The health benefits of herbs and spices have been known for thousands of years. Eastern medicine uses herbs and spices as part of healing certain ailments and bringing balance back to the body. In the Western world of medicine, using herbs and spices in healing is usually termed alternative/holistic medicine and most often not used in traditional medical practice. In recent years in the United States, people have begun to look for other ways to heal health problems rather than taking medication. This has led to the popularity and marketing of many over the counter herbs and spices to people who may not want to take medication for a health problem. What people may not realize is these supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or any other 3rd party, which can put people at risk for health complications.
Many of these traditionally eastern therapies can be used safely by gaining a better understanding of the herb/spice that will be used as a therapy. It can also be a good idea to consult a specialist in alternative medicine. There is a good website called Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database that was created as an evidence-based resource site for natural medicines. If you are taking or planning on taking an herbal or spice supplement this would be a great place to evaluate its safety and effectiveness.
Two spices that are usually thought of for cooking have recently been marketed for their healing potential. These two spices are cinnamon and nutmeg. Cinnamon is used in Chinese medicine to control blood sugar and treat cold and flu symptoms. In recent research, cinnamon has been found to decrease blood sugar, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol in Type II diabetics. The amount of cinnamon thought to give added health benefits is about 1 teaspoon per day. Cinnamon also has been shown to have an anti-clotting effect on blood which can be important in decreasing a person's risk for heart disease. It is used to prevent nausea and vomiting. Nutmeg has been found to have similar health benefits as cinnamon in that it has been shown decrease nausea. It has been used as an antidiarrheal and to decrease stomachaches.
If you plan on using cinnamon, nutmeg or any other herb/spice for the potential health benefits, make sure to consult your physician before adding them to your daily routine. Many people do not realize that herb/spice supplements interact with prescription medication and over the counter medication which can cause serious health risks. Since these supplements are not regulated it is best to find a reputable company that is known for their high standards of producing quality products. This will better insure that other ingredients not on the label will not make its way into the supplement. There are some volunteer programs that supplement companies choose to participate in to make sure they are producing quality products. One such site is http://www.usp.org/USPVerified/dietarySupplements/. If you are taking any type of dietary supplement with would be another great reference site.
Grete R. Hornstrom is a Clinical Dietitian who is currently specializing in pediatric care. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science from Kent State University, a Master of Arts in Wellness Management from Ball State University, and a Master of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University. She has worked with overweight children and adults, recreational and elite athletes, chronically ill children, and every day people on developing nutrition plans and healthy lifestyle changes. In addition she has worked with recreational teams, high school teams, and college teams educating them on the importance of nutrition and performance. She has completed one marathon and three half marathons in the last two years. Her newest sport of choice is cycling.