I’m in love with herbs and spices. Roots, barks, flowers, leaves. I enjoy flavorings wherever they come from as long as they make my food tasty.
And they always do.
I adore them similar to children. They’re all different in their own way.
Cinnamon is deliciously warm and earthy. Mint provides refreshing sweetness. Fresh ginger gives a bright zing to foods. Chili powder sets my mouth afire in the most wonderful way. Parsley’s light, green flavor feels like summer. And basil is my go-to for a savory Italian taste.
It would be near impossible to pick a favorite. But good thing I don’t have to.
Not only do herbs and spices bring my healthy food to life, they assure that I live a long and happy life as well.
That’s right, spices are good for you. And I have the science to prove it.
Cilantro, also called coriander, is a fresh, slightly bitter herb. It’s commonly included in green smoothies in the West for its health properties. It traditionally use in Mediterranean, Northern African and Asian cuisines.
The most prominent health benefit of cilantro is its ability to clear out heavy metals from the body.
In particular, it clears out toxic mercury and lead from the system. Cilantro encourages the body to remove mercury after exposure during medical procedures. Cilantro clears lead from the system after consuming contaminated food or drink. In fact, it’s effectiveness for removing lead is comparable to modern medicine. And it works quickly—as little as 2 weeks.
Anxiety affects a large number of individuals, 1/8th of the world’s population. High doses of cilantro have anti-anxiety effects comparable to diazepam. And no negative side effects.
Cilantro is easy to incorporate into your meals on a regular basis. The easiest way to is to use cilantro as a garnish. Other ideas include a creamy guacamole, Cilantro Lime Rice or adding some to a smoothie.
Turmeric is a root. It can be used fresh or dried to add nutrition and color to dishes. Turmeric is famous for adding the quintessential yellow color to many Indian curries. The root is most commonly used in Indian cooking as it’s native to southern India/Indonesia. It’s also used in Middle Eastern recipes.
The most prominent health benefit of turmeric is its anti-cancer properties. Cultures that consume large amounts of turmeric have lower rates of cancer. It also fights against cancer and decreases instances of cancer spreading.
Curcumin is the most famous component of turmeric. However, you get more benefits if you eat turmeric as a whole.
The most obvious way to incorporate turmeric into your diet is to make curries. Add a small amount of turmeric to any meal if you don’t like Indian or south Asian cuisine. Only a small amount is needed in order to be effective. Increase the availability of the nutrients in turmeric by using it with black pepper.
Whole black peppercorns are fruit. They are then are dried and ground to become the spice we use today. While black pepper is used all over the world, pepper originates in southeastern Asia.
Evidence indicates that black pepper can be a natural anti-depressant. However, it’s not known how much black pepper humans would need to eat in order to see antidepressant benefits from black pepper alone.
Black pepper is easily added to all dishes savory and spicy dishes. Add it to sweet dishes like apple crumble to enhance the sweet flavor and add depth.
Ginger is another root that’s used as a spice. Since ginger is related to turmeric, it makes sense that they’re both native to Southeastern Asia. However, ginger is native to southern China rather than India.
One study suggests that ginger can help with weight loss. Ginger can increase satiety and decrease feelings of hunger. Ginger is commonly used to treat mild digestive complaints such as nausea, heartburn, flatulence and loss of appetite.
>> Interestingly, ginger combined with cinnamon has been shown to benefit fertility in diabetics. <<
Ginger can be used in a variety of dishes. Fresh ginger can give a bright kick to dishes. Or add dried ginger to sweet recipes. Common uses of ginger include curries or sweets such as a strudel.
Cinnamon is a common spice that’s used around the world. Cinnamon is actually a tree bark that is dried and ground into a powder.
Cinnamon is a powerful antimicrobial. When added to foods, it can inhibit growth of bad bacteria and increase shelf life. It can reduce a wide variety of illnesses. These range from Staph infections to fungal infections and even yeast infections. Cinnamon oil can even potentially have an effect on E. coli bacteria.
