Herbs and Spices, Alternatives To Prevent Disease:
Throughout time herbs and spices have been more than just something added when cooking food to enrich the and change the flavor of what we are eating.
Recent studies have been done that definitely show a link to disease prevention and cures for health and medical problems.
In the Bible, the three wise men bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. But why those two spices? Was it for the scent qualities they have or, was it for medicinal purposes.
Frankincense and myrrh also had medicinal uses. In the Papyrus Ebers of 1500 B.C., priests recommended both resins for the treatment of wounds. Other ailments they were once reported curing include hemlock poisoning, leprosy, worms, snakebites, diarrhea, plague, scurvy and even baldness!
Recent studies suggest that frankincense may be beneficial to sufferers of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis and collagenous colitis. Researchers have also discovered possible benefits of myrrh in the treatment of gastric ulcers, tumors and parasites.
The use of foods for their medicinal purposes dates back hundreds of years. Ginger is known to help reduce nausea. Green tea may help protect against certain cancers. And flax seed may also lower cholesterol. But are there foods that can help prevent or treat other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease?
While numerous research studies have explored the benefits, there is strong debate within the health care community on whether now is the time for physicians to begin promoting food as an alternative medicine.
The interest in the use of natural products, such as herbs and probiotics, to stay healthy has seen considerable growth in recent years. In a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches, almost 18% of American adults had used a non vitamin/ non mineral natural product in the past year — with fish oil/omega 3s as the most commonly used product.
And while interest in these natural products has spiked, experts agree that no one is suggesting that patients with diabetes or heart disease swap their prescribed medications for what’s in their kitchen cabinets.
In another study appearing in the January 2013 issue of Diabetic Medicine, researchers studied 22 men with type 2 diabetes to see whether adding a polyphenol-rich spice mixture to a hamburger before cooking would reduce postprandial lipid oxidation and endothelial dysfunction compared with a hamburger cooked with salt only. The men who ate the burger and spice mixture, which included cinnamon, ginger, oregano, and turmeric, had a reduction in urine malondialdehyde, an increase in urinary nitrate/nitrite, and improved postprandial endothelial dysfunction.
“Giving these hamburgers to people decreased their lipid peroxidation in urine by 30%,” says study author Susanne Henning, PhD, from the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “After we saw this effect, we were not surprised to also find a significant effect on endothelial function. However, the effect on endothelial function is most likely due to several mechanisms, not only a decrease in lipid peroxidation, but also an increase in nitric oxide.”
Research clearly demonstrated a beneficial health effect of adding spices to your meat prior to frying, Henning adds. “A mixture of turmeric and/or oregano was the best among the ones tested in our research. Disappointing was that garlic didn’t reduce the generation of lipid peroxides. However, garlic has other health benefits such as the oregano-sulfur compounds.”
Ground cinnamon is another spice associated with some improvements in fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity. Many, though, debate whether the hard science exists. “There have been a number of studies that have shown cinnamon might have some small benefit of reducing blood glucose levels, but this a small effect,” says Saul. “It’s not the kind of reduction you would see with medication.”
Cinnamon does have a place in a diabetes meal plan, however. Saul says patients can use cinnamon as an adjunct to their medication. “The truth is, there’s very little harm in using cinnamon in our food. And it tastes good.”
They also have many have impressive health benefits. Ongoing research is revealing the ultimate power of herbs and spices as weapons against illnesses from Alzheimer’s disease to cancer or diabetes. We are now seeing the scientific proof for why civilizations have used spices medicinally for thousands of years. While herbs and spices may not directly cure disease there is strong evidence showing some spices actually help manage chronic conditions.
For example, a small MSI-funded study published in 2012 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported that adding 6 grams of ground cinnamon to 50 grams of instant farina breakfast cereal lowered blood glucose in both normal weight and obese participants.
Fast Forward through Time:
It is now 2019 and we are finding out through scientific research, that we may have a medical cabinet in our kitchens, we are just not aware of the potential that these herbs and spices actually have in the healing properties to, cleanse, detoxify, prevent health problems and be considered useful in curing disease. I am going to try to cover the common herbs and spices used in today’s world.
Note: Please Be Advised The Importance of Consulting With Your Doctor First.
Top 10 Herbs Used in Herbal Medicine
1. Raw Garlic
Garlic contains vital nutrients, including flavonoids, oligosaccharides, selenium, allicin and high levels of sulfur. Consuming cooked or raw garlic, by adding it to food or taking a capsule, can help treat diabetes, fight inflammation, boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, fight cardiovascular disease, relieve allergies, fight fungal and viral infections, and improve hair loss.
Studies show an inverse correlation between garlic consumption and progress of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that garlic reduces cholesterol, inhibits platelet clustering, reduces blood pressure and increases antioxidants
Ginger is the most widely used dietary condiment in the world today. The therapeutic benefits of ginger come from gingerols, the oily resin from the root that acts as a highly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Gingerol, among other bio active agents present in ginger, is able to relieve indigestion and nausea, boost immune and respiratory function, fight bacterial and fungal infections, treat stomach ulcers, reduce pain, improve diabetes, prevent malabsorption, and may even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Turmeric is a plant that has a very long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4,000 years. Modern medicine has begun to recognize its importance, as indicated by the over 3,000 publications dealing with turmeric. This powerful plant can be added to any recipe or taken as a supplement. There are a range of turmeric benefits, including its ability to slow and prevent blood clotting, fight depression, reduce inflammation, relieve arthritis pain, manage diabetes, treat gastrointestinal issues, regulate cholesterol, and fight cancer.
Several studies indicate that turmeric has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antimicrobial and anticancer properties. As an antioxidant, turmeric extracts can scavenge free radicals, increase antioxidant enzymes and inhibit lipid peroxidation.
Best taken with black pepper for best results.
Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world, and it’s been used in Asia and North American for centuries. Native Americans used the root as a stimulant and headache remedy, as well as a treatment for infertility, fever and indigestion, for instance.
A study done at the Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre in the U.K. was conducted to gather data about ginseng benefits and its ability to improve mood and mental function. It involved 30 volunteers who were given three rounds of treatments of ginseng and a placebo, and the results found that 200 milligrams of ginseng for eight days slowed the fall in mood but also slowed the participants’ response to mental arithmetic. The 400-milligram dose improved calmness and improved mental arithmetic for the duration of the eight-day treatment.
Ginseng is also used to reduce stress, help with weight loss, treat sexual dysfunction, improve lung function, lower blood sugar levels, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Ginseng is available in dried, powdered, tea, capsule and tablet forms.
5. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle extracts have been used as traditional herbal medicine remedies for almost 2,000 years. Milk thistle contains high levels of lipophilic extracts from the seeds of the plant, which act as bioflavonoids that increase immunity and slow down oxidative stress. The herb is also used for its anti-inflammatory properties. It can aid digestive function, increase bile production, boost skin health, fight the appearance of aging, lower cholesterol levels and help detoxify the body.
A review of clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of milk thistle found that the herb has protective effects in certain types of cancer, and data shows it can also be used for patients with liver diseases, hepatitis C, HIV, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. Milk thistle extracts, which are commonly sold in capsules, are also known to be safe and well-tolerated.
For centuries, feverfew has been used for fevers, headaches, stomachaches, toothaches, insect bites, infertility, and problems with menstruation and labor during childbirth. Feverfews pain-easing effect is said to come from a biochemical called parthenolides, which combats the widening of blood vessels that occurs in migraines. The herb is also used to prevent dizziness, relieve allergies, reduce arthritis pain and prevent blood clots.
Several impressive human studies show the positive effects of using feverfew to prevent and treat migraines. A systematic review completed by the School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Science in the U.K. compared the results of six studies. Researchers found that feverfew is indeed effective in the prevention of migraine headaches and does not pose any major safety concerns.
Feverfew is available in capsule form, as tablets and liquid extract. Supplements should be standardized to contain at least 0.2 percent parthenolide. The leaves of feverfew can be used to make tea, but they have a bitter taste and may be irritate the mouth.
St. John’s wort has been used as a medicinal herb for its antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties for over 2,000 years. It produces dozens of biologically active substances, but hypericin and hyperforin have the greatest medical activity. St. John’s wort uses come from its antidepressant activity, ability to relieve PMS symptoms, improve mood during menopause, fight inflammation, relieve skin irritations and improve symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.
A study done at the Institute of Psychological Sciences in the United Kingdom included 36 women aged 18–45 who experienced regular menstrual cycles and were diagnosed with mild PMS. The women were randomly assigned to receive either St. John’s wort tablets at 900 milligrams a day or identical placebo tablets for two menstrual cycles; then the groups switched doses for the next two cycles. Symptoms were rated daily throughout the study, and the women reported on feelings of depression, aggression, hormone balance and hormonal stimulation. The trials showed that St. John’s wort was superior to a placebo in improving physical and behavioral symptoms of PMS.
8. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba, which is also known as maidenhair, is an ancient plant extract that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to heal various health ailments for thousands of years. Current research shows that it’s linked to improvements in cognitive function. When researchers from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine reviewed evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials involving brain injury patients, it reported that ginkgo biloba extract had positive effects on patients’ neurological impairment and quality of life in nine of the trials.
Other ginkgo biloba benefits include its ability to improve concentration and memory, reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, fight anxiety and depression, help maintain vision and eye health, relieve ADHD symptoms, improve libido, and fight fibromyalgia.
Ginkgo biloba is available in capsule, tablet, liquid extract and dried leaf form. The standardized extract form contains 24 percent to 32 percent flavonoids and 6 percent to 12 percent terpenoids.
9. Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto supplements are some of the most commonly consumed supplements by men with prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Saw palmetto has been shown to slow the production of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts the male hormone testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a sex steroid and androgen hormone. While DHT is important because it plays a role in male development, it also contributes to many common health issues in men, such as loss of libido, an enlarged prostate and hair loss.
A 2003 study published in American Family Physician demonstrates the effectiveness of saw palmetto in reducing symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Saw palmetto appeared to have efficacy similar to that of medications like finasteride, but it was better tolerated and less expensive.
Aside from its ability to relieve conditions triggered by DHT, saw palmetto is also known to fight inflammation, boost immune function, treat respiratory conditions and promote relaxation.
10. Aloe Vera
In traditional Indian medicine, aloe vera is used for constipation, skin diseases, worm infestation, infections and as a natural remedy for colic. In Chinese medicine, it’s often recommended in the treatment of fungal diseases, and in the Western world, it has found widespread use in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. Aloe vera is considered to be the most biologically active of the aloe species; astonishingly, more than 75 potentially active components have been identified in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, saccharides, amino acids, anthraquinones, enzymes, lignin, saponins and salicylic acids. It provides 20 of the 22 human-required amino acids and all eight of the essential amino acid.
Studies have proved the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal properties of aloe vera. The plant has also proved to be non-allergic and very good in building up the immune system. One study reported in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that 30 milliliters of aloe vera juice twice a day decreased the level of discomfort in 33 patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Flatulence also decreased for the participants, but stool consistency, urgency and frequency remained the same.
Other aloe vera benefits include its ability to soothe rashes and skin irritations; treat burns and cold sores; moisturize the skin, hair and scalp; provide antioxidants; and reduce inflammation. Aloe vera can be used topically or orally, and it’s available in most health food stores.
Final Thoughts on Herbal Medicine
Natural planet products have been used throughout human history for various purposes. In fact, written records of the use of herbal medicine date back more than 5,000 years.
Herbal medicines, or botanicals, are naturally occurring, plant-derived substances that are used to treat illnesses within local or regional healing practices.
Today, herbalism is being noticed for focusing on overall wellness and prevention rather than treating a disease or ailment once it arises.
Herbal medicine is more cost-effective than modern medicine, it’s easier to obtain and it has several health benefits that are comparable to modern pharmaceuticals.
Some of the most well-known and most used herbs include garlic, ginger, turmeric, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort and aloe vera.
While research suggests that herbal products have less adverse side effects than conventional medications, it’s important that consumers choose pure, high-quality products. If you’re planning to take herbal products for an extended period, see a herbalist or health care provider for guidance.
On a more personal note any prescription drug I get, I research them for side effects. The idea of taking something for depression that may cause you to have suicidal thoughts just doesn’t make sense to me.
I do suffer from depression and anxiety and have been taking prescription drugs for several years. I still suffer from the same aliments. Quitting take these drugs at once is not recommended. You have to gradually cut the dosage down preferably with the use of a Doctor.
I will always seek Mother Nature’s way. There are so many herbal alternatives that have worked for me, I really do not want to get some pharmaceutical company experimenting on my head or body. Yes, I always see a Doctor and follow his treatment, unless I find that the negatives are far more than the positives.
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I wish you all good health.
I also will be adding a few more articles on Juices, Healthy Vegetables, more on Herbs, Supplements and Vitamins.
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.