September 26, 2018 5 min read

Herbs and spices aren’t meant to be mere aromatics and decorations on your food. They have health benefits that you get to enjoy every time you take a bite out of any food that has been blessed with their flavor and intensity.

Herbs vs Spices

A lot of people use the two terms interchangeably. While they may seem similar because of the way they are often used for culinary purposes in a wide range of cuisines, the source from whence they came are very different.

Herbs are derived from the leaves of a plant. Basil, and thyme are some of the more popular and commonly used herbs. You would be hard pressed to find a savory recipe that does include one of these herbs in it.

On the other hand, spices are usually from the seed, berry, bark, or root of a plant. Cinnamon, and star anise are the spices that are more commonly used in popular recipes especially in Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.

Each herb and each spice has a unique flavor that it lends to a dish which is why most people have focused solely on what they can do culinary wise. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, herbs and spices can do so much more than just bringing your dish up to the next level; it can also bring your health up a few notches as well.

Herbs are derived from plant leaves

Spices come from tree barks, seeds, berries, or roots

The Use of Herbs and Spices in Health Practices

Homeopathic, Ayurvedic, and Chinese Medicine are just some of the means through which herbs and spices are being utilized to reinvigorate and revitalize a person’s health and general state of well being.

In all three medicinal traditions, herbs and spices have been used to cure a variety of ailments from the usual cough and colds, stomach upset, sore throat, fever, and for detoxification among other things. The chosen herb or spices may use be eaten raw, brewed into a tea, or added to a hearty dish to bring out its goodness and to maximise the health benefits that they can provide. Essential oils can also be extracted from them which is great because it allows you to bring them along on your travels. Some herbs and spices can also be infused in your own soap and shampoo in order to reap their amazing benefits.

Reducing herbs and spices into powder and placing them in capsules

Infusing soap with herbs and/or spices

Using herbs and spice extracts in essential oils

Health Benefits of Spices

Below are some of the more popular spices that you can probably find in your pantry already. They are found in a variety of dishes and it should not be a surprise that they are staples in the pantry.

  • Cloves - this spice is usually used in aromatic dishes and it imparts a great many number of essential minerals such as potassium, the mineral that our body uses in controlling our heart rate and blood pressure; and manganese, a powerful antioxidant enzyme. It also has a good amount of vitamin C which is essential in fighting free-radicals.
  • Cinnamon - there are many varieties of cinnamon available in the market but the Sri Lankan variety is considered to be the one true cinnamon. This fragrant spice has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as anticoagulant properties that helps in preventing strokes and other coronary artery diseases. This spice also has warming and soothing properties which is why it’s a great addition to warm drinks served when the weather is pretty cool.
  • Cumin - this spice that’s often found in Indian and Arabian cuisine is a great antioxidant and is an excellent source of dietary fiber. It is also contains copper, and iron which are necessary for the formation of red blood cells.
  • Star Anise - this beautiful star shaped spice has amazing antibacterial properties that can aid in the treatment of strep throat, common cough and colds, and can also aid in calming an upset stomach. It contains vitamins C and A, which are very important in building a strong immune system.
  • Cocoa - probably the most beloved ingredient in the world is actually a spice. It has a significant amount of caffeine, which is a nervous system stimulator and is a well known mood booster. It also contains minerals such as calcium, which is necessary for bone growth, and selenium, a cardioprotective mineral that also serves as an antioxidant.

Spices not only liven up food but they also make impart amazing health benefits

Indian curries use a lot of of spices that creates theunique flavors of Indian cuisine

Health Benefits of Herbs

Not to be outdone by the great health benefits that the roots, bark, and seeds of some plants can impart, the leaves of many plants have amazing qualities that are great for a person’s overall health. Below are some of the more common pantry staples that are holding in some much needed health boosters.

  • Rosemary - this powerful herb that goes well with just about any dish is rich in B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin and folic acid. Folate is an essential DNA synthesis which is very important during the first trimester of pregnancy. It also has great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties when taken in, which is helpful when you’re down with the season flu.
  • Coriander - this pungent herb which some people absolutely love or absolutely detest comes antioxidant properties as well as a good amount of dietary fibers which can help in reducing the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. It is also the herb with the most amount of Vitamin K present which is essential in building bone mass, as well as in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease because it has the capacity to reduce the neuronal damage in the brain.
  • Dill - this herb which goes well with a good slice of salmon, is a great source of Vitamin C, which is great for the immune system and as a powerful antioxidant. The seeds of this herb can also help support breastfeeding as it contains galactagogues which is essential in the milk production and secretion of women. It is an incredibly nutrient dense food that has very low caloric value.
  • Basil - you would be hard pressed to find a red sauce pasta dish that does not have basil as part of its ingredients list. This well-known and well-loved herb has high levels of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and lutein, all of which are essential in fighting off free radicals in the body. It also has a good amount of Iron, which is important for the hemoglobin in our red blood cells as this is the oxygen-carrying component of our blood.
  • Oregano - this spice that’s present in a wide variety of cuisines such as Mexican, Italian, and Greek, is capable of fighting off the common flu, and can even help in fever reduction. It is also high in antioxidants which helps in fighting off infections and free radicals. Oregano also aids in digestion because it encourages the secretion of gastrointestinal juices. This herb is also incredibly nutrient dense despite having very low calories.

Herbs can be used whether fresh or dried

Herbs lend intense and refreshing flavors to salads and pasta dishes

Something to Remember

Before deciding to disregard your doctor’s prescription and medical advice in favor of going au naturel, you need to remember that for the most part, these herbs and spices are better for prevention rather than cure. In the instance of emergencies or serious ailments or injuries, consulting with your general practitioner is still the best thing to do. You should also consult a homeopathic practitioner before using more advanced herbal concoctions.

These herbs and spices are amazing in that not only are they delicious, they are also incredibly healthy. So the next time you’re planning your grocery list, think of how you can incorporate these in your meals. Not only will they taste amazing but they’ll also serve as your daily source of the good stuff.