You have probably heard that food is medicine, and I wholeheartedly believe this is true! Natural remedies made from homegrown herbs, produce, and spices have been a source of relief throughout human history. One of most underutilized medicinal foods in America are the ones in our spice cabinet. Many spices have powerful healing properties and are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Here are a few of the world’s most powerful spices and some of the healing properties they can provide. Use them to add flavor to your recipes and an abundance of medicinal benefits to your healthy repertoire!
1. Turmeric- Curbs inflammation. This deep yellow-orange colored spice gives curry its distinctive golden color. The active compound of turmeric, curcumin, is believed to have a wide range of biological effects including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral activities, which indicate potential in clinical medicine. Turmeric is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic. Turmeric may also help with headaches, depression, upset stomach and lung infections. Currently turmeric is being evaluated for its potential efficacy against several human diseases in clinical trials, including kidney and cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, several types of cancer and irritable bowel disease (1).
Use it: For an especially delicious way to add more turmeric to your healthy way of eating, roast cauliflower florets with coconut oil and a generous spoonful of turmeric for 20 minutes. Or try this delicious turmeric tea recipe.
2. Cinnamon- Balances blood sugar. Some research has shown that cinnamon may lower blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance. In people with type 2 diabetes, insulin does not work properly, so cinnamon may be beneficial. Researchers have found that volunteers who consumed 1 gram of cinnamon for 40 days had reduced blood sugar levels by up to 24% (2).
Use it: Mix ½-1 teaspoon of cinnamon into your oatmeal or coffee, and add to roasted carrots or squash for blood sugar benefits. Cinnamon may also be taken in a supplement form.
3. Ginger- Settles stomach problems. Ginger is well-known for quelling nausea, but the healing rhizome is also beneficial for other stomach ailments. Ginger has a long history of being used as medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions. In China, ginger has been used to help digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years (3). It may be used to help prevent vomiting associated with pregnancy and chemotherapy, or to help with motion sickness.
Use it: Combine fresh grated ginger with tamari, olive oil, and garlic to make a tasty salad dressing. Ginger also adds nice spice to sauteed vegetables. Ginger tea and natural ginger candies can be used to help soothe an upset tummy in a pinch.
1. “Clinical trials on turmeric”. National Institutes of Health, Clinical Trials Registry. December 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2013.
2. Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003 Dec; 26 (12): 3215-8.
3. Ginger | University of Maryland Medical Center.