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8 of the World’s Healthiest Spices & Herbs You Should Be Eating

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.,

As a registered dietitian and associate nutrition editor at EatingWell Magazine, I know that herbs and spices do more than simply add flavor to food. They let you cut down on some less-healthy ingredients, such as salt, added sugars and saturated fat, and some have inherent health benefits, many of which Joyce Hendley reported on for EatingWell Magazine.

Modern science is beginning to uncover the ultimate power of spices and herbs, as weapons against illnesses from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. “We’re now starting to see a scientific basis for why people have been using spices medicinally for thousands of years,” says Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and author of Healing Spices (Sterling, 2011).

Aggarwal notes that in his native India, where spices tend to be used by the handful, incidence of diet-related diseases like heart disease and cancer have long been low. But when Indians move away and adopt more Westernized eating patterns, their rates of those diseases rise. While researchers usually blame the meatier, fattier nature of Western diets, Aggarwal and other experts believe that herbs and spices-or more precisely, the lack of them-are also an important piece of the dietary puzzle. “When Indians eat more Westernized foods, they’re getting much fewer spices than their traditional diet contains,” he explains. “They lose the protection those spices are conveying.”

While science has yet to show that any spice cures disease, there’s compelling evidence that several may help manage some chronic conditions (though it’s always smart to talk with your doctor). What’s not to love? Here we’ve gathered eight of the healthiest spices and herbs enjoyed around the world.

Chile Peppers
May help: Boost metabolism.

Chile peppers add a much-appreciated heat to chilly-weather dishes, and they can also give a boost to your metabolism. Thank capsaicin, the compound that gives fresh chiles, and spices including cayenne and chipotle, their kick. Studies show that capsaicin can increase the body’s metabolic rate (causing one to burn more calories) and may stimulate brain chemicals that help us feel less hungry. In fact, one study found that people ate 16 percent fewer calories at a meal if they’d sipped a hot-pepper-spiked tomato juice (vs. plain tomato juice) half an hour earlier. Recent research found that capsinoids, similar but gentler chemicals found in milder chile hybrids, have the same effects-so even tamer sweet paprika packs a healthy punch. Capsaicin may also lower risk of ulcers by boosting the ability of stomach cells to resist infection by ulcer-causing bacteria and help the heart by keeping “bad” LDL cholesterol from turning into a more lethal, artery-clogging form.
Ginger
May help: Soothe an upset stomach, fight arthritis pain.

Ginger has a well-deserved reputation for relieving an unsettled stomach. Studies show ginger extracts can help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness or following surgery or chemotherapy, though it’s less effective for motion sickness. But ginger is also packed with inflammation-fighting compounds, such as gingerols, which some experts believe may hold promise in fighting some cancers and may reduce the aches of osteoarthritis and soothe sore muscles. In a recent study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days reported 25 percent less muscle pain when they performed exercises designed to strain their muscles (compared with a similar group taking placebo capsules). Another study found that ginger-extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis pain of the knee.
Cinnamon
May help: Stabilize blood sugar.

A few studies suggest that adding cinnamon to food-up to a teaspoon a day, usually given in capsule form-might help people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar, by lowering post-meal blood-sugar spikes. Other studies suggest the effects are limited at best.

Turmeric
May help: Quell inflammation, inhibit tumors.

Turmeric, the goldenrod-colored spice, is used in India to help wounds heal (it’s applied as a paste); it’s also made into a tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems. Modern medicine confirms some solid-gold health benefits as well; most are associated with curcumin, a compound in turmeric that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures; it’s also being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Researcher Bharat Aggarwal is bullish on curcumin’s potential as a cancer treatment, particularly in colon, prostate and breast cancers; preliminary studies have found that curcumin can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

Saffron
May help: Lift your mood.

Saffron has long been used in traditional Persian medicine as a mood lifter, usually steeped into a medicinal tea or used to prepare rice. Research from Iran’s Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital at Tehran University of Medical Sciences has found that saffron may help to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and depression. In one study, 75% of women with PMS who were given saffron capsules daily reported that their PMS symptoms (such as mood swings and depression) declined by at least half, compared with only 8 percent of women who didn’t take saffron.
Parsley
May help: Inhibit breast cancer-cell growth.

