Culinary + Medicinal Herbs & Spices

Nothing says boring like bland-tasting food. Thankfully nature abounds with fragrant herbs and spices to kick things up a notch or..three! Whether you love a fragrant bouquet of basil or a sprinkle of sweet and spicy cinnamon, eating can become a sensual experience and create a greater appreciation for nourishment. Not only can they accessorize a meal by heightening its flavor profile, herbs and spices contain an arsenal of medicinal properties. According to the The American Institute for Cancer Research, herbs and spices contain health-protective phytochemicals and can help fight cancer and other diseases. I have such reverence for the plant kingdom for its ability to awaken healing. There is much to be learned from ancient cultures that used plants as tools of medicine. The “food as medicine” model is a powerful and strong foundation for health that I highly encourage. While there are so many delicious and powerful herbs and spices, here is a list of some that can add some fun to your dishes while boosting your health.

One of my favorite herbs to grow, basil comes from the Greek word “king” and can reduce plasma cholesterol and the risk of atherosclerosis-related diseases. Research suggests it contains protection against carcinogenic-induced cancers in mice. I love the sweet green and spicier purple variety and its amazing fragrance. Adding some fresh leaves to your salad will elevate its flavor while giving your body some pretty awesome health benefits.

Nothing says summer like the cool and refreshing menthol taste of mint. Peppermint leaves contain a treasure trove of phenolic compounds like rosmarinic acid and flavonoids, such as eriocitrin, luteolin, and hesperidin. Not only does it freshen your breath, but peppermint leaves can calm a belligerent belly due to its relaxing effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Adding some fresh mint leaves to cold water is a great way to add flavor, while sipping on hot mint tea can have a super soothing effect.

If you want a ride to flavor town rosemary has to be one of my top picks. Native to the Mediterranean, rosemary possesses antioxidant and antimicrobial activities linked to its polyphenol composition. Not only does it contain chemoprotective properties, but taking a moment to enjoy its aromatherapeutic effects can enhance your mood and relieve pain. Whether you prefer consuming it fresh or dried, rosemary will put a smile on your face.

Thanks to turmeric, curry and other foods like chutney and mustard get their pop of bright yellow color. If we dig a little deeper, we find that curcumin is responsible for all the color and health benefits as well. The curcuminoids in curcumin are associated with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, with potential activity against cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases. Not too shabby! Like ginger, turmeric comes from a root so enjoy it fresh or in dried form.

If ketchup and Worcestershire sauce make you smile then most likely you enjoy the taste of cloves. Native to the Indonesian islands, studies show that clove ranks high as a natural antioxidant due to its phenol content. While it has an intense flavor profile mixing it with other spices like cinnamon and ginger can boost the flavor of cooked apples, oatmeal or baked goods.

I hope you enjoy experimenting with a variety of herbs and spices and feel nourished. Happy & Healthy Cravings! 🙂

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