18+ ways your spice rack is a medicine cabinet

Herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years by traditional cultures the world over. Besides creating a diversity of flavor and aroma, spices have been researched for their powerful health-boosting and curative effects.

Many common herbs and spices have been shown to help protect against the most devastating chronic conditions.

If you’ve never thought about trading in your medicine cabinet for your spice rack, now’s the time to discover how to benefit from using spices for a return to gut, heart, metabolic, immune, and brain health.

Maximize the health benefits of herbs and spices

Tastier foods are more satisfying than bland ones, which you tend to eat faster, and are less fulfilling. If you’re not satisfied, you’re more likely to overeat.

Adding spices to every meal, I have found that I:

  • use less salt
  • feel satisfied with taste
  • am satiated and full longer (when including quality fats and proteins)
  • am less likely to consume excess sugar or unhealthy fats

But the benefits only begin on your plate…

Below are some amazing health benefits of common spices you should keep in your kitchen for daily use. One tip to remember: double the amount of dried spices to get the same levels of active substances from fresh spices.

To balance your immune system:

  1. Turmeric – high anti-oxidant, scavenges the hydroxyl radical — the most reactive of all oxidants. The health benefits of turmeric are many!
  2. Licorice – Buffers the inflammatory response by increasing steroid output from the adrenal gland. A good buffer if the immune system is over-responding to the flu.
  3. Black Pepper – increases the bioavailability of nearly all foods, herbs and compounds. Use freshly ground for best results. It’s also considered a spice that can help fight fat.
  4. Oregano – the active agent (rosmarinic acid) is a powerful anti-oxidant. Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol — two antibacterial agents that fight off infection — and has quadruple the antioxidants of blueberries. Pair with rosemary for better balanced blood sugar.
  5. Garlic – anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral effects, and has been shown to help guard against blood clots in your arteries.
  6. Rosemary – may cut cancer risk as an anti-oxidant, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial; interferes with candidiasis (yeast infection) growth. You can reap rosemary’s benefits by eating or sniffing it.

Peak Golden Oil

The golden-colored oil of the Nigella sativa plant contains compounds essential for a healthy immune system. That explains why it was documented in the oldest medical writings. But we don’t just rely on history to prove the therapeutic benefit of… MORE⟩⟩

To reduce inflammation, inflammatory and infectious conditions:

  1. Cloves – one of the most potent anti-inflammatories with anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. Beneficial against muscle pains from injuries, arthritis and rheumatism. It contains eugenol with mild anesthetic benefits used for toothaches, gum pain and sore throats. Relief from respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis; eliminates intestinal parasites, fungi and bacteria.
  2. Chili Peppers – contain capsaicin which has numerous health benefits that include pain relief, putting the heat on cancer, melting fat, opening arteries, fighting prostate cancer, and stopping ulcers. Capsaicin helps relieve pain by depleting the pain-causing neurotransmitter substance P; suppresses appetite, burns more calories after a meal, suppresses body fat accumulation. Another study suggests that capsaicin is as effective as exercise in maintaining weight loss.
  3. Thyme – the oil is antiseptic and antibacterial, and recent studies show thyme can kill MRSA infections, which are resistant to other antibiotics. It’s an essential ingredient in this cancer-fighting dish, too.
  4. Sage – preserves memory, soothes sore throats. Combines well with: Squash, parsley, rosemary, thyme or walnuts
  5. Curcumin (from turmeric) – has been shown to influence more than 700 genes; acts as a natural COX-2 and 5-LOX inhibitor (and other enzymes) implicated in inflammation.
  6. Nutmeg – One study found that nutmeg extract can significantly reduce E. coli (antibacterial); also good for joint pain, gout, and toothache.
  7. Ginger – anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal; eliminates gas, relaxes and soothes intestinal tract, balances immune system function; also minimize arthritis symptoms. One study showed that consuming 2 grams (0.4 tsp) per day eased muscle pain from exercise by 25%. Recent research shows it may protect against intestinal diseases that lead to cancer.
  8. Cumin – lowers blood glucose levels. It has antibacterial properties, killing stomach ulcer causing Helicobacter pylori. Black cumin reduces inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Click here for 10 ways cumin protects.
  9. Peppermint – soothes digestive tract, reverses irritable bowel syndrome. Inhibits bacterial growth, fungi, allergies and asthma.
  10. Cinnamon – antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial (including E. coli), relieves pain of muscle stiffness and sore joints due to arthritis; prevents UTI’s, tooth decay and gum disease. There are two types of cinnamon — make sure you choose the one known to boost health.

To boost mental health and/or reduce anxiety:

  1. Natural sea salt – natural mood-elevator. A real salt deficiency induces behavioral changes including reduced motivation, fatigue and depression. Entirely different than typical iodized table salt, natural sea salt (like Himalayan Sea Salt) provides mood stabilizing benefits. Getting the right salt can protect your heart too.
  2. Nutmeg – significant anti-depressant effects, comparable in potency to the anti-depressants imipramine and fluoxetine. Reducing anxiety and insomnia.

