Look to your spice cupboard and garden to discover natural remedies to alleviate common conditions
Plant power has been used for centuries to help alleviate a host of ailments, from nausea to inflammation. Including these all-natural spice and herbal remedies into our everyday lives is really simple… and tasty, too! Spice up your life with aromatic turmeric, tangy fenugreek and warming ginger, and enjoy the fresh flavours that herbs bring to your cuisine. Rob Hobson Healthspan nutritionist and author of The Detox Kitchen Bible says: “Spices have been used for both their culinary and medicinal properties for centuries as favoured by Chinese and ayurvedic practices, which both share a strong belief that spices can help to heal and protect the body from disease.” Here are Rob’s top seven herbs and spices for keeping you healthy.
Ginger is a pungent root with aromatic citrus notes and a peppery flavour. Traditionally it has been used to treat nausea, and many studies have shown its efficacy for alleviating sickness caused by pregnancy, chemotherapy and motion sickness. Ginger is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and a small study showed a reduction in pain from exercise-induced injury.
Pair it with anything Asian. This cuisine uses a lot of ginger as a base with onions and garlic. Ginger also works well in sweet puddings with chocolate.
Ground ginger with lemon makes a very refreshing, spicy tea. Using the ground spice over the fresh root gives this tea a much spicier kick!
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which acts as a powerful anti inflammatory in the body. It has similar effects to Nurofen on joint pain in people with osteoarthritis, and ongoing research is exploring the potential positive effect of turmeric on conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you fancy exploring the potential health benefits of turmeric, then opt for a supplement such as Healthspan Opti-Turmeric which has a high level of curcumin and a good level of absorption in the body.
Pair it with black pepper, which helps the body to absorb the active ingredient curcumin.
Go easy when using turmeric. If you add too much it will leave everything tasting bitter.
Fenugreek seeds (or methi) are very pungent and can be found whole or ground, and you can also find a fresh herb that is grown from the same plant. The flavour of fenugreek is tangy and buttery with a burnt-sugar aftertaste. Of all the spices, this one is particularly high in iron, which helps to maintain healthy red blood cell function and immune system.
Pair it with other traditional Indian spices, such as mustard seeds or fresh curry leaves.
To get the best flavour out of tough fenugreek seeds, dry-fry them or grind them into a powder.
Sage leaves contain several antioxidant polyphenols and essential oils which, together, have antiseptic, astringent and perspiration-inhibiting properties which can relieve menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Whether or not these actions are due to the presence of plant oestrogens, or an ability to stimulate natural oestrogen production remains unclear.
Pair it with meat – it goes really well with pork – or add it to pasta dishes. It has a strong flavour, so use sparingly.
Combine it with other herbs such as basil, thyme and oregano.
Chervil, also known as French Parsley, looks like parsley but tastes a little like mint and aniseed. It is a lesser known herb that has been used to treat a whole host of ailments, including eczema, fluid retention, coughs, digestion problems, high blood pressure and gout. It is both antiseptic and antifungal.
Pair it with seafood and root vegetables, such as beetroot. It also works well with eggs and green vegetables, in particular asparagus.
Chervil has a very mild taste which is easily lost through long cooking methods such as roasting and boiling. To get the best from it, use it to season or in a dressing.
Dill is a traditional herbal medicine used to improve digestion and cholesterol levels, and to control glucose. It is antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and reduces stomach irritation. Some interesting studies also suggest that dill extracts have beneficial effects on skin elasticity and firmness.
Pair it with Dill works well with fish but is also a great accompaniment to root vegetables, including potatoes and beetroot. Why not also try it with coconut in Indian dishes?
Combine dried dill and mint to help alleviate gas and bloating after eating.
Parsley is popularly chewed as a breath freshener, and in folk medicine has been used to aid digestion, as a mild diuretic and urinary antiseptic, to help guard against kidney stones and to treat high blood pressure and menstrual disorders.
Pair it with capers in a dressing such as salsa verde. It also works well with fish and white meats.
For a boost of fresh breath, team parsley with mint and chew!
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