If you haven’t already guessed, I am a HUGE fan of food as medicine. Diet is such an important aspect of our health, but, unfortunately, it is also one of the areas we struggle with the most. Food doesn’t have to be so daunting – it should be fun!
One of my favorite ways to turn up the healthy factor on my meals is to supercharge them with added herbs and spices. There are endless possibilities to and you can even create your own kitchen pharmacy right at home.
But where to start? With so many options and opinions on medicinal herbs, it can be a little overwhelming to know what to use and how. Let’s get up close and personal with seven of my favorite must-have herbs and spices that you can start using today. The following kitchen treasures are ingredients that I believe everyone should know (and love!).
(Just a quick note first…I always recommend that you check with your primary care physician before supplementing with anything – even natural herbs and spices. This is especially important if you are on any medications to check for potential interactions.)
Astragalus is a go-to tonic herb. It has been used in Chinese medicine (called Huang Qi) for centuries to boost up the body’s immune system, fight fatigue, and improve circulation. Research has found that this herb indeed has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.
Astragalus can be found as a supplement, tea, or tincture. Consider brewing some around the change of seasons to prevent colds or times when you are under heavier-than-normal stress.
Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that is used in India and across the world to improve energy and vitality. Like astragalus, this herb is an over-achiever with wide-ranging benefits: it can improve mood, stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue, immunity, arthritis, digestion, skin health, and more. Many of these benefits include its anti-inflammatory, iron-rich, adaptogenic, and analgesic properties (just to name a few).
Feverfew is actually part of the daisy and sunflower family – how lovely! For our purposes though, this herb is a not-so-dainty warrior againstmigraines and headaches. Several studies have considered the use of feverfew for migraines, both alone and paired with other treatments like acupuncture.
Feverfew also tackles other issues like rheumatoid arthritis, insect bites, fevers, toothaches, and even infertility. The power of feverfew lies in its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-protozoal, and antioxidant properties. Feverfew is typically used as a tea or tincture.
Ginger is one of the most versatile spices in your pantry. Both dried and fresh varieties have health benefits and add great flavor to your dishes. Ginger is warming and well-known to improve digestion. Add fresh or dried ginger to your soups, stir-fry, tea, or roasted vegetables for healthy digestion and a boosted immune system.
Those who suffer from nausea (specifically pregnancy-related, post-operative, or chemotherapy-induced) can find relief from chewing a bit of candied ginger or sipping on ginger tea. In addition to its stomach-calming tricks, ginger also help with joint issues like arthritis and low back pain, or respiratory complaints such as cough and asthma.
Ah, oregano. A favorite herb in Mediterranean dishes, oregano is bright and earthy. But did you know that this common culinary herb can help heal respiratory and digestive issues? This is all thanks to it’s anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Cough, asthma, bronchitis and other irritations in the respiratory tract can be calmed by cool oregano; the same goes for the digestive tract (bloating, heartburn) and urinary tract (UTIs).
Oil of oregano is a much stronger use of the herb, and can be used topically to treat skin disorders, wound healing, and even parasites. Add lots of fresh and dried oregano to your dishes to help your body fight off inflammation and infection.
Deep, golden, rich turmeric is a healthy kitchen staple. The powdered turmeric that many of us are familiar with comes from the turmeric root: a bright yellow plant that resembles ginger. This is not only a useful culinary spice, but an amazing medicinal plant. Turmeric is used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic herb. It also cleanses and detoxifies the blood, improves memory, and may even have anti-cancer properties.
You don’t have to make curries every night to benefit from this special root – add turmeric to almost any savory dish as it has a mild flavor (but lots of color!). To combat arthritis and pain, consider taking a turmeric supplement.
Who needs an excuse to cook with more garlic? This herb provides so much flavor and aroma to your meals while packing in a big healthy punch. From its antibacterial properties to its blood thinning and circulation-promoting ability, garlic is a fantastic herb to keep around the kitchen.
More specifically, garlic is considered useful for hyperlipidemia, hypertension, atherosclerosis, infections, cancer, and overall heart health. You can even use it topically to treat a wide range of skin conditions.
There you have it! I love sharing these seven amazing, accessible herbs and spices that can transform your health, but these are just a few of my favorite picks. Mother Nature has provided us with hundreds – if not thousands – of medicinal plants to cultivate and enjoy. While these picks can benefit most people and have some great preventative properties, other herbs are out there to help you improve your unique health goals.
You may already cook with some of these herbs and spices, but don’t be shy to experiment even more with your kitchen herbalism! Get creative with recipes or start new daily habits, like cozying up with a warming ginger tea after dinner. Share your favorite way to use these herbs in the comments below! Or, if you have a burning question, drop me a line here!