Taking care of your body has never tasted better!
Herbs and spices have been heralded for their health properties for millennia – long before contemporary science backed up the knowledge of ancient traditional medicine practices. With long and colourful histories, it’s no wonder that these natural additives have weaved their way into our culinary habits and hearts. From aromatic seasonings to earthy garnishes, here are eight of the world’s healthiest herbs and spices and how to use them.
With its signature yellow colour, the curcumin in turmeric has reached superfood status for its multitude of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may be helpful in the treatment of many diseases such arthritis, cancer, skin conditions, metabolic and mood disorders. This is because of the spice’s antiviral and probiotic properties, aiding the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Turmeric has thus been a spice of choice for the health conscious and with its earthy, mustard-like flavour has brought depth to many popular Asian, Middle Eastern and other savoury dishes for generations. Contemporary uses have seen the take-off of trends such as It has turmeric lattes, chais and smoothies, poached eggs and chocolate bars.
Also known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, ginger has a long history of use in various cuisines and traditional medicines. Incorporating at least one gram of ginger into your diet may aid digestion, reduce nausea, lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease to name a few benefits. This invigorating spice is easily added to various meals, desserts, tea and juices.
Used in cuisine, aromatherapy, tea and topical oil application, peppermint has a long history of health-based usage. This refreshing herb has anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti- inflammatory properties and is often used to ease symptoms of digestive issues, congestion, headaches and menstrual pain, reduce nausea and indigestion, lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Peppermint’s versatile flavour also pairs well with chocolate and other herb and spice blends.
Sage is considered one of the essential herbs for cooking, found in worldwide cuisines with its distinct flavour and compatibility with other seasonings. However, did you know that studies have linked sage to improved brain function? Certain extracts of the herb can enhance memory and attention when included in our diets. You can most often find sage’s slightly peppery taste enhancing the flavour of chicken and pork.
For those looking to add some heat to their diet, cayenne pepper is a popular option. While spicy foods are often associated with reducing sinus congestion, this particular additive has shown promising results in weight management. Initial studies have shown that cayenne pepper aided in appetite reduction, therefore encouraging mindful eating. You can find this spice in many hot sauces and spice blends, and even the occasional piece of chilli chocolate.
Throughout history, few remedies have been consistently used to treat common colds as much as garlic. This hearty, versatile flavour lends itself to a range of dishes, is packed with nutrients including vitamin C, B6 and manganese and is commonly in hearty winter meals. Studies have also shown a link between garlic consumption and heart health, as it may help to alleviate high blood pressure and reduce high cholesterol levels.
Found in everything from desserts to spicy dishes, this fine powder is famous for its positive effect on our blood sugar levels and its ability to boost metabolism. Cinnamon is known as an antioxidant, anti-viral and anti-fungal herb, while also fighting off inflammation. This spice has a milder flavour than its counterparts, so it can readily accompany sweet and savoury flavours and serve as a garnish to finish off a great dish.
Tulsi, or Holy Basil, has rightfully earned its title due to its therapeutic properties. Packed with vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and more, this leafy plant has been used remedially to treat bronchitis, eczema, eye diseases and nausea amongst other conditions, and is used widely as a tea. Tulsi has also shown promise in several other treatments, such as reducing stress and anxiety. With a spicy and earthy taste, holy basil is quite different to the traditional herb, but works well alongside savoury dishes, particularly Southeast Asian cuisine where the plant originates from.
From cognitive function to bodily symptoms, these natural, fresh ingredients have centuries of knowledge and use behind them. Next time you’re preparing a delicious recipe, you may be surprised to discover just how many health benefits are waiting for you on your shelf!
As many of these herbs can be found in both food and supplement form, consult your trusted health professional for advice on how to best optimise herb and spice consumption, medical contra-indications and other personalised advice.