University of Missouri scientists found that this herb can actually inhibit breast cancer-cell growth, reported Holly Pevzner in the September/October 2011 issue of EatingWell Magazine. In the study, animals that were given apigenin, a compound abundant in parsley (and in celery), boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors. Experts recommend adding a couple pinches of minced fresh parsley to your dishes daily.

Sage
May help: Preserve memory, soothe sore throats.

Herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats, a remedy supported by one study that found spraying sore throats with a sage solution gave effective pain relief. And preliminary research suggests the herb may improve some symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a key enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and learning. In another study, college students who took sage extracts in capsule form performed significantly better on memory tests, and their moods improved.
Rosemary
May help: Enhance mental focus, fight foodborne bacteria.

One recent study found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were piped into their study cubicles. Rosemary is often used in marinades for meats and poultry, and there’s scientific wisdom behind that tradition: rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds in the herb fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling, and may even make cooked meats healthier. In March 2010, Kansas State University researchers reported that adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs)-cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.

www.healingpowerhour.com

The Health Benefits of Chamomile

The health benefits of chamomile include safe, soothing stress relief. Although it is possible to have an allergic reaction to chamomile, it is usually considered safe enough for even the elderly and young children.

There are two kinds of chamomile, Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobilis) and German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Their actions are quite similar. The German Chamomile is usually used in the United States. It is tastier and more effective for soothing digestion.

Health benefits of chamomile
have a long history in traditional herbal medicine

  • This gentle herb can relax muscles and have a calming influence on nervous irritability and anxiety.
  • It can promote proper functioning of the stomach, improve digestion and dispel accumulated gas.
  • It is often used for babies suffering from colic spasms or teething irritability.
  • Chamomile has an anti inflammatory action and can promote healing of wounds.
  • It can help promote perspiration and have a beneficial influence on fevers, colds and flu.
  • It can help with nervous headaches, insomnia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Chamomile supports refreshing and relaxing sleep.
  • It is useful for nervousness due to common every day over work and fatigue.
  • Chamomile has a gentle calming sedative effect on the central nervous system.
  • It is often recommended by herbalists to ease the impact of stress.

That’s quite a lot of relief from one simple herb!

Constituents of Chamomile

The health benefits of chamomile seem to come from its unique assortment of natural plant oils including azulene, chamazulene, pro azulenes, bisabolol, farnesine, pinene, anthermal, spiroether, angelic acid and a number of various sesquiterpenes.

The beneficial phyto nutrients in chamomile include flavones, glycosides, bitter glycosides, valerianic acids, tannins, salicylic acid and coumarin derivatives.

Using Chamomile

Chamomile can be used as capsules and tincture. Most often it is probably used as a simple tea.

How to Make Chamomile Tea

  • Boil water
  • Place dried chamomile blossoms in a tea pot or cup
  • Use about 1to 2 teaspoons of blossoms per 8 ounce cup of water
  • Pour boiling water over the blossoms and cover the pot or cup
  • Allow the tea to steep for 30-45 minutes
  • Drink and enjoy

The tea can be used as a relaxing foot bath. It can also be used as a mouth wash for sores in the mouth, or as a gargle to soothe a sore throat.

Availability

Chamomile is a common herb which is widely available. The health benefits of chamomile can be obtained by purchasing this inexpensive herb in most health food stores. It grows freely in many gardens. In fact the Victorians used to create a whole lawn of chamomile blossoms which were very soothing to relax on. (If you decide to try this, be sure to border your lawn with bricks or stones which will inhibit invasion of weeds and other grasses.)

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www.healingpowerhour.com

Herb of the week – Ginseng

Origins of the plant

The Health Benefits of GinsengGinseng was originally found in east Asian countries, specifically mainland China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. There is a variety of ginseng known as Siberian ginseng which is not really the same plant at all, but a similar herb known as Eleuthero. Traditional ginseng also grows in North America, but specifically is native to the northeastern region of the United States from the Atlantic ocean across to Iowa and some parts of southern Canada. It is a shade-loving plant, so typically grows in forested regions and cool climates. Ginseng does not do well in southern regions where heat, bright sun, or dry weather will prevent its growth.

