Some days, the cure to what ails you is right underneath your nose — literally.
Herbs and spices are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Spices have been a part of healing rituals and healthy diets for centuries. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates up to 80 percent of the world’s population relies on traditional, holistic medicine for health care, and herbs are an important part of that. Scientific research shows when it comes to the healing power of spices, generations of people are on to something.
The good news is you don’t have to dramatically alter your diet—or your pantry—to make a lasting difference in your health. You likely already have a number of common household herbs on hand that have beneficial properties.
Here are seven herbs to work into your diet, and the benefits they bring:
Basil. It’s not just good on pizza. Basil is a known antioxidant with antibacterial qualities. It aids in digestion, reduces stomach cramps, helps asthma and sinus infections, reduces fever, increases perspiration and can even calm you down.
Black pepper. It makes you sneeze, which is actually proof of black pepper’s health benefits, which include relieving sinus congestion, cleansing mucus and acting as an expectorant; as well as stimulating digestion.
Caraway. This small seed is loaded with health benefits. Caraway is filled with fiber and minerals, including iron, copper, calcium, zinc, potassium and magnesium. It’s also a stimulant that helps prevent gas.
Cilantro. This green, leafy herb adds a fresh flavor to everything it touches, and at the same time, works wonders for the digestive tract. Cilantro prevents gas, acts as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory, lowers blood sugar, reduces cramps and is rich in iron and magnesium.
Cinnamon. This common cupboard spice is known for its ability to improve circulation, relieve pain, lower cholesterol, act as an expectorant and even manage blood sugar levels.
Dill. Most commonly associated with pickles, dill has a number of benefits on its own: it prevents gas, improves cholesterol, is filled with vitamin A and beta-carotene and is an antioxidant and expectorant.
Garlic. As if we need an incentive to eat more garlic. Despite that breath, it’s actually good for you! Garlic has detoxifying qualities that reduce fever, help cleanse the lymphatic system and rejuvenate you—and garlic may actually help fight cancer.
Ben Stevens is the founder of Outer Spice (http://outerspiceit.com), a line of no-salt and low-salt seasonings made from small, artisanal batches of hand-selected herbs and spices. He discovered the healing power of spices after a bout with food poisoning left him ill; he traveled to the Caribbean, met with spice growers, and began experimenting with his own blends. He founded Outer Spice to share his discoveries.