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herbs and spices for health benefits|cinnamon sticks|Turmeric in a white bowl|pile of ginger|holy basil|Cayenne peppers

Health & Wellness

Best Herbs and Spices for Your Health

Adding a pinch of ginger or a few leaves of basil to your meal does more than just give it a delightful flavor. All of your favorite herbs and spices are bursting with health benefits, from boosting longevity and reducing inflammation to reducing your risk of various types of cancers. While all herbs and spices offer a variety of benefits, there are a few that should be a staple of your daily routine. Cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, holy basil, and cayenne are all nutritional powerhouses that can do wonders for your health. The best part is all of the health benefits are backed by real scientific studies!

cinnamon sticks Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a popular spice often found in baked goods. It’s easy to add a dash to your coffee, mix it into a smoothie, or sprinkle a bit on peanut butter toast. This highly versatile spice has potent antioxidant properties, can help lower inflammation and can also lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. It is also extremely effective at lowering blood sugar levels.

In a 2009 study published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism , the effects of cinnamon on blood glucose levels was tested. The results showed that the fasting blood glucose levels were reduced by 10-29% in diabetic patients! An effective dose of cinnamon is typically 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day. 1

Cinnamon has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels by slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract, as well as preventing the development of insulin sensitivity. 2

Turmeric in a white bowl Turmeric

Turmeric is a popular spice in Indian cuisine and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder. The main component of turmeric is curcumin, which has been the subject of numerous scientific studies and is the source of turmeric’s bright yellow color! Curcumin is known for its powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, as well as its ability to fight inflammation and reduce the chances of developing cancer and heart disease.

Turmeric has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, but it is still used today in Western cultures as a natural treatment for inflammatory conditions. Curcumin has been an effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, pancreatitis, and certain types of cancer. 3

pile of ginger Ginger

Ginger has been used in various forms of alternative medicine for hundreds of years as a treatment for nausea. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.

A 2006 meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology focused on the efficacy of ginger on nausea and vomiting in postoperative patients. The authors found that in five different trials, a dose of at least 1 gram of ginger was more effective than placebo in reducing both nausea and vomiting. 4

Ginger can easily be added to the diet in the form of tea. A mixture of ginger, lemon and honey is a popular natural cold and flu preventative. Simple ginger tea can help ease feelings of nausea, and adding a dash of turmeric and cayenne pepper can give you a powerful health boost!

holy basil Holy Basil (Tulsi)

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is not the same as the basil you may be used to. Holy basil is native to Southeast Asia and has the ability to fight infections, boost immunity and reduce blood sugar levels. The good news is that it can be grown just as easily as the more common types of sweet or Thai basil!

A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology focused on the effects of holy basil on the immune systems of healthy volunteers. Twenty four volunteers were used, with some taking a tulsi extract and some taking a placebo. The results of the study showed that those who were given the tulsi extract exhibited an increase of immune cells in the blood, showing that tulsi can boost immune system function. 5

Holy basil can be brewed into a healing tea, or added to Thai inspired dishes. This particular herb has a more anise-like flavor than common basil and blends well with other exotic spices.

Cayenne peppers Cayenne

Cayenne pepper is not for the faint of heart, but it can be added in very small amounts to dishes for those who aren’t too fond of spicy foods. One of the main components of cayenne pepper is capsaicin, which can help to reduce appetite, boost metabolism, and even promote a longer lifespan!

In a 2011 study published in Physiology and Behavior, researchers tested the efficacy of red pepper on appetite. The study - which included 25 healthy men and women - showed that cayenne pepper increased core body temperature and burned more calories through natural energy expenditure. Those who did not typically eat spicy foods also experienced a reduced appetite. 6

Final thoughts

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of more mild spices, such as basil and thyme, or are a hardcore lover of hot peppers, every herb and spice in your cabinet offers a wide variety of health benefits! Experimenting with new and exotic spices can open you up to a whole new world of culinary delights and boost your overall wellness.

Photo credits: ArtemShadrin/

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