Niagara Gazette


August 16, 2011

NATURAL HEALTH: Healing herbs and spices

NIAGARA FALLS — Ancient and recent studies have shown that common, everyday spices have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Many have been shown to aid as well as prevent diseases ranging from the common cold to devastating and deadly forms of cancer.

Spices are different from herbs in that they originate from the plant’s aromatic parts rather than the leaves.  These parts include the bark, root, flower and seed.  Cinnamon would be a great example of bark, ginger of root, saffron of flower, peppercorn of berry and cumin a great example of a healing seed.   Herbs are most potent when fresh, but most spices gain their potency during the drying process, when naturally occurring enzymes are activated. 

In practice, one of the most beneficial spices has been turmeric.  Turmeric is best known for the colorful and aromatic quality of curry.  Medicinally, it is a powerful anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant.  Studies have shown it to be beneficial in reducing the size of breast cancer tumors.  Most of what ails the human population has to do with inflammation and this spice might just be the key to minimizing those degenerative effects.  Turmeric is very high in beta-carotene and has been very effective in treating those with joint inflammation.  Rich in curcumin, turmeric has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer by 58 percent.  The illness and progression of AIDs has been slowed with the use of turmeric as well. 

Ginger ranks as a close second as I have seen no better results when it comes to aiding digestive distress, motion sickness and nausea in pregnancy.  How funny that we still hold back when it comes to treating pregnant women with developing babies — but will easily prescribe a drug instead.  Ginger will not have a negative effect on a developing fetus — but because there is no money to be made in natural treatments — it has been on the avoid list as per the pharmaceutical industry.  Really?

In a study involving 80 navel cadets, 1000 mg of ginger in powder capsule form was very effective in controlling symptoms of nausea, vomiting, vertigo (dizziness), and cold sweats in sailors at sea.  No adverse side effects were reported.  Ginger has also been promoted for a compound it contains, gingerol, which has anti-clot properties.

Cayenne pepper has very promising qualities as an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant-providing spice.  All due to the compound capsaicin, these thermogenic properties have been very beneficial in internal as well as topical remedies.  The “heating” benefits of this spice have helped many improve metabolism and burn weight off.  Cravings may also be successfully curbed as hot peppers can overwhelm the taste buds, cutting off cravings. 

Another powerful spice, the clove, is full of eugenol, a powerful, anti-inflammatory compound.  Cloves are currently being studied for promising potential in the area of digestive cancers.  Besides smelling so good, cloves have bee used in the area of dentistry as an effective numbing compound during root canals. 

Seizures in mice have shown to be reduced with the use of black pepper.  For those following the ‘O’ type diet, black pepper is something to avoid — so I, an O blood type, cannot speak of personal benefit.  A minor cut can easily be remedied by using aloe vera gel and black pepper grinds.  Bleeding stops quickly and believe it or not, pepper does not sting.

Catherine Stack is a doctor of naturopathy and certified nurse midwife. Her practice is located at Journey II Health in Niagara Falls. She can be reached at 298-8603 or at her website at

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