There’s truth in the saying “we are what we eat.” A healthy, balanced diet is essential for our health and longevity. Spices, in particular, contain antioxidants that can have amazing effects on skin and overall health, while boosting the flavor of our meals. Check out 5 powerful spices that can improve skin health, fight inflammation, and strengthen the immune system, for a healthier mind and body.
For hundreds of years, turmeric has been known for its healing properties. Turmeric, especially its main active ingredient curcumin, has been scientifically-proven as a strong antioxidant with many health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory effect of suppressing molecules known to play major roles in inflammation of the body. In fact, it is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.
The antioxidants in this golden spice, and antioxidants in general, protect our cells from the damages free radicals can have on them, allowing for a healthier, stronger immune system and body. Curcumin also helps boost the activity of your own body’s antioxidant enzymes, allowing for healthy skin cells and the reduction of premature skin aging.
It is available as a ground spice, in supplements, as well as beauty and dermatology products. You can incorporate turmeric into your diet in many ways:
- When cooking with turmeric, it’s a good idea to mix it with some black pepper or oil (or both!) as this has been shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin for a better absorption.
- Add a pinch, or two, of ground turmeric or 1 – 2 inches of raw fresh turmeric root to a smoothie. It may change the color of the smoothie, but won’t change the taste much.
- Use turmeric as a natural food coloring to vamp up dull looking dishes. Stir a dash into plain basmati rice, quinoa, mashed potatoes or hard boiled eggs for added color.
- A few dashes of turmeric can be added to most soups without changing the flavor. It adds a nice, golden color to brothy soups and may also help fight colds.
Topically, a turmeric face mask can target pores and help reduce acne, fade acne scars, and calm irritated skin, as a result of its anti-inflammatory qualities. We love a tumeric, honey, and lemon juice face mask! Mix this combo into a paste to draw out impurities from pores for a clearer, brighter, more even skin tone.
Test turmeric on your forearm, applying a dime-sized amount and waiting 24 to 48 hours to see if you react before using on your face. Do not use turmeric on your skin if you’re allergic to the spice in food.
Ginger is one of the most powerful spices on the planet. Loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds, ginger can have positive effects on the mind and body. Ginger root is the active component of the flowering ginger plant responsible for these benefits, and is widely used as an alternative medicine, as well as a food spice. Not only does ginger add a kick to cuisines, its array of health benefits earns it the label as a “superfood.”
Ginger contains natural oils known as gingerols that reduce inflammation and pain. Anti-inflammatory benefits of gingerols can help soothe irritated skin. A recent study found that eating a combination of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric), and ginger, helped improve the skin’s appearance and ability to heal.
Ginger essential oil can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically to relieve pain, as well as taken orally to calm stomach aches and help alleviate bloating and gas. It is also a research-backed remedy for nausea associated with chemotherapy and morning-sickness, plus provides relief for menstrual pain. In one study, women took 1 gram of ginger powder per day, for the first 3 days of their menstrual period experienced a reduction in pain. The ginger reduced the pain as effectively as 400mg of ibuprofen.
Unlike other foods, ginger has a peculiar look that might be intimidating to some. Don’t let this stop you as it is rather simple to prepare. At the grocery store, choose a smooth, unblemished piece. You can store the root unpeeled in the fridge, wrapped in saran wrap, for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months. When it is time to prepare, the skin can be removed by using a peeler, or can be used as it is safe to eat. It can be grated, chopped and/ or blended, or as a powder, and added into a variety of dishes. Ginger can also be found in beverages, smoothies, baked goods, and marinades.
Nutmeg is a spice found in many kitchens worldwide. Its warm, nutty flavor pairs well with many foods, making it a popular ingredient in sweet and savory dishes alike. Aside from its many culinary uses, nutmeg contains powerful anti-inflammatory plant compounds that act as antioxidants. The components contained in the nut that contributes to its amazing benefits are: potassium, iron, manganese, thiamin, folate, magnesium, copper and vitamins including B1, B6.
