Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spices as medicine

I've been having more migraines than usual lately, so my mom brought over an article from an AARP Magazine that mentioned the effects of ginger on migraines. The article also mentioned the research behind a few spices that improved brain health and I wanted to share it with you guys. Plus, I'm throwing in some other health benefits found for each of these as well.

Even though I highly value western medicine, I also believe there are a lot of curative properties in food and spices so, when there is the opportunity to explore using edibles rather than synthetic chemicals with side-effects (known and unknown), I'll stick to the food-based ones thankyouverymuch. Plus, the environmental impact of growing ginger, garlic and the like is minimal in comparison to manufacturing pharmaceuticals and dealing with the health impacts of drug side-effects.

Studies done at the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Missouri have shown that more than 80% of migraine prone patients with mild headaches who were treated with a combo of ginger and the herb feverfew managed to ward off their migraines. After two hours of taking the herbs, 48% were pain free and for another 34%, the pain stayed mild.

Ginger doesn't just help fight migraines, motion sickness, morning sickness, nausea and heartburn, it also does a number on cancer cells. A study done at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that ginger powder induces cell death in all ovarian cancer cells. A different study also has found that ginger may slow the growth of colorectal cancer cells.

If you are feeling depressed over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, you might want to think about saffron instead of a pharmaceutical anti-depressant. In 2007, University of Tehran researchers discovered that a dose of saffron works as well as Prozac in treating mild to moderate depression. It was found that 30 mg of saffron per day was just as effective in treating depression as taking 20 mg of Prozac.

Research has also indicated that saffron may inhibit cancer formation and shrink existing tumours while enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Other studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of saffron may help prevent atherosclerosis.[source]

Did you know that the rate of Alzheimer's disease in India is 1/4 the U.S. rate? Researchers at UCLA think they know why. They did a study in mice that showed that curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric and gives curry that distinctive yellow color, broke up brain plaques of amyloid beta. Amyloid beta is the abnormal protein buildup that is significant in Alzheimer's patients.

Adding more turmeric to your diet might help stave off Alzheimer's in the future. If you are not too worried about dementia, you might be interested that the spice is also used as a treatment for arthritis and has been shown to be effective in preventing some kinds of cancers and killing cancer cells in some studies.

Garlic has long been known for its many benefits, but it may also be helpful in fighting brain cancer. A 2007 study in the journal Cancer cited that garlic compounds eliminated brain cancer cells. The organo-sulfur compounds that are found in garlic have been identified as effective against glioblastoma, a brain cancer that generally delivers a death sentence with it.

To take advantage of any potential anti-cancer benefits from garlic, researchers suggested that you cut and peel a piece of fresh garlic and let it sit for fifteen minutes before eating or cooking it. This time allows for the release of an enzyme (allinase) that produces the anti-cancer compounds.

If you are interested in pursuing the health benefits of these, but don't like the flavors, you might want to look into the supplements that are on the market, but be careful of too many false claims and look for brands that are well known and trusted. You don't want to end up with a capsule full of filler.

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Sam said...

I consume all of the listed items above on a regular basis. No wonder I'm so cheery :)

Sam said...

And healthy

die Frau said...

Check out cinnamon, too--lots of goodness there. It can lower LDL cholesterol, among other things (

And pepper (capsacin) helps with weight loss and LDL lowering, too. (

My husband gets terrible seasickness and ginger pills helped him tremendously. I also drink ginger tea when I'm feeling queasy and it's AWESOME.

Anne said...

I was just reading in the paper this weekend about a book called "Grow Your Own Drugs," by James Wong. He apparently does a BBC program by the same name. It sounds like a good resource for this sort of information.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I try to get all of my nutrients and health benefits from the food I eat rather than rely on supplements as much as possible. I know a lot of herbs and teas and their historical health uses and misuses - that was how I started really delving into green living. I think spices and herbs and conventional medicine can complement each other but I'm not going to give one up for the other either. Many of our conventional medicines are better concentrations of the active ingredients in herbs and spices. The scariest thing to me is that over the counter supplements do not require warning labels like over the counter drugs do which makes people believe that taking too much of a particular herb for a too long doesn't have any ill health side effects - which it can. Some people can have sensitivities to herbs and spices just like they do with conventional medicines.

Adrienne said...

Do you have a citation for the migraine study? I'd like to see exactly what they did...Feverfew has essentially the same chemicals as asprin. If you give someone asprin and ginger, it's probably not the ginger that cured their headache.
That said, I love ginger and will certainly eat some next time I have a migraine.

The most helpful non-prescription thing for my migraines has been CoQ10... it's a supplement, not a spice, but I'd still rather take it than medication that makes me stupid.

Farmer's Daughter said...

There have been a lot of migraines and headaches in the blogosphere lately. I've never had one and hope it stays that way!

Also wanted to let you know that since using that wine hair lightener my scalp has been so dry and itchy. Must have been the alcohol... which makes sense now.

Robj98168 said...

AARP??? You that old??? (I know I am- I am a member)

Sarah said...

Not to be cynical, but life expectancy in the USA is about 10 years more than in India. That might explain why there is less dementia. That said, eating a varied and balanced diet can only be a good thing.

Unknown said...

I had no idea that spices could be used as medicine. Way cool! Thanks for sharing. What is saffron?

Pam said...

This is a very healthy post! Thanks for all the great info!

Unknown said...

I used to get a lot of migraines too. Mow I avoid them by not eating mature cheeses, avoiding too much sulphur in my wine, eating every few hours. I hardly get them anymore.
My husband used to get them too-when he went down to one cup of coffee a day from like 6!

teri said...

nope, feverfew does not have the same chemical as aspirin

the active ingredient in aspirin is salicylic acid, which is a derivative of salicin

salicin is found in white willow bark

feverfew is a completely different herb


Laryssa Herbert said...

Thanks for the great info! I'm growing some herbs to help us stay healthy as well.

Rosemary said...

I just had a conversation about saffron the other day, regarding how expensive it is ($500/lb or something). I knew someone whose grandma harvested her own from crocuses that had been growing and spreading for years. They had so much they didn't know what to do with it, and gave me a big baggie! I don't love saffron, it's a bit strong for me, but I think I might grow some myself, now, hearing these benefits. It would be fun to harvest with my kids.

cindy24 said...

Thanks for the tip about the garlic. I always just press it straight into the fry pan. Just harvested by first batch of garlic (about 10 clumps). They turned out kinda small but smell really good. Gonna try to incorporate some of those other spices into my cooking.

Amy said...

Oh Crunchy! Thanks for this information! I have taken myself off of anti-depressants but feel I still need a little 'help'. Maybe a low dose of Saffron will fit the bill.

Jennifer said...

Crunchy, I have been experimenting with feverfew for my migraines. Here is my eariler post about it:

In the weeks since then, I have kept taking it, and my headaches are probably reduced overall by about 75%. For someone who previously had a tension headache nearly every day along with regular migraines, this is a Godsend. I have kept my doctor in the loop, and he said he plans to investigate feverfew.

Kyra said...

Oh, I haven't known this before that herbs and spices are also great for our body. This is cool! Thanks for the wonderful write-up!