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30 Herbs & Spices That Turn Your Meals Into Medicine

September 21, 2023 12 min read

The proven medicinal properties of Turmeric, Cloves, Cayenne, Saffron, Horseradish, Cinnamon, Cumin, and many more (with 3 example recipes)

Common herbs and spices that boost your digestive powers, improve nutrient assimilation, and build immune system strength

Why is it that some Indian food recipes tend to go easy on the digestive tract even when eating more than you should?

The secret lies in the herbs and spices used to make their sauces with that fuel the body's digestive powers.

Coriander, turmeric, cardamon, black pepper, cumin, hot peppers, and others are common ingredients in their dishes.  Anise seeds are commonly consumed after a meal for the same reason. 

With some experimentation, by adding the following condiments to your meal preparations, you will be providing your body with that extra edge it needs when digesting certain foods or food groups.

Adding medicinal spices to recipes naturally boosts your resistance to pathogenic invasions as well. 

Many of the herbs and spices that will be mentioned here are also found in the following herbal formulas, all of which naturally boost the digestive and immune powers of the body: 

What follows now is a list of common herbs and spices, along with their specific digestive benefits, derived from personal experience and the linked medical studies.

30 Herbs & Spices That Turn Your Meals Into Your Medicine

  1. Turmeric – helps digest all types of foods; cleanses the liver & blood, improves circulation by promoting bile to digest oils and fats in the bloodstream and resolving gallstones; resolves peptic ulcers, acts as a potent antioxidant, reduces high blood sugar levels, addresses inflammation, fungal, bacterial, and parasitical infections.

    Studies show turmeric to be effective against fever, gastritis, dysentery, chest congestion, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and urinary tract infections.

    Turmeric also works topically in cases of tooth and gum inflammation, and skin lesions. 

  2. Black Pepper – helps digest fats/oils, dairy; and as a circulatory stimulant it improves nutrient assimilation by improving bile flow, thus the predigestion of oils & fats before they enter the bloodstream.

  3. Ginger – helps digest all types of foods; serves as a muscle relaxant and antioxidant; promotes B-12 production and nutrient assimilation; stimulates circulation; addresses nausea, inflammation, viral/exosome, bacterial, and parasitical infections.

    Studies show that ginger helps to reverse degenerative disorders like arthritis and rheumatism, improve digestive effectiveness (indigestion, constipation, and ulcers), restore balance to cardiovascular disorders (atherosclerosis and hypertension), reduce nausea, and improve sugar levels in the case of diabetes.

    Ginger also has exhibits anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties for controlling the process of aging, and has antimicrobial potential in the treatment of infectious diseases."

  4. Ceylon Cinnamon (True Cinnamon) is the second most effective spice for sugar metabolism, while reducing triglycerides, total cholesterol, inflammation, bacterial and candida/fungal infections.

    Studies also reveal benefits as a cognitive enhancer, improving memory by increasing Glutathione Stimulating Hormone (GSH) and boosting our brain’s abilities to utilize glucose in the production of energy.

  5. Cloves – the most effective spice for sugar metabolism; possesses antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiparasitical properties. Protects the liver against injury; reduces inflammation.

    Clove is used as an antiseptic and pain killer, being widely recognized in the treatment of inflamed teeth or gums.

    Clove oil has demonstrated an ability to improve short and long term memory. Helps to relieve nausea, vomiting, gas, sluggish digestion, and resolve numerous bowel and liver conditions.

    Use clove oil in moderation [by the drop rather than by the teaspoon], as clove is one of the most potent sources of eugenol which can be toxic in very large amounts, but perfectly safe and medicinal in moderate amounts.

    The isolated extract eugenol from clove is not recommended simply because it is unnatural to take single compounds out of a plant and call it food or medicine, thus leading to potential toxic side effects. Stick as close to the whole herb as is reasonably possible. 

  6. Cardamon – the most effective common spice for reducing respiratory phlegm and sinus congestion caused by dietary fat or dairy; notably high in manganese; helps improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels; increases antioxidant presence in the body; addresses bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral/exosome infections.

  7. Hawthorn Berries and Leaves – are one of Nature's best herbs for the heart. They help normalize the heart rhythm, reducing heart palpitations, and serve as a preventative of heart attacks. 

    They help reduce fatigue and shortness of breath.

    They improve blood circulation throughout the body, thus improving nutrient assimilation and oxygenation of the tissues.

    The berries relax constricted blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure.

    They help regulate cholesterol and triglyceride levels, thus reducing atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. 

    A tea made of Hawthorn Berry leaves has been found to inhibit blood clotting caused by injury to the walls of an artery or vein.

    The leaves were also shown to be effective at protecting brain, kidney, and liver tissue, as well as neurons by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

    Hawthorn Berries help to increase the presence of protease, lipase, and amylase enzymes required for the digestion of fatty foods and meat products. They also help reduce transit time of food moving through the digestive system.

