Herbs and Spices That Are Useful for Your Body
Herbs and spices have more uses than just adding a delicious flavor to your food. Long before modern medicine, herbs have been used to treat many common ailments and conditions, and have promoted recovery and well-being. The roots, seeds, and leaves have been recognized for thousands of years for their strong nutritional and medicinal properties. When you are cooking, you most likely use herbs and spices such as thyme, oregano, basil, cinnamon, and ginger to enhance the flavor and aroma of your food. However, they contain many medicinal properties as well. They can be used to treat many day-to-day health ailments and complaints. Using herbs and spices on a daily basis allows you to live healthy the natural way.
Alfalfa to Cayenne Pepper
Alfalfa is rich in insoluble fiber. Both soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber increase bulk of the food and help prevent constipation by speeding up its movement through the gut" (nutrition and you). Including this herb in your daily diet, allows your body to move food in a quicker amount of time. Foods that are high in fiber, help remove toxins from your body by binding to the toxins. Fiber also plays a role in lowering bad cholesterol by binding bile salts which are produced from cholesterol and reduced the chance of them being re-absorbed into the body. This herb is also rich in phytoestrogens and isoflavones which help balance out the hormones in the body.
If you suffer from Lupus and other auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis avoid using alfalfa since it can be increase the symptoms.
Anise is used in many recipes and belongs to the parsley family. This herb aids in digestion and plays a role in reducing gas. It is a good source of phytoestrogens which help balance out hormones in the body. It is effective in enhancing breast milk production in nursing women.
Anise interacts with birth control pills and shots, therefore making them less effective. Avoid using anise if you do not want to get pregnant or use a second birth control along with your pills.
The next time you have a bruise, instead of waiting days for it to go away, apply some arnica (Arnica Montana) on it. The anti-inflammatory properties of this plant are effective in reducing inflammation and swelling. Your bruise will go away in no time at all. You can purchase arnica gels and creams at your local health food store or online.
Do not apply arnica to broken skin since it will be painful. People with sensitive skin may develop an allergic reaction. Before using it, test a small area of your skin. If there is any redness, do not use.
Only use arnica as needed. When the bruise disappears, stop using it. Using too much can cause your skin to blister. You may also develop dermatitis or eczema from overuse.
Never consume arnica to treat internal ailments.
Basil, most often used in Indian cooking, is excellent for digestion and reducing gas. It:
- Contains anti-inflammatory properties-excellent for pain due to rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's Disease
- Is a major antioxidant-helps fight against disease-causing free radicals
- Is loaded with minerals such a potassium, magnesium, iron and vitamin K
- Contains anti-aging properties-helps fight against degenerative conditions
- Contains anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties-infection fighting
- Contains anti-inflammatory properties
- Contains expectorant properties-excellent for respiratory infections
Black pepper is one of the most commonly used spices when you sit down to eat. Even if you do not like using pepper on your meat or in your soup, you may change your mind because of this spice:
- Aids in digestion-prevents bloating and gastroenteritis
- Is a powerful antioxidant-fights against free radicals
- Contains antibacterial properties
- Helps speed up your body's metabolism
- Is helpful in treating and preventing colds and the flu
- Is loaded with nutrients, such as manganese, vitamin K, and iron
Many people do not like cayenne pepper because it is too hot for their mouths to handle. However, they may change their mind once they understand the good they would do for their bodies if they give it a try. Some of the benefits include:
- It contains anti-inflammatory properties-fights inflammation in the body including joint pain caused by arthritis.
- It contains antioxidants-fights free radicals
- It has disease-fighting capabilities
- It helps speed up your body's metabolism-excellent spice if you are trying to lose weight
- It helps reduce cholesterol levels in your blood
- It helps burn body fat
- It helps clear up your sinuses
- It helps heal stomach ulcers
Since cayenne contains many properties that will improve your circulation by carrying blood to all the parts of your body, wouldn’t you consider using it? All you would need to do is start out with a small amount, like an eighth of a teaspoon mixed in a glass of warm water; you will barely taste it.
