Your arsenal of home remedies is about to get a lot spicier with these best healing herbs. Though herbs have been used for hundreds of years to heal, scientists are finally starting to substantiate these plants’ abilities to alleviate arthritis pain, reduce high blood sugar and cholesterol, and help with many other conditions. They’re even discovering amazing new powers in the best healing herbs, such as the ability to kill cancer cells and help problem drinkers curb their alcohol intake.
“Herbs and other natural remedies can be as effective as traditional treatments, often without the same negative side effects,” says Roberta Lee, MD, medical director of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
Here are 10 superhealers you’ll want to add to the all-natural section of your medicine cabinet—and even to your favorite recipes. Folding one or two of them into your cooking every day can yield big benefits.
Turmeric: Ease arthritis
A heaping helping of curry could relieve your pain. That’s because turmeric, a spice used in curry, contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory that works similarly to Cox-2 inhibitors, drugs that reduce the Cox-2 enzyme that causes the pain and swelling of arthritis, says Lee.
It might also: Prevent colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. According to a small clinical trial conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, curcumin can help shrink precancerous lesions known as colon polyps, when taken with a small amount of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in onions, apples, and cabbage. The average number of polyps dropped more than 60% and those that remained shrank by more than 50%. In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers at UCLA also found that curcumin helps clear the brain of the plaques that are characteristic of the disease.
Maximize the benefits: For general health, Lee recommends adding the spice to your cooking whenever possible. For a therapeutic dose, James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy, suggests 400 mg of curcumin extract three times daily, right in line with what subjects in the colon polyp study took (480 mg of curcumin and 20 mg of quercetin, three times a day).
Cinnamon: Lower blood sugar
In a recent German study of type 2 diabetics, taking cinnamon extract daily successfully reduced blood sugar by about 10%.
It might also: Lower cholesterol. Cinnamon packs a one-two punch for people with type 2 diabetes by reducing related heart risks. In another study of diabetics, it slashed cholesterol by 13% and triglycerides by 23%.
Maximize the benefits: To tame blood sugar, study subjects took 1 g capsules of standardized cinnamon extract daily, while those in the cholesterol study took 1 to 6 g. But keep in mind that a large amount of the actual spice can be dangerous, so stick with a water-soluble extract. Terry Graedon, PhD, coauthor with her husband, Joe, of Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy, recommends the brand Cinnulin PF.