The use of herbal treatments for everything from sore throats to cancer has become more and more common with every passing year. We all know about the herbal supplements like St. John’s Wort that can help you with chronic health problems, but did you know that many common edible herbs, spices and vegetables can provide impressive health benefits?

While you probably already use these ingredients in your home, you may not realize that they can do much more than just making your meals tasty and interesting. Here are some common foods that do double duty as effective herbal treatments.

 

1. Turmeric. As anyone who has ever treated a head cold with a nice hot Indian meal already knows, turmeric is one of the best healing herbs available to us today. It contains the anti-inflammatory curcumin, which may function in the same way as some pharmaceutical arthritis drugs.

The next time your joints are aching, just have a healthy serving of curry and see if your symptoms respond to the exotic spice. Researchers recommend a daily serving of 400 mg each day.

2. Ginger. Ginger has been well-known as a calmer of upset tummies for many generations. This “old wives’ tale” has actually been proven to be true following several research studies on the effects of ginger ingestion of cruise ship passengers.

Many people around the world also use ginger as a mild pain reliever. For everyday aches or for arthritis pain, fresh or powdered ginger added to food can actually help to reduce your symptoms.

Ginger may also be an effective means of controlling ovarian cancer cells, according to a 2006 study by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. More research is needed, but the preliminary findings are very promising.

3. Cinnamon. Cinnamon was recently studied by German scientists for its effects on people with type 2 diabetes. Amazingly, they found that diabetics could decrease their blood sugar by up to 10% just by taking a cinnamon extract daily. Another study found that cinnamon may help to lower cholesterol as well.

Since cinnamon can be toxic when taken in very large quantities (much more than you would probably be able to eat at once), experts recommend that you use a cinnamon extract rather than actual cinnamon.

4. Garlic. Garlic is truly a super food. Not only does it taste wonderful, but it may even reduce your cancer risk. A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who consumed high doses of garlic had low instances of several types of cancers.

Garlic is known to be extremely useful against bacteria, even those that are resistant to antibiotics. It has antifungal and antiviral properties and may even help to lower cholesterol and prevent strokes.

5. Rosemary. If you have to choose just one herb to help you avoid several different types of cancer, rosemary may be it. Rosemary can actually help to prevent carcinogens that you ingest from binding with your DNA. This can help to prevent the formation of tumors and the eventual development of cancer.

Although human studies have not yet been conducted, preliminary animal studies have shown amazing potential for this common herb. You don’t need to buy any special form of rosemary to get these benefits; simply use rosemary liberally in your cooking along with other beneficial herbs like parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, or thyme.

6. Honey. Honey is commonly used as a digestion aid and to soothe sore tummies and throats. The hydrating qualities of honey are well-known all around the world, and desert travelers have been known to carry honey and water to quench their thirst on long treks.

Honey is used externally as well as internally. Its ability to hydrate skin works even when it is applied topically. Because of this, honey is a common ingredient in many skin treatments, lotions, soaps, and anti-aging skin creams.

Perhaps the most impressive of honey’s abilities is its effectiveness as a burn treatment. Honey helps to soothe the pain of a burn while limiting inflammation and retarding infection.

7. Chili Peppers. Hot peppers are an amazing food that can help you treat any number of common conditions. At home, you can eat them to to clear up a congested head and as a natural pain reliever.

An exciting and often-publicized use for chili peppers is as a metabolism boost. Adding chili peppers to your meals can help you burn more calories, and it is believed that chili peppers can even help you feel fuller after a meal.

8. Olive Oil. This delicious and exotic-tasting oil may help to save your life some day. With regular modest consumption, olive oil can help stop plaque from forming in arteries, thus reducing your risk of heart attacks.

9. Rice. Rice is one of the best-tolerated foods available. It can help to soothe a stomach that is suffering from constipation or diarrhea, and even people suffering from the flu are likely to be able to take some rice. Eating rice regularly can prevent the formation of kidney stones and block some types of intestinal cancers.

10. Parsley. Because it is rich in antioxidants, parsley can help to block certain types of cancers and keep your body’s cells young and healthy. Antioxidants are particularly useful for detoxifying carcinogens, such as the types found in cigarette smoke.

11. Onions (and related plants such as chives, shallots, and leeks). Plants in the onion family have been used as medicines since ancient times. Their properties have been known and enjoyed by cultures all around the world. Their exceptionally high concentration of antioxidants makes onions and related plants ideal for preventing cancer.

Onions and related plants are also a hugely effective treatment for lung disorders such as pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. They have outstanding anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as antibiotics and antivirals.

12. Lemon. Lemon has a multitude of medicinal uses and has been a prized part of the medicinal kitchen for many generations. It is a general clarifier and purifier, and can be taken to cleanse the body of impurities. It has also been used to treat headaches, arthritis, and pneumonia.

Although it seems counterintuitive (or just plain painful), applying lemon juice to cuts and scrapes is great for preventing infections. The natural antiseptic properties of lemon juice will keep infections at bay and can even reduce the appearance of bruises.

13. Mustard. This humble little plant is commonly used as an expectorant and decongestant. It is antibacterial and can also help to clear nasal passages when one is suffering from a cold or other sinus malady.

Surprisingly, mustard is also used to increase the metabolism. Using plain yellow mustard liberally on foods adds a negligible amount of calories and helps to increase the amount of calories that the body burns.

14. Cloves. Clove oil is used by many cultures as a natural painkiller and anti-inflammatory. It is used in many modern toothache remedies to dull the pain and swelling.

15. Apples. An apple a day keeps the cancer away. Regular consumption of apples can block many types of cancer and act as a general health-booster. Apples can reduce appetite and even lower your cholesterol.

16. Kale. Kale has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity lately, and with good reason. It has more lutein than any other vegetable and more beta carotene than spinach. It can help prevent cancer and regulate estrogen in the body.

17. Licorice. Not the licorice candy sold in the United States – this often contains no licorice at all! Real licorice contains a substance that is strongly anti-cancer. Licorice is also antibacterial and can reduce stomach ulcers and diarrhea.

18. Peppermint. Most mints, in fact. The leaves of mint plants are commonly used in teas and medicines to calm upset stomachs, promote sleep, and reduce stress and tension.

19. Horseradish. Like its relative mustard, horseradish is a fantastic tool for fighting digestive disorders. It can be used to treat constipation. It is also a great immune system booster, giving the liver increased power to filter out harmful substances from foods.

20. Avocado. The main ingredient in guacamole isn’t just tasty; it’s the source of lots of “good” fat and can prevent the buildup of “bad” cholesterol. It keeps your heart and circulatory system healthy by preventing the clogging of arteries.

Now that you know the incredible health benefits that some common herbs, spices, and plants can provide, try to incorporate some of them into your everyday eating. You may just find yourself in better health today and in the future.