If you fancy yourself a kitchen connoisseur, you probably have a cabinet full of spices that you enjoy using. Whether you love them for their scent or savor, there may be more than meets the tastebuds when it comes to your favorite kitchen herbs.
In fact, many common spices are even better for your health than they are for your dinner plate. If you're looking to beef up the benefits of your main courses, here are 5 of the best herbs to use.
A member of the mint family, sage became popular for its medicinal benefits in the middle ages when it was used during the bubonic plague. It's rich in vitamin K and antioxidants, and it's known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Such attributes make sage a go-to herb for sufferers of chronic conditions such as arthritis.
As good news for Alzheimer's patients, sage has been shown to improve memory and brain function by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine – a compound that is commonly associated with the disease.
Next time you make spaghetti, lasagna or vegetable soup, try adding sage to the mix as it complements tomato sauce very well. It's also often used in meat marinades, blending beautifully with chicken.
Also known as sacred or hot basil, holy basil has been used for thousands of years to treat colds, coughs and the flu. Loaded with antioxidants, it's often used to help reduce the effects of stress and aging, and many cancer patients use it to help protect healthy cells from radiation or chemotherapy.
Versatile in nature, this herb is commonly used to make herbal drinks, but it can also be added to soups, fish and even desserts. Fresh leaves can be added to fruit dishes, breads or salads to give them an extra health boost. Holy basil also pairs well with spicier foods because it tastefully counteracts the spice with a natural cooling effect.
A fiery cousin to the chili pepper, cayenne pepper has a high concentration of capsaicin, which is responsible for the herb's heat. Capsaicin is especially beneficial to the body because it inhibits neuropeptides that are linked to inflammatory pain.
When taken orally, cayenne pepper can promote cardiovascular health, suppress appetite and increase fat burning in the body. It can also stimulate the circulatory system and is often used to treat respiratory infections.
Like most other peppers, cayenne pepper is great in dips, sauces, soups and as a garnish on many main courses. If you're looking to turn up the heat on your favorite dish, cayenne pepper is one way to do it while reaping a host of health benefits in the process.
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory properties that are especially beneficial for those with Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers. Studies have also shown that it can help prevent the spread of cancer and make cancer treatments more effective.
Often used in place of saffron, this herb can be blended into drinks or added to soups and stews. It's also great on vegetables, meats and marinades. Identified by its vibrant yellow color, turmeric is often found in mustard and can be used to brighten bland dishes.
Fenugreek is known in the medical community for its ability to reduce both internal and external inflammation. It is commonly used to treat bronchitis, kidney ailments and digestive issues.
It has also been shown to help reduce the hardening of arteries, so it's a great herb for those with certain heart conditions.
Widely used in Indian cuisines, fenugreek is commonly found in curry powders, spice blends and teas. It is also great sprinkled over yogurt, cooked greens or in a sauce.
If these herbs aren't already a part of your coveted spice collection, you may want to work them into your meal plans. Not only do they taste good, but their health benefits are impressive to say the least.