Eight of the World’s Healthiest Spices & Herbs You Should Be Eating

Content Source: EatingWell

People around the world have known for centuries about the healing power of herbs and spices. Here’s the science behind why they are so good for you, and tips for how to get your fill.

A sprinkle of cinnamon in your morning coffee. A handful of freshly chopped basil over pasta. You know how herbs and spices can wake up just about any food. But they can also do a lot to keep you well. Here are the health benefits of some of our favorite herbs and spices—plus delicious ways to use them.

Important: Some herbs in large doses can cause side effects or interact with medications. Use moderation, and tell your doctor about any herbal supplements you take.

1. Turmeric

May help: Ease inflammation, slow cancer, treat depression and other conditions

This golden spice delivers some solid-gold benefits. That’s thanks to its high amounts of curcumin, a powerful antioxidant. Studies show curcumin can help treat a range of health problems, from minor toothaches to chronic conditions like arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Researchers are also studying its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as colon, prostate and breast cancers. Results of a small clinical trial, published in 2014, boosted evidence that curcumin may be a safe and effective treatment for depression.

Related: Why Turmeric Is So Good for You

2. Ginger

May help: Soothe nausea, fight arthritis pain

Ginger is well-known for easing a queasy stomach. Studies show it can help soothe morning sickness, as well as nausea from surgery or chemotherapy. And while there’s no hard evidence it works, many people take ginger for motion sickness.

Ginger is also packed with gingerols, inflammation-fighting compounds which some experts believe may help fight some cancers, reduce osteoarthritis pain and soothe sore muscles. In one study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days had 25 percent less muscle pain when they exercised, compared to those who took a placebo. Another study found that ginger-extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis-related knee pain.

Related: Health Benefits of Ginger

3. Cayenne Pepper

May help: Tame appetite, boost metabolism

A dash of cayenne pepper with your dinner may give your weight-loss efforts a tiny boost, especially if you’re not used to spicy stuff. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, the compound that gives fresh chiles—and spices like cayenne and paprika—their kick. Studies show capsaicin bumps up the body’s metabolic rate, helping you burn slightly more calories. It may also stimulate brain chemicals that help tame hunger.

In a six-week study by Purdue University, 25 people—some spicy food fans, some not—had about a half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper with a daily meal. Those who didn’t eat spicy foods regularly were less hungry and had fewer cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. The researchers say it’s cayenne’s hot taste (especially for those not used to it) that leads to the benefits.

Related: Chile Pepper & Other Spicy Recipes

4. Cinnamon

May help: Reduce added sugars in your diet, control blood sugar

The American Heart Association recommends using sweet spices like cinnamon to add flavor instead of sugar and other sweeteners. Most Americans eat way too much sugar, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions.

Some studies suggest cinnamon may help lower blood sugar spikes for people with type 2 diabetes. Results have been mixed, though, so more studies are needed.

Related: Healthy Cinnamon Recipes