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Aromatic herbs and spices do more than transform bland food into a sumptuous delight to the senses. Spices are some of nature’s most powerful healers. The taste sensations they impart are more than just the cure for a boring meal; they can actually help cure numerous illnesses and health conditions. Specifically, the phytochemicals that give these spices their strong flavors and aromas are rich with therapeutic compounds and essential oils that promote health and fight disease from numerous angles.
Here are some common flavorful spices and herbs that can work wonders for your health.
Thyme: Treats Infections, Inflammation And Respiratory Issues
An age-old traditional healer, thyme is a versatile, aromatic herb with numerous health benefits. It may be best known as a powerful antiseptic due to the actions of thymol, the volatile oil found in all types of thyme. Thymol is used topically and orally to help fight infections, even stubborn ones such as drug-resistant bacterial infections. Thyme is also used to help calm bronchitis and treat respiratory infections, provide powerful antioxidant support, reduce blood clots in cases of a high fat diet, reduce inflammation and support digestion.
Rosemary: Super Antioxidant
Aside from imparting delicious flavor to grilled meats, there’s another reason for adding rosemary to your barbecue menu: Its powerful antioxidant abilities help prevent health-robbing compounds from being produced when you overcook meats and other foods.
These compounds, called HCAs (heterocyclic amines) form during the overcooking of meats and damage DNA, increasing the risks of cancer and other diseases. However, several studies show that adding rosemary to meats before grilling or cooking can reduce HCAs by up to 60 percent or more. Rosemary’s antioxidant abilities don’t stop there though; It’s used to prevent radiation sickness, pesticide poisoning and even sun damage to the skin. Rosemary has also been studied for its benefits in cognitive health and memory, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular health and arthritis.
Caraway Seed: Digestive Aid And More
Most people are familiar with caraway seeds from rye bread, and rye bread is particularly popular throughout Europe. Dried caraway seeds are aromatic, but the flavor really comes out during cooking. Caraway is an important digestive aid, shown in combination with peppermint to work better than commercial antacids. Both peppermint and caraway contain a compound called carvone which helps calm the digestive tract and reduce upset stomach. It’s also been found to support cardiovascular health by reducing unhealthy cholesterol levels. It supports metabolic health by promoting healthy blood sugar levels.
Caraway has been researched for its ability to fight cancer, prevent food poisoning and help treat constipation. It’s also been used traditionally to fight colds and respiratory infections.
Coriander: Cilantro Super Seed
Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant and has been used traditionally all over the world as a powerful natural medicine. While cilantro leaves are useful for detoxification, immune support and other areas of health, coriander works to support digestion, cardiovascular health and more. It’s been used traditionally to treat digestive upset; and it has been shown to help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, constipation and other digestive conditions. It’s also good for reducing skin inflammation in cases of sunburn, eczema and other skin conditions. Extracts of coriander can balance blood sugar and insulin levels in type 2 diabetes. It helps reduce (LDL) bad cholesterol while addressing anxiety and insomnia. Its other benefits include supporting the body’s defenses against colon cancer, fighting candida fungal infections and even helping with lead poisoning.
Fennel Seed: Soothing Protection
Fennel therapeutic benefits originate in many parts of the plant. Fennel seeds have the familiar licorice taste and are rich sources of healing phytonutrients that have been researched in numerous areas of health. Fennel reduces menstrual cramps and helps balance hormones in women. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Some studies indicate it is more power than vitamin E in combating harmful free radicals. Studies show it can help improve long-term memory by boosting acetylcholine activity in the brain: It can be used in treating dementia and related cognitive issues. Fennel seed is also shown to protect against cancer, heart disease, arthritis, glaucoma and inflammatory bowel disease.
Along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, certain spices can work on numerous levels, including the encouragement of specific health-promoting genetic expression.
In other words, certain spices, herbs and botanical medicines appear to “talk” to our genes and influence their behavior for greater long-term health and vitality. By incorporating these time-honored healers into your regular diet, you can greatly boost your overall health and defenses against a number of conditions and add some extra excitement to your diet as well.
For more health and wellness information, visit www.dreliaz.org.
Sources: Aggarwal, B. (2011) Healing Spices. New York, NY: Sterling.