The Power of Herbs and Spices

    The Power of Herbs and Spices Indian Spices by sara marlowe [https://flic.kr/p/ds3fm5] | CC BY 2.0

    The great ancient Egyptian physician, Imhotep, would have agreed with the father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While medicine has come a long way in helping with seemingly incurable diseases, herbs and spices are often passed over or dismissed, while all along containing the powers to heal. Learn how to promote a healthy body, while adding great flavors to your food. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone! As many of us are aware, these spices have anti-microbial properties that are great for digestion and can even help fight cancer. You may just have these in your pantry already and can begin utilizing them for more than just their culinary purpose.

    1. Cinnamon has multiple medicinal properties that serve as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, muscle relaxing and digestive agent. According to European studies, Cinnamon is most notably known for lowering glucose levels or blood sugar levels in Type 2 Diabetics. It was also shown in a German study, to also lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Cinnamon goes great in warm cereals such as oatmeal or amaranth, and can spice up a smoothie too. If you suffer from allergies, indigestion, or arthritis, you might add cinnamon to your regular eating regimen. 2. Basil is a great herb to combat stress, which can lead to mildly depressed moods. Easily added to vegetables, soups, and pasta meals, basil has been shown, to help increase epinephrine and norepinephrine. It also decreases serotonin, which makes it great for relieving migraine headaches. The basil herb is in the mint family and can be added to tea to add extra taste. It is recommended for helping to prevent certain forms of cancer, because it contains carnosol, which has been shown to prohibit both liver and prostate cancer. Basil also has been shown to help with providing insulin activity, thus, helping to relieve Type II Diabetes. It contains compounds that have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal properties, making basil a great tasting herb and powerful healing agent. 3. Oregano is commonly used in Italian recipes, but can also be used in vegetable, legume, and meat recipes. Oregano’s healing properties lie in its ability to fight microbes such as viruses, fungi, parasites, and certain bacteria. It is also an anti-spasmodic agent (good for relieving muscle spasms). So, stock up on oregano during the cold and flu season and use it generously in recipes. Oregano is also great when used with other healing spices such as Marjoram (which fights bacteria, viruses and is an antispasmodic agent) and Thyme, a strong antifungal agent. 4. Garlic should be used frequently, by those seeking a healthier body. It has been called the ‘wonder drug’ for thousands of years, because of its medicinal and therapeutic properties. A part of the lily plant family, and related to onions and leeks, garlic has a history of healing the bubonic plague. It also has been shown through studies to help with digestive problems, respiratory tract problems, colds and infections. The healing power of garlic is due to the compound, Allicin, which helps fight bacteria, viruses, molds and yeasts. Garlic is most known for its effect on lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and preventing strokes by preventing arterial blockage. Garlic is also a powerful antimicrobial and anti-cancer neutriceutical. It is also a blood thinner, so if you are taking medications that are also blood thinners, use garlic only with the authorization of a physician. Also, remember that heat destroys the healing power of the compound allicin, within the garlic, so eating it raw is the best and most powerful way, of active prevention of diseases within your body, when using garlic’s healing powers. 5. Turmeric is a spice commonly used in the Caribbean, Indian and Asian cultures. It is a spice that really packs a punch, not only with taste, but when it comes to healing properties, as well. Often used with curry, this spice contains a compound called curcumin. The compound is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that works like a COX-2 inhibitor, which reduces the swelling of tissues, with less gastrointestinal effects, than other anti-inflammatory agents, ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve). Turmeric can be used for inflammatory conditions like arthritis and other auto-immune diseases and has been shown, through studies, to help with preventing liver and gallbladder cancer. European research has shown turmeric to have cancer fighting activity in breast cancer cells, as well. There are many recipes in which turmeric can be used including: curried vegetables and rice, curried beans and curried tofu scrambles. 6. Rosemary is an underused herb that adds a rich floral flavoring to foods. Its property diosmin, protects capillaries or small blood vessels, from hardening. This helps with blood circulation and helps prevent varicose veins. The essential oil cineole serves as a natural brain stimulant, which makes it great for increasing mood and energy. It is shown, through studies, that rosemary has a chemical that prevents the acetylcholine breakdown in the brain, which gives it some promise, in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. It also increases the activity of detoxification enzymes, in the body and has been shown in animal studies, to inhibit the development of both breast and skin tumors, via a specific extract of rosemary. The herb has therapeutic healing powers as well. It can help to bring about a sense of peace, particularly when used with healing meditations, like yoga. Rosemary has been shown to reduce anxiety and nervousness, which makes it great for people who suffer from depression or migraines. The plant helps to soothe the body. Add rosemary to red potatoes and bake, or sprinkle a little rosemary on seared salmon for a refreshing change of taste, in your next meal. 7. Ginger has been called the ‘jack of all trades.’ It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make it good for arthritis and protecting your heart. It is also a potent anti-emetic, making it good for nausea and indigestion. Ginger is also a powerful anti-viral agent and has been shown to lower blood pressure. A preliminary study, in University of Michigan Cancer Comprehensive Center, showed that ginger killed ovarian cancer cells, better than chemotherapy. Also, a University of Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, showed that ginger extract, had a significant effect in reducing pain, in osteoarthritis patients. Ginger is often used in Asian cultures, but can be used by anyone to add to the powerful health of your body. Ginger is also refreshing when added to tea or another cold drink. 8. Sage has multiple properties that make it a must have in the kitchen and in your cooking. Like Thyme and Rosemary, it is rich in antioxidants and helps to maintain the brain’s levels of Acetylcholine, which may have protective effects against Alzheimer’s. Like Parsley and Thyme, it has anti-microbial properties and is great in helping to prevent gingivitis. Sage also has strong anti-inflammatory properties and is good for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. It also helps to support healthy digestion. Sage is a very versatile herb, and can be used in almost any recipe. 9. Allspice is another spice that is commonly used in Caribbean recipes, and is an anti-inflammatory and anti-gas reliever. It helps with conditions such as rheumatism, fatigue, arthritis, and stiffness with its analgesic and muscle relaxant properties. Allspice can also be used in cereals, such as oatmeal, as well as in a variety of other Caribbean recipes. 10. Lavender, like Chamomile, is known for its stress reducing properties. Its compounds Linalool and Linalyl acetate are shown to slow nerve impulses, while helping to soothe the nervous system. This makes it great for tension headaches, insomnia, PMS, and depressed mood. Lavender also has anti-microbial properties and anti-inflammatory properties, which are good for skin conditions, like psoriasis and eczema. While Lavender is not commonly seen in recipes, its addition can make for a very unique and tasty meal. Lavender has been added to meat recipes, warm cereals, salads, legumes, and vegetable stir fry, for added taste. These are only a few of the many herbs and spices commonly used in the kitchen, which also have medicinal applications due to their significant healing properties. As physicians, we need to be in our best possible health condition in order to care for our patients and not be susceptible to every germ that walks through our doors. By incorporating herbs and spices into your daily routine, you can arm your body’s defensive line for any invader that comes your way.

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    Sunday, 24 September 2023

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