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Healthy herbs and spices

10 delicious herbs and spices with powerful health benefits

Here are 10 herbs and spices that are both delicious and healthy according to science.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
10 delicious herbs and spices with powerful health benefits
Last updated on February 11, 2024, and last reviewed by an expert on September 4, 2023.

Herbs and spices have been valued for centuries for their healing properties and flavor. Modern research has found evidence of numerous health benefits.

10 delicious herbs and spices with powerful health benefits

According to research, there are 10 herbs and spices that are considered to be some of the healthiest in the world.

  1. Cinnamon
  2. Sage
  3. Peppermint
  4. Turmeric
  5. Holy basil
  6. Cayenne pepper
  7. Ginger
  8. Fenugreek
  9. Rosemary
  10. Garlic

1. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a well-liked spice you’ll see in many recipes and sweet treats.

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It’s got a component known as cinnamaldehyde, which gives cinnamon its health-boosting qualities.

This spice is a powerhouse of antioxidants, helps to counteract inflammation, and has been proven to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your bloodstream.

But the real standout feature of cinnamon is its ability to regulate blood sugar.

It can reduce blood sugar through several routes, such as slowing down how quickly carbs are processed in your gut and enhancing the effectiveness of insulin.

Research indicates that for people with diabetes, cinnamon can decrease fasting blood sugar levels by a noteworthy 10-29%.

A useful dosage usually falls between 0.5-2 teaspoons, or 1-6 grams, per day.

You can discover more about the remarkable health advantages of cinnamon in this article:

11 evidence-based health benefits of cinnamon
Suggested read: 11 evidence-based health benefits of cinnamon

Summary: Cinnamon is a spice that provides a multitude of health benefits, including its effectiveness in reducing blood sugar levels.

2. Sage

The name Sage comes from the Latin word Salvere, which translates to “to save.”

It was highly regarded for its medicinal benefits during medieval times and was even used as a precaution against the plague.

Contemporary research suggests that sage could enhance cognitive functions and memory, particularly in those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s often leads to a decrease in acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Sage acts to slow down the breakdown of this chemical.

A study spanning 4 months, involving 42 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, found notable enhancements in cognitive performance due to sage extract.

Additional research has confirmed that sage can also boost memory abilities in healthy individuals, irrespective of age.

Summary: There is promising evidence that sage extract can improve brain and memory function, especially in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Peppermint

Peppermint has been a staple in traditional medicine and aromatherapy for a long time.

Like many herbs, its oil is the key component that delivers its health benefits.

Multiple studies indicate that peppermint oil can be effective for managing pain in cases of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

It seems to function by relaxing the smooth muscles in your colon, easing the discomfort felt during bowel activity. This also aids in minimizing belly bloating, a frequent digestive issue.

Some research also suggests that peppermint’s aromatic properties can be beneficial in reducing nausea.

In one investigation involving over 1,100 women who were in labor, the use of peppermint aromatherapy significantly lessened nausea. It’s also proven effective in reducing nausea following surgical procedures and C-section deliveries.

Summary: The essential oil in peppermint provides pain relief for IBS and has potent anti-nausea effects in aromatherapy.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric is what gives curry its characteristic yellow hue.

It’s packed with compounds that have medicinal qualities, the most noteworthy being curcumin.

Curcumin stands out as an extremely effective antioxidant, combatting oxidative harm and amplifying your body’s own antioxidant defenses.

This is crucial because oxidative stress is often cited as a leading factor in aging and numerous diseases.

Additionally, curcumin has impressive anti-inflammatory properties, even comparing favorably with some pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory medications.

Given that low-grade, persistent inflammation is a common thread in many chronic illnesses prevalent in Western societies, it’s no wonder curcumin is associated with a range of health perks.

Research indicates that it can enhance cognitive functions, battle Alzheimer’s, lower heart disease and cancer risks, and even alleviate arthritis symptoms, among other benefits.

Here is an article detailing the numerous amazing health advantages of turmeric:

10 proven health benefits of turmeric and curcumin
Suggested read: 10 proven health benefits of turmeric and curcumin

Summary: Studies indicate that curcumin, found in turmeric spice, offers various health benefits.

