10 Delicious Herbs and Spices With Powerful Health Benefits

10 Delicious Herbs and Spices With Powerful Health Benefits

The use of herbs and spices has been incredibly important throughout history. Many were celebrated for their medicinal properties, well before culinary use. Modern science has now shown that many of them do indeed carry remarkable health benefits. Here are 10 of the world’s healthiest herbs and spices, supported by research.

1. Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Has a Powerful Anti-Diabetic Effect

Cinnamon is a popular spice, found in all sorts of recipes and baked goods.

It contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde, which is responsible for cinnamon’s medicinal properties . Cinnamon has potent antioxidant activity, helps fight inflammation and has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

But where cinnamon really shines is in its effects on blood sugar levels.

2. Sage Can Improve Brain Function and Memory

Sage gets its name from the Latin word Salvere, which means “to save.”

It had a strong reputation for its healing properties during the middle ages, and was even used to help prevent the plague.

Current research indicates that sage may be able to improve brain function and memory, especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by a drop in the level of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain. Sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine.

3. Peppermint Relieves IBS Pain and May Reduce Nausea

Peppermint has a long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy.

As is the case with many herbs, it is the oily component that contains the agents responsible for the health effects.

Many studies have shown that peppermint oil can improve pain management in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS .

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.

4. Turmeric Contains Curcumin, a Substance With Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color.

It contains several compounds with medicinal properties, the most important of which is curcumin. Curcumin is a remarkably powerful antioxidant, helping to fight oxidative damage and boosting the body’s own antioxidant enzymes .

This is important, because oxidative damage is believed to be one of the key mechanisms behind ageing and many diseases. Curcumin is also strongly anti-inflammatory, to the point where it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs .

Given that long-term, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease, it is not suprising to see that curcumin is linked to a variety of health benefits.

5. Holy Basil Helps Fight Infections and Boosts Immunity

Not to be confused with regular basil or thai basil, holy basil is considered a sacred herb in India. Studies show that holy basil can inhibit the growth of a range of bacteria, yeasts and molds.

One small study also found that it can boost function of the immune system by increasing certain immune cells in the blood .

6. Cayenne Pepper Contains Capsaicin, Which Helps Reduce Appetite and May Have Anti-Cancer Properties

Cayenne pepper is a type of chili pepper used to prepare spicy dishes.

The active ingredient in it is called capsaicin, which has been shown to reduce appetite and increase fat burning in many studies . For this reason, it is a common ingredient in many commercial weight loss supplements.

One study found that adding 1 gram of red pepper to meals reduced appetite and increased fat burning in people who did not regularly eat peppers.

However, there was no effect in people who were accustomed to eating spicy food, indicating that a tolerance to the effects can build up.

7. Ginger Can Treat Nausea and Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Ginger is a popular spice used in several forms of alternative medicine. Studies have consistently shown that 1 gram or more of ginger can successfully treat nausea.

This includes nausea caused by morning sickness, chemotherapy and sea sickness. Ginger also appears to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and can help with pain management .

One study in subjects at risk for colon cancer found that 2 grams of ginger extract per day decreased markers for colon inflammation in the same way as aspirin.

8. Fenugreek Improves Blood Sugar Control

Fenugreek was commonly used in Ayurveda, particularly to enhance libido and masculinity. While its effects on testosterone levels are inconclusive, fenugreek does seem to have beneficial effects on blood sugar.

It contains the plant protein 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which can improve the function of the hormone insulin.

9. Rosemary Can Help Prevent Allergies and Nasal Congestion

The active ingredient in rosemary is called rosmarinic acid. This substance has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion.

In a study with 29 individuals, both 50 and 200 mg doses of Rosmarinic acid were shown to suppress allergy symptoms.

10. Garlic Can Combat Sickness and Improve Heart Health

Throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its medicinal properties . We now know that most of these health effects are due to a compound called allicin, which is also responsible for garlic’s distinct smell.

Garlic supplementation is well known for combatting sickness, including the common cold. If you often get colds, then adding more garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.

There is also convincing evidence for beneficial effects on heart health.

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