Herbs and spices are one of the most incredible healing sources throughout histories and different cultures.
Herbs and spices have been used to heal diseases as well as creating delicious cuisines. Here are 10 of the world’s healthiest herbs and spices, supported by research.
1. Cinnamon – Lower Blood Sugar Level
Cinnamon is a popular spice, found in all sorts of recipes and baked goods. It is proven to lower blood sugar levels and have a powerful anti-diabetic effect.
It contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde, which is responsible for cinnamon’s medicinal properties.
Cinnamon has potent antioxidant activity, helps fight inflammation and has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
But where cinnamon really shines is in its effects on blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon can lower blood sugar by several mechanisms, including by slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract and improving insulin sensitivity.
Studies have shown that cinnamon can lower fasting blood sugars by 10-29% in diabetic patients, which is a significant amount.
The effective dose is typically 0.5-2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day, or 1-6 grams.
You can read more about the impressive health benefits of cinnamon in this article.
Bottom Line: Cinnamon has numerous health benefits, and is particularly effective at lowering blood sugar levels.
2. Sage – Improve Brain Function and Memory
Sage gets its name from the Latin word Salvere, which means “to save.”
It had a strong reputation for its healing properties during the middle ages, and was even used to help prevent the plague.
Current research indicates that sage may be able to improve brain function and memory, especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by a drop in the level of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain. Sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine.
In a 4-month study of 42 individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, sage extract was shown to produce significant improvements in brain function.
Other studies have also shown that sage can improve memory function in healthy people, both young and old.
Bottom Line: There is promising evidence that sage extract can improve brain and memory function, especially in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Peppermint – Relieves IBS Pain
As is the case with many herbs, it is the oily component that contains the agents responsible for the health effects. Peppermint has a long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gut disorder. Many studies have shown that peppermint oil can improve pain management in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
It appears to work by relaxing the smooth muscles in the colon, which relieves pain experienced during bowel movements. It also helps to reduce abdominal bloating, which is a common digestive symptom.
There are also some studies showing that peppermint in aromatherapy can help fight nausea.
In a study of over 1,100 women in labor, peppermint aromatherapy caused significant reductions in nausea. It has also been shown to reduce nausea after surgery and C-section births.
Bottom Line: The natural oil in peppermint provides pain relief for those with IBS. It also has potent anti-nausea effects when used in aromatherapy.
4. Turmeric – Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Property
Tumeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color.
It contains several compounds with medicinal properties, the most important of which is curcumin.
Curcumin is a remarkably powerful antioxidant, helping to fight oxidative damage and boosting the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
This is important, because oxidative damage is believed to be one of the key mechanisms behind ageing and many diseases.
Curcumin is also strongly anti-inflammatory, to the point where it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.
Given that long-term, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease, it is not suprising to see that curcumin is linked to a variety of health benefits.
Studies suggest that it can improve brain function, fight Alzheimer’s, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and relieve arthritis, to name a few.
Here is an article about the many incredible health benefits of turmeric/curcumin.
Bottom Line: Studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, has major benefits for many aspects of health.
5. Holy Basil – Fight Infections and Boosts Immunity
No to be confused with regular basil or thai basil, holy basil is considered a sacred herb in India.
Studies show that holy basil can inhibit the growth of a range of bacteria, yeasts and molds.
One small study also found that it can boost function of the immune system by increasing certain immune cells in the blood.
Holy basil is also linked to reduced blood sugar levels before and after meals, as well as treating anxiety and anxiety-related depression.
However, these studies were quite small, and more research is needed before any recommendations can be made.
Bottom Line: Holy basil appears to improve immune function and inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds.
Find the other 5 Herbs and Spices at Eat Local Grown