At the sign of a cold or stomach bug, the first resort for many people was once to head straight to the pillbox. But these days, many folks have made a real effort to avoid pharmaceutical drugs - and they are reaching for powerful herbs, spices and adaptogens found in their kitchen cabinets, instead.
Adaptogens are plants that can help combat ailments of all kinds, and balance our brains and hormones to bring us back to centre. They’ve been used by ancient cultures for centuries, however in recent years we’ve begun to see a real resurgence in popular Western culture. And not only are adaptogens, plants, herbs and spices natural and effective, but they’re also inexpensive - giving people little excuse to incorporate them into their wellness routines.
With this in mind, today I’d like to share with you today some goods I use for my own health, which have me feeling stronger, healthier, and more relaxed all around. Check them out:
Ginseng for stress
Most people love a nice, warm cup of ginseng tea - and there’s a good reason for that. Likely one of the most popular adaptogens, ginseng can be been used to help soothe stress and keep our minds at ease. One study states that ginseng can not only regulate the immune and hormonal changes stress can cause - suppressing depression and anxiety - but can also prevent some physiological diseases associated with stress.
Incorporate ginseng into your diet through using it in cooking or soups, consuming it in capsule form, steaming the raw root - or of course, steeping a pot of ginseng tea at home.
Ashwagandha for fatigue, insomnia and more
If you’ve done any research on adaptogens, you’ve likely come across Ashwagandha. The shrub has become popular - and even trendy - in recent years for its ability to reduce cortisol levels and stress. But it can also help with chronic fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, OCD, fibromyalgia and restless leg syndrome, notes holistic nutritionist Anne Baker in this Well+Good article. So as you can see, Ashwagandha supports the body in a range of areas.
You can consume ashwagandha in powder, capsule or tincture form. Try mixing in a smoothie or with some almond or soy milk - but if you’re not keen on the bitter taste, go ahead and apply the tincture on your skin, says Baker. You can absorb all the benefits that way, as well!
Turmeric for inflammation
When it comes to our bodies, chronic inflammation is the root of all evil. Yes, inflammation happens - and should happen - naturally; it’s the body’s reaction to stress, toxicity, and infection, and it’s meant to protect us when our body’s are in danger. But when inflammation is chronic (often caused by bacteria, virus, or consuming fatty and sugary food) it can cause real, long-lasting damage to our bodies - think arthritis, heart disease, and a range of cancers.
Now, enter turmeric. For centuries turmeric has been revered for its anti-inflammatory properties, and now scientists know why: it’s active component curcumin is to thank. Curcumin fights inflammation at the molecular level, and could have to potential to combat pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and even some types of cancers, among other things.
So if you’re looking to incorporate more powerful herbs into your diet, turmeric is a great first choice. Add it to a smoothie, a glass of hot water to steep turmeric tea, or use it to season your meals.
Oregano for the cold and flu
Ah, oregano. The herb commonly used in mediterranean cooking not only adds flavour to our food: it also happens to be fantastic for our health. Boasting antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, oregano is a great remedy for protecting against the cold and flu, and for keeping the immune system in check.
Oregano is most potent as a concentrated oil (oregano oil), and along with its main component, caravoral, was actually found in one study to suppress viruses found in humans and animals in vitro. And another study found that, along with sage, oregano could be able to reduce or prevent E coli. in food, demonstrating its antibacterial effect.
Take oregano oil in capsule form, or add some drops to a bowl of hot water (or to your diffuser) to breathe in all the benefits.
Cinnamon for stomach pain
This sweet, aromatic spice is popular in cooking and baking. But cinnamon has also been used for thousands of centuries to cure a range of ailments, and is highly recognised for its ability to alleviate stomach discomfort today.
In fact, one study conducted shows that in pigs, cinnamon can cool the stomach during digestion by up to 2C and can protect the integrity of the gut. “Supplemental cinnamon...is chosen as a representative therapeutic agent due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and free radical scavenging properties in the gastrointestinal tract,” notes the study. It’s these characteristics, it continues, that make cinnamon ideal for maintaining normal digestive functionalies and intestinal barrier integrity.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and whip yourself up a hot cup of cinnamon tea!
Sage for memory
About to take a test or give a presentation? Try sage. This yummy herb is a memory enhancer, and can help keep your mind sharp. In fact, one British study found that healthy young adults who took sage capsules performed much better on memory tests. Sage is also being studied for its ability in treating Alzheimer's disease - which goes to show just how powerful the herb can be for our cognitive function.
So when your body is feeling off, it’s not always necessary to reach straight for the medication. Instead, try these herbs first.