Chamomile to Feverfew
Chamomile contains mild sedative properties. This is an effective plant when you use it to treat insomnia and anxiety. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea before you go to bed will help you to easily fall asleep. It also works wonders on the digestive system and helps with gas, bloating and flatulence. Enjoy a cup of tea after each of your meals. To make tea add to teaspoons of dried chamomile leaves to a cup. Pour boiling water into the cup. Allow it to steep for ten minutes before drinking.
Cinnamon is another common herb and treats a wide range of ailments including nausea, arthritic pain, and high blood pressure. Adding 1/4 of a teaspoon to tea or a cup of hot water makes an effective anti-gas and anti-bloating beverage. Cinnamon is an excellent spice to use to enhance the appetite. This spice contains warming properties and helps relieve pain, controls diarrhea, lowers blood pressure, and controls blood sugar.
Many people consider dandelion as a weed and dread these plants when they see their lawns speckled with them, However, the next time you go to grab your bottle of weed killer, consider the possibilities of these plants. These plants are edible and have been used for years to treat many conditions including kidney and liver ailments. They are very useful in breaking down gallstones and relieving arthritic pain and gout and help relieve digestive system complaints. Since they are loaded with beta-carotene and vitamins, why don’t you pick some and add them to your salad?
Avoid dandelion if you are allergic to the following:
You should also avoid dandelion if you either have a blocked bile duct or have an inflamed gall bladder. Also, if you are on blood thinners or are either pregnant or nursing, you should not use these products.
Dill, which is the common ingredient of pickles, is an excellent appetite stimulant. Do you ever wonder why there is the “Old Wives Tale” of pregnant woman craving dill pickles? There actually some truth in that. Dill is a stomach soother and is effective in combating morning sickness. Other than that, it contains many more medicinal uses. Chewing the seeds can help curb bad breath. It is effective for gas and also promotes milk flow in nursing mothers. Since it is a stomach soother, it is effective in treating heartburn, indigestion, stomach and menstrual cramps. Since it is safe for children, you can use it to treat colic in infants. It contains diuretic properties and is effective in preventing you urinary tract from getting bacterial infections.
Echinacea plays a role in helping the body to get rid of microbial infections. This herb is effective in fighting against the symptoms of colds and the flu. Drink Echinacea tea three times a day the next time you are feeling under the weather. To make this tea, put one to two teaspoons of Echinacea root into a cup of boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10-15 minutes before drinking.
Do not use Echinacea more than eight weeks. Avoid this herb if you are pregnant or nursing.
If you are allergic to daises or marigold, do not use Echinacea. Stop using if your experience these reactions:
- Respiratory Problems
Like its name, feverfew is an excellent fever reducer and is even effective in reducing the chills that come with a fever. This is not a new herb; it has been used for thousands of years as a pain reliever. The anti-inflammatory properties are effective in not only reducing headache pain but also in treating migraine and arthritic pain. Feverfew releases chemical such as serotonin and prostaglandins which, along with the anti-inflammatory properties, help with pain. This plant is also effective in treating ailments of the digestive system. You can easily grow this plant in your backyard garden or purchase capsules and powders at your local health food store.
Avoid feverfew if you are pregnant or nursing. If you are allergic to ragweed, chamomile or yarrow, or if you suffer from insomnia avoid this herb.
Garlic to Hawberry
There are many uses in the kitchen for garlic. It can be eaten alone and it can be used as the main ingredient for many meat dishes, stews, soups, and as a flavoring. As in cooking, this herb has many medicinal uses. With its reputation as a natural antibiotic, it is often used to treat many infections. This very powerful herb contains a thiosulfinate called allicin which provides antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. The medicinal uses of garlic include:
- Treating acne, eczema boils, and insect bites
- Reducing arthritic pain
- Treating earache and toothache pain
- Relieving coughs and other cold and flu symptoms
- Removing calluses, corns, cysts, and warts
- Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
- Preventing arteriosclerosis
- Treating diarrhea
- Treating hemorrhoids
- Treating pinkeye
- Treating yeast infections
- Treating athlete’s foot
- Controlling blood sugar levels
To get the best medicinal uses, it is a good idea to eat fresh garlic cloves. However, some people may not like the taste of garlic. If you are one of those types of people, you can purchase many powders and supplements from your local pharmacy or health food store.
