Health MATTERS – spice it up with natural healers

It’s almost déjà-vuhealthyI know I’ve written about the healing powers of herbs and spices before but just in case you missed it, or need further explanation of what certain ones are capable of doing, read on…

Herbs and Spices have long been one of our greatest natural healers.  Ancient Egyptians combined coriander, mint and sage with wine (aha!) to treat everything from herpes to upset stomachs.  True story: Cinnamon is such a powerful antimicrobial that it was even used in embalming to slow decay.  I know that’s kind of gory but impressive right?  These old-world remedies continue to play a role in fighting new world diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Diabetes, thanks to their potent antioxidant qualities.  Here are three of the world’s healthiest spices:


The golden spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow colour also provides a medicine chest full of health benefits. Turmeric is high in dietary fibre, iron, manganese, vitamin B6 and potassium. Studies show it helps relieve bloating and indigestion and also has antibacterial properties. A 2012 study in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology shows the active ingredient in turmeric curcumin is a potent anti inflammatory. Researchers at the University of Buffalo recently discovered that these anti-inflammatory properties may be good for your waistline and reduce the risk of obesity related diseases. Try using turmeric to jazz up scrambled eggs, soups, rice or veggies, or brew up a pot of turmeric tea:

Boil 1-2 cups water, then simmer with one teaspoon turmeric, one teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg for 10 minutes. Strain. Sweeten with raw honey and add a dollop of almond or coconut milk to taste. Include a pinch of cloves or a teaspoon of fresh ground ginger to the water.


Did you know that just one teaspoon of ground cinnamon contains the same amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries? A study published in BMC Cancer found that cinnamon extract may actually help prevent tumour cell growth. Cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives the spice its colour and flavour, is also the key ingredient in fighting a host of other illnesses. A 2013 study from the University of California, Santa Barbara found it may even help ward off Alzheimer’s by preventing the development of “tangles” in brain cells. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Hannover found that cinnamon also helps control blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Study participants who took cinnamon extract three times a day (the equivalent of about three grams of cinnamon) for four months had significantly lower glucose levels than those who didn’t sample the spicy extract.


Pepper flakes, cayenne and paprika not only add pizzazz to plain dishes, they’re also a handy source of healing and pain relief. Capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their kick, fights pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. (The hotter the pepper, the more pain-fighting bang for your buck.) Capsaicin is often used as a cream or lotion to relieve neuralgia (pain that originates in nerves near the skin surface). A study in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that capsaicin in nasal spray form reduces migraine pain and also helps fight cold symptoms. And although spicy food is often blamed for stomach upset, eating capsaicin actually promotes digestive health by reducing stomach acid and relieving bloating and nausea.

More Herbal Healers:

Ginger – studies show that ginger relieves symptons of morning sickness, a condition that affects as many as 85% of women in their first trimester.

Lavender – There’s a reason this fragrant plant is so often used in soaps and lotions – studies show its subtle scent soothes anxiety and mental stress.

Mint – Don’t deny yourself an after-dinner-mint – peppermint has proven to be an effective treatment for bloating, gas, diarrhea, and even the pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Rosemary – This flavourful herb is high in antioxidants and studies show it may help relieve symptoms of indigestion.

Saffron – Tame monthly miseries with a daily saffron capsule – studies show saffron may provide fast relief from PMS symtons.

Photos: IStock

Source: Canadian Health and Lifestyle