Ginger Root is renowned as a ‘super spice’ thanks to its wide and effective use for a number of ailments. It has traditionally been used to treat a variety of digestive and abdominal complaints, such as diarrhoea, IBS and menstrual cramps, as well as nausea caused by motion, pregnancy, chemotherapy, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rich in vitamins E, B6, Niacin, Vitamin C and the vital minerals Manganese, Iron, Selenium, and Magnesium, Ginger Root stimulates the appetite and facilitates digestion. Other benefits may include pain relief from upper respiratory tract infections, coughs and mild respiratory problems, bronchitis and even headaches.
Rich in antioxidants, the small black berries of the Elder tree have been used in traditional medicine for centuries due to their health-boosting properties. Some studies have shown that elderberries can strengthen the immune system, thanks to their antibacterial and anti-infectious abilities. They may even reduce the pain associated with autoimmune diseases, and the speed that certain cancers develop. Antioxidants found in elderberries can help regulate insulin and glucose levels, which supports digestion and aids the management of diabetes. Elderberries have also been used to help with weight loss, allergies such as hay fever, and as a laxative.
Cinnamon has a long history as a traditional medicine, and is valued for its distinctive flavour, aroma and medicinal benefits. The bark of the cinnamon shrub is rich in essential minerals, including manganese, iron and calcium, and is believed to have antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties. Traditionally, cinnamon bark has been used to treat a variety of complaints including digestive problems, diarrhoea, period pain and heavy menstruation. Some studies show that cinnamon can also help stop excessive bleeding, remove blood impurities and improve circulation, as well as regulate blood sugar levels. Other benefits include relief from stiffness of muscles and joints, and cinnamon’s ability to treat infections, colds, headaches, sore throats and the ‘flu.
Throughout ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, the dried fruit of the aniseed plant was used as a spice and medicine. Its sweet, aromatic taste made it a popular breath freshener, and it was also valued for aiding digestive disorders. Today, aniseed is a natural remedy for treating stomach upsets and intestinal gas, as well as coughs and colds. Studies have found aniseed to be beneficial in soothing symptoms of mild indigestion, including bloating and flatulence. It can also act as an appetite stimulant and a diuretic. Women can take aniseed to help increase their milk flow while breastfeeding, as well as to relieve period pains, ease childbirth, and increase sex drive. Men may find aniseed beneficial for symptoms of the “male menopause”. Aniseed is also useful in the treatment of insomnia.
As far back as 7000 BC, ancient Asian and Middle Eastern cultures are believed to have used barley grass as an ingredient in their food and medicines, utilising the plant to treat a range of skin, liver, blood, and gastrointestinal disorders. Packed with vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K, barley grass is today considered something of a superfood. It contains a wealth of electrolytes, including magnesium, phosphorous and potassium, as well as the essential minerals zinc, iron and calcium. Barley grass is also a rich source of powerful antioxidants, essential amino acids and enzymes, which may explain why this super-nutrient is believed to exert a rejuvenating effect on the entire body, promoting physical agility, reducing signs of ageing, protecting skin from UV damage and optimising cognitive ability. It may protect human cells against carcinogens, thanks to its ability to neutralise free radicals, detoxify the body, strengthen the immune system, and regenerate damaged cells and tissues. Several studies have also found that barley grass lowers blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, whilst helping to maintain an optimum acid-alkaline balance.
The fruit of the caraway plant (commonly referred to as caraway seeds) have been used medically for centuries, whilst its pungent flavour makes caraway a popular culinary spice. It is helpful in treating digestive disorders, such as heartburn, bloating, flatulence, constipation, loss of appetite and mild abdominal spasms. Caraway is also traditionally used to relieve period pains, and to stimulate the production of milk during lactation.
Cardamom is regarded as the ‘Queen of Spices’ and has long been a valued ingredient in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. The aromatic seeds of this exotic plant contain a slew of vitamins and minerals, including Niacin, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin, Thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin C, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc. Cardamom is one of the most common herbal remedies in Ayurveda and is used to treat dental problems, throat and upper respiratory infections, gastrointestinal disorders and urinary tract infections. It can help alleviate nausea and vomiting, intestinal spasms and gas. Cardamom is also believed to possess aphrodisiac properties and may be used to treat impotence, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
An ancient remedy used by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, chamomile flowers have traditionally been used in herbal medicine to treat anxiety and insomnia, as well as minor gastrointestinal complaints such as bloating, travel sickness, colic, stomach upsets and diarrhoea. Chamomile is natural tonic that may reduce blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and menstrual cramps. It has antiseptic and antibiotic properties and, used topically, can help heal mild skin irritations, ulcers, minor inflammations (such as sunburn), superficial wounds and small boils.
