Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Did you know that cooking with seasonings, herbs, and spices have many benefits beyond enhancing the flavor, aroma, and color of dishes? Many were used for medicinal purposes well before culinary use and modern science has now proved the medicinal properties to be true and effective in protection from acute and chronic diseases. Research has provided evidence that spices and herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, and glucose- and cholesterol-lowering activities as well as properties that affect cognition and mood. They possess a diverse range of health properties via their bioactive constituents, including sulfur-containing compounds, tannins, alkaloids, phenolic diterpenes, and vitamins, especially flavonoids and polyphenols (Jiang, 2019).
Some commonly used spices and herbs used in most American household kitchens have some major health benefits and are worth adding into recipes and dishes than flavor alone.
Cinnamon is a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and has been shown to lower cholesterol, triglycerides in the blood, and can even lower blood sugar levels.
Peppermint has a very long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy. As with many herbs, it’s the oily component of peppermint that contains the agents responsible for its health benefits. Studies have shown it to improve pain management in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reduce nausea, and bloating.
Sage has the ability improve brain function and memory. Research suggests it may benefit those with Alzheimer's disease.
Turmeric is a common spice used in Indian dishes and is what gives curry its yellow color. Its active ingredient curcumin has powerful anti-Inflammatory effects and a powerful antioxidant which helps to fight oxidative damage and boosting the body's own antioxidant enzymes. Other known benefits of turmeric include improve brain function, fight Alzheimer's, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and treatment of arthritis.
Ginger is known to treat nausea and studies have shown it is beneficial especially for treating nausea associated with morning sickness, chemotherapy, and sea sickness. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help with pain management and works well paired with turmeric when treating arthritis.
Cayenne pepper can help reduce appetite and may have anti-cancer properties. Often you will find cayenne pepper as an ingredient in weight loss supplements.
Rosemary has been shown to suppress allergic responses, prevent allergies, and relieve nasal congestion. Rosemary tea is great during allergy season.
Garlic is well known and used not only in the kitchen but for treating illness such as the common cold. Often you will hear of cold remedies that combine honey and garlic together for a cold remedy. It is also gaining convincing evidence for beneficial effects on heart health including its ability to reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol.
There are many other fantastic herbs and spices which we use regularly with many benefits. Including them in dishes regularly will not only improve your health and wellbeing but improves the quality, taste, and visual appeal of your food as well. Try adding new herb and spice to a dish regularly. A little tip, when using dry herbs and spices they can lose their effects overtime. Check your stock often by giving them a smell test. If they no longer have a smell, they are not adding flavor, nor do they have any medicinal benefits left. Toss and replace. Don’t forget to check out my recipe tab.
Jiang T. A. (2019). Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices. Journal of AOAC International, 102(2), 395–411. https://doi.org/10.5740/jaoacint.18-0418