Since ancient times, people worldwide have used herbs and spices for culinary and medicinal purposes since ancient times.
Herbs and spices include a variety of substances that may help reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms of certain medical illnesses, and guard against the development of chronic diseases, in addition to adding taste and nutrition to meals.
Here are the best herbs and spices for better health and how to incorporate them into your diet.
The Zingiber officinale plant’s rhizome is a horizontal, subterranean stalk. It has a warm and spicy flavor and is frequently used in soups, baked foods, and curries.
Ginger has medicinal effects and has been used for thousands of years in traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Ginger includes a variety of bioactive chemicals, including gingerols, shogaols, and parasols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the body. According to research, eating ginger and taking ginger supplements may boost health in various ways.
A 2022 comprehensive review, for example, concluded that dietary use of ginger had significant favorable impacts on nausea, blood sugar levels, osteoarthritis, blood pressure, weight management, blood cholesterol levels, and inflammatory biomarkers.
Grate fresh ginger into hot water for a warming tea, and add fresh or powdered ginger to your favorite recipes, such as smoothies, noodle meals, salad dressings, and porridge.
Oregano refers to a group of herbs often used in Mediterranean cooking. Oregano is a member of the mint plant family, or Lamiaceae, and has a solid and earthy flavor.
Oregano includes plant components with antioxidant effects, such as the terpenes thymol and carvacrol. Traditional medicine systems use it to treat indigestion, cough, diarrhea, and bronchitis.
Oregano pills may help lower oxidative stress markers due to their potent antioxidant content. Cellular damage results when molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defenses.
A 2023 study of 24 male soldiers found that participants who took 500 milligrams of powdered oregano immediately after completing an intensive physical fitness test had lower blood markers of muscle damage and oxidative stress and higher blood antioxidant levels than those who took a placebo.
Fresh oregano can be used in salads and pasta dishes, while dried oregano can flavor sauces, dressings, and roast chicken.
Saffron is a spice whose vibrant reddish-golden color is derived from carotenoid components such as crocin and crocetin. Saffron has a somewhat bitter flavor and is commonly used in Indian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Crocin and crocetin are the principal bioactive components found in saffron, picrocrocin, and terpene safranal, which gives saffron its characteristic odor. Because of their cellular protective properties, these chemicals can help health in various ways.
Saffron has shown promise as a natural treatment for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. In addition, saffron is known to improve levels of the mood-boosting chemical serotonin in the brain, which may help with conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Saffron can be added to recipes such as curries, risotto, and seafood dishes and consumed as a supplement.
Cinnamon is one of the most widely used spices in the United States. Its warm, spicy flavor can be found in beverages such as apple cider and baked items such as cookies, pumpkin pie, and sweet bread.
This spice contains numerous health-promoting chemicals, including cinnamaldehyde, coumarin, cinnamic acid, and eugenol, all of which have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
Cinnamon consumption or supplementation may provide significant metabolic benefits. For example, studies show that people who consumed 1-6 grams of cinnamon daily for 40 to 90 days had lower blood sugar, lipid, and blood pressure levels.
According to experts, Ceylon cinnamon or “true cinnamon” should be preferred over cassia cinnamon since cassia cinnamon includes more significant levels of chemicals that can be poisonous and create health problems when ingested in large doses regularly.
Cardamom is a popular spice in Indian cooking. Cardamom, sometimes known as the “Queen of Spices,” includes active components like phenolic compounds and volatile oils with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure-lowering, and antidiabetic properties.
According to the findings of a 2021 review, cardamom may have favorable impacts on blood sugar, inflammatory indicators, and liver function. For example, a 2018 study of 87 people with obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) discovered that three grams of cardamom per day for three months resulted in significant reductions in inflammatory markers like tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) as well as a decrease in liver fat.
Cardamom complements sweet and savory flavors and can be used in curries, baked products, and meat meals.
Garlic is well-known for its medicinal and culinary properties. It contains plant chemicals that aid in inhibiting proinflammatory proteins linked to chronic inflammation. Fresh garlic has a high S-allyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide (alliin) and -glutamyl cysteine derivatives, whereas dried garlic powder contains a high concentration of alliin and diallyl disulfide.
Garlic may benefit heart health by lowering atherosclerosis or plaque buildup in the arteries. For example, a 2021 study of 4,329 adults discovered that those who took raw garlic one to three times per week had decreased carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT). cIMT is an early marker of atherosclerosis used to estimate a person’s risk of developing atherosclerosis-related disease.
Use finely minced garlic in salad dressings, salsa, pesto, sauces, and marinades to incorporate raw garlic into your diet.
Rosmarinus officinalis, sometimes known as rosemary, is a fragrant herb widely used in cooking worldwide. Rosemary is a rich source of rosmarinic acid, a phenolic molecule in many plants.
Rosemary and its constituents have been demonstrated to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, pain-relieving, and anticancer properties.
Furthermore, some evidence suggests that drinking rosemary tea may help people who suffer from anxiety and depression. For example, a study conducted in 2022 with 22 healthy participants discovered that drinking 100 milliliters of rosemary tea prepared with 5 grams of dry rosemary once a day for ten days significantly enhanced the quantity of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that is required for brain function. Low BDNF levels may make a person more susceptible to stress and depression, which is why BDNF is a valid depression biomarker.
Other studies have found that rosemary supplements may be beneficial in treating depression.
Relaxing tea can be made using fresh or dried rosemary, lemon juice, and honey.
Turmeric is one of the most researched spices. Turmeric and its main active constituent, curcumin, have been linked to numerous fantastic health advantages.
Decades of scientific research have revealed that turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects and that consuming and supplementing with turmeric may enhance health in various ways.
Turmeric may help treat osteoarthritis, NAFLD, ulcerative colitis, and type 2 diabetes. Eating more turmeric-rich foods, such as curries, has also been demonstrated to increase cognitive performance and protect against cognitive decline in older adults.
Try incorporating turmeric into foods such as curries and soups. Adding black pepper to turmeric recipes can significantly increase curcumin bioavailability.
Ashwagandha is one of the most essential herbs in Ayurveda, India’s traditional medical system.
It’s widely used as a supplement and has been demonstrated to improve cognitive function, physical performance, mood, stress levels, and sleep. In addition, according to certain studies, ashwagandha may be beneficial for increasing sleep quality in insomnia patients.
A 2021 evaluation of five randomized control studies including 400 individuals discovered that ashwagandha had a minor but substantial favorable effect on overall sleep quality, which was more potent in participants with insomnia. In addition, the researchers found that daily doses of 600 mg or higher administered for 8 weeks or longer appeared to be the most helpful at encouraging peaceful sleep.
Although ashwagandha is generally considered safe, you should consult your healthcare provider before incorporating a herbal supplement into your diet.
Nutmeg is a common addition to sweet drinks and desserts such as egg nog, Mexican hot chocolate, custards, and pumpkin pie because of its warm, somewhat nutty flavor. Terpenes and phenolic compounds are antioxidants found in nutmeg. It’s also high in myristicin, a compound with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and antibacterial activities.
Throughout India and other parts of Asia, nutmeg was used as a natural treatment for anxiety, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. Although nutmeg shows promise in treating specific health conditions such as diabetes, more human research is required.
Try adding ground nutmeg to beverages such as coffee and smoothies and savory dishes such as curries and chicken dishes.
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