The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1056: Longevity, Spice and Diet-Secrets Italians Know That You Don’t

In southern Italy, people use a pungent form of rosemary in meals every day. They live into their 90s. Could herbs & spices do the same for you?
Rosemary. Fresh rosemary herbs. Scissors cut herbs fresh rosemary. Organic aromatic herbs.
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Longevity, Spice and Diet-Secrets Italians Know That You Don’t

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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme:

Could rosemary in your food be part of the secret to long life? Will sage make you smarter? Will garlic, leeks and onions help you keep your heart healthy? Cinnamon, fenugreek and turmeric all appear to help regulate blood sugar. Could they be useful in warding off type 2 diabetes? What more can herbs and spices do for health?

Getting More Oomph from Our Diet:

How might we change our diet so we get more of the antioxidant compounds from polyphenols in spices and herbs? It is just possible that some of the numerous health benefits from the Mediterranean diet might be attributed to the herbs spicing up the food.

Finding Out What Spices Do:

We talk with Dr. Alan Maisel about his pilot study in an Italian village where the local cooks put rosemary in nearly every dish. The people live a relaxed, active lifestyle and eat the archetypal Mediterranean diet rich in local vegetables, olives and fish. They rarely develop cataracts or other problems associated with old age. What might herbs and spices do to help them live well into their 90s? Could their redolent rosemary be part of the secret?

Call in Your Questions and Stories:

We are interested in your stories and questions about your favorite spices and how you use them for better health. Ask your question or share your story: Call 888-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EDT on October 29, 2016, or email

This Week’s Guest:

Alan S. Maisel, MD, is Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. He is Director of the Coronary Care Unit and Heart Failure Program at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System. His preliminary research on health and longevity in southern Italy got attention in The Daily Beast and the New York Times.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Announcing our Brand New Book:

Spice Up Your Health:

How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life

If you find our interview with Dr. Alan Maisel intriguing, you will likely love our new book, Spice Up Your Health. In it you will discover key information on culinary herbs and spices that have surprising healing properties.

Take rosemary, for example. Dr. Maisel reports that the people of Acciaroli, a remote village in Southern Italy, love rosemary and eat it at almost every meal. They just happen to live to a ripe old age with great hearts and circulation, very little dementia and virtually no cataracts. Could rosemary, in addition to their Mediterranean diet, lead to longer, healthier lives? Find out about rosemary, thyme, sage and turmeric (plus lots more) in Spice Up Your Life. Here is a link to more information.


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have never really thanked The People’s Pharmacy for all you do for me. The information you have given me regarding medications and pharmacies plus the people who write in about their experiences all of this has been very helpful to me and I am very thankful that my friend told me about you. I tell everyone I know about you and what you have done for me and others. Thank you again People’s Pharmacy.

Thank you, Peggy!

Your broadcast on the ingestion of rosemary in the Italian diet was very interesting. My question is whether dried rosemary (or other spices) would have the same health benefits as fresh? Has there been any studies done on this?

According to some scientist, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, nutmeg, etc…are spices that are anti inflammatory, antitumoral, antibacterial, etc.. and help to prevent dementia /alzheimer’s, help with blood sugar, and HBP. all of them should be taken in moderation(1/4 tsp. o less) with food but frequently.

Is not just the Italians these herbs are used in all Mediterranean area. Portugal, Spain, Fr. Greece, Turkey, and north African countries. Thyme is used a lot for its antibacterial components (like oregano). And yes, turmeric/cucumin, helps with skin problems, it should be taken with some fat (oil, etc) to dissolve. But some people may be sesnsitive and should be careful, liver enzymes can affect liver. Just don’t take more that 1/4 ts. with meals.

I enjoy your website and frequently visit it when I have health questions. At my age, I always have a questions or concern which could be answered easily.

My husband and I are in our early 60’s and lead an active lifestyle, working in town still while living on a small homestead with livestock. But my husband is retired military (25 years), was in Vietnam during Agent Orange years and was also a competitive runner. So between flat feet with many small fractures over the years, hip pain and both our worries over cardio and brain health (fearing dementia as do most older Americans), I’m hoping you might advise on the ideal smoothie we can take in daily? Already put in turmeric, black pepper to “activate” it, yogurt and flaxseed meal (for Omega fatty acid) with fruits, kale and coconut milk. Do have to consider the taste if I’m going to persuade my husband to drink it, but should there be other herbs or spices I could add for his pain and our cardio and brain health? Thank you, and many thanks for Peoples Pharmacy for their many years of service to we consumers.

From what I’ve read, turmeric sounds like it benefits us in a lot of areas. I’ve read it can help with skin conditions (like psoriasis), with general inflammation (thus helps the heart?) and curcumin, a derivative element is used for join pain I believe, though haven’t used it. Does it also have benefits against Alzheimer’s /dementia?

Health benefits aside, food is more interesting if one makes effective use of herbs and spices. With the huge amounts of sugar in food, most Americans have non-sensitive palates. Since I stopped eating sugar (15 years ago), I have gradually re-kindled the ability to taste what’s in food. And I use less salt as well.

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