The Health Benefits In Your Spice Rack

Herbs and spices can be added to practically anything, including breakfast cereals, baked goods, and savory dishes. But if you’re a flavor hater, you may want to reconsider your stance when you hear how surprisingly good they are for your health, chock-full of powerful antioxidants and other medicinal properties. Let’s break down the benefits of the different spices on your rack.

Editor's Note: You should talk to your doctor before making any changes to your daily diet.

1. They’re full of antioxidants

When the body digests food, it produces cells called free radicals. They are unnecessary and need to be expelled, as they can cause a harmful state known as oxidative stress. If there are too many in your body, illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease can occur.

Cloves and cinnamon provide a defense against free radicals. They contain polyphenols, which are antioxidant-rich micronutrients, as well as phenolic acids and flavonoids. When absorbed into the body, polyphenols are capable of increasing artery health, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, and generally allowing us to lead longer lives.

2. Find inflammation relief in your spice cabinet

Research has shown that polyphenol antioxidants and flavonoids are able to reduce inflammation in the body. "Studies show that it helps reduce muscle soreness, decrease menstrual pain, [and] lessen the severity of allergic reactions," Dr. Josh Axe explained on his website. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and saffron all have these properties.

In a 2018 interview, expert dietician Nichola Ludlam-Raine told The Independent that turmeric also “contains curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.” Ludlam-Raine said this compound reduces the number of our white blood cells’ inflammatory proteins that often cause pain. The National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health suggests some studies show that the spice can suppress knee pain just as well as ibuprofen.

3. Herbs and spices have cancer-fighting properties

Cancerous masses grow when cells are reproducing too quickly. But the antioxidants in ginger, saffron, turmeric, and cinnamon can help. They actually work to protect cells from becoming overworked and damaged in the process. This may make you less likely to develop certain types of cancers.

Researchers have, for example, indicated that saffron can help to destroy cancer cells in the colon while leaving the normal cells around them intact. The American Cancer Society said that curcumin, found in turmeric, “interferes with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth and spread.”

4. They could help with chemo

Ginger may be good at soothing the effects of chemotherapy. Medical News Today cited a small 2010 study that analyzed 60 young cancer patients who were taking ginger root powder. Almost all of the study subjects reported feeling less nauseous after taking the supplement.

Some studies have also indicated that the crocin compound in saffron further exposes cancer cells to the effects of chemotherapy. Again, though, more research is needed to pinpoint saffron's cancer-fighting abilities. Until then, saffron can still help with more common ailments.