Whether fresh from the herb garden or dried in the jar, herbs and spices added to prepared meals provide both flavor and an extra sprinkling of antioxidants, minerals or vitamins. No food is off-limits. Sandwiches, snacks and smoothies all qualify for delicious herbal additions.
But some herbs and spices go beyond the plate. Available as supplements in extract and other concentrated forms, many of these ingredients have demonstrated health-promoting benefits.
Here are three spice-cabinet favorites you might use outside of the kitchen:
Oregano. A staple in Italian, Mexican and Greek cuisine, oregano (Origanum vulgare) has had a place in traditional health practices since ancient times, being used for a wide range of purposes, from cleansing to supporting digestive health. In addition to containing antioxidants, vitamin K, iron and manganese, the herb is also a source of carvacrol, a phenol and one of oregano’s most active constituents.
Holy Basil. Called tulsi in its native India, holy basil is a member of the mint family and has been used for health purposes for centuries. In Ayurvedic health practices, holy basil is used to promote longevity and alleviate stress. It contains tannins and flavonoids. As an essential oil, it’s sometimes used for skin-health purposes.
Turmeric. The bright orange color of the turmeric (Curcuma longa) root is what typically provides the signature hue to the curry powders used in India and Middle Eastern cuisine. But that orange flesh also contains curcumin, a highly concentrated polyphenolic complex providing all three of the active curcuminoids found in this spice. Turmeric has antioxidant capabilities that can help protect cells from free radical damage, promote healthy liver function and help maintain a healthy inflammatory response and the health of brain cells.
What’s your favorite health-promoting herb or spice? Share it with us in the comments below.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.