How To Spice Up Your Health With These 9 Common Herbs and Spices

If you want to spice up your health, start in your kitchen.

Herbs and spices not only pep up your meal, but many come with proven health benefits such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibacterial
  • Antimicrobial
  • Immune stimulating
  • Cardiovascular
  • Anticarcinogenic
  • Blood sugar balancing
  • Aiding in digestion
  • Antiaging

Most herbs and spices are also good sources of B-vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants).

They are also a good way to add flavor to a meal without adding extra calories and sodium.


9 Common Herbs and Spices

Cayenne Pepper

Health: Capsaicin is the substance in cayenne pepper that cranks up the heat. Medical benefits include pain relief, improved circulation and heart health. In addition, its has also been used for weight loss, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

Culinary: We like to add fresh peppers to our chicken burgers. Beware of the seeds and pith.

Singletary, K. (2011). Red pepper: Overview of potential health benefits.Nutrition Today, 46(1), 33-47.


Health: Ginger is excellent for treating upset stomachs, gas and bloating, sore throats and colds. It has also been shown to help with arthritis, muscle soreness, menstrual cramps and motion sickness.

Culinary: Ginger is a spicy herb that is used in both sweet and savory dishes. It can also be consumed raw in smoothies or as a tea.

Singletary, K. (2010). Ginger: An Overview of health benefits. Nutrition Today,45(4), 171-183.



Health: Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects. Studies have demonstrated that cinnamon may act as an insulin mimetic, to potentiate insulin activity or to stimulate cellular glucose metabolism

Culinary: The  most common culinary uses are in: coffee and baked goods. Healthier ways to reap the benefits include: pour it over oatmeal, yogurt or cottage cheese, stir it into nut butter or protein shakes and sprinkle it on sweet potatoes or carrots.

Gruenwald, J., Freder, J., & Armbruester, N. (2010). Cinnamon and health.Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 50(9), 822-834.



Health: Fennel is a good source of antioxidants. It is cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, bronchodilatory, estrogenic, diuretic, antithrombotic, hypotensive, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, memory enhancing, and antimutagenic.

Culinary: This plant can be served raw or cooked. It is commonly used raw in salads, steamed with other greens or in stir frys.

Rahimi, R., & Ardekani, M. R. S. (2013). Medicinal properties of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. in traditional Iranian medicine and modern phytotherapy. Chinese journal of integrative medicine, 19(1), 73-79.



Health: Turmeric is a  bright orange-yellow spice that is commonly found in Indian foods, such as curries. It is a powerful antioxidant, and contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is hepatoprotective and antimutagenic as well as being cardioprotective.

Turmeric provides pain relief similar to ibuprofen and has been shown to be beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and cancer.

Culinary: This spice can be added to a variety of foods including meats, salads and eggs.

Nagpal, M., & Sood, S. (2013). Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview. Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, 4(1), 3.



Health: Oregano has antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant and antibiotic properties. Oregano has also been used in traditional medicines for asthma, cramping, diarrhea, and indigestion

Culinary: Use it as a seasoning in stews, pizzas and tomato-based sauces. When possible, opt for fresh oregano leaves, and use them to enhance the flavor of salads and soups.

Singletary, K. (2010). Oregano: overview of the literature on health benefits.Nutrition Today, 45(3), 129-138.



Health: Basil has powerful antioxidant properties and hypoglycemic activity

Culinary: Basil is a  popular herb used to season sauces, soups, salads and pasta dishes. It is also the base of pesto


El-Beshbishy, H. A., & Bahashwan, S. A. (2011). Hypoglycemic effect of basil (Ocimum basilicum) aqueous extract is mediated through inhibition of α-glucosidase and α-amylase activities: an in vitro study. Toxicology and Industrial Health, 0748233711403193.



Health: Garlic is a powerful antimicrobial and immunostimulant. It also has proven benefits for cardiovascular diseases and dementia.

Culinary: Garlic is a plant in the onion family. It is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks.

Garlic is a versatile herb that is often used to spice up savory dishes.


Tattelman, E. (2005). Health effects of garlic. Am Fam Physician, 72(1), 103-106.



Health: Peppermint has significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential.

Studies have demonstrated a relaxation effect on gastrointestinal tract, analgesic and anesthetic effects in the central and peripheral nervous system, immunomodulating actions and chemopreventive potential

Culinary: Peppermint is one of the most widely consumed single ingredient herbal teas.


McKay, D. L., & Blumberg, J. B. (2006). A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytotherapy Research, 20(8), 619-633.


Could your health use a little spice/herb?

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin