Adding spices to your dish not only provides flavor but can also increase protection against inflammation and disease. Spices from around the world lend authenticity to international dishes as well as American cuisines and can provide creative inspiration for your everyday cooking. Many spices derived from plants play a pivotal role in the health care of many cultures due to their medicinal uses. The use of many spices dates way back to when they were not only used as a spice, but also as a part of religious ceremonies and as defense mechanisms against disease and infection. Let’s review some of the most studied herbs and spices that you can include in your everyday cooking:
Turmeric is derived from the stems of the plant Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. It is responsible for the yellow color of Indian curry and mustard. Curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is the most active component of turmeric. Curcumin has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer of any nutrient, including vitamin D.1
In various studies, turmeric has been reported to exhibit activity against the development of skin, breast, oral and stomach cancers. A study published by the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that Curcumin improves the effectiveness of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients.2 Curcumin also promotes anti-angiogenesis, meaning it helps prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth.
This strong antioxidant is commonly found in Asian dishes and can be purchased fresh or dried. You can find fresh ginger root in the produce section of your super market. Ginger has immune boosting powers that help the body detox during a cold or flu and can also be helpful in fighting infection from bacteria such as E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus (a common cause of skin infections), and fungi (including Candida albicans).3
Ginger’s beneficial effects also include prevention of free radical damage, which helps reduce inflammation and pain in arthritic patients and muscle soreness from exercise. Other benefits from ginger include relief from gastrointestinal pain, nausea, vomiting and motion sickness, and have known values to help improve blood circulation.
Garlic, an herb used widely as a flavoring in cooking, has also been used as a medicine throughout ancient and modern history to prevent and treat a wide range of conditions and diseases. According to the National Library of Medicine4 – part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, heart attack, coronary heart disease and hypertension.
There have been many scientific studies based on the therapeutic benefits of garlic against prostate, brain, lung, and gastric cancer protection.5 This anti-cancer property is due to the sulphides found in garlic. According to studies, the diallyl sulphide found in garlic inhibits the transformation of chemical compounds formation into carcinogens.6 Studies suggest that one or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits.
A significant number of trials have shown cinnamon to be an effective option for lowering blood sugar in uncontrolled type 2 diabetics. Cinnamon can lower your blood sugar by slowing down the rate at which the stomach empties after consuming meals which reduces the rise of blood sugar after eating. This helps improve the sensitivity of insulin. Studies even show that just ½ teaspoon of cinnamon per day can have beneficial effects on regulating blood sugar and lowering LDL Cholesterol.
It also is a powerful antioxidant, enhances cognitive processing, and can be used for symptom relief during cold or flu season. Cinnamon is a great source of manganese which promotes bone health, blood sugar control, and even has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.3
The spices we just reviewed are not the only ones that have multiple health benefits. Other spices that carry antioxidant powers, are metabolism boosters, immune supporters and carry anti-inflammatory properties are:
- Black pepper
- Crushed red pepper
By adding spices to your culinary creations you can enhance the flavors and smells which give unique and robust flavors. Try to purchase organic spices online, in your super market, specialty stores, farmer’s markets, or even grown some of them yourself. A very handy kitchen tool for getting the most flavor and nutrient power out of fresh spices and herbs is a mortar and pestle. There are many videos and resources online about purchasing and using the mortar and pestle.
While using fresh herbs and spices has many health benefits, when one is in a disease state, just a sprinkle of a few herbs and spices won’t be enough to provide optimal healing. It is important to know other vital deficiencies and toxicities that can affect the body’s ability to fight disease and infection.
You can find out the level of your deficiencies and toxicities by getting a comprehensive blood test and tissue mineral analysis. Reviewing results of these testing methods with your experienced nutrition professional can help you understand where to start. By knowing exactly what diet to follow and what supplements you need with the correct dosing, you can control your body’s health status. Get tested today to get started on a pathway towards optimal wellness!
- Greenmedinfo.com, Curcumin
- Curcumin Treatment Suppresses IKKβ Kinase Activity of Salivary Cells of Patients with Head and Neck Cancer: A Pilot Study http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/17/18/5953
- “Garlic” U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed March 1, 2014