The People's Perspective on Medicine

What Health Benefits Can You Get from Spices?

Many herbs and spices contain phytonutrients that seem to have health benefits. They may work together synergistically, so it makes sense to eat them with a meal.

You may be well aware that vegetables and fruits are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Perhaps you’ve even heard about additional compounds we call phytonutrients. These may not be considered essential, as vitamins and minerals are, but chances are that they are good for you. Beyond fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices are loaded with phytonutrients. What health benefits do they offer?

Health Benefits from Spices:

Q. According to some research, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, ginger and rosemary are spices that have anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity. Some spices may also help to prevent dementia and control blood sugar and blood pressure. Do you need to take them with food for them to be effective?

A. There are studies demonstrating that such spices do have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory power (Clinical Nutrition Research, Oct. 2015). They might even help against cognitive decline. A pilot study demonstrated that a combination of sage, rosemary and lemon balm seemed to help people with word recall (Phytomedicine, Jan. 15, 2018).

These may not be the only health benefits you’ll get from spices. Some experts have hypothesized that part of the power of the Mediterranean diet could derive from its liberal use of spices. (You may wish to listen to our interview with Dr. Alan Maisel. It is Show 1056: Longevity, Spice and Diet–Secrets Italians Know That You Don’t).

Learn More About Health Benefits of Spice:

You can learn more about these and many other flavorful plants in our book, Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life. It is available at

To order by mail, please send $15.95 plus $4 postage and handling to Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, Dept. SUYH; PO Box 52027; Durham, NC 27717-2027.

You might also want to listen to Show 988: Spices for a Healthy Life, with Dr. Ajay Goel and Dr. Christopher Gardner.

Must You Take Your Spice with Meals?

We generally think that spices work best when used with foods. Traditional combinations such as curry contain ingredients (black pepper, ghee or coconut oil) that improve the absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. Very likely traditional Greek and Italian recipes also enhance the health benefits from herbs like oregano or rosemary.

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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. .
Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life

Learn about the latest research on the surprising health benefits of herbs and spices. Find out how to make home remedies with spices that can help with common health problems.

Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life
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