The Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices
Historically, herbs and spices have been used both for their culinary capabilities and as traditional medicines. Now modern science has shown they offer several health benefits, making them true food as medicine.
Whether you dust your stew with turmeric, sprinkle chopped rosemary on roasted vegetables, or add some fresh basil to a pasta dish, reaping the health benefits of herbs and spices could not be easier or more delicious.
Whether fresh or dried, just a dash of herbs and spices can provide profound health benefits. Read on to explore how these everyday pantry staples can greatly impact your health.
Perhaps one of the most versatile and well-loved herbs, garlic has been used in many cultures across the globe. The health benefits of garlic are as widespread as the types of cuisine you can find it in.
The medicinal use of garlic dates back to ancient Chinese and Indian medicine, which used garlic to aid digestion and respiratory conditions. Over the years, it's been used to treat everything from arthritis to snake bites and toothaches. In modern medicine, we often see it used to treat colds, infections, and heart disease.
The intense flavor of garlic and the health-promoting benefits come from the same sulfur-containing compound called allicin. Allicin has been shown to have strong antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties and it acts as a strong antioxidant. Garlic has been well-studied for its role in preventing heart diseases by improving blood cholesterol levels.
Whether you are a kitchen novice or an expert, you've probably used garlic in many dishes. If you are looking for a new way to incorporate it into your cooking, our Ikarian Spice Blend makes it easy to do so. Try it in our Greek Herb Summer Garden Vegetable Tian recipe that boasts roasted garlic and seasonal summer veggies.
Turmeric has made headlines in the past few years for its potential to fight inflammation. From lattes to herbal supplements, it seems we can't get enough of this traditional Indian spice. While turmeric is well known in many Indian recipes, it’s also used in other Asian cooking, including Thai curries and Japanese teas.
Traditional Eastern Medicine has used turmeric for migraines, tumors, and inflammation. Science has discovered that the health benefits of turmeric stem from a polyphenolic compound called curcumin which gives it its bold yellow hue. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation, which is likely where many of the health benefits come from. Currently it is being investigated for use in:
- cancer treatment
- neurological diseases
- inflammatory bowel disease
- heart disease
Our Okinawan Curry Acorn Squash features our Okinawan Spice Blend with turmeric and other warming Asian spices.
Oregano is part of the mint family and is used in Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean cuisines. It adds a great flavor to tomato sauces, summer veggie stir-fries, roasted veggies and bean salads.
Folk medicine has long used oregano to treat respiratory and digestive disorders and inflammation-related diseases. This herb has many phytochemicals, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are currently being studied for their anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. Oregano also appears to have antimicrobial effects and is being researched for its use against viruses.
Our Sardinian Spice Blend combines oregano, basil and rosemary. Try it out with our Sardinian Herb Kale Pesto.
The familiar cocoa powder and chocolate that we've come to know and love are made from seeds from the fruit of the cacao tree, native to Central and Southern America. We don't usually think of cacao as an herb since we often find it in chocolates and other sweet treats, yet it has been used in cooking for hundreds of years. Often referred to as "the food of the gods," it has been used medicinally and in religious ceremonies by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans.
Cacao is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols and numerous studies show that it may help in immune regulation, blood sugar management, weight control, and neurological disorders. Theobromine is one of the active components in cacao that have been linked to improved cardiovascular outcomes.
Cocoa powder does not need to be used just for dessert and other sweet treats. In fact, the cacao seeds are bitter unless sugar is added. Mole, a traditional Mexican sauce, uses cocoa to give it its rich, complex flavor. We've included it in our Nicoyan Spice Blend with paprika and ancho chili powder for a little bit of heat.
This is just small example of the health benefits of herbs and spices. Besides adding flavor to your meals they can provide you so many health benefits. We hope this article will inspire you to have a little fun in the kitchen with some new seasonings you have yet to try.