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Healing in the Kitchen

by Kathrine Chisholm, BSN

This article originally ran in the August 2003 Reader

Sizzlin’ hot outside? Like your food that way, too? I sure do! Herbs and spices have been used to satisfy our senses and make our food more interesting to the taste buds for ages. But do you realize just how much those spices you love really increase your health and vitality?

Available Research

There is quite a bit of research available on the medicinal aspects of herbs and spices. I used Michael Murray’s Healing Power of Herbs, Ed Smith’s Therapeutic Herb Manual,
Andrea Peirce’s Natural Medicines, and Janet Zand et al Smart Medicine for Healthier Living as sources in making this short synopsis. Please consult them for more detailed information. All the herbs and spices listed are good for digestion, but their other health benefits may surprise you!

Top 15 Herbs and Spices and their Healing Properties

Anise
Relieves gas, aids digestion, relieves infant colic, is an expectorant making coughs more effective and helping to clear the lungs. Also increases nursing mothers' milk production.

Basil
Soothing to the stomach and warming. Mildly sedative. Anti-nausea. Helps relieve morning sickness and motion sickness. Soothing expectorant for coughs. Promotes perspiration.

Cardamom
Warming herb, promotes digestion and relieves gas. Gentle liver and bile stimulant. Anti-nausea. Mild diuretic, promoting urine flow.

Cayenne pepper
Antioxidant, reduces atherosclerosis; topically applied as a cream it can reduce pain in arthritis, neural conditions, and even post-surgical pain. Although initially warming, it actually cools the body by aiding the hypothalamus in body temperature regulation.

Cinnamon
Aids in digestion, breaks down fats, relieves gas, stimulates appetite, relieves diarrhea. Essential oil of cinnamon is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral. It also has local pain-relieving (numbing) qualities.

Cloves
Soothing to the digestive system, antioxidant, may help heal stomach ulcers. Topically, clove oil fights infection and numbs pain (even stronger than cinnamon oil). It has a long history of use in relieving toothaches.

Fennel
Relieves indigestion, nausea, and infant colic. As an expectorant it helps relieve coughs. Gentle liver and bile stimulant. Increases production of breast milk. Excellent digestive remedy for children.

Garlic
Anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. Immune enhancing and anti-cancer agent. Prevents atherosclerosis, reduces cholesterol, lowers high blood pressure, helps regulate blood sugar, and is anti-inflammatory. Also aids in digestion and relieves colic.

Ginger
Strong antioxidant, prevents and relieves nausea and vomiting. Especially helpful with morning sickness and motion sickness. Anti-inflammatory. Cholesterol lowering. Prevents ulcers. Warms the body and increases circulation. May relieve pain of arthritis and migraine headaches.

Onions
Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Decreases blood lipid levels. Regulates blood sugar levels. Helpful in asthma because it relaxes bronchial muscle and reduces spasms. Yellow onions contain a strong antioxidant, quercetin, that helps relieve and prevent allergies.

Peppermint
Relaxing anti-spasmodic, anti-gas, stimulates bile flow and helps dissolve gallstones. Anti-viral, and when taken as hot tea it stimulates sweating. Nasal decongestion, soothes coughs and sore throats. Topical pain relief. Used successfully to treat irritable bowel syndrome.

Rosemary
Anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, stimulating to the immune system, and also stimulates the circulatory system. Helpful in treating colds, sore throats (make a rosemary tea gargle), and headaches.

Sage
Aids digestion, increases urination, anti-bacterial, anti-viral. Can help clear colds, decrease nasal discharge, and heal sore throats (gargle with the tea).

Thyme
Anti-septic, relieves lung congestion, stops diarrhea. Improves appetite and relieves colic. The essential oil fragrance calms and relaxes nerves while also increasing energy and improving concentration.

Turmeric
Strong anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory. Lowers cholesterol, protects and increases liver function, stimulates bile, protects against ulcers, and is anti-bacterial. Long used in India to treat sprains, inflammations, and arthritis.

Healing Starts in the Kitchen!

When you’re making a marinade for the grill, doing a quick stir fry, baking cookies, or making soups and stews, be sure to include herbs and spices from our bulk aisle. Most of the herbs listed are also available in the supplements aisle as capsules or extracts for medicinal use. Common uses based on researched properties as listed are not meant as prescriptive. Consult your holistic health practitioner for more information if you are interested in medicinal use. Meanwhile as we cook for our families and ourselves we know that the herbs and spices that make our food taste so good are also so good for us!

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