Special mention: Curcumin

The ingredient found in turmeric with all these amazing effects is called curcumin. Curcumin has been found to decrease inflammation and enhance liver function, among many other benefits…

Curcumin from turmeric is also found to reverse the effects of:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cataracts
  • Gallstones
  • Muscle degeneration (regeneration effects)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Increase the potency: One way to increase the potency and bioavailability of curcumin is to combine turmeric (1 part) to freshly ground black pepper (1 part) and organic coconut oil (3 parts). Extra virgin olive oil works just as well.

Cinnamon for cardiovascular and metabolic health

Diabetes — a condition of diet and lifestyle affecting the insulin and leptin sensitivity of the body — is a problem of epidemic proportions in the U.S.

Researchers found that 2 grams of cinnamon per day for 12 weeks significantly reduced HbA1c levels, blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in poorly controlled blood sugar level diabetics.

In another earlier study, cinnamon was found to increase insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism by 20 fold (2000%).

Cinnamon lowers your blood sugar by acting on several different levels, including:

  • Slowing the emptying of your stomach to reduce sharp rises in blood sugar following meals
  • Improving the effectiveness, or sensitivity, of insulin via proanthocyanidin signaling in your fat cells
  • Enhancing your antioxidant defenses

It’s not a bad idea to sprinkle cinnamon on just about anything, including fast foods to keep your blood fats from spiking too high.

Conclusion

Herbs and spices are not only great in meals for added flavor but are key to the nutritional density in the foods we eat. Herbs can protect us against diseases, clear toxins from our body, and provide us with vitamins and minerals.

By using spices and herbs, inflammation is diminished, immune function is enhanced and the body enjoys a return to balance in the gut, heart, and brain.

Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!

Sources:
  1. Anand P1, Bley K. Topical capsaicin for pain management: therapeutic potential and mechanisms of action of the new high-concentration capsaicin 8% patch. Br J Anaesth. 2011 Oct;107(4):490-502. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer260. Epub 2011 Aug 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21852280
  2. Snitker S1, Fujishima Y, Shen H, Ott S, Pi-Sunyer X, Furuhata Y, Sato H, Takahashi M. Effects of novel capsinoid treatment on fatness and energy metabolism in humans: possible pharmacogenetic implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):45-50. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26561. Epub 2008 Dec 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19056576
  3. Haramizu S1, Kawabata F, Ohnuki K, Inoue N, Watanabe T, Yazawa S, Fushiki T. Capsiate, a non-pungent capsaicin analog, reduces body fat without weight rebound like swimming exercise in mice. Biomed Res. 2011 Aug;32(4):279-84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21878735
  4. Takikawa A1, Abe K, Yamamoto M, Ishimaru S, Yasui M, Okubo Y, Yokoigawa K. Antimicrobial activity of nutmeg against Escherichia coli O157. J Biosci Bioeng. 2002;94(4):315-20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16233309?ordinalpos=14&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
  5. Christopher D. Black, Matthew P. Herring, David J. Hurley, Patrick J. O’Connor. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise. The Journal of Pain, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013
  6. Tekeoglu I1, Dogan A, Ediz L, Budancamanak M, Demirel A. Effects of thymoquinone (volatile oil of black cumin) on rheumatoid arthritis in rat models. Phytother Res. 2007 Sep;21(9):895-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17562570
  7. Ford AC1, Talley NJ, Spiegel BM, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Schiller L, Quigley EM, Moayyedi P. Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008 Nov 13;337:a2313. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a2313. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19008265?ordinalpos=1 itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
  8. Morris MJ1, Na ES, Johnson AK. Salt craving: the psychobiology of pathogenic sodium intake. Physiol Behav. 2008 Aug 6;94(5):709-21. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.04.008. Epub 2008 Apr 13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18514747?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
  9. Dhingra D1, Sharma A. Antidepressant-like activity of n-hexane extract of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) seeds in mice. J Med Food. 2006 Spring;9(1):84-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16579733?ordinalpos=10&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
  10. R. Akilen, A. Tsiami, D. Devendra, N. Robinson. Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Diabetic Medicine. Volume 27, Issue 10. October 2010. Pages 1159–1167 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-5491.2010.03079.x/full

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Dr. Brad Cutler

By Dr. Brad Cutler

With over 30 years of clinical nutrition experience, Dr Brad Cutler has been a well-respected authority in digestive health, nutrition and natural anti-aging protocols. In 2014 Brad certified in Functional Medicine. His life is all about health, fitness, and what works nutritionally in the body. He coaches individuals in essential lifestyle principles as a part of his ongoing functional medicine practice. Brad’s mission is to inspire others to purposefully create thoughts and emotions that support wise food choices and lifestyle changes that improve health. Individual focus may include balance of digestion, detoxification, immunity, hormones, cardio-metabolic health, cognitive function and mood.

Brad may be reached for Health Coaching at functionalmedicineutah@gmail.com.