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13 Various Herbs and Spices that offer powerful health benefits – and their not so common uses

 


“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”Hippocrates

Though I was born in the city and live in the city, I am a lover of nature and an avid tea drinker. I love finding and sharing new ways to boost my overall health and energy. I have compiled a list of herbs that can be beneficial to overall health with continued use.

Some herbs I’ve known about since I was a little girl and others I have discovered through research and necessity.

Benefits and Uses of Cinnamon (Cinnamomun verum):

True cinnamon tree is a small evergreen tree belonging to the family Lauraceae and is native to Sri Lanka. Its inner bark is used to make cinnamon. Though readily available in this day and age, cinnamon was once rare and valuable and considered a gift fit for a king.

Types of cinnamon:

  • Ceylon Cinnamon, also known as “true” cinnamon.
  • Cassia cinnamon, the most common variety today. It can found at our local supermarkets and generally referred to as cinnamon.

Cinnamon contains the compound cinnamaldehyde, which gives it its odor and flavor. It’s loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols, micro nutrients found in certain plant-based foods such as berries, cloves, nuts and vegetables just to name a few.

Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the risk of heart disease as it helps to reduce cholesterol levels and has been shown to reduce blood pressure. It can naturally regulate your metabolism and give you an energy boost. It’s also well-known for its lowering blood sugar properties.

I make cinnamon tea by boiling a stick or two in about two cups of water for fifteen minutes or until the water changes color, depending on how light or dark I want my tea to be that day. Then, I turn off the fire and let it steep for another five to ten minutes.

I flavor it with a teaspoon of raw honey and a splash of milk. Letting the liquid cool down a bit will make sure that the raw honey retain its properties and thereby its health benefits.

Benefits and Uses of Turmeric (Curcuma Longa):

Turmeric is a herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the ginger family and is native to tropical South Asia. It’s what gives curry its yellow coloring and has been used in India for thousands of years both as food flavoring and as a medicinal herb.

Curcumin is an active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants help to protect the cells in our body from free radicals. Antioxidant rich foods such as fruits, nuts and vegetables are good for your health.

I use turmeric in my daily cooking as well as to make golden milk, a hot beverage that helps me alleviate pain caused by inflammation.

Golden Milk Recipe:

Turmeric paste

  • 1/4 cup of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of water

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan, combine water, turmeric and black pepper.
  • Stir in 1 tsp of water at a time until ingredients thicken to form a paste.
  • Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge. Can be stored for up to five days.

In a small saucepan containing 1 cup of coconut milk, (any non-dairy milk may be used, almond, rice etc.)

  • Whisk 1 tsp of turmeric paste
  • Add 1 tsp of extra-virgin coconut oil
  • Add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • Add 1 tsp of ground ginger (optional)

Stir and mix ingredients until hot. Remove from heat and strain into a cup. Add honey to taste.

I make this recipe 2-3 times a week, especially during the winter months.

Benefits and Uses of Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum):

Originating from the capsicum family, cayenne pepper is derived from hot chili peppers, which originated in Central and South America. Capsicum, the active ingredient in cayenne peppers, is what gives it its spicy flavor.

It also has pain relieving properties. Ingesting cayenne pepper can increase the body’s core temperature and in turn, help burn calories.

Cayenne pepper is a versatile spice and can be used in practically any dish, from your morning scrambled eggs to your dinner of fish filet. Personally I sprinkle some on everything I eat that isn’t sweet.

Benefits and Uses of Ginger (Zingiber officinale):

Ginger is a herbaceous perennial. It originated from China. It belongs to the Zingiberceae family and is closely related to turmeric. Ginger has powerful antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial in long term use.

Growing up, I suffered from motion sickness a lot. My grandma used to give me ginger tea to soothe my nausea. Ginger is widely used as flavoring in foods and beverages.

During long winter months, I frequently drink ginger and cinnamon tea to help soothe my throat and fight off colds.

Benefits and Uses of Rosemary (Rosmarinus oficinalis):

A member of the mint family, rosemary is used mostly as food flavoring. Its full of antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory properties. May be used in aromatherapy to improve concentration.

Rosemary contains carsonic acid, a natural benzenediol abietane deterpene. One benefit of carsonic acid include fighting off damage caused by free radicals on the brain and studies show that it may help prevent brain aging.

As food flavoring, rosemary has a sharp flavor. It can be used fresh or dried. It is preserved very well when the herb is dried.

I frequently add sprigs of rosemary to a bottle of olive oil to infuse the flavor.

Benefits and Uses of Garlic (Allium satirum):

Garlic contains potent medicinal properties and is commonly used in cooking. It contains few calories and is highly nutritious.  Allicin is the critical component in garlic that is released when a clove is crushed and it is beneficial to the circulatory system and the immune system.  If you don’t like the taste of garlic, you can always take a garlic supplement instead.

Habitual garlic consumption can help reduce blood pressure as well as lower the risk of heart disease.

