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The Wonderful World of Herbs and Spices

May 13, 2014

By Joan McDaniel                       May 13, 2014

What carries a better punch of antioxidants Raw Vegetables or Herbs?

Many may not know it but herbs and spices have a far greater concentration of antioxidants than fruits or vegetables. Herbs and spices have a wider variety of disease, inflammation, and free radical fighting benefits. And the oil made from these herbs and spices pack even more power punch of benefits for health.

“Everything you eat is either fighting disease or fueling it.” We know foods have the potential to be healing. What you eat can either harm your health or make it better. And nowhere is that more true than with medicinal foods like herbs and spices. These foods have amazing flavor and incredible benefits. They can help prevent disease, help cure certain illnesses and complaints and add zest and zing to your food.

A List of Twenty antioxidant and anti-inflammatory Herbs and Spices

I will discuss twenty popular Herbs and Spices that have one thing in common; they all are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, stimulation of the immune system, and in many cases help keep blood sugar levels in control. All of them help with pain (anti-inflammatory) and some of them help your body’s natural ability to detox. They are also loaded with many other health benefits like vitamins and minerals.

The Twenty are;

Basil, Black Pepper, Cayenne, Chamomile, Chives, Cilantro, Cinnamon (Herb), Cloves (Herb), Flax, Garlic, Ginger, Mustard (spice), Nutmeg, Oregano (herb), Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Sesame, Herb and Black Tea and Turmeric (Spice), and there are many more.

Notice Sugar isn’t listed.

Diagram of A Herb Plant


2009528414159918What is an Herb and What is a Spice?

There is Herb, Spices and Oil from these herbs and spices. I will discuss 20 popular herbs and spices and discuss the oils in a later article.

Herb – Plants used for flavoring food, medicine or perfume. Culinary or food use typically means the leafy green parts of a plant (either dried or fresh), from a spice.

Spice – a dried bark, fruit, root, seed or vegetable substance primarily used for coloring, flavoring or preserving food. Spices can also be used to hide other flavors.

Oils from herb and spice – If the plant has a flower it will have a seed. Seeds are then used to produce oil. Another article will cover the most popular oils, like ginger, mustard, oregano, sesame, turmeric and many others. Some oils from herbs and spices are made by mixing oils.

Different Herbs Come from Different Parts of the plant

Herbs and spices come from different parts of the plant; for an example; the flower, leaves, root and/or seed. In some cases the whole plant is used like garlic and the sesame plant.

If the leaves are used they need to be dried, the seeds can be used to eat as is, cold pressed to make oil or to grow sprouts or another plant. The roots like ginger and turmeric need to be cut, powdered or shredded.

In all cases the flowers, leaves, roots or seeds can all be used to brew a broth, soup or tea.

Some Terms defined.

Anti-inflammatory – Helps put the fire out (inflammation and pain) by providing relieve and oxygen to the damaged and inflamed area.

Anti-inflammatory foods: There are foods that reduce inflammatory pain in addition to a plethora of natural remedies.

Antioxidants – Clean up the free radicals created by toxins either from the environment, food, pesticides, etc. Antioxidants work to prevent the damage of free radicals and provide oxygen to the cells.

Inflammation – Immune System reaction to oxidative stress. Loss of electrons in the oxidated cell prevents it from performing its function and the immune system sends a message to the body which responds with the inflammation response.

You don’t have to Explore the Seven Seas for the World of Spices


Spice Map

The Age of Discovery

Where would we be today without herbs and spices that are part of our tradition. To acquire a spice we simple go to the store but our ancestors had to risk life and limb searching for what was then rare and hard to acquire.

The Age of Discovery – was man’s search to satisfy his insatiable hunger for Herbs and Spices. Marco Polo’s journey in the early 13th century and his dictated account of his travels to Asia created a hunger of discovery. The search for these riches started in 1297 when King Dinis of Portugal took charge by starting explorations to Africa and the East. Spices were among the most expensive and in-demand products of the Middle ages, used as food additives, drugs, traditional medicine, food preservatives, perfume, religious rituals, and trade. These spices were in demand not just because they made food taste good but because they help heal illness. For Illness in the 13th century meant certain death except in Africa, China, India and other Asian countries.

Mankind set sail and the search for an all-water route to Asia, China, India, Spice Islands and the tropics to gain access the these highly valued goods. As any schoolboy or girl can tell you the New World was discovered during the search for a direct route to China.


Traditional Medicine Herbalist and Herbal Medicine


herbalistAncient traditional medicines used trained herbalist. Traditional medicine from all over the world like Arabia, Africa, American Indian, China (Traditional Chinese Medicine), European Homeopathy, Greek, India (Ayurvedic), and anywhere else you might name.

Herbalism – (“Herbology” or “Herbal Medicine”) use and study of plants for medicinal purposes. Much of human history consists of the use of plants as the basis for medical treatments. An Herbalist is one who is skilled and trained in the dispensing of herbal prescriptions and the therapeutic use of medicinal plants. An herbalist is also trained in traditional medicine practices.

Modern medicine does recognize herbalism as a form of alternate medicine.



A List of Twenty Popular Herbs and Spices good for Your Health

Basil, Black Pepper, Cayenne, Chamomile, Chives, Cilantro, Cinnamon (Herb), Cloves (Herb), Flax, Garlic, Ginger, Mustard (spice), Nutmeg, Oregano (herb), Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Sesame, Herb and Black Tea and Turmeric (Spice), and there are many more.

Did you notice SUGAR ISN’T LISTED – but these herbs and spices generate richer tastes than sugar ever thought of.

Herbs and spices

Herbs and Spices Video

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABasil – Is known for its bright shiny green leaves. It is traditionally known around the world as the “holy herb”, it is one of the oldest and popular herbal plants with its health benefiting phyto-nutrients. Basil is sometimes known as Saint John’s Wort in some English-speaking countries. Basil is native to Asia and belongs to the family of Lamiaceae, of the genus: Ocimum. Basil is also known for its ability to repeal insects. Grow the spice in a container just outside your window or door and even by your garden to be free of pests especially flies.

Basil is high in beta-carotene, Vitamin A, the anti-coagulant Vitamin K, the mineral Iron and many other minerals and vitamins. It helps with; blood sugar regulation, bone absorb calcium, defluoridation of the body, protect the immune system, helps with macular degeneration for the eye, carries oxygen to the cells, protect against free radical and the disease process, reinforces white blood cells, and many other benefits.


Black Pepper




Black pepper (Piper nigrum) – from the family Piperaceae and is a flowering vine cultivated for its fruit. The fruit when dried contains a single seed called a Peppercorn. The seed comes in black, green, red, off white, and white. Black pepper is a native of south India and it is cultivated in tropical regions.

Pepper is a common spice but I do not mean the already ground black pepper that looks like and tastes like dust. I mean the peppercorn itself which should be grinded just before use to insure freshness. Use convenient pepper grinders easily available at the store.

Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice and since antiquity it was used for its flavor but also as medicine. Pepper contains piperine which is like the hot Cayenne pepper’s capsaicin.

Cayenne Pepper

cayenne_pepper_1_photoHot Pepper is famous for its powerful Capsaicin. It is a strong free radical fighter and loaded with vitamins and minerals this herb makes you feel good. Capsaicin found in the hot pepper is one of the best endorphins you can find and you don’t have to have a doctor’s visit to get it.

See my article on cayenne pepper or the hot pepper follow link





Chamomile–     bigstock_Dried_Chamomile_Tea_4634563

Chamomile – Is the dried flower of the daisy-like plants from the family Asteraceae and is commonly used as an herbal tea. The tea is known to induce sleep. Chamomile like the other herbs has been used for centuries for its abilities to help cure a number of health problems.


chivesFlowering Chives

Chives – are from the leek, garlic, onion, and shallots family. Chives plants have hollow stalks that can grow up to 24 inches. They look like very tall grass from a distance. They are used in cooking and replace the other members of the family that are a little more spicy and sharp. Chives give of a slight ‘onion’ taste. Chives are also known for their medical benefits.







Cilantro                        cilantro-with-seeds

Cilantro with seed called Coriander

Cilantro – Professional herbalist have recognized cilantro’s excellent ability to help the body detoxify especially the heavy metals like mercury. It also helps neutralizes foodborne illness like salmonella.

Cilantro is normally used as a foliage garnish like parsley on your plate. But before you push it aside it has some pretty powerful health benefits. The edible seed of Cilantro is better known as coriander. Anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, Cilantro is an incredible source of vitamins A, and K, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. It is good for digestion, is high in fiber and helps with colon illness like Crohn’s disease. They help put the fire out especially with hot spicy foods.

cinnamonCinnamon – See my article on Cinnamon

Cinnamon may have a sweet taste and glorious aroma but it is one remarkable medicinal herb. It has been revered by ancient cultures for its health promotion. It enhances blood sugar and reduces insulin resistance, reduces inflammation, stimulates the immune system and promotes neurological health. It is also loaded with fiber for it is grounded tree bark.




Cloves – Anyone who has had the pain of a bad toothache calmed with the use of cloves can attest to its anti-inflammatory abilities. It is also an excellent antiseptic, antioxidant, digestive aid and germicidal. It not only can help toothaches it helps coughs, headaches and indigestion.

Cloves are dried flower buds from the evergreen trees belonging to the plant family called Myrtaceae. Cloves are renowned for their medicinal benefits and nutrition. They have a strong hot flavor which adds a sweet and savory taste to whatever it is added.

A word of warning take a small amount of cloves for there are side effects from use of large amounts including seizure, sore throat, and vomiting.



Flax (also known as common flax or linseed), is rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, (which we don’t get enough of) are powerful inflammation fighters. Flax like Salmon and other fish help maintain the Omega 3/6 balance. Flax is also high in fiber.

Flax seed is highly prone to oxidation and turning rancid and it must be stored correctly. The best way to store it is in seed form and away from heat. Flax meal and flax oil are easily oxidized and must be refrigerated in dark contains and consumed within a few weeks of opening.


garlic_plants_1Garlic – Garlic is so powerful it is considered a wonder food and it needs a complete article of its own, but here is an overview of this powerful herb. Note you can eat the leaves or stems of garlic. I have seen them fermented and they are a nice addition to a meal.

Please note to get the full power of Garlic DO NOT COOK IT use it raw. Cut a clove of garlic into small pieces that can be swallowed. First allow them to be exposed to the air for a few minutes then swallow them whole. DO NOT CHEW — Once chewed garlic turns HOT – HOT !! and you will not be able to put the fire out. I KNOW I DID IT.   Once down it isn’t too hot to handle.

Instead of an antibiotic that your doctor gives you take a clove of garlic. Garlic is also antifungal, antiviral and helps the body detox, and reduces high blood pressure to name a few. Garlic was originally found to help cure resistant tuberculosis.

There is a reason the ancients wore a clove of garlic around their necks to ward


ginger-rhizomeGinger has been used for thousands of years as a healer. Its benefits are widely recognized and extremely varied. It is seen as a “warming” food that can increase circulation and reduce general inflammation. Ginger is known for its beige colored and knotted underground stem (rhizome) or what we call a root.

Ginger originated from Southeast Asia and now it is cultivated in Jamaica and other tropical areas. Ginger is a plant root which is used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Ginger has been used by herbalists for more than 2,500 years.

Ginger is also well renowned for its aromatic smell and pungent taste when added to food.


Mustard                                                                                                mustard

For a my complete article on Mustard use the following link

But as an overview:

You can eat the leaves, flowers and seeds of the mustard plant.

Mustard has natural antibacterial properties and the mustard by itself doesn’t require refrigeration for it will not grow bacteria, mildew or mold. If that is what it does in the jar what can it do for the body?

Mustard is a cancer fighter, Cardiovascular support, Detox support, Immune System support, and helps fight pain, to name a few.





