by Barbara L. Milton
Spices that stand out for their health benefits
All spices confer a list of health benefits. The addition of any of them to a prepared dish, drink, or in a supplement form will help to reduce free radical damage and combat the effects of aging. Here are a few spices that offer outstanding benefits.
Cinnamon – Three key proteins are highly important in insulin signaling, glucose transport and inflammatory response, according to Richard Anderson, researcher with the U.S.D.A. Cinnamon has insulin-like qualities that come from the release of these proteins. His and other studies have shown that just 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help lower the risk of the constellation of factors associated with metabolic syndrome – high blood cholesterol, triglyceride and glucose levels – by as much as 10 to 30 percent.
A study in Hormone Metabolism Research found that cinnamon prevents insulin resistance even in animals eating a high-fructose diet.
Cinnamon is anti-microbial and can stop the growth of bacteria, fungi and yeast. A study in the International Journal of Food Microbiology found that a few drops of cinnamon essential oil added to carrot broth were able to preserve it and fight pathogens.
Cinnamon has anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce clumping of blood platelets. It is suspected that cinnamon boosts brain function. Of all the spices, cinnamon is one of the richest sources of antioxidants.
Ginger – Gingerol, the active ingredient in ginger, has been shown to significantly help with nausea, vomiting, and morning sickness. It was found to be as twice as effective as Dramamine in preventing motion sickness. It is a powerful antioxidant, and is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. It is a common digestive aid and useful for people suffering the side effects of chemotherapy. Its anti-inflammatory abilities make it useful in fighting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and arthritis.
Oregano – Thymol and carvacrol are two of oregano's potent antibacterial properties. A study in Mexico found oregano to be more effective against an amoeba than a common prescription drug called tinidazol. Oregano works in the intestinal tract to kill unfriendly bacteria without damage to the friendly bacteria. It is effective against candida albicans overgrowth throughout the body, and particularly in the sinus cavities. It has 4 times the antioxidant activity of blueberries.
Rosemary – In winter, a rosemary bush inside the house acts as a natural air cleaner and freshener, along with being a source for the herb to use in cooking. Rosemary stops gene mutations that could lead to cancer, and may help prevent damage to the blood vessels, thereby reducing heart attack risk.
Turmeric – This bright yellow spice of Indian cuisine is one of nature's most powerful healers. It is a potent anti-inflammatory that acts as effectively as drugs like hydrocortisone, phenylbutazone and Motrin. It is helpful with inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Recent research shows it as positive for cardiovascular and liver protection.
When combined with cruciferous vegetables, turmeric has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate tumors. It prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice. It may prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to die. Turmeric may also prevent metastasis from occurring in many different forms of cancer.
Turmeric has been shown to reduce the risk of childhood leukemia, and shows promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis. It is a natural liver detoxifier and one of nature's most effective pain relievers through inhibition of COX-2.
Garlic – This wonder drug of nature destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells. Studies show that two cloves of garlic weekly provide cancer-protective benefits. A recent study showed that eating garlic boosts the body's supply of hydrogen sulfide, which acts as an antioxidant and transmits cellular signals that relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.
In another recent study, researchers extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added small amounts to human red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulfide. This ability to increase hydrogen sulfide production may explain why a garlic rich diet is so protective against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer. It may also explain why garlic appears to protect the heart. A recent study found that injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely prevented the damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack.
Garlic has a reputation as preventative and treatment for the common cold. It's used to treat the symptoms of acne and there is evidence that it can assist in managing high cholesterol levels. It even appears to be a natural mosquito repellent.
Sage – This herb contains flavonoids, phenolic acids and oxygen handling enzymes. This results in its ability to prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. Sage may fight rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma and atherosclerosis. It appears to promote better brain function. A study showed that people given sage essential oil had significantly improved recall abilities compared to those given a placebo.
Red chili peppers – These peppers contain capsaicin, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound that helps relieve pain. They ease congestion and clear mucus from the lungs and nose, boost immunity, prevent stomach ulcers by killing bacteria, assist in weight loss, reduce blood cholesterol, manage triglyceride levels, and prevent cancer including stomach cancer.
Coriander – This herb is effective against swelling, high cholesterol levels, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, anemia, digestion, menstrual disorders, conjunctivitis, and skin disorders. It is antioxidant rich and contains vitamins A and C, and minerals. It is protective of the eye by preventing macular degeneration and soothing the eye against stress. It has a stimulating effect on the endocrine system which in turn stimulates the production of insulin, resulting in increased insulin in the blood to aid in proper assimilation and absorption of sugar and lower the sugar level in the blood.
Parsley – Chief among the abilities of parsley is cancer fighting. Animal studies have shown that parsley inhibits tumor formation, particularly in the lungs. It neutralizes carcinogens including those found in cigarette smoke. It is a good source of antioxidants and heart-healthy nutrients such as beta-carotene, folic acid, and vitamins A and C.
"Health Benefits of Coriander," Organic Facts.
"Spice of Life: Health Benefits of Spices and Herbs," Mind, Body and Spirit Fitness.
Howard Dratch, "Spice Up Your Life: The Health Benefits of Spices," BC Sci/Tech.
"20 Health Benefits of Turmeric," Eat This.
Tara Parker-Pope, "Unlocking the Benefits of Garlic," The New York Times, October 15, 2007.
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