    The berries have been shown to reduce blood glucose levels by lessening insulin resistance.

    Hawthorn Berries enhance the powers of the spleen and thymus to produce white blood cells and increase their ability to destroy pathogens of all kinds.

    They have been shown to strengthen bone and inhibit osteoporosis.

    Hawthorn Berries have also demonstrated an ability to protect the retina from deterioration.

  8. Cumin – helps digest fats/oils, carbohydrates, and proteins; reduces gas, mucus congestion in the respiratory tract, and inflammation; antioxidant; addresses bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral/exosome infections.

  9. Tulsi-Holy Basil – supports sugar metabolism; protects against radiation; has an adaptogenic balancing effect on hormones; improves blood pressure and blood sugar levels; promotes memory, elevates moods, and reduces anxiety; improves cortisol levels (stress hormone); improves respiratory conditions; naturally high in vitamin K, thus beneficial in bone mineralization, blood clotting, brain function; addresses bacterial, fungal, and viral/exosome infections.

  10. Fennel or Anise Seed – helps digest fats/oils; reduces gas, indigestion; supports sugar metabolism; antioxidant; muscle relaxant; addresses bacterial, parasitic, viral/exosome, and fungal infections.

  11. Licorice Root – helps with sugar metabolism; increases stomach HCL; the best adrenal tonic known (in moderation); your most effective herb for viral inhibition, anaphylactic response, and allergy relief.

  12. Green Stevia Leaf – "In addition to its hypoglycemic property, the plant also exhibits antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, antiseptic, diuretic, anti-fertility and cardiotonic properties. It has also been documented to show good effects on treating skin diseases such as dermatitis, acne, eczema, etc."

  13. Rosemary – helps digest fats/oils, starches, sugar; antioxidant; promotes mental alertness, memory, cognitive function, heavy metal chelation, and hair growth; relieves muscle aches and pains, addresses inflammation and bacterial infections.

  14. Oregano – supports sugar metabolism; addresses numerous bacterial infections, allergies, and inflammation.

  15. Thyme – elevates mood, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol; addresses bronchial respiratory conditions, sore throat, cough, viral/exosome, bacterial, parasitical, and fungal infections.

    Possesses a large number of phenolic compounds responsible for its expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, pain relief, sedative properties. Helps reverse cardiovascular conditions, reduce plaque in the arteries, reduce blood pressure, and improve lipid levels.

    When used in recipes with flesh foods, thyme improves the longevity of food in storage by maintaining an antimicrobial environment.

  16. Sage – Helps with Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms, treats diabetes symptoms, balances cholesterol, combats obesity, treats menopausal symptoms, anti-diarrheal activity. 

    Sage influences several biological mechanisms associated with cognition including their effects on amyloid-β, neurotransmitter activity, neuron growth, oxidative stress, inflammation, anxiety, and depression.

    Several studies have also confirmed that many species of sage have promising, cognitive-enhancing effects.

  17. Parsley – potent alkalizer of the whole body; addresses bad breath, inflammation, kidney stones, digestive issues, skin problems, poor immunity, bladder infection, and oxidative stress; addresses bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections.

  18. Cilantro Leaf – supports sugar metabolism; adrenal tonic, heavy metal detoxifier; protects against DNA damage; addresses bacterial, parasitic, and viral/exosome infections.

  19. Dill Leaf and Seed Tea – helps to relieve colic pain in babies and flatulence in young children.  Helps to improve appetite, relieve gas, and aid digestion.

    Dill tea has been proven to possess a broad-spectrum antibacterial effect on many pathogenic strains, helps to reduce both fat and cholesterol in the blood, and is protective against stomach ulcers.

    Chewing the seeds also improves bad breath.

    Dill stimulates milk flow in lactating mothers, and is often given to cattle for this reason.

    It also provides relief for urinary complaints and hemorrhoids.

  20. Coriander Seed – helps digest fats/oils, gas, and indigestion; calming, antioxidant, addresses bacterial infections and cholesterol.

  21. Triphala – helps digest all food groups; made from three Ayurvedic bitter fruits, amla, haritaki and bibhitaki commonly consumed with meals; lowers cholesterol, aids weight loss, reduces inflammation, relieves constipation.

  22. Chamomile – helps with gas and indigestion; alkalizes the body; acts as a sedative; promotes beneficial improvements with allergies, insomnia, anxiety, depression, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and skin irritations; helps relieve toothaches, PMS symptoms, muscle spasms, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds; addresses bacterial, fungal, and viral/exosome infections.