The slow-growing nature of ginseng calls for at least three years of life before harvesting a plant. The plant will flower in the early summer and then turn to berries. Once these have fallen, then the plant is generally harvested in the early fall months. The entire plant can be used, but typically the root has the most medicinal properties. The root of the ginseng plant is large, and grows into several branches that are said to look like a human in shape.

Variations of Ginseng

There are a number of variations of ginseng. Most relate to where the ginseng was grown or cultivated, but each area produces a different level of quality in their ginseng.

Asian Ginseng

Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is the most common form of ginseng and is considered the original form of the herb. It is still grown in China, Japan, and other countries, but is most prevalent in Korea. Korean ginseng is one of the most popular varieties of Ginseng seen in products today. It is important to note that this species is also one of the most superior in quality of the variations available. This is due to the conditions in which it is grown and the longer span of the growing period that is available. The longer the plant is able to stay in the soil the stronger it becomes and therefore is more effective overall.

American Ginseng

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is quite accessible today in many products. It is still considered a high quality form of ginseng, but it has been found that the roots contain different proportions of the key components. The claim is that the properties are different in American ginseng because of the conditions under which it is grown.

Japanese Ginseng

Japanese ginseng (Panax japonicus) is often used as a substitute to the higher grade Asian ginseng and does not have the same strength nor the quality of Asian ginseng.
Sanchi ginseng (Panax notoginseng) is native to China and is another of the often used substitutes to Asian ginseng. It is very different in its properties from traditional Panax ginseng and is commonly used for entirely different purposes.

Himalayan Ginseng

Himalayan ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng) is a low strength form of ginseng that is most often used to treat digestive issues.

Siberian Ginseng

Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is similar in form to ginseng, but is a different plant entirely. It has a lower level of potency in treatment, and is also cheaper to buy so is often used as an alternative to ginseng. Siberian ginseng has been shown to have its own tonifying effects, however, and can be used with success in treating immune function problems and as an anti-inflammatory.
Red ginseng is a form of Panax ginseng that has been put through a heat treatment and then brewed to turn a reddish color. It is most commonly known for its uses in treating sexual dysfunction, but also has been effective in reducing various types of cancer.

Benefits of Ginseng

The key components in ginseng are the ginsenosides which produce effects in the body similar to the stress hormones released naturally. Depending on the level of potency of the ginseng, these effects can improve a person’s well-being in a number of ways.

Ginseng is most often thought of for its stimulating effects and indeed many of its benefits are due to its effect on the body’s secretion of hormones. Ginseng is known to improve mental and physical performance over time as well as stimulating metabolism, improving stamina, and alleviating fatigue. It has also been used to relax the nervous system and lower blood sugar and also improves immune system response and encourages resistance to disease.

Ginseng has been used to treat a variety of health problems, such as:

  • Reducing mental stress and anxiety
  • Increasing mental clarity and alertness
  • Stimulating the immune and nervous system
  • Treating diabetes
  • Preventing the growth of certain types of cancer cells
  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Improving digestion
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Improving athletic endurance

 

Studies on Ginseng

There are a number of studies that have been done on ginseng and its properties to determine if the health claims are true. Many of these studies have shown some strong data in favor of the claims made about ginseng, yet others have proved inconclusive and further studies need to be completed before any results can be shown.

The strongest results from studies on ginseng have been in relation to improving blood sugar, aiding in immune system function, and providing benefits for those with heart conditions. Most studies in these areas have already shown positive results, and further studies are underway to provide more conclusive evidence.

Other conditions that have been tested for treatment with ginseng include anemia, ADHD, cancer, dementia, erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, improving mental performance, supporting liver function, and a number of other illnesses. Most of the results on these studies have been positive in nature, but the data is not yet conclusive enough to be shown as proven. More studies are underway all the time, so results are likely to change over time.

