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Piperine, a naturally occurring compound that gives peppercorns their kick, may reduce the risk of certain cancers, including those of the breast, lung, prostate, ovaries and digestive tract, according to a 2019 Applied Sciences review. There are several mechanisms at play, but one of the key benefits of piperine is that it can trigger apoptosis, a biochemical process that tells cells to self-destruct before they have the chance to grow out of control and form tumors.
Cardamom is an aromatic spice commonly used in Middle Eastern, Indian and Arabic cuisines, among others. It may provide numerous health benefits due to its high levels of antioxidants. A 2020 study in Systematic Reviews in Pharmacy found that cardamom helped decrease blood pressure in patients with hypertension. While other studies have looked at cardamom's effects on gastrointestinal discomfort, type 2 diabetes and blood glucose and more, further research is needed before recommendations can be made, according to a 2022 review in Nutrition Today.
Capsaicin is a plant chemical in the cayenne pepper that gives the pepper its kick. And it may do good things for your heart. In a review of four observational studies, chile pepper eaters had a 25% reduced risk of dying from any cause compared to those who rarely or never dined on hot peppers, per the Annals of Medicine and Surgery in 2021. (More research is needed to assess just how much or often to eat is ideal for these potential longevity benefits, according to the researchers.) Capsaicin activates certain receptors in the body that increase fat metabolism, which may help individuals maintain a healthy weight, decreasing one risk factor for heart disease. In addition, capsaicin may also aid in blood clotting, which supports heart health.
Of course, hot peppers may not be right in everyone's diet. For example, if you have acid reflux, spicy foods in general can trigger symptoms and are best avoided, notes the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
The American Heart Association recommends using sweet spices like cinnamon to add flavor instead of using sugar and other sweeteners. Most Americans eat more than the recommended limit of added sugar, which can contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some studies suggest cinnamon may help lower fasting blood glucose and measures of insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, according to a meta-analysis of 16 studies in a 2019 issue of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. It's possible that cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity, leading to the aforementioned benefits, note researchers.
Cloves are valued as a sweet aromatic spice that provides warmth and flavor to various recipes. Used in traditional Chinese medicine for years, they have numerous potential health benefits. Cloves contain a compound called eugenol, which acts as a natural antioxidant. Eugenol has been linked to helping reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis by helping decrease oxidative stress and inflammatory responses in the body.
Cloves are also a great source of beta carotene, which is what gives them their rich, dark brown color. In the body, beta carotene is converted into vitamin A—an important nutrient for keeping our eyes healthy.
You'll find these dried seeds of the cilantro plant in sausages and curries, soups and stews. The compound of note in coriander is linalool, an antioxidant that may have anti-cancer properties and may protect the brain from diseases of cognitive degeneration, such as Alzheimer's disease, as well as mood disorders like anxiety, according to a 2018 review in Food Research International. (Further research needs to be done in humans, however.) Some research suggests that the coriander plant is a more potent antioxidant than vitamin C, the researchers say.
With its potent bioactive compounds and other nutrients, garlic may be good for much more than warding off vampires. Treatments with garlic extracts, powders and supplements have been found to significantly lower high blood pressure. In one meta-analysis of 12 trials on more than 550 people with hypertension noted in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine in 2020, garlic supplements lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 8 and 5 points, respectively, which is similar to typical results from high blood pressure medications.
And, although some experts say the evidence is iffy, several studies suggest garlic supplements may help prevent colds, per a 2020 Cochrane review.
Ginger is well-known for easing a queasy stomach. Studies show it can help soothe morning sickness, as well as nausea from surgery, chemotherapy and motion sickness, according to a 2018 review in Food Science & Nutrition.
Got migraines? This spice has been found to provide all-natural relief, according to a meta-analysis in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2021. Ginger contains specific pain-relieving chemicals called gingerols and shogaols that work in a similar way to over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen. In addition, ginger's pain-relieving properties may also extend to providing menstrual and osteoarthritis pain relief, though more research is needed, notes a 2020 review in Phytotherapy Research.
These tiny but mighty leaves boast many nutrients, including vitamins K and E, calcium, iron, manganese and fiber, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Oregano is an herb commonly used in dishes such as pizza and pasta. In addition to lending flavor to food, it has been used to treat medical conditions for thousands of years. Oregano is rich in antioxidants—specifically, carvacrol and thymol. Carvacrol is the most abundant compound in oregano and has been shown to help stop the growth of several different types of bacteria, according to a 2018 review in Phytotherapy Research. Thymol is a natural antifungal component that helps support the immune system by enhancing the production of antibodies, says a 2017 Frontiers in Pharmacology review. Its potent antibacterial properties work to fight against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
What's more, the antioxidants in oregano have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, says a study in Plants in 2018. All that's good news for your heart—and more. Antioxidants prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, helping fend off heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Paprika may be best known for adding a pop of color to dishes, but it also contains capsaicin, a compound found in peppers that has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Capsaicin is well known for its pain-relieving properties. It works by affecting the neurotransmitter that communicates pain signals to the brain, resulting in decreased inflammation and pain.
Once the capsaicin is extracted from the pepper, it can be added to a range of products, such as creams and gels, for effective pain-relief treatment.