The use of herbs and spices has been incredibly important throughout history.
Many were celebrated for their medicinal properties, well before culinary use.
Modern science has now shown that many of them do indeed carry remarkable health benefits.
Here are 5 of the world’s healthiest herbs and spices, supported by research.
Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Has a Powerful Anti-Diabetic Effect. Cinnamon is a popular spice, found in all sorts of recipes and baked goods.
Cinnamon has potent antioxidant activity, helps fight inflammation and has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. But where cinnamon really shines is in its effects on blood sugar levels.
Studies have shown that cinnamon can lower fasting blood sugars by 10-29% in diabetic patients, which is a significant amount. The effective dose is typically 0.5-2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day, or 1-6 grams.
Bottom Line: Cinnamon has numerous health benefits, and is particularly effective at lowering blood sugar levels.
Sage Can Improve Brain Function and Memory. Sage gets its name from the Latin word Salvere, which means “to save.” It had a strong reputation for its healing properties during the middle ages, and was even used to help prevent the plague.
Current research indicates that sage may be able to improve brain function and memory, especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by a drop in the level of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain. Sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine.
Other studies have also shown that sage can improve memory function in healthy people, both young and old.
Bottom Line: There is promising evidence that sage extract can improve brain and memory function, especially in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Relieves IBS Pain and May Reduce Nausea. Peppermint has a long history of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy.
As is the case with many herbs, it is the oily component that contains the agents responsible for the health effects.
Many studies have shown that peppermint oil can improve pain management in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS
It appears to work by relaxing the smooth muscles in the colon, which relieves pain experienced during bowel movements. It also helps to reduce abdominal bloating, which is a common digestive symptom
There are also some studies showing that peppermint in aromatherapy can help fight nausea.
In a study of over 1,100 women in labor, peppermint aromatherapy caused significant reductions in nausea. It has also been shown to reduce nausea after surgery and C-section births.
Bottom Line: The natural oil in peppermint provides pain relief for those with IBS. It also has potent anti-nausea effects when used in aromatherapy.
Tumeric Contains Curcumin, a Substance With Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Studies suggest that it can improve brain function, fight Alzheimer’s, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and relieve arthritis, to name a few
Here is an article about the many incredible health benefits of turmeric/curcumin.
Bottom Line: Studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, has major benefits for many aspects of health.
5. Holy Basil:
Holy Basil Helps Fight Infections and Boosts Immunity. Not to be confused with regular basil or thai basil, holy basil is considered a sacred herb in India.
Studies show that holy basil can inhibit the growth of a range of bacteria, yeasts and molds
One small study also found that it can boost function of the immune system by increasing certain immune cells in the blood
Holy basil is also linked to reduced blood sugar levels before and after meals, as well as treating anxiety and anxiety-related depression.
However, these studies were quite small, and more research is needed before any recommendations can be made.
Bottom Line, Holy basil appears to improve immune function and inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds.