For millennia, spices and culinary herbs have added flavor and enhanced palatability of food. These plants were valued not only for their fragrance and flavor, but also as remedies, bridging the divide between food and medicine.
Spices and culinary herbs add flavor to food without adding calories, fat, or sodium. Many culinary herbs and spices exert potent antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer activity. The compounds that bestow these health benefits are called phytonutrients. The phytonutrients found in herbs and spices are unique and are not the same as those in vegetables and fruits. Other actions include strengthening the immune system, regulating blood sugar, calming nerves, boosting metabolism, relaxing muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, and there’s still more to be discovered
Some of my favorites Herbs and Spices for fall are:
- Garlic: This herb fights infections and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Raw garlic is probably the optimal form as cooking deactivates many of it’s key components. Crush a couple of cloves and put in olive oil with lemon or vinegar and toss over a salad. You can also save a little to put in at the end of cooking.
- Ginger: This is a wonderful warming herb that is also highly effective for alleviating nausea, preventing and treating motion sickness and settling an upset stomach. You can make a delicious tea by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 1/4 tsp dried powdered ginger, steeping for 10 minutes, adding honey and/or lemon if desired.
- Turmeric: This Indian spice gives curries their bright yellow color and has potent anti-inflammatory action. Thought to offer protection from Alzheimer’s and cancers it can be easily incorporated into the diet. I often add 1 tsp to chilies and bean dishes. Turmeric Tea: Simmer 1 tsp of turmeric powder in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes, stirring until turmeric is dissolved at this point you can strain and add honey or lemon or add 2 cups of milk(dairy or soy), 1 tablespoon of almond oil and 1 – 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup (can be refrigerated).
- Thyme: For centuries this herb has been used medicinally for coughs, colds and flu. It is traditionally bundled with parsley and bay to form the French bouquet garni but can also be enjoyed as a tea. Thyme Tea: steep 1 tsp of dried thyme in cup of hot water. Cover with a saucer so important volatile oils do not evaporate. Strain and add honey to taste. Drink several times a day for coughs.
- Sage: This classic seasoning clears the mind and improves memory. Tea made from this herb has long been used as a remedy for sore throats. Steep 1 teaspoon in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes, strain. Drink or use as gargle.
- Cinnamon: I think of this spice with the onset of cool weather and apples. Cinnamon can help maintain healthy blood sugar. Simply add 1/2 tsp to yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal or a smoothie a few times a day.