For more information on ginseng studies visit MEDLINE at:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/databases/databases_medline.html

Usage & Dosages of Ginseng

Ginseng is available in a number of forms for use. Fresh ginseng can be sliced and brewed into a tea for consumption or added into soups. It can even be chewed or eaten fresh. The most common form of ginseng found is the dried root or some variation of that.

The dried root can also be sliced and brewed into tea, or it can be ground and placed under the tongue for quick absorption. Most ground ginger root is actually put into a pill format for consuming daily. The benefit of buying the actual dried root is that one can ensure that they are receiving a high quality product. It is common that pill formats of ginseng will not have a high potency of the herb.

The typical dosage in capsule format is 100 to 200 milligrams taken once or twice per day. If using a liquid form of ginseng, it is best to take 1 to 2 grams and mix it with water and then drink the mixture. Again, this can be taken once or twice per day.

A good standard is to start with a lower dose and then work up to a maximum of 200 milligrams twice per day after determining physical response and potential side effects from taking ginseng. After a three month period of taking ginseng on a daily basis, one should stop using the herb for a period of two weeks to one month before resuming use. Prolonged use without taking a break can cause nervousness and fluid retention.

Summary

Ginseng is a viable option for supplementing one’s diet to aid in mental focus, lowering blood sugar, and providing an energy boost. It is not without its concerns, however, and it will be some time before enough studies are completed to show the benefits or disprove the claims related to ginseng. Anyone deciding to use it should take it slowly and check with a sales clerk at their local health food store to find a quality brand. As always, remember to check with a physician before starting any new herbal supplement to ensure that it will not conflict with any other health issues or medications.

Caution – Those on blood thinning medications or with blood clotting issues should speak with a doctor before taking ginseng because it can reduce the effectiveness of medications.

 

For a list of herbs and their benefits please visit our herbal directory here – http://www.celestialhealing.net/herbal_guide.htm

The Health Benefits of Strawberry

The Health Benefits of Strawberries

The health benefits of strawberry include eye care, proper brain function, and relief from high blood pressure, arthritis, gout and heart diseases.

We know that all fruits, particularly berries and those with exotic colors are rich in anti oxidants. Strawberries are no exceptions. In addition to anti oxidants, they have many other nutrients and can be efficiently used to prevent many diseases.

Let us see what they are. The health benefits of strawberry include the following:

  • Eye Care: The primary reasons for almost all the problems of eyes are free radicals and deficiency of certain nutrients. With the growing age and lack of these protective nutrients, the harmful oxidants or free radicals cast heavy damage on our eyes, such as drying up of eyes, degeneration of optical nerves, Macular degeneration, vision defects and make them prone to infections too. The anti oxidants such as vitamin-C, Flavonoids, Phenolic Phytochemicals and Elagic Acid, present in strawberries can help avoid this situation to a great extent. One more factor is ocular pressure, i.e. the pressure of the eyes. Any disturbance in it is also harmful for the eyes. Here too, strawberries are helpful as they contain potassium, which help maintain right pressure.
  • Arthritis and Gout: The degeneration of muscles and tissues, drying up of the fluid which help mobility of the joints and accumulation of toxic substances and acids (such as uric acid) in the body are some of the ill effects of free radicals present in our body, which are primarily responsible for Arthritis and Gout. Strawberries, with their team of anti oxidants and detoxifiers, can effectively help push away such health hazards forever. It is a famous saying in India that a serving of any fruit a day will remove the rust from the joints. It is very true for strawberries.
  • Cancer: Vitamin-C, Folate and Anthocyanin, Quercetin and Kaempferol (few of the many Flavonoids in strawberries which possess excellent anti oxidant and anti carcinogenic properties) together form an excellent team to fight cancer and tumor. A daily intake of strawberries is seen to have remarkably brought down the growth of cancerous cells.
  • Brain Function: It is a very common observation that old people tend to lose their memory and control over their activities, limbs etc. This is because of aging of their brain and the nervous system. Actually, the free radicals, the agents very much responsible for aging, have a very adverse effect on these systems. Due to them, the brain tissues start degenerating and the nerves get weaker. Strawberries can help you out. The vitamin-C and the phytochemicals in them neutralize the effect of these oxidants and also rejuvenate the system. One more thing, strawberries are rich in iodine too, which is very helpful for proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
  • High Blood Pressure: Strawberries are very good in potassium and magnesium content, both of which are very effective in lowering high blood pressure caused by sodium.
  • Heart Diseases: High fiber, Folate, no fats and high anti oxidants such as vitamin-C and those phytochemicals (Flavonoids) together form an ideal cardiac health pack, as they effectively reduce cholesterol. Some of the members of the vitamin-B family present in strawberries also strengthen the cardiac muscles and help better functioning of the heart.
  • Other Benefits: Folate is known to protect from birth-defects. Vitamin-C effectively prevents from infections and cold. The phytonutrients also have anti inflammatory properties. Wait! I forgot to tell you about the best benefit. The strawberry preserve tastes just awesome.