Note: If you are taking a blood thinner, talk to your doctor before using garlic. Since this is a natural blood thinner, it may interfere with those that you are already taking.
Ginger is an excellent spice when it comes to digestion. It contains anti-nausea and anti-vomiting properties. This spice is one of the most commonly used ones when it comes to treating morning sickness, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy treatments and stomach bugs. While it is safe to give to children for stomach bugs and stomachache aches, since it is very spicy, many parents prefer to give them ginger ale. This spice is excellent for lowering blood pressure, regulating blood sugar and reducing arthritic pain.
Ginseng is an excellent herb to use to increase your energy and allows you to reach your optimal physical state. This herb helps improve your physical performance and optimal vitality. It helps when you are feeling tired and/or exhausted and helps give you the extra spring in your step. In addition to energy, ginseng is excellent in lowering blood pressure and improving digestion. To make an excellent energy tean add a teaspoon of ginseng root to a cup of boiling water. Allow it to steep for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking. Drink this tea up to three times a day.
There are some side effects that you should look out for if you use ginseng. These include:
Do not combine American ginseng with aspirin.
If you are on blood thinners, avoid American ginseng. This herb may cause your blood clot at a slower rate. Therefore, if you are prone to getting cuts, avoid this herb since it will make you bleed for a longer period time.
If you have diabetes, do not use large amounts of ginseng because it can lower your blood sugar to a dangerously low level. Talk to your Dr. about how much of this herb you should use.
Avoid ginseng if you are pregnant or nursing.
The hawberry which is produced by the hawthorn bush is excellent for your heart. It makes the walls of the veins and arteries stronger and helps regulate blood pressure. It also helps relieve nervous tension. Therefore, this herb is excellent if you suffer from stress and anxiety.
Since it causes drowsiness, you should avoid hawthorn berry if you drive or operate heavy machinery. Do not use if you are pregnant or nursing.
Do not use if you have diabetes, liver disease, or if you are taking narcotic pain medications or anti-seizure drugs.
Parsley is often times used as a decorative herb. Rather than just setting it aside as you eat your meal, you may want to consider eating it as well. Parsley is effective in reducing fluid retention. It contains diuretic properties which help reduce fluid retention and removes toxins from your kidneys and bladder. The expectorant properties of this herb help treat many conditions of the respiratory system.
A bright colored green herb, parsley is the spice that is used in many recipes. The leaves of this herb give many European, American, and Middle Eastern dishes a nice mild flavor. Used in many stews and soups, not only are you getting a delicious meal, you are also reaping in many health benefits by eating parsley.
Parsley contains antibiotic and diuretic properties. These properties are excellent in fighting the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections. Even if you are do not have the signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection, steeping parsley in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes and drinking it as a tea helps flush the bacteria that is building up in your urinary bladder and tract.
Parsley is good for your heart since it is a natural blood thinner. When you have high levels of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream, your arteries get clogged up with fatty buildup. This causes high blood pressure because your heart has to work faster to move the blood through the arteries. This, in turn, can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Including parsley in your daily diet can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol and dissolve the calcium deposits that are responsible for hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. Therefore it also can reduce the chances of getting a heart attack or stroke.
Parsley contains laxative properties and is an excellent way to promote intestinal health by including it in your daily diet. If you suffer from constipation or want to prevent it this herb helps keep you regular. Parsley contains anti-bacterial properties which are effective in preventing cuts, scrapes, burns and insect bites from getting infected.
The astringent properties in parsley are excellent for not only acne, eczema and psoriasis, but also for cold sores, fever blisters, sunburn, and poison ivy rashes. The anti-bacterial properties in parsley are also effective in fighting the bacteria in your mouth. By steeping this herb in hot water and using it as a mouth rinse, you not only will kill the germs that give you bad breath but fight the bacteria that give you gum disease and tooth decay at the same time.
