When I’m feeling ill, the last thing I want to do is drag myself out of bed to get to the nearest pharmacy. Besides the fact that medicine can get pricey, sometimes it makes me feel even sicker. When battling nausea, the chalky taste and artificial pink color of Pepto Bismol is enough to turn me green.
I was happy to learn that we don’t have to run to the store for solutions to our stress-induced headaches, skin problems, and embarrassing gastrointestinal “issues.” Instead, remedies for what ails us can be found in our kitchen cupboards.
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Ingesting basil promotes healthy digestion and decreases gas. Though mint teas are touted for their stomach-healing properties, a cup of basil tea is an even better choice when big, hearty meals leave us feeling overly full and bloated. It has also been said to alleviate constipation and cramping. Some believe it has a calming affect, so add basil to your diet when feeling stressed or anxious.
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People have used black pepper, one of the most popular spices in the world, to treat everything from earaches to tooth decay, and it’s even been used to treat skin maladies. One example of this is putting black pepper on a cut (after cleaning the area, of course) to halt the bleeding and heal the cut. Those who do this swear that it’s the best method for minimizing scarring.
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That ginger is good for stomach issues is no surprise—after all, ginger ale is a common recommendation for soothing upset stomachs. A study done at Chiang Mai University in Thailand even found that ginger was a useful remedy for morning sickness among pregnant women in their first trimester. What’s less known is that ginger also helps alleviate inflammatory issues, such as arthritis and headaches. A study conducted by Danish researchers found that taking ginger at the beginning of a headache quickly stops the pain in its tracks by reducing the inflamed blood vessels. Ginger tea and ginger pills are available to buy, or you can try adding ginger root to your meals.
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Nutmeg in limited doses (too much can be toxic) has healing properties associated with nausea and vomiting, and it’s known as an aphrodisiac in India. It’s also sometimes used as a sleep aid by those who practice Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic (which translates to “the science of life”) medicine is a practice borne out of India that offers a more holistic, natural approach to treatment. An Ayurvedic recipe for “bedtime milk” includes a pinch of ground nutmeg to ensure a restful night.
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Aside from being a delicious addition to just about every meal, garlic is a healing powerhouse. It can treat asthma and fever; it’s great for kidney function. It even prevents the common cold! A study at the Garlic Centre in the UK found that participants who took a garlic supplement every day were less likely to catch a cold than those who didn’t.
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Cayenne pepper can add a kick to your chili or ease your joint and muscle pains. Those suffering from arthritis, skin blisters, and back pain find comfort by adding dried cayenne powder to hot water, pouring the mixture on a towel, and applying the damp towel to the problem area. Its cardiovascular benefits are numerous, ranging from increased circulation to stopping nosebleeds. If a nosebleed comes on (or if you’re prone to them), try drinking a cup of hot water with a few shakes of cayenne pepper. It will take pressure off the hemorrhaging area and promote clotting to stop the blood loss.
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Ancient Greeks believed that rosemary increased brain activity and memory. Its smell is thought to stimulate the senses, relieving stress and elevating energy levels. In essential oil form, it may even prompt hair growth. Rosemary is also great for curing headaches because it opens up constricted blood vessels. Try putting a dab of rosemary oil on your temples, or brew a cup of rosemary tea and drink it a few times a day.
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The addition of cinnamon to meals can lower their blood sugar impact on bodies by increasing insulin activity, making the spice a good choice for diabetics. Even those who don’t like the taste of cinnamon can reap its benefits by smelling its fragrance. Research suggests that just smelling cinnamon or chewing cinnamon gum can improve brain power and memory. A study at the Teikyo University Institute in Medical Mycology in Japan also linked cinnamon to a reduction in fungi that causes ailments such as athlete’s foot and yeast infections. Drinking cinnamon tea is also a useful cure for diarrhea and runny noses.
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This is considered a wonder spice among the alternative medicine community. When added to food or drink, or even applied to the skin in a mixture, it targets anemia, diabetes, allergies, and skin and cardiovascular disorders. Within the past few years, turmeric’s role in reducing the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s has come under speculation. Research at the National University of Singapore suggests that turmeric strengthens brain function—elderly individuals who ate varying degrees of yellow curry (turmeric gives it the yellow flavor) were tested, and it was found that those who ate curry more often scored better on tests than those who hardly or never ate it. This also might explain why Alzheimer’s is so rare in India, where turmeric is quite popular.
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Oregano is not often thought of outside of Italian cuisine, but its medicinal properties are impressive. A tea mixed with the bold herb can cure all kinds of stomach issues, from flatulence and bloating to a dwindling appetite. The miracle tea can even affect throat problems, urinary issues, menstrual cycles, and it can be a substitute for Listerine. Those with cavities can apply the oil of oregano directly to the tooth to decrease pain, and it can alleviate skin disorders like eczema and dandruff.
These herbs and spices are not cure-alls, and medical professionals should be consulted before attempting to use these to alleviate serious diseases. However, for those of us interested in alternative treatments, it might be worth a quick trip to our kitchen to see if the solutions to our problems can be found in our spice rack.