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Herbs And Spices Nature's Natural Remedies
By FACT

Turmeric (Curcumin) Natural Remedies

Turmeric, a popular spice contained in curry powder, has been studied primarily for the potential health benefits of its active polyphenolic component, curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow pigment and lends itself for use not only as a dietary spice but also as a coloring agent.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the U.S. imports nearly 2,4.00 metric tons (roughly 5.3 million pounds) of turmeric annually for use as a food preservative, flavoring, or coloring agent.

Curcumin has been studied for its potential to reduce risk of cancer, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease. In animal studies, curcumin has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer. Curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties may additionally be useful in alleviating symptoms of arthritis.

Curcumin has also demonstrated potent antioxidant activity which has led to consideration of a possible protective role against Alzheimer's disease. Animal studies have suggested that curcumin protects against damage by amyloid B-proteins. Human research on curcumin and Alzheimer's disease is in its infancy, although a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in humans with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease is currently underway.

Cinnamon Natural Remedies

Cinnamon is a widely used spice most notable for its use in baked treats and warm winter beverages. However, significant attention is being directed toward its potential in diabetes management. Research has suggested that cinnamon may lower blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and/or improve lipid profiles. Because these benefits have not been demonstrated consistently, scientists are digging deeper to understand why and how the effects of cinnamon may vary among different segments of the population. Research will likely continue given the promising results of many studies and because cinnamon is well-tolerated, safe, and inexpensive.

Ginger Natural Remedies

Like the old stand-by saltine crackers, ginger ale is often recommended as a remedy for nausea. Ginger, a potent root containing a matrix of constituents including gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, and turmeric, is thought to act directly on the digestive tract and has been used for centuries for the treatment of nausea and vomiting. A review of studies assessing the effectiveness of ginger for nausea and vomiting found that, overall, ginger was more effective than a placebo in treating nausea caused by motion sickness, morning sickness, chemotherapy, and surgery. A more recent review concluded that the effectiveness of ginger is limited to treatment of nausea caused by pregnancy. The effectiveness of ginger on the treatment of the numerous causes of nausea is still being explored.

The benefits of ginger may not stop at the gut. Recent studies also suggest that ginger may play a role in preventing inflammation, thereby possibly extending its usefulness to alleviating pain caused by arthritis. One intervention study of individuals with osteo-arthritis found that reported pain levels were lower in the group taking a Chinese ginger extract versus a placebo and produced pain relief similar to that achieved with ibuprofen.

Like curcumin, ginger also exhibits antioxidant properties. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties together suggest a potential role in reducing the rise of cancer. Animal studies show that the principal constituent of ginger, gingerol, inhibits carcinogenesis in the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and breast. Human studies are needed to further evaluate the efficacy of ginger in cancer prevention.

Spicing up Health Goals

Despite the potential for herbs and spices to contribute more than just flavor to our food, dietary recommendations do not yet make specific recommendations for herbs and spices. The science in many cases is only beginning to emerge providing validation of traditional medicinal practices, and revealing more detailed questions that must be pursued such as the effective amount of a particular herb or spice that needs to be consumed in order to see a benefit. That said, promotion of a diet that includes herbs and spices is on a par with current dietary guidelines from the U.S. and many other countries worldwide. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend use of herbs and spices as a strategy for reducing sodium intake. Dietary recommendations in Greece devote particular attention to herbs as beneficial in their own right: "Oregano, basil, thyme and other herbs grown in Greece are a good source of antioxidant compounds and can be a tasteful substitute for salt in the preparation of various dishes."

A sprinkling of herbs and spices on favorite foods can add a lot of flavor to life. Fullness of flavor may indeed impart specific health benefits. While the recipe for good health is still being written, the wisdom of many cultures, both ancient and modern, around the world tells us that there is value in simply enjoying food. Good food, good taste, and good health truly go hand-in-hand.

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