Adding certain herbs and spices to your diet can have healing and health benefits. For example, those with endometriosis can benefit from chilli’s as they can help with pain and thyme can soothe the stomach and can help with menstrual cramps.
Background to using herbs
Herbs and spices have been used to treat various diseases and ailments for thousands of years, in many different cultures. There is now a renewed interest in these alternative medicines, with many new medicinal uses coming to light.
Both herbs and spices are excellent antioxidants, which work to neutralise attacks made by free radicals against the body. Spices also contain phyto-nutrients, which may prevent the mutation on healthy cells into cancerous cells.
A great advantage that the use of herbal remedies has over commercial drugs is the reduced side effects, since the concentration of active ingredients is much lower, but is just as potent.
Some herbal remedies have the same active ingredients as those used in commercial drugs. But in the case of commercial drugs, the active ingredient has been extracted from the plant and then synthesised in a laboratory to turn it into an active drug compound. The extraction process is designed to concentrate and purify the active ingredient. By doing so, other compounds that may have a beneficial or synergistic relationship with the active ingredients are lost.
With herbal medicine, all the different active ingredients from the plant are left intact. There is no laboratory extraction process. The action and reaction of different compounds from the plant is much more potent (and safer) in its natural un-edited form!
There are hundreds of different herbs and spices used for health purposes. Some of the more common ones are listed below, along with their uses. As well as using these herbs and spices in medicinal form, you can add them to you diet and use them in your cooking.
Healing herbs for your diet
Chamomile is often used as a tea for its mild sedative effects. It is also used to soothe digestive ailments and to reduce fever. According to some source’s chamomile can help soothe pre-menstrual tension which makes sense as chamomile has great calming effects.
Chillies are a great addition to a health enhancing diet - even in the smallest doses. One chilli has 100 percent of the daily recommended dose of the anti-oxidant beta-carotene plus as much as 200 percent of the required daily dose of vitamin C. Chillies contain a plant chemical called capsaicin, which according to recent research has the ability to temporarily block chemically transmitted pain signals in the body. This is why you will find it in natural ointments to relieve arthritis and nerve pain.
Interestingly, there is good evidence that capsaicin may even soothe pains of the mind and soul since it appears to trigger the release of the mood-enhancing endorphins in the brain. Is this why some people get almost addicted to curries!
Fenugreek is rich in diosgenin, a phytochemical from which chemists in the laboratory derive nature-identical progesterone - interesting!
Fenugreek also enhances digestion and is one of the best deep cleansers for the body that you can find in nature. So, consider adding some to your spice cooking. You can make fenugreek tea using the seeds.
Garlic is one of the best-known and widely used herbal medicines. Garlic is a strong weapon against infection and is a great natural antibiotic. It is also a great anti-inflammatory. It has been found to reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure and is sometimes used to treat yeast infections.
Ginger is brilliant at alleviating the symptoms of colds and flu, it increases circulation and calms fevers. It relieves indigestion and flatulence, stimulates the circulation and is used in natural medicine to counter rheumatism. Many scientists studying this amazing root believe that ginger works its wonders due to an ability to block inflammatory tendencies in the body. This benefit should be utilised for women with endometriosis, to help with the inflammatory action of the disease.
This herb makes a lovely soothing tea and many with endometriosis have reported how peppermint tea has really helped to relive menstrual cramps as well as the pain associated with endo inflammation. Peppermint blended with nettle make a good combination as nettles contain many nutrients and can also help with inflammation and has analgesic properties. Nettle tea contains high levels of calcium, magnesium, and iron. The plant also contains vitamins D and K, which help bones use calcium to protect bone density.
Rosemary is another herbal remedy which calms the digestive system. The many health benefits of rosemary include its ability to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and protect the immune system – all of which will benefit those with endometriosis. The herb also helps stimulate circulation, detoxify the body and protect the body from bacterial infections.
The important health benefits of sage include its ability to improve brain function, lower inflammation, prevent chronic diseases, boost the immune system and regulate digestion. This pungent herb is used as a remedy for colds, sore throat and other respiratory ailments, as well as urinary tract problems.
Thyme has anti-inflammatory benefits. As a tea, it calms the stomach and can reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. Thyme has wound healing benefits as it has antiseptic properties. Interestingly thyme has mood boosting properties as it has a powerful compound called carvacrol which has been found to exert a positive effect on mood. It increases levels of dopamine and serotonin – the neurotransmitters that regulate motivation, drive and overall mood.
This spice has anti-inflammatory benefits and is used by many who have endometriosis with success.
The active compound in turmeric that has been linked to reducing inflammation is curcumin. Research has shown curcumin was able to suppress the proliferation of endometrial cells by reducing the estradiol value. ( 1 )
Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiangiogenic (inhibits growth of new blood cells), properties and is use a lot in Asian cooking. Studies have been undertaken that show curcumin helps to reduce the development of endometriosis. ( 2 )
How to use herbs and spices
You can safely use many different herbs and spices for remedial self-treatment, especially those that are commonly used every day like chillies, peppermint, thyme etc. Feel free to use plenty of garlic in your cooking as it has many health benefits. You can use chamomile to make a soothing and relaxing tea; ginger can be used fresh and cut into small pieces and made into a tea to soothe the stomach and aid digestion.
Some of the symptoms of endometriosis can be helped with certain herbs and learning which herbs to use will add to your arsenal of self-help treatments you can use to help you manage your symptoms.