The dried buds of the subtropical flowering tree Syzygium aromaticum, cloves contain the minerals Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc, and vitamin C, B6, B12, A, E, D, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin. Together with high levels of antioxidants, they provide a great all-round boost to the immune system, and in Chinese medicine are believed to possess aphrodisiac qualities. Extracts in cloves have been found to reduce pain, and contain valuable antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which make them a popular natural treatment for toothache, oral diseases, halitosis and headaches. Cloves can stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes, and thus aid digestion, as well as reduce flatulence and nausea, while their phenolic compounds may be beneficial in preserving bone density.
Both the greens and root of this common flower are edible, and have long been used in traditional Chinese, Arabic and Native American medicines. Dandelion leaves are a rich source of vitamin A and C, as well as the minerals iron and calcium. Their diuretic properties can help the body eliminate toxins and treat urinary tract disorders. As well as increasing urine production, dandelions also stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin so can be helpful in managing diabetes. Detoxifying, diuretic, stimulating and rich in antioxidants, dandelion is a great treatment for acne, weight loss, high blood pressure, anaemia and optimum liver health.
Greek Mountain Tea uses the dried flowers, leaves and stems of the native Greek plant Sideritis (also known as Ironwort). It was first brewed as a tea by Greek shepherds whilst tending their flocks on the mountainsides, and is widely used in herbal medicine as well as for herbal teas. In ancient times, the herbs were used topically to treat battle wounds, and have long been considered a remedy for colds, indigestion, and a general boost to the immune system. As well as having a deliciously sweet, floral flavour, Greek Mountain Tea is packed with natural antioxidants, and has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, it can help with pain relief, allergy treatment, respiratory issues and mild abdominal discomfort.
The fragrant blossom of the lavender plant has been used for centuries to calm and purify mind and body, and to promote an overall sense of well-being. In traditional herbal medicine, the sedative effects of lavender make it a useful treatment for insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression; it may even alleviate pain. Lavender is also considered beneficial for digestive complaints including loss of appetite and nausea.
A member of the mint family, Lemon Balm is considered to be a calming herb and as long ago as the Middle Ages it was used to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. It is also believed to ease indigestion, flatulence and menstrual cramps, stimulate appetite, and lift the spirits. Some people apply lemon balm topically, finding its antiviral properties helpful in treating cold sores.
Lemongrass is not only an aromatic spice popular in Asian cuisine, but has traditionally been used as natural herbal remedy thanks to its antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It is helpful in treating laryngitis, colds, fever and respiratory infections, and has an analgesic action that can relieve headaches, minor sprains, rheumatism and back pain. Some studies have also shown anti-carcinogenic activity, due to the powerful antioxidants contained in lemongrass. Its diuretic qualities aid detoxification, and it is helpful in treating gastrointestinal disorders. Lemongrass is a rich source of multiple vitamins and vital minerals, and tends to have a revitalising effect on the whole body.
Native to South America, lemon verbena is a natural remedy for a variety of digestive disorders, including colic, flatulence, diarrhoea and constipation. It can boost metabolic rate and regulate the appetite, which makes it helpful in weight loss programmes. With a high dose of antioxidants, lemon verbena boosts the immune system, and can reduce postworkout muscle aches, as well as help decrease joint pain associated with arthritis or injuries. Its soothing qualities when taken in tea relieve chronic stress.
Widely used in everything from toothpaste to antibiotics for its refreshing minty flavour, peppermint infused tea is a delicious way to boost your health, thanks to its natural antibacterial properties. Best known perhaps as a superlative digestive aid, peppermint can stimulate efficient digestion, relieve bloating, stomach cramps, and constipation. Its antispasmodic and analgesic properties can bring relief to symptoms of diarrhoea, IBS, and nausea brought on by illness or travel sickness, as well as soothing respiratory irritations, coughs and colds. The menthol that is integral to peppermint also has a cooling effect on the body, which can help lower a fever and relieve stress or anxiety.