This article was contributed by Aparup Mukherjee.

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

The Health Benefits of Coconut Water

The Health Benefits of Coconut Water

Coconut water benefits are pretty amazing, it is a very pure liquid second to water, so it is no wonder it will benefit you in your quest for looking younger.

This is definitely one of mother natures best drinks, it is a powerhouse of anti aging properties, and many celebrities are drinking it by the dozen, one in particular I have read about is Madonna.

The coconuts are picked unripe, so there is still liquid in them otherwise if they are allowed to ripen, the liquid inside will become part of the white flesh of the coconut.

The white part is used to make coconut milk; this is not the same as coconut water!

Coconut water’s electrolyte (aid in a number of vital bodily processes) content is very similar to human plasma, and therefore making it a fantastic sports drink, giving you oral re hydration.  This is a far better sports drink then the commercial one’s available.

Over the years, pure coconut water has also been used by doctors as an intravenous fluid, because it is completely compatible with the human body.

Coconut water can do so much for you it is absolutely amazing!  Combine this with the health benefits of water, and you are on a winning streak for looking younger.

It is rich in minerals such as; sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper phosphorus, potassium, proteins, vitamins C and B, glucose (a type of sugar found in the blood),  contains no fat, and despite its sweet taste it has no sugar.

Those who drink coconut water on a regular basis usually have a smooth and lovely complexion, and considering how good this stuff is for you, it is no wonder!

Coconut Water Health Benefits

  • helps promote weight loss
  • boost your immune system
  • fight viruses
  • boost poor circulation
  • aids digestion by removing toxins
  • boost thyroid health
  • keep body at proper temperature
  • carry nutrients and oxygen to cells
  • help break up kidney stones
  • great for liver problems such as hepatitis
  • reduce urinary problems
  • helps eliminate swelling in hands and feet
  • good for burns
  • good for hangovers

Drinking pure coconut water on a regular basis will help to reduce wrinkles and sagging skin, giving strength and elasticity to the skin.  Something we all want as we get older.

History and folklore (circulated by word of mouth, beliefs, and legends) say coconut water has incredible healing powers, which is now being confirmed by medical research and clinical observation.

Coconut water is a common ingredient in beauty products used for hair and skin.

Other Health Benefits of Coconut Water

  • Coconut Water is an Antibacterial. Coconut water contains monolaurin, an antiviral, antibacterial and antiprozoal monoglyceride that is used to kill lipid-coated viruses such as HIV, Herpes, cytomegalovirus, flu and various pathogenic bacteria.
  • Coconut water is great at reducing vomiting. People who have typhoid, malaria, fevers or other ailments that are known to induce vomiting drink coconut water to settle the stomach. As such, coconut water is also a good thing to drink during a hangover.
  • Coconut helps in keeping check over urinary infections. It is very effective in treating kidney and urethral stones.
  • Coconut water is very effective in treating intestinal disturbances in infants. It kills intestinal worms.
  • Making coconut a part of the daily diet is recommended for those who have been troubled by kidney stones. When taken along with mediation, it helps break up the stones, making it easier for the body to push them out.
  • For all those people who are trying to lose weight, drinking coconut water would prove quite useful. This is because the drink increases the rate of metabolism, thus aiding weight loss.

Where to Buy Coconut Water

You can purchase coconut water from your local organic grocery store, health food store or online. Coconut water health benefits are definitely worth it.

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

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