  23. The Entire Mint Family including Lemon Balm (an excellent nighttime sedative and daytime relaxant), Hyssop, Rosemary, Thyme, Savory, Peppermint, Oregano, Marjoram, Sage, Basil, Lavender, Bergamot,and a number of mint specie variations like Chocolate Mint, Orange Mint, Chinese Mint, etc. – helps reduce gas and indigestion. They are also known to naturally address bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral/exosome infections. 

    Within the mint family, Hyssop is uniquely a deep organ cleanser of heat, toxins, and inflammation, especially effective in respiratory conditions. Hyssop also helps improve appetite, moderate sugar metabolism, increase circulation, promote skin health, and support the health of your liver and gallbladder. 

    Hyssop is utilized in Hyssop Pine Tea, Immune Power, and Black Seed Combo for these purposes. 

  24. Lemongrass – helps with gas and indigestion; has stimulating, soothing, balancing and relaxing properties; eases anxiety, reduces fevers, eases pain, stimulates menstrual flow, addresses inflammation, bacterial, and fungal infections.

  25. Horseradish – helps digest fats/oils and proteins; as a circulatory stimulant it increases nutrient assimilation; antioxidant; eases respiratory issues, urinary tract infections, and pain; addresses bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral infections.

  26. Dandelion Leaves, Stem, Flower, and Root – as a bitter herb that stimulates bile it helps digest oils & fats, performs a gradual deep cleanse of all organs, blood, and lymphatic system, acts as an effective antioxidant, helps regulate blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol and inflammation, protects skin from sun damage.

  27. Raw Garlic – helps digest fats/oils and proteins, cholesterol & clot reduction; lowers blood sugar levels and inflammation; addresses bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral/exosome infections. Raw garlic works powerfully against pathogens, yet can detrimentally affect friendly bacteria when taken regularly.

    Cooked garlic has significantly diminished effects in all of the areas mentioned above, yet still effective. 

    Aged Garlic, over 6 months, has the most beneficial effects on the body, as it does not interfere with friendly bacteria, yet remains effective against pathogens.  

  28. Asafoetida – an oleo-gum-resin obtained from the exudates of the roots of this Iranian medicinal plant in the parsley and carrot family. It is also popular in Ayurveda. Asafoetida is used widely all over the world as a flavoring spice in a variety of foods. 

    Medicinally it is used for the treatment of asthma, epilepsy, stomach-ache, flatulence, intestinal parasites, weak digestion and influenza. Asafoetida provides antioxidant, antifungal, antidiabetic, antispasmodic benefits, and is helpful in lowering blood pressure. 

    Asafoetida can also be used in the garden to kill slugs.

  29. SaffronProvides protection against restricted blood flow throughout the body (especially hands, feet, and heart muscles), as well as improvements in epilepsy, depression, anxiety, high cholesterol and plaque formation, high blood pressure, diabetes.

    In addition, saffron possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities, and plays a neuroprotective role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and in ocular neurodegenerative pathologies, such as diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, among others. 

  30. Cayenne Pepper – is your #1 first aid remedy for heart attack, stroke, cold, flu, high blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcer, circulation issues.

    Cayenne helps digest fats/oils, reduce gas and indigestion, boost capillary circulation, thus nutrient assimilation by increasing delivery of nutrients into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall.

    Cayenne acts as an antioxidant, helps maintain histamine balance to reduce allergies, helps prevent blood clots, relieve migraine, nerve and joint pain, promote detoxification, oxygenate the blood, support weight loss, address inflammation, and can stop a heart attack or palpitations within seconds. 

  31. Cayenne provides additional health benefits so numerous that it deserves its own article.  See Is Cayenne Pepper The Universal Antidote for All Things COVID?

As can be readily seen, a wealth of health benefits can be derived from adding these herbs and spices to your recipes and teas.

Four recipes are provided below as an example of how several of the above healing spices can be added to a meal to gain the benefits of both their flavor and their medicinal qualities.

Several of these herbs and spices can be easily grown at home, even on an apartment balcony.

Many of the above mentioned herbs and spices (among other powerful medicinal herbs) are also found in the following herbal formulas, all of which boost the digestive and immune powers of the body: 

Digestive Bitters,  Herbal C,  Spleen Builder,  Spleen Complement,  BloodSugar Balance,  Fire,  Herbal Oxygen Immune Power,  Black Seed Combo, and Hyssop Pine Tea.

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Three Recipes that Utilize a Number of the Above Spices Delivering Numerous Health Benefits to a Common Meal 

Sweet Scented Pilaf

1 cup brown basmati rice (or quinoa)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

5 whole cardamom pods

2 fresh or dried bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks (each about 3 inches long)

1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise & thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt

3 1/4 cups water plus more for water sautéing

Place the rice in a medium-size bowl.  Fill the bowl with enough water to cover the rice.  Gently rub the rice between your fingers to wash off any dust or foreign objects.  The water will become cloudy.  Drain the water.  Repeat 3-4 times until the water is relatively clear.  Fill the bowl halfway with cold water and let the rice sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Drain.