Also known as Red Bush Tea, Rooibos is often drunk as a tea substitute, thanks to its lack of caffeine, low tannins and delicious robust flavour. Rooibos leaves are a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as the vital minerals iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc and magnesium. It can help strengthen the immune system, and combat headaches, insomnia, and senility. Rooibos tea also acts as a bronchodilator, easing respiratory conditions and reducing high blood pressure.
Rose hips have an exceptionally high vitamin C content, so are often found in vitamin supplements, and are a popular natural means of strengthening the immune system and treating colds and the ‘flu. The fruit of the ‘dog rose’ plant also contains a wealth of other valuable vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which all contribute to optimum health. Their iron content prevents anaemia and improves blood circulation, and they are also known for being diuretic. Additionally, rose hips are believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can improve joint health and alleviate symptoms of arthritis and rheumatic diseases.
As well as being a popular culinary spice, sage has been cultivated for its healing powers since ancient times - its name even derives from the Latin word ‘salvere’, meaning ‘to cure’. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which make it helpful in treating gastrointestinal problems, arthritis and gout, as well as general inflammation of the cardiovascular system. Some studies have found that ingesting sage tea improves memory retention and concentration, and may even slow the onset of cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Traditionally, sage was used to boost female fertility, and to alleviate period pain and hot flushes during the menopause.
Containing less menthol than peppermint, spearmint has a milder, minty flavour but still possesses many valuable health benefits that make it popular as a natural remedy. Spearmint is primarily helpful in treating digestive disorders and can act as a gentle tonic to calm upset stomachs, including nausea induced by pregnancy (‘morning sickness’), and IBS. Its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties and refreshing aroma are beneficial to respiratory health - alleviating congestion and clearing sinuses. High levels of iron and potassium in spearmint leaves help boost blood circulation, prevent anaemia, and maintain healthy blood pressure. Spearmint also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which can tackle infections and prevent chronic diseases.
A popular diuretic in medieval England, stinging nettles are still valued today for their cleansing properties, and employed to treat urinary tract infections, prostate problems and insect bites. Although the leaves of this common weed cause a stinging sensation when touched, they actually seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect when ingested, possibly by interrupting the body’s existing pain signals. This may also explain why stinging nettles are a traditional remedy for aching muscles and joints, as well as gout and arthritis. Some studies have found stinging nettles may reduce allergic reactions, and can be beneficial in treating respiratory conditions, including hayfever, asthma and other seasonal allergies. Containing high levels of vitamin C and iron, stinging nettles boost immune health, increase blood circulation, and can help combat anaemia. They may also be helpful in stimulating milk production during lactation, and to relieve PMS and heavy periods.
The fruit of the wild fennel plant, also known as fennel seeds, have traditionally been used to treat gastro-intestinal complaints, and can soothe heartburn, bloating, flatulence, IBS and period pain. Fennel is believed to stimulate digestion, facilitate the absorption of nutrients from the food, and act as a laxative. In India, it is common practise to chew fennel seeds after a meal, to promote optimum digestion and eliminate bad breath. Anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties in fennel seeds make them a useful natural remedy for the treatment of coughs and colds, and it can act as an expectorant (helping to expel mucus). Some studies have found that fennel extracts inhibit the growth of tumours, and help prevent certain strains of liver and breast cancer. A rich source of potassium, fennel may reduce high blood pressure and optimise brain function. It can also boost oestrogen production and the secretion of breastmilk during lactation, as well as balancing female hormones, regulating menstruation and alleviating PMS.
A popular culinary herb, thyme has a higher concentration of antioxidants than any other herb, and can help neutralise the free radicals that are natural byproducts of cellular metabolism. It possesses anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, which explains why thyme oil found favour as an antiseptic during World War I, and is still frequently used as an ingredient in mouthwashes. Thyme is beneficial for respiratory health, helping combat sore throats, congestion, blocked sinuses, chronic asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough. It contains high levels of vitamin C and is also a source of B6, which can help relieve stress.
Closely related to the ginger family, turmeric root has the reputation of a ‘super-spice’, thanks to its varied and powerful healing properties. With a warming, bitter flavour, turmeric has long been used in Asian medicine to soothe stomach pain, constipation, abdominal cramps, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). One of its most important active ingredients, curcumin, contains potent anti-inflammatory properties, which as well as aiding gastro-intestinal issues, also helps reduce muscle pain, arthritis and gout. Studies have shown that curcumin can combat depression, anxiety, stress and mood swings, and boost cognitive ability. Turmeric may also improve liver function and stimulate the lymphatic system.