By Vicky Uhland, Natural Solutions
There’s good reason to season: Doctors and dietitians agree that your spice rack can be just as essential as your medicine cabinet when it comes to preventing and treating disease. Research consistently shows that many spices and herbs have medicinal qualities and can help prevent everything from cancer to the common cold. We asked two experts–Glen Aukerman, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Ohio State University Medical Center, and Ruth Knill, PhD, LAc, a Chinese herbalist–about the spices and herbs that best improve overall health. Here are their picks, plus easy ways to work them into your diet.
Cumin: Prevents Cancer
HOW IT WORKS: It’s no surprise to many spice researchers that cancer rates are lower in India, where cumin is a diet staple. Studies show that the curcumin in this spice inhibits the enzymes that help cancer cells invade healthy tissue and also keeps tumors from developing the new blood vessels that help them grow. TRY TO GET: 6 teaspoons of seeds or 1/2 teaspoon of powder a day. USE IT: Toss a bowl of root veggies, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower, and turnips, with olive oil and 1 teaspoon cumin powder. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes or until tender, and add salt, pepper, and chopped cilantro to taste before serving.
Ginger: Calms Nausea
HOW IT WORKS: Chinese medical texts dating back to the fourth century BC tout ginger’s antinausea properties, and modern clinical studies offer scientific proof that it works–a substance in ginger shuts down a nerve receptor in the body that triggers the vomiting reflex. TRY TO GET: Juice from 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger four times a day. USE IT: Add 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger and a few drops of toasted sesame oil to your usual tuna salad recipe for an Asian-style flavor.
Basil: Combats Colds
HOW IT WORKS: Basil is rich in antioxidants, which help boost immunity. It’s also an antimicrobial, which fights the germs that can cause colds. TRY TO GET: 1 to 2 tablespoons a day. USE IT: Toss 1 tablespoon chopped basil into a shrimp stir-fry during the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking. Or slice strawberries, toss with honey, and set aside for 15 minutes until juicy. Then top with a few tablespoons of finely chopped basil.
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