Chances are, you go to your doctor or – even without a doctor visit – you end up at the pharmacy for some sort of medication. If you are into natural medicine, you probably stock up on some vitamin or herbal supplements, perhaps some homeopathic pills.
But what did your ancestors do a few thousand years ago, back when there were no pharmacies, no drugs, no pills, no injections and no supplements?
During ancestral times, people used to use organic herbs to treat themselves. They prepared mixtures, drinks and tinctures from several plants using their roots, leaves or flowers to tend to their illness.
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 4 superhealers. Folding one or two of them into your cooking every day can yield big benefits.
Rosemary: Avoid carcinogens
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. Rosemary contains carnosol and rosemarinic acid, two powerful antioxidants that destroy the HCAs.
It might also: Stop tumors. Rosemary extract helps prevent carcinogens that enter the body from binding with DNA, the first step in tumor formation, according to several animal studies.
Maximize the benefits: To reduce HCAs, it’s recommended marinating foods in any supermarket spice mix that contains rosemary as well as one or more of the spices thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, or parsley.
Ginger: Avert nausea
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.
It might also: Decrease your blood pressure, arthritis pain, andcancer risk. Ginger helps regulate blood flow, which may lower blood pressure, and its anti-inflammatory properties might help ease arthritis. Ginger extract had a significant effect on reducing pain in all 124 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, in a study. Those same anti-inflammatory powers help powdered ginger kill ovarian cancer cells as well as—or better than—traditional chemotherapy, at least in the test tube, found in a study. Although further testing is needed.
Maximize the benefits: For nausea, ginger is best taken before symptoms start, at least 30 minutes before departure, say the Graedons. They recommend capsules containing 500 to 1,000 mg of dried ginger every four hours, up to a maximum of 4g daily.
St. John’s Wort: Soothe your worries
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.
It might also: Help you snooze more soundly. 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.
Maximize the benefits: For both mood and sleep problems, it’s recommended a supplement containing at least 0.3% hypericin (the active phytochemical) per capsule or 300 mg of the extract to be taken three times daily. Warning: St. John’s wort has been shown to interact with several prescription medications, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking it.
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.