White Peony to Yarrow
Natural to China and Southern Europe, white peony contains many healing properties and can be used as a blood tonic. A tonic plays a role in toning the system and making the body stronger allowing it to handle stress more effectively. White peony contains anti-spasmodic properties which help relieve menstrual cramps and other stomach disorders.
Avoid white peony if you are pregnant or nursing. Also, avoid white peony if you are on blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder. Stop using it at least two weeks before any type of surgery
Peppermint contains many properties and is one of the most often used herbs when it comes to gas. It is effective in relieving:
- Morning Sickness
- Travel Sickness
- Menstrual Cramps
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Cold and Flu Symptoms
In addition to the above, this herb also plays a role in stabilizing mood swings. For a healing cup of tea add a teaspoon of peppermint to a cup and pour boiling water over the herb. Allow the tea to steep for at least ten minutes before drinking. Since peppermint is safe, you can drink this tea as much as you want. For mental well-being put three drops of essential oil into a bowl of hot water. Bend over the bowl and inhale. Note: Peppermint essential oil is meant for external uses only. Drinking this oil can be harmful and even fatal.
Plantain, a common backyard weed, has been long recognized for its astringent properties. Rubbing the juices of this plant on bee stings or mosquito bites brings immediate relief to the area and helps start the healing. You can also treat poison ivy rash since it helps stop your skin from getting blisters and helps relieve the itching. It also contains expectorant and decongestant properties. It is very effective in treating cold and flu systems and helps relieve conditions of the respiratory system including asthma and bronchitis.
Avoid plantain if you are pregnant or nursing.
When people hear the word poppy, they think of opium. It is true that opium comes from the opium poppy. Poppy is an excellent pain reliever and is the plant from which morphine is made. People are restricted from growing this plant unless they have a license, however, you can grow plants such as the California poppy. This plant was originally used by Native Americans as a painkiller. The next time you suffer from a toothache, you can chew on a few leaves or pack the leaves around the hurting tooth. If you suffer from insomnia, make a sleep-inducing tea by filling a cup with boiling water and adding a few leaves to in. Allow the tea to brew for 10 to 15 minutes before drinking.
Avoid using the opium poppy plant because it can produce addicting drugs. As well as opium and heroin, morphine and codeine come from this plant, too. If you need something as strong as the last two, see your doctor for his recommendations.
Turmeric is a very popular Indian spice that is used in curries and many other Indian dishes. It contains a large number of antioxidants, even more than what is found in Vitamins C and E. It is effective in lowering cholesterol and in aiding in digestion and reducing intestinal gas. This King of Spices:
- Contains anti-inflammatory properties-fights inflammation of the joints
- Contains anti-viral properties-helps protect your body from infections.
- Helps speed up the recovery of wounds.
- Helps improve skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
- Contains curcumin-which is excellent for detoxifying the liver
Yarrow contains anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties. While it is effective in relieving and treating gastrointestinal conditions, it is an effective fever reducer. The way this herb lowers a fever is it induces sweating. It is an excellent tonic to the circulatory system and is effective in treating varicose and spider veins, hemorrhoids, and thrombosis. With all these properties, yarrow helps your body lower blood pressure, relieve arthritic pain and helps clear skin conditions such as acne. It also helps regulate the menstrual cycle by reducing heavy bleeding.
If you are pregnant or nursing, avoid using yarrow.
If you are allergic to ragweed, avoid using yarrow. Before treating a skin condition with yarrow, test a small area and check for redness or any other reactions.
You can find many fresh herbs and spices at your local grocery store. However, you may find many more at your local health food in the form of:
This is just a sampling of all the good spices can do for you. The spices listed are only a fraction of those throughout the world. If you want to explore more, look at the different spices at your local grocery store and research about them at your library or online. You should always discuss with your doctor about which spices you want to use, since some may have a negative impact on a current medical condition. Plus certain spices may interact with medications and supplements you may be already taking. Especially talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing. Some herbs may not be safe for your baby.
© 2017 Lois Ryan