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Herbs and spices: Their health benefits

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

The spice of life

Love the fiery zing of red hot chili peppers in your burritos? Now you have more reason than ever to enjoy that spicy goodness. Herbs and spices are not only a good way to add a little zest to your meals, but they also contain incredible healing properties. Just like fruits and veggies, herbs and spices contain essential vitamins, mineral and enzymes that improve human health.

Variety of spices

Herbs vs. spices

The primary difference between herbs and spices is where they are obtained from on a plant. Herbs are the leafy parts of plants, whereas spices come from the seeds, fruits, dried buds, pods, roots or bark. Herbs can be used fresh or dried, while spices are typically used dried. Fresh herbs and whole spices ground by hand provide the most potency and flavor.

Culinary uses

DID YOU KNOW?

Rosemary, garlic and turmeric contain special compounds that can prevent or even fight cancer. Eat up!

When trying to cut back on fats, sugars and salt, using herbs and spices can be a great way to enhance the flavor of what you are cooking, while also improving its medicinal properties. From delicate and sweet to pungent and savory, herbs and spices can add enormous variety to any meal.

Health benefits

For centuries, herbs and spices have been used by natural practitioners for their incredible healing properties. Each herb or spice has its own unique benefits, such as cinnamon which is reputed to have antioxidant capacities, help in lowering LDL cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, inhibit bacterial growth and reduce arthritis pain. Or garlic, which has been studied for its anti-cancer properties, and has been associated with cholesterol reduction and improvements in cardiovascular health, aids in reducing blood pressure and even helps to clear up acne.

Herbal healing

Oregano, gram for gram, has the highest antioxidant value of any culinary herb. Sprinkle on pizza or pasta marinara... or use to season fish or chicken. Top off with lemon, olive oil, feta cheese and some fresh tomatoes. Yum!

People throughout the world have been using herbal medicine for millennia. The ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Greeks, Roman and Chinese all have documented texts describing in enormous detail the various herbs and spices their societies depended upon. Research has shown that the same herbs and spices were used throughout the world for similar purposes. According to the World Health Organization, even in the present day, approximately 80% of the world population still depends upon traditional herbal remedies for some portion of their primary health care. In the United States, the interest in herbal medicine has increased in recent years, along with a growing concern over the overuse of antibiotics and other failures of conventional medicine.

How can I find a licensed herbalist?

Interested in using the power of herbs to improve your health? Consult with a naturopathic physician or herbalist to get the best results. They will work with your specific health concerns and help you use the power of natural remedies to promote healing and restore balance to your body. Contact the American Herbalists Guild or the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians to find an herbal practitioner or naturopath in your area.

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