Growing up, my grandma used to make a tea out of garlic peels/skins and cloves, flavored with a pinch of salt. Which she gave me for minor stomach discomfort. To this day, I still make that tea whenever I feel a slight case of indigestion coming.

Benefits and Uses of Basil (Ocimum basilicum):

Used mostly in cooking, basil has some awesome health benefits which include antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. There are various types of basil. Sweet basil is the most available type, commercially. I use it pasta sauce as well as meat flavoring. Basil is also rich in antioxidants and has some anti-aging properties.

Basil contains the following:

  • Vitamin K, which is important for health and the healing of wounds.
  • Manganese, which has strong antioxidant properties.
  • Copper, an essential mineral that plays a role in energy production.
  • Vitamin A, which may lower the risk of certain cancers and supports a healthy immune system.
  • Vitamin C, a strong antioxidant.
  • Calcium, good for strong bones.
  • Folate, also known as folic acid, is essential in the production of red and white blood cells.
  • Iron, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
  • Omega 3, aka fish oil, important in preventing and managing heart disease and
  • Magnesium, important for bone formation.

Benefits and Uses of Nutmeg (Myristica Fragrans):

Nutmeg is a spice that has the ability to detoxify the body, strengthen the immune system and reduce insomnia. Nutmeg has analgesic (pain-relieving) characteristics and is a great additive to many dishes.

It’s high in fiber and can help eliminate toxins from the body.

I like to add a dash of nutmeg grated nutmeg to cream of wheat during the winter months because it gives me a warm feeling. I also add a pinch or two in warm milk to help me fall asleep. Grandma’s recipes at work.

Benefits and Uses of Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum):

Cloves are native to the Maluku Islands, Moluccas in Indonesia. They are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the Myrtaceae family. They can be used whole as well as in its ground down form (powder).

Cloves contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. So it doesn’t just flavor your food, it’s nutritious too. It contains a natural antioxidant called eugenol, which has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has antimicrobial properties, it kills and stops the growth of microorganisms (bacteria, fungus, etc).

Studies show that the compound eugenol may be beneficial to liver health, keep blood sugar under control and may promote bone health.

Benefits and Uses of Star Anise (Illicium verum):

A native to Northern Vietnam and China, star anise tastes slightly bitter and has a licorice like flavor when added to dishes. Not to be confused with anise, star anise derives from the Schisandraceae family while anise derives from the Apiaceae family. The only similarity between the two is that they both contain an essential oil called anethole, an organic compound widely used as a flavoring substance.

Star anise contains antioxidants which can help reverse damage cause by environmental toxins and free radicals. It possesses anti fungal and antibacterial properties.

Star anise has a high shikimic acid content which can help treat conditions like cough and influenza. It can increase breast milk production in nursing mothers.

Used as a tea, it can help alleviate digestive issues like bloating, constipation and indigestion. It also has mild sedative properties which may help treat sleep disorders.

This spice can be bought whole or in the form of a powder. I prefer the whole. I use it in my cream of wheat along with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg during cold winter months, remnants of a childhood spent with my grandma and the many useful herbal recipes she taught me growing up.

Benefits and Uses of Thyme (Thymus vulgaris):

Most commonly used in cooking, thyme has a mild range of uses and is one of the best medicinal herbs out there. It has strong antimicrobial properties and can help alleviate many skin disorders like acne.

Thyme has been used throughout history. It was used in ancient Egypt as an embalming fluid and in ancient Greece as incense. The Romans used it as flavoring for food and beverages. Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, known today as “the father of western medicine” recommended the use of thyme to treat conditions associated with the respiratory system.

Hippocrates is the author of the Hippocratic oath, new physicians were sworn to uphold this oath, which required them to swear to uphold ethical standards, which is where the term “first do no harm” stem from. Which, heralded the start of medical ethics in the western world.

Fresh thyme can be used in teas as well as cooking.

A little not so known fact, fresh thyme leaves can be used as insect repellent.

One can easily include more thyme in their diet simply by sprinkling fresh or dried leaves on their cooked food. I like to add it to my food during the cooking process.

Benefits and Uses of Parsley (Petroselinum crispum):

Parsley can be added to food to enhance its flavor. It can be cooked into the food and it can be added later as a garnish. Parsley has a high content of Vitamin K. An adequate intake of Vitamin K may improve bone health by improving calcium absorption in the body. How much is adequate? Ten sprigs of parsley is enough to reach the daily recommended dose. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting so it’s important that you be monitored by a doctor if any blood thinners are being taken.

Parsley has a high concentration of Myricetin, a flavonoid found in parsley and other plants. A flavonoid is a naturally occurring compound that can help counter disease carrying agents found in the body. Myricetin is full of antioxidant properties and is commonly found in fruits, nuts and vegetables. It is also found in red wine.

Benefits and Uses of Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa):

Cat’s claw is a medicinal herb used to stimulate the immune system.  It contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It can be found commercially as capsules, tablets and teas. Cat’s claw is rich in terpenoids, alkaloids and flavonoids.

