There are times when it might be smarter to use an herbal remedy than a pharmaceutical. For example, sometimes an herb offers a safer alternative. 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.
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.
Benefit: ease arthritis, prevent colon cancer and treat Alzheimer’s disease.
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.
In a recent German study of type 2 diabetics, taking cinnamon extract daily successfully reduced blood sugar by about 10%.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%.
Frying, broiling, or grilling meats at high temperatures creates HCAs (heterocyclic amines), potent carcinogens implicated in several cancers. But HCA levels are significantly reduced when rosemary extract (a common powder) is mixed into beef before cooking, say Kansas State University researchers. “Rosemary contains carnosol and rosemarinic acid, two powerful antioxidants that destroy the HCAs.”
Benefit: avert nausea, decrease blood pressure and soothe pains.
Ginger can prevent stomach upset from many sources, including pregnancy, motion sickness, and chemotherapy. A powerful antioxidant, ginger works by blocking the effects of serotonin, a chemical produced by both the brain and stomach when you’re nauseated, and by stopping the production of free radicals, another cause of upset in your stomach. In one study of cruise ship passengers travelling on rough seas, 500 mg of ginger every 4 hours was as effective as Dramamine, the commonly used OTC motion-sickness medication. In another study, where subjects took 940 mg, it was even more effective than the drug.
5. Holy Basil
Benefit: combat stress and might also inhibit breast cancer.
Several animal studies back holy basil, a special variety of the plant you use in your pesto sauce, as effective at reducing stress by increasing adrenaline and noradrenaline and decreasing serotonin. This is no surprise to Pratima Nangia-Makker, PhD, a researcher at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, whose mother and grandmother relied on a tea made from the leaves of holy basil to relieve indigestion and headaches.
Benefit: soothe your worries, help you snooze more soundly.
You probably know that research has confirmed this herb’s power to relieve mild to moderate depression and anxiety as effectively as many drugs—without a lot of the side effects.
St. John’s wort not only contains melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles, but it also increases the body’s own melatonin, improving sleep, says a report from the Surgeon General.