Did you know you have a medicine cabinet of sorts right inside your kitchen? Many of the spices and herbs you have in your pantry can do more than just add flavor and color to your cooking. They also can benefit your health.
For centuries, traditional health practitioners have used spices and herbs to help people heal from all sorts of ailments and to help them maintain their wellbeing. Many herbs and spices contain as much or more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.
Here is our list of 10 healing spices that you likely already have in your pantry:
1. Basil. Fragrant basil, which is a great addition to many dishes, has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The volatile oils in basil can help relieve stomach and digestive upsets.
Research by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found that basil contains high amounts of beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which may be useful for treating inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. A study by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society also found that basil is useful in reducing swelling.
There are many varieties of basil available, including lemon basil, holy basil and Christmas basil.
2. Cloves. You can use ground or whole cloves to treat inflammation in the body caused by anything from the common cold to a toothache.
Cloves, which have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, also may be useful in controlling insulin levels for diabetics.
3. Cayenne pepper. Made from tropical chili peppers, cayenne pepper contains alkaloid capsaicin, which blocks the chemicals that send pain messages to the brain. Capsaicin also works to rev up the body’s metabolism and may boost calorie and fat burning in certain individuals.
Cayenne can relieve indigestion, gas and nausea. Since it thins phlegm and eases the body’s passageways from the lungs, cayenne also is useful in treating coughs and colds.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with diabetes who ate a meal with liberal amounts of cayenne required less insulin to reduce their body’s blood sugar.
4. Rosemary. As a super anti-oxidant, rosemary contains 19 chemicals with antibacterial properties that help fight infection. Often used by herbalists to treat asthma and allergies, rosemary contains volatile oils that can reduce the nasal constriction caused by histamine.
Researchers from Kansas State University found that rosemary can help your skin and aid your memory retention.
5. Turmeric. A favorite ingredient in curries, turmeric is the spice that gives many Indian dishes their yellow color. The chemical responsible for turmeric’s color, called curcumin, may protect the body from certain forms of cancer, such as prostrate and colon cancer and melanoma.
Research has linked turmeric consumption with reduced inflammation in certain chronic conditions, such as psoriasis, and it is useful in treating colds and respiratory problems.
6. Sage. Sage is a natural mood-enhancer and memory booster. Sage also boosts the action of insulin and reduces blood sugar in the body, so it is helpful for diabetics.
Preliminary research suggests that sage may be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, since it prevents a key enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, which is a brain chemical involved in memory retention and cognitive learning. In another study, college students who took sage extract performed significantly better on memory tests than students who did not consume sage before the test.
7. Ginger. Ginger has been used by natural medical practitioners in many cultures for centuries to reduce stomach upset and to quell nausea.
As an anti-inflammatory, ginger also is useful in reducing the pain of arthritis and of osteoarthritis pain of the knee. Ginger root’s healing compounds, including gingerols, also help ease headache pain.
8. Cinnamon. This tasty spice is an antioxidant powerhouse that can help stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Just a half teaspoon serving of cinnamon a day can reduce triglycerides and total cholesterol levels by 12 to 30 percent, according to research studies. Cinnamon also can help prevent blood clots.
9. Thyme. Thyme contains thymol, a germ-killing oil that can protect against gum disease, infections, ulcers and certain forms of cancer.
In addition, thyme extracts can soothe the coughing and throat irritation caused by the common cold or bronchitis.
10. Oregano. Often used in Italian recipes, oregano contains four compounds that soothe coughs and colds and 19 different chemicals that contain antibacterial properties.
Oregano consumption can improve the digestive tract, and research shows that it may help lower blood pressure, as well.
You may be wondering how long your spices will stay fresh in your pantry. As a general rule, herbs lose their potency and flavor over time. Whole spices will stay fresh for about four years. Ground spices will stay fresh for two to three years, and dried herbs will be potent for up to three years.