5. Holy basil

Holy basil shouldn’t be mixed up with common basil or Thai basil; it holds a sacred status in India.

Research indicates that holy basil can stave off a variety of bacteria, yeast, and molds.

A smaller study also suggested that it can enhance the immune system by increasing the presence of specific immune cells in your bloodstream.

Additionally, holy basil has been connected with lower blood sugar levels both pre and post-meals, and it may also be effective for managing anxiety and depression related to anxiety.

It’s worth noting, though, that these studies have been limited in size, so further investigation is needed to solidify these claims.

Summary: Holy basil can boost immune function and inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

6. Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper is a type of chili pepper used to prepare spicy dishes.

8 impressive health benefits of cayenne pepper
Suggested read: 8 impressive health benefits of cayenne pepper

The active ingredient in it is called capsaicin, which has been shown to reduce appetite and increase fat burning in many studies.

For this reason, it is a common ingredient in many commercial weight loss supplements.

One study found that adding 1 gram of red pepper to meals reduced appetite and increased fat burning in people who did not regularly eat peppers.

However, there was no effect in people who were accustomed to eating spicy food, indicating that a tolerance to the effects can build up.

Some animal studies have also found capsaicin to combat certain forms of cancer, including lung, liver, and prostate cancer.

Of course, these observed anti-cancer effects are far from being proven in humans, so take all of this with a big grain of salt.

Summary: Cayenne pepper is rich in capsaicin, which reduces appetite and boosts fat burning. It also has anti-cancer potential in animal studies.

7. Ginger

Ginger is a popular spice used in several forms of alternative medicine.

11 health benefits of ginger: Effect on nausea, the brain & more
Suggested read: 11 health benefits of ginger: Effect on nausea, the brain & more

Studies have consistently shown that 1 gram or more of ginger can successfully treat nausea.

This includes nausea caused by morning sickness, chemotherapy, and sea sickness.

Ginger also appears to have strong anti-inflammatory properties and can help with pain management.

One study in subjects at risk for colon cancer found that 2 grams of ginger extract per day decreased markers for colon inflammation like aspirin.

Other research found that a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, mastic, and sesame oil decreased pain and stiffness experienced by osteoarthritis patients. It had a similar effectiveness as treatment with aspirin or ibuprofen.

Summary: One gram of ginger is an effective remedy for various types of nausea and also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate pain.

8. Fenugreek

Fenugreek was commonly used in Ayurveda, particularly to enhance libido and masculinity.

Suggested read: Fenugreek: An herb with impressive health benefits

While its effects on testosterone levels are inconclusive, fenugreek seems beneficial to blood sugar.

It contains the plant protein 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which can improve the function of the hormone insulin.

Many human studies have shown that at least 1 gram of fenugreek extract daily can lower blood sugar levels, particularly in diabetics.

Summary: Fenugreek has been shown to improve insulin function, leading to significant reductions in blood sugar levels.

9. Rosemary

The active ingredient in rosemary is called rosmarinic acid.

This substance has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion.

In a study with 29 individuals, 50 and 200 mg doses of Rosmarinic acid were shown to suppress allergy symptoms.

The number of immune cells in nasal mucus also decreased, with reduced congestion.

Suggested read: 6 health benefits and uses of rosemary tea

Summary: Rosmarinic acid has anti-inflammatory effects that suppress allergy symptoms and reduce nasal congestion.

10. Garlic

Throughout ancient history, the primary use of garlic was for its medicinal properties.

We now know that most of these health effects are due to a compound called allicin, which is also responsible for garlic’s distinct smell.

Garlic supplementation is well known for combatting sickness, including the common cold.

If you often get colds, adding more garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.

There is also convincing evidence for beneficial effects on heart health.

For those with high cholesterol, garlic supplementation reduces total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10-15%.

Human studies have also found garlic supplementation to cause significant reductions in blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

In one study, it was just as effective as a blood pressure-lowering drug.

Covering all the incredible health benefits of garlic is beyond the scope of this article, but you can read about them here:

11 proven health benefits of garlic
Suggested read: 11 proven health benefits of garlic
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