I love to top my Quick Breakfast Risotto and Overnight Oats with cinnamon. Combine cinnamon with spice for a saucy Indian curry or a spicy Mexican mole. Because of its anti-microbial properties, avoid mixing cinnamon directly into yeast-based breads. Doing so can slow down or reduce rising from yeast in baked goods.
>> Avoid mixing probiotic bacteria such as kefir grains or kombucha SCOBYs with cinnamon. <<
Cumin is a seed that is ground into a powder. Cumin has an earthy, slightly spicy flavor that can be added to both spicy and savory dishes. It’s a traditional ingredient in Mediterranean, south Asian and northern African cuisines.
Cumin can be a cheap and easy solution to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Cumin significantly reduces abdominal pain, bloating and other negative side effects and symptoms associated with IBS. And benefits continued after subjects stopped taking the cumin.
Use cumin in a wide variety of dishes. Add it to Ooey Gooey Refried Beans or Middle Eastern falafel. I love to add it to savory Italian dishes. I find it brings out the flavor of herbs such as basil, parsley, sage and oregano.
Cloves are the flower buds of a tree. They’re native to Indonesia but appear in traditional Asian, African and Middle Eastern dishes. Cloves have a sweet, homey flavor.
Most spices are high in antioxidants. But cloves are one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants and polyphenols. Antioxidants slow down aging and protect us from bodily damage.
Cloves pair well with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in sweet recipes like pumpkin pie or apple cider. Add a small amount of cloves to a curry for more flavor depth.
Parsley is the leaves of a plant. It’s native to the Mediterranean but it’s commonly used all over the world. It’s traditional in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, American and European cuisines. Parsley tastes like a less-bitter version of cilantro.
Diabetics can use parsley to stop or reduce medication use. In fact, parsley is used by diabetics in Turkey to reduce blood sugar. Study subjects who ate parsley had significantly lower levels of blood glucose than those that didn’t. It’s a cheaper and tastier alternative to diabetic medication.
A favorite way to use a bunch of parsley is Low Fat Tabbouleh. Another option is to make a fresh green pesto. It’s lovely as a garnish in any cuisine.
Chili powder is the dried and ground fruit of a chili pepper. Cultures know it around the world though it’s most common in Latin American, South American and Asian cuisines. It’s native to the Americas, most likely Central and South America. I’m sure you’re familiar with the strong, spicy kick that chili powder has.
Long term use of chili powder is shown to have benefits for the digestive system. Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (similar to acid reflux) are reduced with long-term use of chili powder.
Use chili powder in your favorite Latin or South American dish, like enchiladas. Or add it to a non-spicy dish to add a spicy kick to a recipe that was a too bland before.
Garlic is a bulbous plant. It’s native to central Asia though it’s traditional in cuisines all over Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Nowadays it’s used in cuisines all over the globe. Most are familiar with the sharp, pungent taste (and smell) of garlic.
One study found that individuals who ate garlic were less likely to contract a cold over a 3-month period. More than twice as many people from the non-garlic group got a cold than the garlic group. Of those who contracted the common cold, garlic-eaters experienced a cold for a slightly shorter time period than the those that didn’t eat garlic.
Though garlic technically isn’t an herb, it’s used similar to other herbs and spices—to impart flavor to food. Garlic is a wonderful base to start out any savory or spicy meal. A simple way to include garlic into your diet is to eat garlic bread. Adding just garlic to a combination of grains and vegetables will result in a surprisingly delicious dish.
The last herb on our list, mint, is a plant whose leaves are used to season food. Mint has a light, sweet taste and cool aftertaste. Plants can be found all over the world. Mint is likely native to Asia or the Mediterranean.
Mint has been shown to reduce fever and pain. Mint can also help individuals relax. So, mint tea can potentially alleviate discomfort coming from fevers, migraines and general sickness.
One of my favorite ways to consume mint is fresh mint tea. Fresh mint is another prominent herb in tabbouleh. Many people enjoy pairing mint and chocolate together to form a sweet treat.
Do you have a favorite spice? Or combination of spices?