Heat a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin, cloves, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks.  Stir constantly to prevent burning.  The spices will sizzle and scent the air in 30 seconds to 1 minute.  If needed to keep the spices from sticking, add water or veggie broth, one tablespoon at a time.  Add the onion, stirring frequently.  Add water or veggie broth, one tablespoon at a time, to prevent sticking.  Stir fry for 3-5 minutes until translucent and slightly browned.

Add the drained rice to the spiced onions, tossing gently.  Add 3 ¼ cups of water and the salt.  Stir to mix the ingredients.  Bring the water to a boil, still over medium-high heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated from the surface and craters are starting to appear in the rice, about 10-15 minutes.

Stir once or twice to bring the partially cooked layer of rice from the bottom of the pan to the surface.  Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting.  Let the rice steep for about 10-15 minutes, or until just a small amount of water is left in the bottom of the pan and the rice is still moist.  Then turn off the heat and let the pan stand on that burner, undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.

Uncover the pan and fluff the rice.  Taste the rice to see if it is done.  If it is not done, add a little more water, cover and simmer on low heat until most of the water is absorbed.  The goal is to have moist, fluffy rice. 

You may choose to remove the big pieces of spice before you serve the rice, or you can leave them in and instruct the folks eating the rice to watch for the big pieces.

Makes 3 cups

* This Rice Pilaf can be a side dish, or it makes an elegant bed for a saucier main dish.  Traditional Indian food is made with meat, dairy, or an oily sauce, so for those recognizing the benefits of the moderate fat, high starch diet, eliminating the fat can make this dish taste a bit dry if eaten by itself. 

So, after the cooking is complete (so as to preserve the quality of the fat), add an avocado sliced into small cubes.

Optionally, you can add a vegetable broth gravy (use the bean broth in the Spicy Bean Dish below, for a tasty example), or a saucy main dish to add the desired moisture.   

-----  ---  ----- 

Spicy Bean Dish

1 lb. organic dry beans - pinto, black, navy, kidney or whatever you prefer

1/4 cup whey from organic, pasture-raised cows (or lemon juice)

One 3" piece of kombu seawed

2 tablespoons dried celery or parsley leaves

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 - 1 tablespoon cumin powder, depending on taste

1 tablespoon onion powder

1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika, depending on taste

1-2 teaspoons smoked chipotle powder, depending on taste

Himalayan salt to taste


Put beans in a large pot and cover with water by 2″. Stir in whey or lemon juice, cover and leave in a warm place 12 – 36 hours.  Longer soaking removes additional phytic acid from the beans.  Drain and rinse the beans. 

Return the beans to the pot.  Cover with water by at least 2".  Add the kombu, celery or parsley leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and salt.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2-4 hours, depending on the type of beans you are cooking.  Some beans take longer to cook than others.

Stir and taste frequently, adjusting seasoning if necessary.  When cooking is complete, remove kombu.

Freeze in smaller portions for a quick meal.  Broth can be used as a gravy for potatoes, rice, or pasta.

* Kombu is a seaweed that imparts a boat-load of minerals and flavor into the cooking liquid, along with beneficial enzymes that help break down the sugars of the bean.

-----  ---  ----- 

Garlic Thyme Spread

  • 1 bulb of garlic

  • Fresh Thyme and/or Oregano - about a 3" piece of one or both (or 1/8-1/4 teaspoon leaves) depending on taste

  • Himalayan Salt to taste - optional

  • Nutritional Yeast to taste - optional

With your hands rub the bulb of garlic to remove the outer, loose skin. Place the whole bulb on a baking sheet and roast at 375° for 15 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool.

When cool enough to handle, separate garlic cloves. Peel and place in a small bowl.

Remove the Thyme/Oregano leaves from the stem and add to the garlic.

Add the salt and nutritional yeast, if using them. Mash the garlic cloves with a fork, blending in the spices.

Use as a spread on toast, or add to potatoes or pasta.

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Many blessings of health and success,
Enjoy the many gifts from Nature!


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Michael King
Michael King

Michael King is a Life Enrichment Consultant, a natural intuitive, a researcher of Nature's most powerful healing resources the world over, the author of "Detoxify, Nourish & Build – Three Essentials for Vibrant Health", the Vital Health News Updates – a periodic newsletter documenting the most life-building natural resources on the planet, The Blessing Transformation, and the co-author of Life Chats with Oversoul – an ongoing dialogue designed to gain clarity and direction while navigating the immense changes going into the New Era. Michael is also an advocate of sustainable gardening, environmental responsibility, and an architect of ways to increase global food production.

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