This amazing seed consists of myristicin and elemicin, prominent compounds which work together to relax the human brain. The seed itself also can act as a mild sedative. In addition, nutmeg has the ability to promote the neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, in the brain. This quality could help the human body and brain “fight” depression and anxiety. It’s recommended to take a glass of warm water, or milk, and mix it with a little bit (about 1/4 teaspoon) of nutmeg powder. It can be taken every day before bed.
The anti-inflammatory effects of nutmeg also enhances skin health. Topically, here are some ways it can be incorporated into face masks to soothe and heal problem skin:
To Reduce Hyper-Pigmentation– mix nutmeg powder with lemon juice and honey. Apply a thick layer of this mask on your face and allow it to stay for about 10 minutes, and then rinse off with cold water. Follow by applying a moisturizer.
To Treat Oily Skin– mix nutmeg powder together with honey and apply the mixture on your skin. Leave for about 5 to 10 minutes. Both nutmeg and honey have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep your skin safe from acne.
To Promote Youthful Skin– a mixture of nutmeg, yogurt, and honey will do this! Apply the mixture on your face and wait for 10 minutes before gently washing off with water.
Though nutmeg is unlikely to cause harm when consumed in small quantities, taking it in high doses may cause adverse side effects. It contains the compounds myristicin and safrole, and when ingested in large amounts, can cause symptoms like hallucinations and loss of muscle coordination. Interestingly, nutmeg is sometimes taken recreationally to induce hallucinations and cause a “high” feeling. It’s often mixed with other hallucinogenic drugs, which increases the risk of dangerous side effects.
Cinnamon is a spice made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. It has been used as an ingredient throughout history, dating back as far as Ancient Egypt. It used to be rare, valuable, and was regarded as a gift fit for kings. These days, cinnamon is available in every supermarket and found as an ingredient in various foods and recipes.
Cinnamaldehyde, one of the main active components of cinnamon, may help fight various kinds of infections. Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols. It also contains phenolic acids, and flavonoids, similar to ones found in berries and dark chocolate to fight inflammation, boost immune system, and improve skin health.
Cinnamon oil has been shown to effectively treat respiratory tract infections caused by fungi. It can also inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella. Also, the antimicrobial effects of cinnamon may help prevent tooth decay and reduce bad breath. It is vital to dilute cinnamon essential oil properly with a carrier oil such coconut oil, olive oil, etc.
Cinnamon also works great at treating acne. The antibacterial properties of the spice help eliminate bacteria that cause acne. All you need to do is use a simple cinnamon face mask…
Mix 3 tablespoons of honey with a tablespoon of cinnamon. Whip the mixture into a thick paste and apply to your face. Leave on for about 10 minutes and wash your face with cool water. While the cinnamon fights bacteria, the honey reduces the redness and restores your skin moisture.
Chamomile is a herb that comes from daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. It has been consumed for centuries as a natural remedy for several health conditions. Chamomile can be enjoyed as a tea, in fresh or dried flower form, or powder form.
Chamomile tea is loaded with antioxidants that may play a role in lowering your risk of several diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Many people enjoy chamomile tea as a caffeine-free alternative to black and green tea, and for its earthy, somewhat sweet taste.
Chamomile has properties that aid sleep and digestion as well. Drinking this soothing tea before bed is certainly worth a try if you have trouble falling or staying asleep. This spice also contains the antioxidant apigenin, which has been shown to fight cancer cells. In addition, drinking chamomile can aid in lowering blood sugar levels.
Chamomile flowers, whether fresh or dried, can be eaten raw in salads, sautéed like dandelion greens or squash blossoms, or simmered in soups and stews. The flowers can also be used in baked goods. Chamomile powder can be easily incorporated in food and cosmetics. As a culinary companion, it goes well with chicken, fish, wheat and oat bran, pureed or fresh fruit, honey, parsley, pepper and vanilla. For cosmetics, it can be used in many skin care products like lotions, soaps, salves, and lip balms.
If you want to explore chamomile’s potential benefits, it is definitely worth including in your diet and cosmetics.
Tumeric, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and chamomile, are all amazing spices to enhance our health from the inside out. What are some of your favorite spices, and how do you use them? Let us know!
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