, and enhance blood circulation by dilating the arteries.
- If inflammatory conditions are bothering you, marjoram may provide some relief. Asthma, migraines, fever, sinus headaches, and body aches may improve after drinking marjoram tea.
- Marjoram is also used for its calming effect, which means it may help with insomnia, anxiety, depression, and stress. Drink marjoram tea daily to help with these challenges.
- Menthol, the active oil in mint, has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities that can help relieve indigestion and soothe nausea.
- Mint’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a possible remedy for asthmatic patients. The herb can help relieve congestion and relax the air passages, although too much mint may irritate them.
- Help banish bad breath by chewing on fresh mint leaves. It’s effective because it inhibits bacterial growth in the mouth.
- Try breathing in mint essential oil to relieve nasal and chest congestion. You can use a diffuser or humidifier, or simply add the oil to a bowl of hot water and breathe in the steam while holding a towel over your head.
- The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities of mint can help with acne. Combine crushed mint leaves and honey into a paste and apply to your skin. Leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Mint has a high level of salicylic acid, which can help fight acne.
- If you need an energy boost, nutmeg may help. It may reduce exhaustion and stress, which can result in more vitality.
- In Chinese medicine, nutmeg oil is used to fight inflammation, muscle pain, achy joints, and arthritis.
- Indigestion, bloating, gas, and other digestion problems can be relieved with nutmeg oil. Drink nutmeg tea once or twice daily to help with these symptoms.
- Bad breath? Nutmeg has antibacterial properties, which makes it helpful for treating bad breath. Add a few drops of the oil to water and squish daily.
- If you are looking for a detox spice, nutmeg may be one answer. It may help clear toxins from your liver and kidneys so they can function better.
- Use a nutmeg scrub to help achieve smoother, healthier skin. Simply mix nutmeg powder with a small amount of raw honey until you have a paste. Apply to irritated skin or acne, let it stay on for 10 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.
- Insomnia and other sleep problems are a significant problem. If you take a pinch of nutmeg in a warm plant-based beverage before you retire, it may help. Nutmeg is high in magnesium, which helps relieve nervous tension and promotes the calming neurotransmitter serotonin.
- Dozens of studies report that oregano essential oil can be used instead of antibiotics for various health problems. The oil can be taken internally when mixed with water or coconut oil. An ingredient called carcavol is the main healing ingredient in oregano.
- If you have ringworm or athlete's foot, add oregano oil to coconut oil and apply it to the affected area daily until it clears.
- Are you dealing with gingivitis? You might try adding a few drops of oregano oil to coconut oil for oil pulling several times a week.
- Oregano contains thymol, an active compound that can help aid digestion and decrease heartburn and discomfort after eating.
- If you are looking for a natural way to fight yeast overgrowth, oregano essential oil is often used for Candida and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
- Because oregano is a potent antioxidant, it can help reduce oxidative damage and prevent aging and carcinogenesis.
- Parsley is more than a decoration on your plate; it’s also a potent antioxidant that is rich in flavonoids, which can help lower the risk of many diseases.
- Arthritis, asthma, and other inflammatory conditions may get some help from parsley from its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Want to reduce lines and wrinkles? The vitamin C in parsley can make collagen, which in turn gives skin strength and structure.
- The vitamin K in just 10 sprigs of parsley meets your daily need for this nutrient. Your bones may thank you since vitamin K can help protect against bone fractures.
- To help prevent feeling bloated and gassy, be sure to include parsley with your meals. A cup of parsley tea after dinner also can help.
- You may never use commercial mouthwash again! Eating parsley can freshen your breath and eliminate bad odors.
- If you are prone to urinary tract infections, include parsley in your diet every day. The plant contains chemicals that can help with these infections as well as bladder and kidney stones.
- Need a brain boost? Rosemary is considered a brain stimulant that may help improve memory, focus, and alertness. In fact, breathing in the aroma of rosemary may help improve your mood, relieve stress, and clear your mind.
- This aromatic herb is rich in antioxidants, which may help boost the immune system.
- Oil of rosemary can be used to treat dandruff, dry scalp, and slow the rate of graying. You can add the oil to your shampoo or simply massage a few drops of the oil mixed with a carrier oil (e.g., coconut, almond, jojoba) into your scalp, let it sit for several minutes, and then rinse out.
- Rosemary tea can help digestion problems, including heartburn, gas, and liver problems.
- The nutrients in rosemary can help protect your skin from sun damage. A daily cup of rosemary tea may be beneficial.
- Sage contains carnosic acid and carnosol, both of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidants properties. Sage oil, for example, can provide relief from sunburn when applied along with a carrier oil. In a 2013 study, sage oil relieved both sunburn and folliculitis.
- Sage has ingredients that can activate molecules that may help fight cholesterol. In one study, people who took 400 to 1,500 milligrams of sage daily as a tea, powder, or supplement experienced lower total and “bad” (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and higher “good” (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
- For those who experience hot flashes and night sweats, an oral supplement of sage (100 mg) has been shown to reduce these and other menopausal symptoms when taken for eight weeks.
- Several studies suggest sage can improve cognitive skills and alertness, as well as mood and short-term memory. Some of this improvement may be due to the rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid found in sage.
- For those who experience digestive challenges, tarragon oil can trigger the body’s natural digestive action, making digestion easier and more effective. Much of the benefit comes from the carotenoids found in this herb.
- Insomnia is a huge problem for many people, and tarragon may be able to help. A cup of tarragon tea before you retire for the evening could result in a better night’s sleep. Thus far there are no scientific studies to support this suggestion, but the anecdotal evidence is there.
- For tooth pain and sore gums, tarragon oil can provide relief. This benefit is credited to the eugenol in the plant.
- Tarragon extract may reduce blood sugar levels and lower total insulin secretion, according to study results published in Journal of Medicinal Food.
- For antimicrobial power, think of thyme oil. In one study, the oil was extremely active against 120 strains of bacteria isolated from people with infections of the oral cavity, genitourinary tract, and respiratory tract. Drinking thyme tea or adding thyme to your diet may be beneficial.
- A little thyme may go a long way to lower blood pressure symptoms and cholesterol. One study found that the extract significantly reduced heart rate and bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol levels.
- Can thyme make you happy? The compound called carvacrol found in the herb has been shown to increase levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These two neurotransmitters are associated with mood.
- Give your immune system a boost with thyme. Animal studies indicate the herb has not only antioxidant effects but also an ability to lower production of some factors that can contribute to chronic diseases.
Herbs and spices are Nature’s gift to healing, whether it’s relieving pain, fighting inflammation, improving mood, aiding digestion, or other benefits that help improve our lives. Be sure to check them out the next time you are looking for a natural way to relieve symptoms.