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Herbs and Spice Health Benefits

11 Herbs and Spices That Will Give Your Body a Boost This Winter

Herbs and spices are often staple ingredients in your kitchen cupboard and widely used in daily cooking, but they have also been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes. Adding herbs and spices to your diet in a variety of ways could transform your health.

Sage

What is it? Sage is a savoury herb that's used frequently in cooking, but many people are unaware of its medicinal benefits. It was used by our ancestors for relieving colds and sore throats.
How to use it? Sage is commonly used when cooking meats and pasta. However, to add more of the herb to your diet use in tea; simply add sage leaves to hot water and add lemon and honey to taste.

  1. Memory
  2. Brain Function
  3. Antibacterial

According to Authority Nutrition, sage reduces the breakdown of acetylcholine. Levels of this chemical are found to drop in Alzheimer's disease, suggesting a possible link between sage supporting memory and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Lavender

What is it? Lavender is an herb that is part of the mint family. It is commonly found in scents, including perfumes and home fragrance.

How to use it? There are many ways you can use lavender for medicinal purposes. Lavender oils (which you can buy at your local vitamin store) can be used in an oil burner or in a bath. If you prefer, lavender salts can also be added to a bath.

  1. Fight fatigue — Add essential oil to foot bath, as the soles of the feet absorb it well
  2. Insomnia — Add a few drops of oil to your pillow at night
  3. Stress — Lavender tea

The University of Maryland Medical Centre research suggests that lavender may slow activity of nervous system, which promotes relaxation and eases insomnia.

Turmeric

What is it? Turmeric is a spice that is part of the ginger family, commonly used in curries.
How to use it? Aside from using it in your next curry, it can also be made into a tea and other recipes.

  1. Anti-inflammatory
  2. Anti-arthritic
  3. Natural pain killer

Turmeric For Health notes that because the spice is an anti-inflammatory, using it in face masks calms acne, soothes blemishes, and heals acne scarring. Just beware that the strong yellow colour can (temporarily) dye the skin.

Rosemary

What is it? Rosemary is part of the mint family.
How to use it? Commonly used in cooking with lamb and in pastas, pizzas, and oils. Effective when consumed in a tea: add 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary needles to hot water, let rest, then strain and add honey and lemon to taste.

  1. Memory
  2. Stress
  3. Concentration
  4. Nasal congestion

Research carried out by Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacoloy suggests that using rosemary oil correlates to cognitive performance and can effect mood.

Peppermint

What is it? Peppermint is a cross between watermint and spearmint and commonly used as a flavouring for sweets, toothpaste, and chewing gum.
How to use it? Peppermint tea can either be store-bought or made fresh at home. It can also be used as an oil to help aid aches and pains.

  1. Nausea
  2. IBS
  3. Muscle pain

The NHS reports that peppermint has proven to be effective for IBS relief and is sometimes more effective at easing symptoms than prescribed medications.

Ginger

What is it? Ginger root is a herb this is commonly used to add flavouring to many food dishes.
How to use it? For nausea relief, serve ginger root in hot tea. If you don't like the spice, try adding ginger to green tea for a more subtle taste. If that isn't your cup of tea, add ginger to a variety of soups.

  1. Nausea
  2. Anti-inflammatory
  3. Pain management

The academic journal article "Efficacy of Ginger For Nausea and Vomiting" found that after clinical trials, subjects favoured ginger over the placebo and it proved to have a positive effect as an anti-vomiting herbal remedy.

Garlic

What is it? Although it isn't actually considered a spice or a herb, it has many health benefits and is a favourite taste of many when cooking.
How to use it? Garlic is found in many recipes to add flavour. Eating raw garlic is better than eating cooked garlic as cooking destroys garlic's allicin (the nutrition we want from garlic). Try eating it as a garlic butter, in a salad, or blended with a juice. You can also buy garlic pills. Alternatively, garlic may be your new beauty secret to getting rid of spots!

  1. Sickness
  2. Heart health
  3. Common cold

According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, studies showed that those who took garlic had fewer colds than those who took a placebo.

Cinnamon

What is it? Cinnamon is a widely used spice in baking and cooking. Cinnamon contains a substance called cinnamaldehyde, which, according to Authority Nutrition, has antibacterial properties.
How to use it? Aside from using it in baked goods, it can be added to hot drinks such as coffee, or used in savoury dishes like chilli, tagine, or curry to add a bit of sweet spice. Cinnamon can also be effective when used as an essential oil.

  1. Inflammation
  2. Regulate blood sugar levels
  3. May have antibacterial properties

Medical News Today suggests that the chemical cinnamaldehyde may help fight against bacterial and fungal infections.

Cayenne

What is it? Cayenne pepper is a spice commonly used in hot dishes.
How to use it? As well as using it to season and spice up savoury dishes used as curries, it can also be made into a nutritional tea with lemon.

  1. Nutrient absorption
  2. Digestion
  3. Weight Loss

Authority Nutrition states that cayenne pepper aids weight loss, as it is said to reduce hunger; however, only in people who do not regularly eat spicy foods.

Mint

What is it? Mint is a very popular herb frequently used in cooking and drinks.
How to use it? Incorporating mint into your diet can be easy by simply adding it to smoothies salads and to hot water with lemon to make a morning tea.

  1. Antioxidant
  2. Indigestion
  3. Congestion

According to Medical News Today, mint plants are soothing and can be used in a tea to aid an upset stomach and indigestion.

Echinacea

What is it? Echinacea is a herb commonly used to aid cold or flu-like symptoms.
How to use it? Echinacea can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or herb store. It can be taken as a tincture or tablets.

  1. Immunity
  2. Cold symptoms
  3. Mild laxative

University of Maryland Medical Centre explains that although the effectiveness of echinacea remains controversial, a study did show that those with early signs of a common cold recovered faster whilst taking the herb than those who did not.

Please consult with your doctor or nutritionist before trying any of these herbs and spices that may affect any pre-existing medical conditions.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Maria del Rio
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