It was fascinating for me to learn new things about the common plants most of us for granted. Since today is National Herbs and Spices Day, I thought I'd share the best parts from this weekend's conference.
Most of us have herbs and spices in our kitchen cabinet somewhere and they often get haphazardly added to recipes and culinary creations. Interestingly, there are many health benefits of herbs and spices, not to mention they improve the taste of so many foods! And if you're anything like me, your pantry is full of herbs and spices that have been sitting there for a very long time, some for years, I dare say. And that can be a problem. These herbs and spices might have been sitting on a grocery store's shelf long before you purchased them. Add this to the fact that you've had them for, like, forever, it's a safe bet that these amazing herbs and spices have lost not only their flavor but their health benefits, as well.
All spices and herbs come from plants; flowers, fruits, seeds, barks, leaves, and roots. Herbs and spices not only improve the taste of foods but can also help preserve them for longer periods of time.
Did you know that herbs and spices have antibacterial and antiviral properties as well? Plus many of them have high levels of vitamin B5 and necessary trace minerals. Take true sea salt, for example. This seasoning all by itself contains 93 trace minerals! Most herbs and spices also contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. The downside is that in the US as well as many other countries, these potent herbs and spices are rarely used. Why you might ask? Well, it's because these herbs and spices are rarely used outside of specific cultures and thus many humans (and frogs, too!) lack knowledge about them.
Here's a list of few herbs and spices and the health benefits they can offer.
1. Cinnamon - Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant value of any spice. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels. Cinnamon has also been used to alleviate nausea and to increase sensitivity to insulin and aid in fat burning. It provides manganese, iron, and calcium. Its antimicrobial properties can help extend the life of foods. For many of us, cinnamon is something we add only to desserts. But try using it in savory dishes, as well. It's excellent in chili, your morning coffee, AND is found in many delicious and soothing blends of herbal teas.
2. Basil - Add this herb to everything from your morning eggs to soups to vegetable dishes. 'Basil has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and can help prevent osteoarthritis. It has been used in digestive disorders and is being studied for its anti-cancer properties. Though commonly used in Italian cooking, basil is a versatile herb that can be added to practically anything. Fresh is always best, but dried is ok too as long as it is freshly dried."
3. Arrowroot - This is a starchy herb that is also gluten-free. "It has an amazing thickening ability similar to cornstarch, and it can be added to soups, dips, baking, etc. Arrowroot can be used in place of flour for a roux or as the main baking ingredient in a gluten-free teething biscuit for kids. It is soothing and highly digestible so it is often used in treatment for conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
4. Turmeric - This is one of my newest and now favorite spice. it's found in kitchens all over the world. If you're not familiar with tumeric, you may have seen it and not known what it is. Turmeric is bright yellow in color. It contains Curcumin, a cancer-fighting compound. It is more often taken medicinally in the US for its ability to reduce inflammation and improve joints. For a spark of flavor, add to egg dishes, soups, meat dishes, sauces, and baked foods. Turmeric tea (Golden Milk) is easy to make, tastes great, and can help with aches and pains and inflammation when consumed regularly.
5. Dill weed/seed - Dill has antibacterial properties but is most known for its stomach- settling ability. Ever wonder why pregnant women crave pickles? It's the dill. "It contains a variety of nutrients but loses most when heated to high temperatures. For this reason, it is best used in uncooked recipes or in foods cooked at low temperatures. It is a great addition to any type of fish, to dips and dressings, to omelets or to poultry dishes.
6. Cayenne - This spicy spice has many health benefits. One of which is its ability to help the body absorb nutrients from other foods. "Though available in capsule form, it is also a great addition to many foods. In small amounts, it can be added to practically any dish, meat, vegetable or sauce. As tolerance to the spicy flavor increases, the amount added can be increased also."
7. Mint - Mint "has traditionally been used to calm digestive troubles and alleviate nausea. Many people enjoy a tea made from peppermint or spearmint leaves, and the volatile oils in both have been used in breath fresheners, toothpaste, and chewing gum. Externally, the oil or tea can be used to repel mosquito. This herb is easiest to consume in beverage form, though an adventurous cook could add it to meat dishes or dessert recipes. Herbs like lemon balm, oregano, and marjoram technically belong to the mint family, but due to their pungent flavor, are usually referred to on their own." And speaking of oregano...
8. Oregano - Oregano is often used "in Italian and Greek cuisine, and they have the right idea! Oregano (and its milder cousin, Marjoram) are antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer and antibiotic. It is extremely high in antioxidants and has demonstrated antimicrobial properties against food-borne pathogens like Listeria. Its oil and leaves are used medicinally in the treatment of cough, fever, congestion, body ache and illness. Combined with basil, garlic, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary, it creates a potent antiviral,
anti- bacterial, antimicrobial and cancer-fighting seasoning blend. It can also be sprinkled on any kind of savory foods. A couple teaspoons added to a soup will help recovery from illness."
9. Rosemary - This is an herb often associated with cooking lamb. But like many other herbs, it has varied uses. "It has a high concentration of the antioxidant carnosol and research shows it may have benefits in cancer treatment and healthy digestion and use of cholesterol. Its lemony-pine scent makes it a favorite for making soap. It has the ability to fight aging by rejuvenating the small blood vessels under the skin. Try it on meat dishes, in soups or with vegetables. Water boiled with Rosemary can be used as an antiseptic."
10. Thyme - This herb is a member of the mint family and contains thymol, a potent antioxidant that is often used in mouthwash and gargles. "Water boiled with thyme can be used in homemade spray cleaners and or can be added to bathwater for treatment of wounds. Thyme water can be swished around the mouth for gum infections or for the healing of wounds from teeth removal. Teas made with thyme have been used to treat athlete's foot. Thyme tea can also be taken internally during illness to speed recovery. In foods, it is often used in French cooking." Thyme is one of the herbs used in the mix known as Herbs de Provence. Add to any baked dishes at the beginning of cooking, as it slowly releases its benefits."
I've only touched on a few of the many herbs and spices that can brighten up an ordinary dish as well as infuse foods with amazing health benefits. And most of them are used in herbal teas. The best way to use any herb or spice is to use it fresh. If you can't find fresh herbs locally, try growing your own. herbs do well in window boxes and in small pots on any sunny window sill. Or, most herbs can be ordered online and shipped directly to you.
Tomorrow is Making Life Beautiful Day and I have a very special blog planned to celebrate it! I hope you'll plan on stopping by. But until we meet again, I want to wish you health, happiness, and PEACE.