Happy National Herbs and Spices Day!
We all know that the addition of herbs and spices add fantastic flavor to food. However, did you know that they may also help fight disease? While many researchers continue to blame fatty, meat-filled diets for the onset of many illnesses, some believe that a lack of herbs and spices could also be to blame. Not buying it? Here’s a look at 8 awesome herbs and spices and their noted health benefits.
Modern herbalists recommend drinking sage tea to soothe upset stomachs or even sore throats. It’s also said that sage may help preserve memory. In one study, college students who consumed capsules of sage extract before taking a memory test performed significantly better, and they experienced improved moods. Sage has also been noted as having the potential to improve early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, as it may prevent a key enzyme from destroying a brain chemical involved with memory and learning.
Sage pairs well with squashes, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and walnuts.
Rosemary is said to enhance mental focus. One study found that when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were present, people performed better on memory and alertness tests. Additionally, rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds within the herb may fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling. The acid may even make cooked meats healthier. Kansas State University researchers reported that “adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines - cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.”
Rosemary pairs well with potatoes, citrus, honey, garlic, onions, and chile peppers.
A compound in tumeric, curcumin, has “potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties”. It’s been said to help relieve pains associated with arthritis, injuries and dental procedures. Curcumin is currently being studied for its potential in managing common diseases like certain cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes.
Tumeric pairs well with garlic and citrus.
A compound in hot chiles, capsaicin, is said to speed up the body’s metabolism and burn fat. There’s no proof that consuming chile pepper will translate to long-term weight loss, though.
Chile Pepper pairs well with ginger, chocolate, beans, and beef.
Ginger is said to fight some cancers and reduce arthritis pain. A recent study reported that people who consumed ginger capsules for 11 consecutive days experienced 25 percent less muscle pain when they performed muscle-straining exercises. Ginger extract injections have also been said to help relieve osteoarthritis pain of the knee. Additionally, ginger extract has been demonstrated to subside nausea.
Ginger pairs well with soy sauce, citrus, chile pepper, and garlic.
A few studies have suggested that the addition of cinnamon to food (up to a teaspoon a day), might lower post-meal blood-sugar spikes. This could help those with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar.
Cinnamon pairs well with cloves, nutmeg, allspice, chocolate, fruit, and nuts.
Saffron has been credited as being a “mood booster”. According to research from Iran’s Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital, saffron may also help to relieve symptoms of PMS and depression.
Saffron pairs well with shellfish, rice, tomatoes, garlic, and onion.
Parsley may help prevent cancer, specifically breast cancer. Scientists at the University of Missouri determined that parsley can actually inhibit breast cancer-cell growth. In the study, animals that were given apigenin, a compound in parsley, had increased resistance to the growth of cancerous tumors.
Parsley pairs well with lemon zest, mint, garlic, capers, fish, and beef.
Although science has yet to fully prove that herbs and spices can cure or prevent any given disease, there is evidence that some could potentially manage chronic illnesses. Regardless, using natural herbs and spices when you cook is healthier than flavoring with added sugars or salt. They taste great, too!