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Top 5 Herbs & Spices that Boost Immunity

Updated: Sep 12


Maybe you've heard of certain foods that can keep our body healthy and boost our immune system. But do you know that even the herbs and spices sitting on our kitchen counter also provide numerous benefits to human health apart from giving a good color, flavor and aroma to the food?


In this article, we will explore the top 5 herbs and spices that boost our immune system and help us fight infections and diseases.


1. Garlic


Garlic has long been used in almost every cuisine in the world as it gives a little punch and flavor to food.


Besides culinary purposes, garlic is used as a traditional remedy to treat common colds, flu and other illnesses. They are also known to boost the function of the immune system.


Many of the beneficial effects of garlic comes from an active compound called allicin, which is formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed. This compound exerts anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antiviral properties which is why garlic is effective for treating and preventing common colds, flu, diabetes, hypertension, and other illnesses.


Taking garlic may promote cardiovascular health as scientific evidence has shown that it helps slow down hardening of the arteries by reducing fatty deposits (plaques) in the blood vessels.


It also appears that garlic supplementation can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol but has no significant effect on triglyceride levels.


Garlic may benefit people with high blood pressure as they have the ability to reduce blood pressure (anti-hypertensive effect) when taken in high doses.



2. Ginger


People have been using ginger for thousands of years as a remedy for nausea and gastrointestinal issues.


Studies have shown that taking 0.5g-1.0g of ginger can be effective for relieving nausea and vomiting. So if you know someone who may be feeling nauseous due to motion sickness, morning sickness or chemotherapy, recommend them to take ginger!


Besides, ginger promotes gastric emptying as well as increasing movement through the digestive tract, and therefore, helping to reduce stomach discomfort.


Ginger may also relieve chronic pain experienced by those with arthritis, rheumatism, muscle aches and cramps due to their anti-inflammatory properties.


In addition, ginger is highly packed with antioxidants. These antioxidants play important role in inhibiting the activities of free radicals which can cause cell damage. Several studies also indicates that ginger can slow down the growth of cancer cells, thus, lowering the risk of certain cancer such as colorectal cancer and gastric cancer.




3. Black Pepper


With its subtle heat and bold flavor, black pepper is a versatile seasoning that goes well with almost any dish. The tiny spice holds within its more benefits than you'd imagine.


The active compound of black pepper, known as piperine has shown remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies reported that this compound helps in eliminating free radicals as well as reducing chronic inflammation and pain. However, the anti-inflammatory effect of black pepper still requires more human research.


Furthermore, piperine in black pepper may stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes in your stomach, thus speeding up the digestive process. It also boosts nutrient absorption like calcium, selenium and curcumin into the bloodstream.



4. Cinnamon


Cinnamon is popular in cooking, especially in baked goods and savory curries. The distinctive smell and flavor of cinnamon comes from this compound called cinnamaldehyde, which seems to be beneficial to our health. This compound displays anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which can help to fight off respiratory infections.


Cinnamon is also loaded with antioxidants and may help fight inflammation, thus reducing the risk of disease. Interestingly, cinnamon has been reported to be particularly effective in lowering blood sugar levels, thus, helping diabetic patients achieve better glycemic control. Studies have shown that the recommended dose is 3-6 grams/day while taking less than 3g/day has no effect on blood glucose.


Researchers also propose that cinnamon may help to enhance cognitive functions which could be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but more human studies are needed to back this up.


One thing worth noting is that most cinnamons found in supermarkets is the Cassia cinnamon which is cheap and have a strong taste. This variety is high in coumarins, which may be harmful when taken in large doses. Just remember to stick to small doses or choose Ceylon cinnamon which has relatively lower coumarins content.



5. Turmeric


Turmeric is a bright yellow spice used in many curry dishes, but have you ever wondered what makes it yellow? It’s actually due to the presence of an active compound in turmeric called curcumin. This compound is known for its powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulatory properties.


Studies showed that curcumin can help scavenge free radicals and lessen oxidative damage in the body.


Besides, curcumin appears to relieve pain in people with arthritis, just as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, due to its anti-inflammatory activity properties.


As we all know, high levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke. A number of studies reported that subjects who receive curcumin supplementation had remarkable reductions in LDL and total cholesterol with increased HDL concentrations, indicating that curcumin may be beneficial for those with higher risk of heart problem.


Unfortunately, curcumin in turmeric is poorly absorbed into your bloodstream. To reap the benefits of curcumin, try consuming it with black pepper! Black pepper contains piperine which helps to increase the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.





References:


Anh, N. H., Kim, S. J., Long, N. P., Min, J. E., Yoon, Y. C., Lee, E. G., ... & Kwon, S. W. (2020). Ginger on human health: a comprehensive systematic review of 109 randomized controlled trials. Nutrients, 12(1), 157.


Jiang, T. A. (2019). Health benefits of culinary herbs and spices. Journal of AOAC International, 102(2), 395-411.


Khanal, A., Devkota, H. P., Kaundinnyayana, S., Gyawali, P., Ananda, R., & Adhikari, R. (2021). Culinary herbs and spices in Nepal: A review of their traditional uses, chemical constituents, and pharmacological activities. Ethnobotany Research and Applications, 21, 1-18.


Ried, K., Toben, C., & Fakler, P. (2013). Effect of garlic on serum lipids: an updated meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews, 71(5), 282-299.


Salehi, B., Del Prado-Audelo, M. L., Cortés, H., Leyva-Gómez, G., Stojanović-Radić, Z., Singh, Y. D., ... & Sharifi-Rad, J. (2020). Therapeutic applications of curcumin nanomedicine formulations in cardiovascular diseases. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(3), 746.


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