by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist
It is said that variety is the spice of life. But did you know that both spices and herbs can add variety and longevity to your life? They have been used for centuries in various cultures to relieve everything from acne to warts, and allergies to varicose veins. What is the difference between a spice and an herb? The primary difference is that herbs are the leaves of herbaceous plants while spices are culled from the dried roots, stalks, seeds, or fruit of the plant. There are a few plants which are considered to be the source of both spices and herbs. Dill is one example. Dill weed is derived from the leaves or stem of the plant while the seeds are considered a spice.
Evidence of the uses of spices and herbs date back thousands of years, even being referenced in religious texts such as the Old Testament, the Talmud, and the Koran. The ancient Egyptian Ebers Papyrus is among the oldest preserved medical documents dating back nearly four thousand years and contains references to over 700 herbal remedies alone. Many people are skeptical because they’ve learned to rely so heavily on doctors, prescriptions and over the counter medications. But you really have to look no further than your own spice rack for a veritable holistic cabinet of healing!
Cinnamon may be delicious in an apple pie, but it also aids digestion and lowers blood sugar too. Long before people realized garlic was a tasty addition to shrimp scampi, it was being used to treat bronchitis, allergies, and asthma. Tumeric is an exotic spice, used mainly in Indian cooking, but it also has anti‑inflammatory properties used to relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. It has also proven itself to be useful in the treatment of serious health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease, and is a natural liver detoxifier.
Cloves are among the earliest known spices and herbs with medicinal qualities. Its strong sweet scent makes it a natural breath freshener. It is also an antiseptic and helps cure toothaches. Ginger is another spice that has great curative qualities. It was carried by ancient Chinese seamen to prevent seasickness and scurvy. It also relieves nausea and indigestion. Saffron is one of the oldest, most valuable, and expensive spices known to man. It takes nearly one quarter of a million crocuses to harvest a single pound of saffron. Saffron has been known to reduce fever, to regulate the menstrual cycle, combat epilepsy and convulsions, and to treat digestive disorders.
Cayenne pepper is a “wonder spice” because it is used in so many ways to cure so many ills. It works on pain, improves poor circulation, treats psoriasis, and enables one to digest food more effectively. Used topically as a salve or oil, cayenne can help reduce the pain of shingles, fibromyalgia, arthritis and even sciatica. Onions have been shown to help prevent thrombosis by protecting small blood vessels in the cardio-circulatory system and also reducing blood cholesterol. Thyme is an especially effective anti-oxidant and can be prepared as a topical balm for use in curing cuts, treating burns, soothing rashes, and treating acne. Taken orally, thyme is particularly helpful in addressing infections in the respiratory and digestive tracts, easing coughs, flu, and gastroenteritis.
Rosemary is remarkably rich in vitamin E and has been used to aid mental fatigue, forgetfulness, and indigestion. It also stimulates the immune system, gives protection from cancer-causing toxins, and improves circulation. Nutmeg calms muscle spasms and anxiety, relieves insomnia, joint pain, and gout, lowers blood pressure, improves concentration, and increases circulation. Mustard stimulates digestion, inhibits cancer cell growth, reduces the severity of asthma, helps prevent migraines, and has antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Herbs and spices are extremely beneficial and curative when taken properly. However, use of even natural therapies can cause unwanted and even dangerous side effects when taken or applied improperly.
Marilyn Burdekin, L.A.c, M.A,c is an herbalist who has experience in both Western and Chinese medicine and may be reached by phone, 410‑491‑6206, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or on her website http://acupunctureinnercourtyard.com.