Herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years for their medicinal properties and healing powers. Chinese medicine relies heavily on natural ingredients for health and vitality—with good reason.
Certain herbs and spices have been researched and proven effective in their inflammation-reducing, cancer-preventing, immune-boosting, and anti-aging properties. These ten little powerhouses of healthy goodness may already be sitting in your pantry or your fridge, so start spicing up your food for better health!
Turmeric contains a powerful compound called curcumin, which has incredible anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive properties, according to studies. It has shown positive results in improving symptoms of several types of chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, and autoimmune diseases. (1)
Curcumin is so effective that it is even sold as capsules for supplementation. Thousands of studies were conducted to determine the health benefits of curcumin with the same results— curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It reduces oxidative stress and fights cancer. (2)
Oregano is a popular herb used in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. In the US, it is primarily used as pizza seasoning in its dried form.
Oregano is full of important nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Even though it’s packed with vitamins, oregano’s potency can be attributed to its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
Oregano possesses two antimicrobial phytochemicals called carvacrol and thymol.
Oregano essential oil has been researched extensively for its antimicrobial effects and is proven effective against many kinds of bacteria, including E. coli, S. aureus, Salmonella, Listeria, and others. (3)(4)(5)
Due to its antiviral activity, oregano is also useful in relieving symptoms related to upper respiratory infections. Because of its high concentration of antioxidants, oregano is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting herb.
Raw garlic is one of the most popular and most powerful foods out there. The number of health benefits it provides is simply astounding, and it has become a fundamental ingredient in every type of cuisine, including Asian, European, African, Latin American, and North American foods.
Garlic is not quite an herb or a spice—yet it’s rarely eaten on its own. This special vegetable deserves its own category.
Garlic contains a ridiculous amount of antioxidant activity. One of the compounds garlic contains, called allicin, is celebrated for its vast health benefits. Allicin is only released from the garlic when it is finely chopped, chewed, or crushed in its raw form.
Garlic has been known to treat and prevent cardiovascular and heart problems, including atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol levels, thrombosis, and hypertension (high blood pressure). Eating raw garlic regularly can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. (6)
In addition, garlic is known for the following health benefits:
- Wards off the common cold and viral and bacterial infections
- Prevents cognitive decline and improves symptoms of dementia
- Treats diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels (7)
- Fights cancer (8)
- Lowers inflammation
Powerful herbs and spices are effective because of the potent compounds and antioxidants they contain. In this case, we’re focusing our attention on the main compound in ginger root called gingerol—found in ginger—which has powerful medicinal properties.
Gingerol acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in the body, reducing oxidative stress and lowering the risk of chronic disease and cancer. (9)
One of ginger’s most powerful and effective benefits, however, is its ability to reduce nausea and vomiting. Since ginger is perfectly safe, it can be used to treat nausea in pregnant women and in people who are immunocompromised, including cancer and AIDS patients. (10)(11)
In addition, ginger may be effective in treating menstrual pains, stomach ulcers, menopause symptoms, fungal infections, muscle pain, cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and cancer. On top of all that, it may even improve brain function and treat symptoms of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Once a taboo issue, medical marijuana, and cannabis products are emerging from the shadows and are slowly becoming legalized across the US.
One of the compounds found in marijuana or cannabis—called CBD, or cannabidiol—is known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, antiemetic, and anxiolytic properties. It has shown powerful results in pain relief and with treatment of inflammation, anxiety, depression, cancer, and nausea, as well as in psychiatric, seizure, and neurological disorders.
Moringa is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for its powerful medicinal benefits. It is available in fresh leaf, dried leaf, capsule, powder, or tea form. The plant is rich in many nutrients, including vitamins A, B2, B6, and C, as well as iron and magnesium.
Moringa is also an excellent source of many antioxidants, which means that consumption of this plant reduces oxidative stress in the body and lowers the risk of chronic diseases and cancer. (12)
Moringa may be effective in lowering blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels as well.
In addition, moringa is used as a detoxification agent for its liver support. It can help to reduce liver damage and fibrosis, restore liver enzymes to normal levels, and reverse oxidation in the liver. Since the liver is responsible for blood detox, moringa is an important aid in the body’s detox process.
Basil is one of the more powerful herbs for boosting immune function. There are many types of basil out there, and holy basil has been identified as the most beneficial when it comes to healing. Basil is praised for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and adaptogenic properties. That means that it helps the body adapt and respond to stress and fight off disease.
Basil contains many compounds that protect the body from disease. It also supports liver function for healthy detoxification. Other benefits of basil include:
- Fights cancer
- Protects against harmful bacteria
- Fights against viruses and infections
- Boosts cardiovascular health and fights heart problems
- Improves digestion
- Acts as an aphrodisiac
- Treats diabetes and metabolic syndrome
Most households contain this common spice, which is used in many sweet dishes and hot drinks. Many people don’t realize how incredibly potent cinnamon is—it actually ranks among the top spices for its antioxidant levels. (13)
Cinnamon has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and antimicrobial benefits. It protects against cancer, chronic inflammatory diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, and heart disease.
In addition, it has benefits for skin health. Applying cinnamon essential oil directly to the skin may reduce inflammation, swelling, redness, and pain associated with bug bites, rashes, allergic reactions, and infections.
This aromatic herb is refreshing and light—it’s used to freshen breath, flavor water and tea, and cleanse the palate after a meal.
While mint is widely used and loved for its sweet and refreshing taste, it also has numerous health benefits.
One of the mint’s extensively celebrated benefits is its aid in digestion and relief of nausea and headaches. A cup of mint tea after a meal can soothe an upset stomach and assist with digestion because it encourages the secretion of digestive enzymes.
Mint can also help to treat and prevent respiratory disorders, asthma, depression, fatigue, memory loss, colds and infections, and gastric ulcers.
10. Dried Red Pepper/Cayenne
Red peppers contain unique cancer- and disease-fighting compound not found in other foods. Years of research have shed light on the incredible health benefits of the compound capsaicin, found in sweet red bell peppers and in hot peppers.
Capsaicin has been proven effective in treating prostate, bone, pancreatic, breast, gastric, colorectal, and other types of cancer. (14)
Capsaicin also boosts blood circulation and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, making it an incredibly beneficial spice for heart health.
Dried red pepper and cayenne pepper provide detox support, improve digestion, relieve headaches and migraines, prevent blood clots, reduce joint and nerve pain, treat skin conditions, boost metabolism, and fight colds, flu, fungal infections, chronic disease, and cancer.
It may come as a surprise, but nature’s medicines are sitting around in your kitchen just waiting to be used. Eat these powerful herbs and spices more often, and you and your health may benefit big time.