8 powerful herbs and spices to improve your health

Long before modern medicine became the norm, people used herbs and spices to cure a variety of ailments and diseases. Sure, some argue their healing properties may not be as immediately effective as good ol’ drugs, but it can’t hurt to coalesce both types of medicine into your lifestyle, right? Recent research has proven many traditional medicines are genuinely good for your health — so it looks like our ancestors really did know what they were talking about.

Here are 8 herbs and spices you should start incorporating in your diet:

Turmeric

Turmeric is one of my favourite spices. It contains curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some believe it is just as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs. It improves brain function, relieves arthritis, reduces the risk of heart disease and depression, while helping to prevent cancer.

Try adding it into your cooking — or experiment by making your own turmeric latte. You can even rub the spice directly onto the spot that is inflamed — but be weary that your skin will temporarily stain orange.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is great for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides (lipids) in the blood. It has a powerful anti-diabetic effect and reduces blood sugar levels (10 to 29 per cent), fights inflammation and is a potent antioxidant.

How much should you eat? Anywhere up to two teaspoons a day. Try mixing it with some warm milk or sprinkle it on your oatmeal.

Ginger

Ginger has intense antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help with digestion and nausea — particularly in pregnancy, during chemotherapy or if you’re suffering from sea sickness. Incorporating ginger in your diet can help prevent diseases like colon cancer and relieve pain caused by arthritis.

You can add ginger to almost all of your cooking. If you’re game, try adding a slice or two (or more, if you can handle it) to some warm water in the morning.

Sage

Sage has been proven to improve brain function and memory, particularly in people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Its healing properties date back to the Middle Ages, when it was used to prevent the plague. It’s also effective for digestive issues.

Add some sage next time you cook roasts or pasta — and there’s even such thing as sage tea.

Peppermint

Peppermint helps to relieve nausea, which makes it a great remedy for women who are pregnant, in labour or postpartum. Since this herb has an oily component, it also helps reduce pain for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It does this by reducing bloating and relaxing the muscles in the colon.

Yes, there’s a tea for this one too. You can also rub peppermint essential oils directly on your abdomen, wrists or temples.

Cayenne

Cayenne has an active ingredient called capsaicin, which can boost metabolism and encourage weight loss. Some studies show it may even have anti-cancer properties, including for afflictions of the lung, liver and prostate.

Think you can handle it? This fiery spice can be added to almost any dish for some major flavour.

Garlic

Garlic helps improve heart health. It can reduce cholesterol by about 10 to 15 per cent and lower blood pressure. It is great for combatting common sicknesses, like seasonal colds. Garlic, which isn’t technically a herb or a spice, has some great health benefits — some study believe it’s just as effective as some blood pressure medication.

Add garlic to basically everything you cook. Brown it with a little oil, then add whatever you want.

Rosemary

Rosemary can help prevent allergies and nasal congestion due to its acidic properties. Rosmarinic acid has anti-inflammatory properties. It can help improve brain function and concentration, while preventing cognitive decline in the elderly.

Rosemary is quite aromatic and pungent. It pairs well with roasts, tomato sauces and on pizza.

Do you already incorporate any of these herbs and spices in your diet? If not, which would you try?
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