We all want to eat healthier but still prepare delicious, flavorful meals. Luckily, there are many herbs and spices that help us combine health with taste just inside the pantry door. These nine healthy herbs and spices can help you lead a healthier lifestyle, and many can help reduce pain.
Found in chili peppers and spices such as cayenne, capsaicin can be effective at relieving joint and muscle pain when applied to the affected area as a patch. It may feel painful as it works, but over time it blocks pain-sensing neurotransmitters. In addition to pain-relieving properties, capsaicin also helps to speed up metabolism and burn fat, especially belly fat, the presence of which is a key indicator of health. Capsaicin can suppress appetite and help to slow the accumulation of fat in other areas of the body.
Cinnamon has amazing health benefits for everyone from Type-2 diabetics to athletes. One study showed that not only did cinnamon lower cravings for sugar when added to fruit and tea, but it also lowered blood glucose and blood pressure in those patients with Type-2 diabetes that was difficult to control (see the full study here, and another study that indicates cinnamon’s effectiveness as a treatment for hyperglycemia here). Cinnamon is also packed with anti-oxidants that fight cell damage caused by free radicals in the environment.
Cumin is another wonder spice that helps relieve the inflammation linked to rheumatoid arthritis, lowers blood glucose levels, and utilizes antibacterial properties to fight the development of stomach ulcers. Used prominently in cuisines from Mexico to India, cumin has a host of other health benefits that are supported by new research.
Top to bottom, garlic is one of the most powerful spices in your pantry. Garlic has been used for its anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral effects and has also been linked to heart health, reduced cholesterol levels, and weight loss. Garlic can even be crushed and placed against an aching tooth for temporary pain relief and has also been used to fight the effects of carcinogens in the body. More than just a vampire deterrent!
Ginger is a powerful natural pain reliever for muscle aches and joint pain (two grams of ginger supplement eased muscle soreness by 25% over eleven days) and is also an excellent way to relieve nausea, indigestion, heartburn, and motion sickness. Ginger is also a warming spice that helps improve circulation, helps relieve coughs and chest congestion, and has overall anti-inflammatory properties.
Worried about recent warnings about food-borne illnesses such as E.coli, salmonella, and listeria? Load up your pizza with oregano! Oregano has thymol and carvacol, phytochemicals that act as powerful antimicrobials that can help kill bacteria that causes food-borne illness, and it also has four times the antioxidants of blueberries. Oregano can be used fresh, and some natural mouthwashes contain oregano oil.
Rosemary is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and an excellent source of vitamin E. Additionally, rosemary has been used to treat asthma because it helps reduce the effects of histamines, the chemical that restricts the airway. When taken regularly, rosemary improves liver and kidney function and is helpful to flush toxins out of the body. Some caution is necessary with this herb, though. Some people have had allergic reactions to the powerful oils, and pregnant women are advised to avoid rosemary in large quantities. As a precaution before taking rosemary or consuming it in quantity as oil or a supplement, consult your medical professional.
Thyme contains thymol, a volatile oil that is helpful in fighting chest congestion, bronchitis, coughing, and other respiratory illnesses. Aromatherapists recommend using thyme as a mood-lifting scent, and studies have shown that washing fruits and vegetables in a solution that contains just 1% of thyme oil drops shigella bacteria below detectable levels.
Turmeric is a powerhouse of a spice. There is powerful evidence that curcumin, found in this spice, helps increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in cancer treatment. Research is even indicating that turmeric is an effective agent that suppresses the growth of head and neck cancers. One easy way to reap the health benefits of this spice (and a few others on our list!) is to make a tea of unsweetened coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and honey (add amounts to taste, and certainly play around with proportions). Use turmeric carefully: this spice has also been used as a dye and can turn hands (and teeth!) yellow.
Take a moment to share: what’s your favorite recipe that uses these beneficial herbs and spices?
Image by Steven Jackson Photography via Flickr