The healing properties of herbs and spices is nothing new, as people around the world have been reaping their benefits for thousands of years. Not only do herbs add more depth of flavor to your culinary creations, but they also offer many different nutrients. In fact, you can think of herbs as nearly calorie-free sources of phytonutrients and nutrients that encourage optimal health.
Before modern medicine, ancient civilizations relied on various herbs for their healing properties. Although herbs may not be able to cure serious diseases, they may be able to relieve symptoms of certain health conditions. It’s also possible for herbs to lower the risk of developing certain maladies. Herbs may assist with better digestion, cardiovascular function, immune function, and more.
In addition to reaping the benefits of herbs via consumption, adding more herbs to your diet also increases your intake of vegetables. By flavoring your foods with different herbs and spices, the addition of salt and sugar may not be necessary. According to a 2019 study, adding herbs and spices to a vegetarian dish could slash the salt content in half without affecting the taste. Keep this in mind as you continue to create various dishes, and consider incorporating more of the following herbs into your diet.
A little dash of cayenne in your dish goes a long way, both in the way of spice and nutritional benefits. Cayenne is rich in capsaicin, which is the compound that gives peppers their signature heat. Several studies found that capsaicin works to increase the body’s metabolic rate, working to burn more calories. Cayenne may also stimulate brain chemicals that help control cravings. One study even found that the cinnamic acid in cayenne may kill food-borne pathogens.
A common herb that has many culinary applications, basil is a summertime staple that contains lots of lutein and zeaxanthin. High dietary levels of these compounds has been associated with a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of vision loss due to age. Increasing your intake of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin may also improve cognitive function, especially in women. Basil also exhibits high amounts of vitamin K, beta-carotene, manganese, and vitamin C.
Sage has a long history of use for its medicinal properties. It is native to the Mediterranean region and several scientific studies state that it may improve brain function and memory. It may do this by enhancing the signaling pathways in the brain. One past study found that sage may help reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women. More research is necessary on that matter, though. Finally, sage is rich in several antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which may increase immune function.
There is a plethora of information on the various health benefits of turmeric. Various civilizations have used it for thousands of years to help remedy numerous ailments, including arthritis, diabetes, and digestive issues. The active compound in turmeric is curcumin, which exhibits powerful antioxidant properties. Various studies concluded that curcumin may help relieve minor toothaches or guard against type 2 diabetes. Scientists state that curcumin helps to regulate the body’s balance of adipokines, hormone-like substances that control blood sugar. For this reason, turmeric is an excellent spice for diabetics. Other smaller studies found that turmeric may help relieve symptoms of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers.
This fragrant herb is versatile and belongs to the mint family. You can use rosemary in its fresh or dried form, and it even has a popular oil that you can use in homemade cosmetics. Rosemary extract is rich in polyphenols and several studies found that it exhibits anti-cancer properties. Additionally, rosemary herb may help to regulate blood pressure, improve memory, and encourage healthier digestion.
Cilantro is the Spanish name for the coriander plant, which produces flavorful leaves that people either love or hate. Some people identify the crisp, peppery flavor profile, while others think that it tastes like soap. Several studies found that cilantro exhibits various phytochemical antioxidants that may improve cardiovascular health. A 2022 review found that the antioxidants may also reduce the effects of premature aging. Cilantro is also an excellent source of vitamin K and a 2020 study with 4,000 participants found that people with low blood levels of vitamin K had an increased risk of death sooner than those with higher levels. This may mean that vitamin K offers protective health benefits as you age.