Herbs, spices and plants have been used throughout history for their healing properties. In fact, many prescriptions have their origins in plants. Here are just a few things you might already have in your kitchen that can lead to better health.
Garlic is one of the oldest healing plants on the planet. It is cholesterol lowering, anti-thrombotic, anti-blood coagulant, an antioxidant, lowers blood pressure, is anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and tasty. Garlic needs to be damaged for its full effect to be used, so crush it, chop it and enjoy. Beware if you are on any heart medications, as you don’t want to lower your blood pressure too much!
Ginger is great for the respiratory system to help fight colds and flu. It’s also calming to the stomach for morning sickness or motion sickness. Ginger contains vitamins A, C and B complex.
Cumin Seeds commonly found in Indian food is good for digestive health like flatulence and is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Often we forget that herbs and spices have nutritional value too.
Coriander Seeds are a great source of fiber which helps increase the bulk of the stool for better bowel health and is a good source of copper, iron, calcium and other minerals. And you wouldn’t guess it, but Coriander contains a good amount of vitamin C.
Cinnamon may be a great additive for reducing blood sugar in type-2 diabetes. But much to my dad’s dismay, this doesn’t mean consuming more Cinnabon™. Cinnamon can be taken in capsule form and may also reduce inflammation in the body. Cinnamon oil can be hot and irritating, so use caution.
Cloves contain one of the most powerful germicidal agents around. It’s safe for nausea and vomiting when pregnant and is useful for toothaches and teething babies. (Use clove oil) Cloves are also great for gas and bad breath.
Black Peppercorn, which most of us cook with daily has a great list of health properties. It not only helps with digestion, but has properties that help the body absorb other nutrients. It’s a good source of antioxidants, which help remove free radicals from the body.
Cayenne, a step up from black pepper, is another good source of vitamin C and also A. It’s high in essential minerals and the B vitamins.
Horseradish is a strong stimulant and has been known to clear up infections and sinus issues. It also has a strong antibiotic property. Horseradish is very hot, so use care when consuming. Talk to me sometime about my experience when I took 4 capsules of powered horseradish having no idea what it was.
Turmeric has been used throughout history for its anti-inflammatory action and stomach soothing properties. It contains vitamin C and minerals such as manganese, potassium and copper. Turmeric may also offer protection from high blood pressure and stroke.
Saffron is a beautiful orange/yellow spice commonly found in Indian and Middle Eastern food. Saffron has many health properties including soothing the stomach, reducing cholesterol, and preventing heart disease. It may also help depression and cancer.
Fenugreek is an underutilized spice but provides a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. It has been used as a laxative, a digestive and a remedy for bronchitis. It also may help with high cholesterol and high blood sugar.
Nutmeg, a common holiday spice, is a traditional herbal medicine. Its oil has been used for toothache relief like cloves and can also be used for massage on sore muscles and rheumatic joints.
Mustard Seed can be used externally as a poultice for sciatica, muscle and joint pain and can help with respiratory infections. Internally, it’s a stimulant for the gastric juices and contains high amounts of B vitamins and minerals.
I hope this encourages you turn more to your kitchen as your pharmacy and utilize those gifts that Mother Nature has provided. Remember that herbs and spices are chemicals too. Just because they are natural doesn’t mean they can be taken without education. Don’t start an herbal therapy without consulting a professional.
Dr. Kathy Gruver, PhD, is the author of The Alternative Medicine Cabinet, which was recently turned into a TV series. Her second book, Body/Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker was just released and she maintains a massage and wellness practice in Santa Barbara, CA. Kathy has appeared as a guest expert in print, on the radio and on TV. She lectures around the country on health and stress. More information can be found at www.thealternativemedicinecabinet.com