Herbs and Spices

Carol Mund4/19/10

Considering growing herbs or spices in your garden?  Researchers have found strong correlations between a wide range of health benefits and many herbs and spices.  While research is still quite preliminary, many of these herbs and spices have been treating modern ailments for thousands of years.

For your own safety, it’s always best to research for yourself to assure that there will be no complicating effects on your current health conditions.  For example, preliminary research indicates that ginger is believed to potentially act as a blood-thinning agent.  So individuals taking blood thinners should be cognizant to this information.  This is just one of many such examples of why understanding the risks is important.

The Difference between an Herb and a Spice

The main difference between an herb and a spice is the location on plant:

  • Herbs typically come from the leafy part of the plant.  You can buy herbs fresh or dried.  For a more intense flavor buy or grow your own fresh herb. 
  • Spices typically come from the seeds, roots, bark or flowers of the plant.  They are often ground into a powder.  You can purchase many spices as powder, seeds, pods or sticks.

The following are a list of some of the more common herbs:

Oregano

Benefits:  Oregano is noted for its major amounts of antibacterial and antioxidant levels, believed to originate in the oils of the leaves.  There are studies that suggest it may play a vital role against breast and ovarian cancer as well.  It’s even thought to slow the aging process. 

Complimentary Foods:  Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

Rosemary

Benefits:  Rosemary is thought to help fight cataracts, invigorate the circulation, and relieve headaches and breathing problems. 

Complimentary Foods:  Enhances chicken and pork dishes.

Thyme

Benefits: Thyme may protect against several detrimental bacteria found in gastrointestinal tract.  It has been used throughout history to help relieve chest and respiratory problems.

Complimentary Food:  Sprinkle on asparagus, potatoes and other vegetables for a twist.

Basil

Benefits: Basil has shown evidence of inhibiting some bacterial growth, which is believed to be found in the oil extracted from the leaves.  Basil oil has been studied for its anti-inflammatory affects as well.  It’s also a great source of vitamin A and magnesium, making it heart healthy.

Complimentary Foods: Meats and soups are two common complimentary foods.

Some of the more common spices are listed below:

Cinnamon

Benefits: Cinnamon is derived from the dried inner bark of tropical evergreen tree.  It is believed to help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol and protect against Type 2 diabetes. 

Complimentary Foods:  Cinnamon is known to compliment many breakfast components, including: hot coffees and teas, oatmeal, toast, etc.  It’s also a popular baking ingredient.

Ginger

Benefits: This root has a long history for being used for nausea and other digestive complaints.  Ongoing research into the medicinal properties of easing arthritis pain and even easing the side effects of cancer and hepatitis C treatments.

Complimentary Foods:  Widely used in Asian cuisine.

Turmeric

Benefits:  Turmeric is believed to have outstanding anti-inflammatory, anti-Alzheimer properties.   Even more promising to researchers it’s known to contain a compound called curcumin, which is widely speculated in protecting against breast cancer.

Complimentary Foods: Commonly used in Thai and Indian dishes.

Red Peppers

Benefits: Red peppers contain capsaicin, which has been approved by the USDA as a treatment for topical use in arthritis and muscle soreness.  It’s also believed to be an anti-inflammatory agent and help to fight the cancer-causing agent, nitrosamine.   Much research has been conducted that supports the fact that it contributes to weight loss by increasing thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption.

Complimentary Foods: Use in soups, salads, pizza and meat.

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