  • Terpenoids: organic chemicals derived from terpenes, which is found in essential oil of plants like citrus trees.
  • Alkaloids: naturally occurring compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms.
  • Flavonoids: naturally occurring plant compound.

I make a tea out of cat’s claw herb by steeping it in boiling water, but I take my intake to three cups a week as it may decrease blood clotting capabilities.

 

Thanks to my grandma, I grew up surrounded by homeopathic remedies, not that I knew it at the time. But as I get older, I find myself looking back more and more. My aim to live a more natural life and find ways to reduce my carbon footprint has led me to seek out alternative ways of living. Like brewing a cup of chamomile tea before bed instead of taking a sleeping pill. I find these little steps more beneficial, financially and health wise.

So if you’ve come upon my post, try one of these simple alternatives and leave me a comment about your experiences. My way may not be for you but you may learn something and in return, teach me something.

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Margarette Darbouze

14 Comments

  1. I agree and used alot of these same herbs for fighting winter colds and flues my self .My grandma used to make some corn meal and quaker oats porridge and add the cinnamon and nutmeg to give flavoring .But i never really gave the natural medicinal benefits much thought till later as an adult .Thanks for the share friend

    • Same here, I know a lot of recipes that my grandma taught me when I was little but at the time, learning recipes was the last thing on my mind. Your grandma’s recipe sounds delicious. I”ll let you know if I get a chance to try it. I use nutmeg and cinnamon every time I make oatmeal, porridge or cream of wheat. They do enhance the flavor.

  2. What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You! For sharing this quality post with others.
    Actually this is exactly the information that I was looking for herb and spices and when I landed to your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details.
    So I’m happy that you decided to write about this topic and share it with people. It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for herb and spices benefits.
    I will come back to your website again for sure and I’m looking forward to read your new posts.)

    Thanks!

    • Thank you Ali. I enjoyed writing about herbs and spices as I’m really into holistic health and alternative forms of healing and herbs and spices pack a punch if used correctly.

  3. Wow, a very impressive list of high power herbs we find quite easily in our daily lives.

    I live in Thailand and most of these mentioned herbs and roots we use almost on a daily basis in the Thai kitchen.

    The Thai kitchen is known for it’s health qualities if only the common Thai would resist using too much palm oil and sugar when preparing food.

    Thyme is one I miss here, back in Switzerland it used to grow everywhere and I loved to prepare Italian dishes and give a taste of Thyme.

    I’ll read your different ways to use the herbs too, thanks 🙂

    • Thyme is an underrated herb.  It tastes good and it’s good for you.  I haven’t tried Thai food yet…  Perhaps I’ll make that my next take out meal.

  4. Hello Margarette

    Wow what a wonderful post, brimming with useful information about herbs and spices!

    I am happy to say I am well acquainted with all of them other than Cat’s Claw which I had never heard of. Great to hear that it aids immune health but a bit of worry if it impacts on our blood’s clotting ability. I guess not over using it as you point out is the key. I was wondering though have there been any reports of overuse and  how this may have led to problems for people?

    Of all the herbs and spices listed I would have to say my top three are cinnamon, nutmeg and basil, although I do love all of the ones you covered, so it was quite challenging to choose three. 

    Thanks for the awesome information! 

    • Not that I am aware of.  Cat’s claw is not a common herb and the people that know about it use it sparingly.  It’s like aspirin, it’s good for you but I wouldn’t recommend it for continuous daily use.  I usually brew it as a tea every day for about 2 weeks, take a week or 2 off then start brewing it again to avoid any unwanted side effects.

  5. Wow that’s great that those common ingredients have nutritional benefits as well. My boyfriend actually uses cloves when he cooks rice. I think he uses them more for the added flavour though. I’ll have to tell him about the other bonuses because that’s cool. Thank you, I learned something new today!

    • I use cloves a lot.  I add it to rice and beans when I cook it.  I’m glad you learned something new. 

  6. That was a very informative article! I had no idea of about 90% percent of the properties and benefits of the majority of these herbs and spices. To be honest, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “herbs” and “spices” is taste. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to read about the benefits that come along with cinnamon and nutmeg. Why? Because I am an avid coffee drinker and those are two that I can see adding a pinch of to my coffee. Reading this makes me want to experiment, lol. Great article and thanks for the info!

    • I’m all about natural and holistic ways to live a healthier lifestyle.  I use pharmaceuticals as a last resort.  I have added a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to my coffee and it does change the flavor.  I think that makes my coffee taste exotic.

  7. Great post!!! I must confess I didn’t know most of the spices and herbs in your article had additional health benefit  I do just eat them for fun, I was surprised when I saw them as I didn’t know the value of what I have been eating mostly the cayenne pepper but I have never came across the star anise which looks like a spider and cat claws, would love to use them though.

    Thanks for sharing 

    • I use all these herbs and spices at least once a week.  I like using herbs and spices to help alleviate my little aches and pains.

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