Western medicine is starting to pay attention to traditional healing herbs. “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 Anderson Cancer Center. Although it’s difficult to say that spices can cure disease, they can be beneficial when fighting a variety of health conditions, from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer to the common cold.
Here are six of the healthiest spices from around the world, gathered by Eating Well.
Try it in: Turkey Tomato Soup
Sage may help preserve memory, a fitting benefit for its name. Some research suggests that it can help regulate enzymes in the brain to prevent the deterioration of acetylcholine, improving symptoms that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Herbalists also recommend sipping on hot sage tea to sooth sore throats and upset stomachs.
Try it in: Grilled Rosemary Chicken
Scientific research has uncovered a good reason to use rosemary marinades on meat: it contains antioxidants that fight bacteria and even prevent the formation of cancer-causing compounds. One study found that aromatic rosemary improved mental alertness and memory.
Try it in: Barack Obama Chili
This spice often found in Indian cuisine is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to relive arthritis and other aches and pains. Current research is investigating if turmeric has cancer-suppressing properties as well.
4. Chile Pepper
Try it in: Salsa
Although chiles are hot on the tongue, they trigger the body’s cooling systems. That means they may boost the metabolism. Chile pepper may also lower your risk of ulcers.
Try it in: Ginger-Roasted Vegetables
Ginger is used to treat colds in may traditions of medicine, and it’s benefits are no wive’s tale. Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory, which some experts think can also be beneficial in treating arthritis. It may even boost your workout! Studies show that ginger can also reduce nausea.
Try it in: Cinnamon Apples
Ancient Romans and Greeks used cinnamon to treat indigestion. It contains cinnamaldehyde, a compound that is another anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon may be beneficial to helping diabetics control their blood sugar.
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