NutmegNutmeg – Is a tree and the seed from its fruit is used to make the spice. The Nutmeg tree is an evergreen tree found in the Spice Island of Indonesia. The two spices derived from its fruit ar mace and nutmeg. It is the only tropical fruit that produces two different spices. Both spices are similar and nutmeg is slightly sweeter and mace has a more delicate flavor. Mace gives off an orange coloring to the food. Both spices are used to flavor sweet deserts.

A war was fought for nutmeg in 1760 by the Dutch to enslave the inhabitants of the island of Banda to control the nutmeg production in the East Indies. Nutmeg was sought after for its taste and health benefits and the price was unusually high in London. To keep the price high the Dutch burned warehouses of nutmegs in Amsterdam. The Dutch held control of the Spice Islands until World War II.

Besides fighting inflammation, Nutmeg increase appetite, eliminate the bacteria that causes bad breath, brain stimulate, help eliminate depression, digestion, excess gas from the intestines, fatigue, pain, sleep aid, stress, help remove toxins, and toothaches. Nutmeg Power mixed with honey can be used orally or topically for pain and skin care.

There is a limit taking too much nutmeg can cause hallucinations, nausea, swelling and shock. There is a history of nutmeg abuse.


Oregano                             oregano

Oregano – Is a herb of the mint family and is cultivated in the Mediterranean region. The word Oregano translated from Greek as joy of the mountains. The herb is has been used for thousands of years both for culinary and medicinal purposes for its active healing agents.

Oregano is also available as oil which has super antibacterial and antifungal benefits. Research has found Oregano Oil can kill the bad bacteria as well as prescription antibiotics like penicillin and others. Oregano leaves the good bacteria unlike prescription antibiotics that kill both the good and bad.

The oregano plant can grow in the cooler temperatures but prefers the warmer climate of the Mediterranean region. The plants can grow up to 20 inches in height and deliver some beautiful white and purple flowers. Oregano when added to food has an aromatic, bitter and warm taste that can be quite intense and can numb your tongue.




Parsley or garden parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – We know parsley as a garnish put on our plates to add the healthy green color but it is far more powerful than a colored garnish for it is highly nutritious with a good source of Vitamins C, folic acid and K. There are two varieties curly and straight leave. In the Asian cooking the root is used as a vegetable. Black Pepper and Parsley are the world’s most popular herb. Parsley derives its name from the Greek word meaning “rock celery” .Parsley is a relative to celery. It is a biennial plant that will return to the garden year after year once it is established.







Rosemary – Looks like an evergreen it is woody fragrant herb with blue, pink purple flowers. The name rosemary comes from the Latin for “dew (ros)” and “sea (mrinus), or dew of the sea.

Rosemary is one of the oldest known medicinal herbs with benefits like help clear bad breath, congestion, mental function or memory enhancement, food preservative, lower neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease , sore throats, prevent strokes, and others.

Rosemary and other herbs can be used in aroma therapy.





Sage – was once used by the ancients to protect themselves from witchcraft. It is known mostly for cooking the Turkey stuffing on Thanksgiving. But Sage is one powerful herb and its health benefits should be used more than just once a year. It is strong and can be overpowering you only need a pinch.

Sage is scientifically known as Salvia officinalis, and comes from the Latin word salvere which basically means to be saved. Sage comes from the Mediterranean area and is from the mint family. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal herb and flavoring for meat especially poultry and fatty cuts of meat and soup dishes.

Sage has all the other benefits of the herbs and spices listed plus it other health benefits include enhancing brain and memory, enhance the appetite and act as a expectorant for those coughs and colds.



sesame1The story of “Open Sesame” comes from the story of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, and reflects the plants pod which bursts open when it reaches maturity. The pods are pictured as dark green.

Sesame – If I learned anything by putting this article together it was of the spice Sesame. What I thought was just a seed on top of my hamburger bun or overpriced oil on the store shelf; I have found it is anything but.

Sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops known it was domesticated over 3,000 years ago.

Did you know that half a cup of sesame seeds contain three times natural calcium than half a cup of whole milk? Although widely known in America, the sesame plant is grown in certain Asian countries and is a food staple is such countries as Korea and the Middle East. They the whole plant is used except the root. The leave can be used to help treat food poisoning, and help from eating tainted seafood. The leaf is reduced in hot water and drank as a broth or herbal green tea.

Sesame seeds are flat oval seed with a delicate nutty taste. They come in colors like black, red, white and yellow.







Tea from the Tea Plant

The world of Tea stories could be and have been written about tea. This plant was the driving force for the discovery of Asia, and the new world. It was so powerful and impressed the British so much they established the East India Company in India to grow tea and compete with China’s monopoly and control of the herb. Tea originated in China as a medicinal drink. With the age of discovery it was soon became so popular the British made it their national drink.

The discovery of tea lead to the trading of other riches including dye, herbs, indigo, opium, salt, saltpeter (used to make ammunition) silk, spices, and slaves.

Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring boiling hot water over cured leaves of dried herbs for herbal tea, or over cured leaves of the tea plant.

Tea from the tea plant Camellia sinensis has six different categories which are created based on how they are processed. There is black (called red tea in China), green, oolong (or wulong), Post-fermented (or Chinese black tea), white, and yellow.


The health effects of tea have been known for over 4700 years in China. China’s legendary emperor Shennong claimed Camellia sinensis infusions were useful for treating conditions including abscess, bladder ailments, lethargy, and tumors.

Historically water was not always safe to drink. The use of boiling the water for the brewing of Tea reduced the load of microorganisms especially the bacterium responsible for cholera.

Tea does contain the stimulant caffeine about 90 mg per 8 oz. (250 ml) cup. The amount of caffeine depends on the brand, brewing method, and type.

If the water supply used to water the Tea Plants contain fluoride the tea-plant retains this fluoride. All tea leaves contain fluoride older mature leaves contain more than the younger leaves from the same plant.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas are a great way to stay hydrated and support the health of the cells, tissues and organs. With literally thousands of medicinal herbs on the market, it is impossible to even think of making a list. Herbal teas are arranged to help common health complaints. Herbal teas are effective, gentle and readily available.

Note: When it comes to tea’s I have learned a few things:

  1. Get rid of the tea bag it contains toxins whether made of paper, plastic or whatever else. Paper has been bleached and mixed with glue — I don’t drink bleach. I have learned to forget the tea bag. I use medal filters and hot water.
  2. Pre-made or packaged herb teas have been processed and contain less nutrition. Celestial Seasonings “All Natural” Teas for an example been found to have added pesticides
  3. Use warm or hot water not iced. Warm water opens your body’s pores to allow for more hydration. I drink warm water tea all day. I also drink water non iced room temperature water and feel hydrated.
  4. Cut down on the black tea and use a mix of herbs and spices. Black tea contains caffeine and fluoride. I may use some black tea leaves to give the tea some darkened color or I may mix beet juice with it.
  5. Never use decaffeinated anything. To remove the caffeine it means more processing, more processing means less nutrition.

I use cinnamon tree bark, cloves, cut up ginger root, lavender, leaves of all kinds of herbs, cut up turmeric root, vegetable juice (Like beet juice) and just about anything else I can find that adds nutrition and taste.

I also found this great web site with some fantastic herbal teas from loose herbs put in a brown paper bag. With some great tea gear. I use many of their prepared herbs to spice up my tea.

Teagevity Purveyors of organic loose tea, herbs and tea gear


A Company called Teagevity has a fantastic collection of some very rare and special ingredients.

I found and use Teagevity’s great tea filter for loose tea leaves. It fits nicely over a normal mason jar where I can brew the tea, and store for later use. They also have their own jar with filter.


See my article on Turmeric

Curcumin (turmeric).

turmericTurmeric – looks like ginger with its underground stem (rhizome) or root except for its distinctive yellow or orange color. Turmeric is among the most powerful of healing foods. Turmeric has been used to help prevent and treat disease for hundreds if not thousands of years. According to the root “has been scientifically documented to have over 500 applications in disease prevention and treatment.”









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