Neighborhood Nutrition: Make Herbs and Spices Work for You Every Day

Liz Traison Witkin, Weavers Way Neighborhood Nutrition Team

What the Team Has in Store

NOVEMBER: Herbs for Everyday Wellness. Taste teas, explore tinctures, discuss the use of culinary herbs and the impact of herbs on our health as we focus on traditional herbal supports for self and community.

DECEMBER: Healthy Holidays. Holiday eating can often compromise nutrition and digestion. We’ll suggest strategies, recipes and resources to help you stay well and feel great throughout the season.

Neighborhood Nutrition Team Open Hours at Weavers Way Ambler:

  •  Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1-3 p.m.
  •  Tuesday, Nov. 13, 3-5 p.m.
  •  Tuesday, Nov. 20, 4-6 p.m.
  •  Friday, Nov. 30, noon-2 p.m.

Many of the original prescription medications were based on compounds found in nature, such as digitalis from foxglove or aspirin from willow bark. With the incredible advancements in the biomedicine community, it’s often forgotten that plants and food were medicine for most of human history! Some herbs and spices that are already in your kitchen may be able to help support your systems for increased health and wellness every day.

Turmeric’s extraordinary golden color isn’t the only magical thing about it. It’s packed with the antioxidant curcumin. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, which can be inflammation and cancer-causing agents. Add ground turmeric to soups and smoothies, or use it fresh in juices and baked goods.

There’s a good reason that garlic has been mentioned as a medicine since at least the time of Hippocrates. Not just flavorful, garlic is known as an antioxidant and also used to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There are an infinite number of ways to use garlic as befits a food used around the world. Try putting peeled garlic cloves into honey for a few days or weeks. Add the syrup to teas or salad dressing for a spectacular flavor and health boost.

Peppermint is often associated with the winter holidays, but it is a great herb for everyday wellness as well. Not only does it smell fantastic, which some researchers suggest can help with focus and mood improvement, but peppermint helps with digestion and soothing upset stomachs. Peppermint can be easily grown on a windowsill and then used for teas, in salads or other recipes.

Ginger is well known for helping to calm nausea and queasiness, but it also contains compounds that help fight inflammation in the body. New research is looking into whether ginger can help with reducing pain from sore muscles and arthritis. Fresh ginger is pungent and spicy, and perfect for adding to teas or stir-fries.

Spicy peppers, such as cayenne, have a range of health benefits. Some research suggests that capsaicin, the compound that gives chiles their kick, can increase the metabolic rate, the number of calories our bodies use while resting. Cayenne and other spices can be used as cooling foods during the hot months. Though it seems counterintuitive, increasing the chile heat will actually exacerbate the body’s response, leading to a feeling of coolness. 

Many years ago, a farmer I worked for hung a bundle of rosemary in my room and gave me some rosemary tea when I complained of a headache. As I was about to learn, rosemary may help with cognition and with vasodilation (opening of blood vessels) to increase blood flow. Rosemary can also be used as a scalp treatment to minimize dandruff and itching. 

This information is meant to be educational. Always check with your doctor and/or clinical herbalist before taking herbal medications.

Liz Traison Witkin is completing a Dietetic Didactic Internship Verification at La Salle University.