Herbs and spices have been prized by humanity since ancient times. We may see them as a nice way to add a little flavor to foods and beverages, but they’ve also long played a critical role in early medicine.
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Indeed, herbs and spices are still regarded today as some of the most potent healing agents known. Many are consistently the topic of research for their disease-fighting compounds. In some parts of the world, such as China and India, they’re still widely used as part of traditional systems of medicine.
Here are some of the benefits that herbs and spices have to offer, and how you can incorporate them into your diet in order to reap the benefits.
Most herbs and spices, particularly turmeric, ginger, cayenne, basil, oregano and cinnamon, all contain compounds that fight and prevent inflammation. Because inflammation is well-known to be a catalyst for a variety of today’s common diseases, adding these things to your diet can help protect you.
This can come in handy since taking anti-inflammatory medications for an extended period of time will eventually cause damage to the stomach. Using natural anti-inflammatory herbs and spices will provide you with a healthier way of reducing inflammation.
A handful of spices are being studied for their potential benefits against cancer. Curcumin from turmeric has been found to trigger apoptosis, or cell death, in malignant tumors of the breasts and reproductive system.
Capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot, was shown to be effective at killing cancerous cells of the skin and digestive system.
Many people live with chronic pain to varying degrees, but NSAIDs and opioid painkillers carry serious risks. Fortunately, everything you need to control pain might already be in your kitchen cabinet.
Ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper all block the action of Substance P, a neurochemical that carries pain signals to your brain.
In India, many spices are considered essential for healthy digestion. These include cinnamon, fennel, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cloves and cayenne pepper—among others.
These spices work in a variety of ways to aid digestion. They stimulate the secretion of digestive fluids, prevent gas formation, ease bloating and promote peristalsis, the movement of the bowel.
Using More Herbs and Spices in Your Diet
The best thing about these herbs and spices is that it won’t be difficult to incorporate them into your usual diet. Turmeric has a fairly mild flavor and can be added to rice or meat dishes, soups and stews, tea, and even tuna salad.
Ginger, cinnamon, cloves and other sweet, strongly flavored spices are best used in desserts or as a calming digestive tea.
Cayenne and other hot peppers are superb when added to Mexican, Italian, Thai or Vietnamese-style cuisine. Use herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano in soups, tomato dishes and as a pleasant addition to salads.
When it comes to herbs and spices, your choices are nearly unlimited. From the familiar to the exotic, they all possess benefits to health and can be used in a wide range of foods.
Look through your spice cabinet tonight and see what you can experiment with—you’ll enjoy the health benefits, along with a little more flavor in your food.
AUTHOR BIO: This article was written by Dixie Somers, a freelance writer who loves to write for health, women’s interests, and parenting. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters. Dixie got help for this article from the professionals of Herb Affair Herbs who specialize in herbs and spices for health uses.