Herbs, seasonings and spices are usually derived from natural foods and contain small amounts of nutrients; basically, because they are consumed in small amounts. Some give variety to the flavor of foods, some encourage the flow of digestive juices and some may have healing or soothing actions and can be purchased as nutritional supplements.

The following are the most commonly used:

1. Anise gives licorice its unique flavor. It is used as a cough remedy, digestive aid, promoting milk production in nursing mothers and may relieve menstrual cramps. Good for respiratory infections such as sinusitis. It may be helpful in cirrhosis and hepatitis and may aid in prostate cancer.

2. Basil is a relative of the mint family with more than 60 varieties found world wide. It is a common seasoning for fish, meat, tomato dishes, soups, stews, pizza sauce, dressings and used in salads. It is an immune system stimulant which aids in fighting infection and is good for intestinal parasites and acne.

3. Bay leaf used as whole leaves is commonly used in sauces, soups, stews, meat dishes, veal and poultry. (Always remove bay leaves from foods before you serve them; otherwise, it is like eating a mouthful of straw.) It is good for bacterial and fungal infections, stress and may be an antidote for strychnine poisoning. Crushed bay leaves around the kitchen will also repel cockroaches.

4. Cayenne pepper, also known as capsaicin or red pepper, is commonly used in most Mexican, Italian and Indian foods - curries, relishes, chili products, salsas, dressings and sausages. Acts as a catalyst for other herbs. It has antibacterial and antioxidant actions; acts as an expectorant and decongestant and may help prevent emphysema, bronchitis and stomach ulcers. Helps to ward off colds, sinus infections, and sore throats. Hot peppers in foods speed the metabolism; which burns calories.

5. Cinnamon is used in its whole form for preserving, spiced beverages, chicken, meat, poultry, cider and hot wine drinks. The ground form is used for baked goods, ketchup, vegetables, spiced peaches, mustards and apple butter. It relieves diarrhea and nausea; counteracts congestion. It warms the body and enhances digestion, especially the metabolism of fats. Useful for digestive problems, diabetes and weight loss.

6. Clove is a strong spice used in moderation in pickling, bake beans, ham roast, sweet potatoes, baked goods, soups and sauces. Clove has anti-inflammatory actions (contains eugenol) and helps rheumatoid arthritis. Also has antiseptic and anti-parasitic actions , and acts as a digestive aid. The essential oil applied topically has long been known to overpower toothache and other mouth pain.

7. Fennel has a flavor similar to anise...a bit sweeter and used in candies, cabbage, pork dishes, fish dishes, Italian sausage, sweet pickles, pastries and pizza sauce. Used as an appetite suppressant and as an eyewash. It is a digestive aid and may be used for infant colic, promote menstruation and promote milk production in nursing mothers. It aids in menopause and in prostate cancer when used along with other remedies.

8. Fenugreek has an aroma similar to curry powder. It is mainly used to make imitation maple syrup. Acts as a bulk laxative, lubricates the intestines and reduces fever. Good for the eyes. Helps asthma and sinus problems by reducing mucus. Good for inflammation and lung disorders.

9. Ginger has a pungent spicy flavor offering a variety of health benefits. Comes in whole or ground form and is used in pickling, conserves, dried fruit, gingerbread and pumpkin pie. It functions as an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, anti-diarrheal and ranks highly in anti-cancer activity. It also contains an anti-depressant ingredient. It has long been used for chest congestion, colds, headaches, cholera, diarrhea, rheumatism, nervous diseases, stomachache, nausea, motion sickness, vomiting, and raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol.

10. Marjoram is related to the oregano family and has a sweet nutty flavor. It is usually combined with other herbs and used in soups, stews, sauces, potato dishes, fish dishes, Greek salad and poultry seasoning. It is used as a digestive aid and anti-spasmodic for menstrual cramps. It inhibits growth of herpes and cold sores.

11. Parsley is high in nutrients and contains more vitamin C than oranges, by weight. It is used in herb dressings, marinades, cheese sauces, salads, soups and vegetable dishes (and should not be cooked since it tends to destroy a high percentage of its vitamins and minerals). It contains a substance that prevents the multiplication of tumor cells. Good for bed-wetting, fluid retention, gas, bad breath, high blood pressure, indigestion, kidney disease, obesity and prostate disorders.

12. Rosemary is a sweet, fragrant spicy herb with a very pungent aroma. It is used in meat dishes, dressings, soups, stews and Italian foods. It fights bacteria, relaxes the stomach, stimulates circulation and digestion and acts as an astringent and decongestant. It improves circulation to the brain and helps prevent liver toxicity. It also has anticancer and antitumor actions. Good for headaches, high and low blood pressure, circulatory problems and menstrual cramps.

13. Thyme has a strong, very spicy flavor. Commonly used in tomato based soups, stews, sauces, mushrooms, sausages and herbal dressings. It is an expectorant and has strong antiseptic actions. Lowers cholesterol levels, good for croup and other respiratory problems, and for fever, headache and liver disease. Eliminates gas, eliminates scalp itching and flaking caused by candidiasis.

14. Turmeric commonly used in chicken, meat dishes, pickles, relishes, mustards, curries, Spanish rice and dressings. It has antibiotic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. It eases stomach acid, prevents blood clotting, arrests poisonous toxins before they reach the liver, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol and may help prevent and treat cancer.

All herbal supplements should only be used in amounts typically recommended for medicinal purposes and you should always consult with a health professional first, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medications.

Author's Bio: 

Edith Lingenfelter-webmaster of Age-old Herbs shows how "self defense" is natures oldest law on how to prevent your health concerns with natural healing herbs by means of herbal and nutritional supplements. Learn how to protect your health by visiting www.age-oldherbs.com