Healthy Herbs and Spices to Use

Herbs and spices do more than add flavor to a dish -- a growing body of evidence highlights real health benefits, too. From black pepper and turmeric to chives and cinnamon, here are 10 seasonings that can help fight cancer and heart disease, and keep other trouble at bay. 

Black Pepper

That pepper mill may not just be a weapon against bland food. It could stop cancer cells from growing and dividing. In the lab, the zingy pepper ingredient called piperine inactivated cells with early signs of cancer trouble and left healthy cells alone.


These pungent green shoots may help neutralize the effects of carcinogens and muzzle tumor growth in a host of different cancers. Chives are part of the allium family of herbs, as are onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and scallions. Research revealed that people who ate lots of allium herbs had fewer signs of hip osteoarthritis.


Cinnamon may help you fend off diabetes by keeping your blood sugar under control. How? Cinnamon may help cells take in sugar and use insulin better. Try it in coffee, over fresh apple slices, or in a spice rub for grilled fish or chicken.As little as a half-teaspoon a day may be all you need.


The root that sits to the side of your sushi and gives a little extra punch to everything from stir-fries to marinades to cookies does more than just taste good. Known for quelling motion sickness, ginger can also soothe a sour stomach, calm achy knees, reduce cholesterol, nix artery-clogging blood clots, reduce post-workout soreness, inhibit cancer cells, and quash damaging inflammation. Use fresh or dried ground ginger.


When GIs brought oregano home from Italy after World War II, they probably didn't know they were carrying an herb that contains 42 times more antioxidants than apples -- or that it contains a substance that would later be found in mouse studies to beat inflammation. Taming inflammation helps reduce your risk of health problems, from heart disease to cancer.


Promote parsley from a garnish to a starring role and you'll not only get fresher breath; guys may also get prostate protection. In lab studies, a flavonoid in parsley, called apigenin, put prostate cancer cells in slow-growth mode.


Love the taste of grilled burgers? Add chopped fresh rosemary to your burgers before grilling for extra flavor and to prevent the production of cancer-causing substances called heterocyclicamines (HCAs) by up to 90%. Need more reasons to stick a sprig of this herb in lemonade or a cup of hot tea, or to marinades or steamed veggies? Lab studies suggest it may prevent breast cancer and leukemia cells from multiplying.


This beautiful reddish-yellow spice -- the world's most expensive! -- contains certain compounds that may help decrease anxiety and even depression. In one study, the anti-anxiety effect of taking saffron daily may have been what helped overweight women snack about 50% less than placebo-takers.


That minty, lemony flavor in your mouthwash? It could be thyme, which has long been used as an antiseptic. Now this herb -- a favorite in savory dishes, from vinaigrettes to holiday stuffing -- has been found to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, too. That makes your heart happy, since high levels of inflammation in your body can open the door to heart disease, the number one killer in America.


Turmeric not only adds color and flavor to Indian dishes, it also contains the compound curcumin, which studies suggest has nearly total-body benefits. This inflammation fighter may curb damage to your arteries, keep your memory sharp, and even squelch next-day soreness after a workout. It may also help turn off pancreatic and colon cancer cells. An easy way to get this potent compound: yellow mustard. A teaspoon contains the perfect daily dose (about 17 milligrams of turmeric).

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