Health Benefits of Spices and Herbs

Adding a dash of cinnamon, a pinch of red pepper, or a sprinkle of ginger to culinary creations may offer benefits in addition to flavor. With the increasing interest in functional foods, the latest research shows that spices and herbs offer a number of possible health benefits. The table below focuses on a few popular spices and herbs and explores the research on potential health benefits. Suggestions for spice and herb use are also included. There is a reason to season!
Spices and Herbs


Spice & HerbsDescriptionPotential Health BenefitsUses
CinnamonCinnamon is the dried inner bark of various evergreen trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. • At harvest, the bark is stripped off and put in the sun, where it curls into the familiar form called "quills."Inconclusive evidence to support blood glucose lowering in patients with diabetesSprinkle on fruits, oatmeal, and yogurt • Used in baked goodies and desserts • Add to chili to create a 'Cincinnati' touch
Red pepperRed Pepper is the dried, ripened fruit pod of Capsicum frutescens, one of the most pungent Capsicums. • It is sometimes referred to as Cayenne Red Pepper.Likely effective in pain relief when applied topically • Possibly effective in treating back pain, cluster headache, fibromyalgia, seasonal allergies, and prurigo nodularis (a skin disease)Creates heat and bite to seasoning blends, meats, pickles, seafood, Italian, Indian, Mexican, and Caribbean cuisines
Ginger• Ginger is the dried knobby shaped root of the perennial herb Zingiberofficinale. • Once the leaves of the plant die, the thick roots, about 6 inches long, are dug up and sold as ginger root.• Possibly effective in treating painful menstruation, morning sickness, osteoarthritis, post-op nausea and vomiting, and vertigo • Inconclusive evidence to support chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, migraine headache, myalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis• Used in Indian curries, and Chinese, Japanese, and European spice blends • Used in popular baked goods including gingerbread and ginger snap cookies • Ginger Ale, a sweetened beverage refreshment • Often accompanies sushi to clean the palate.
Garlic• Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus. • The plant is part of the lily family that produces a pungent, strong-smelling garlic bulb.• Possibly effective in treating atherosclerosis, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, hypertension, tick bites, and a variety of skin conditions if used topically (ringworm, jock itch, and athlete's foot)6• Sauté with vegetables • Used in Italian pastas & dishes • Added to marinades, sauces and dressings • Used for garlic butter to make garlic bread
Rosemary• Rosemary is the dried leaves of the evergreen Rosmarinusofficinalis. • Rosemary leaves are slightly curved, resembling miniature curved pine needles. • Normally hand harvested, the Rosemary plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall and is very hardy as it grows under harsh mountainous conditions.• Possibly effective in treating alopecia areata (hair loss)• Used in seasoning blends for lamb and Mediterranean cuisines. • Sprinkle over ice cream and mousses • Use sprigs for roasting, grilling or on the barbeque • Mix with orange to create a sweet glaze • Cook with potatoes and other vegetables
oregano• Oregano is the dried leaves of the herbs Origanum spp or Lippia spp (Mexican). Both varieties have traditionally been harvested in the "wild." • "Oregano" means Marjoram in Spanish, and although sometimes referred to as "Wild Marjoram" it is a different herb.• Possibly effective in treating intestinal parasitic infection• Used in pizza and pasta sauces • Mexican Oregano is found in chili powders and adds flavor to Mexican dishes. • Sauté with vegetables and bean dishes • Salad topper
Curcumin• Curcumin (also referred to as turmeric) is derived from dried rhizomes of the herb Curecuma longa. • Curcumin is a member of the ginger family and is a polyphenol.• Possibly effective in treating indigestion and osteoarthritis • Inconclusive evidence to support Alzheimer's disease, colorectal cancer, anterior uveitis (eye swelling), rheumatoid arthritis, and skin cancer • Little reliable evidence to support its use for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.Often an important ingredient in curry mixes. Add a pinch to jazz up egg salad. Used in many Moroccan dishes. Pairs well with chicken, duck, turkey, vegetables, rice, and salad dressings.
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