Unlock the Medicine of Your Spice Cabinet

By Jessica Campbell, MS, FNTP

Think of your spice cabinet as a medicine cabinet and inside there are powerful properties to reduce inflammation, improve heart health, boost the immune system, and even prevent and fight cancer. 

More than 100 herbs and spices can be consumed or used topically for healing. Chances are, you already have a powerful dose of herbs and spices in your possession. 

In fact, the United States leads the world in consumption and imports of spices, according to this U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

The simplest way to take advantage of the healing properties of your herb and spice stash is to simply use them in your food. 

Here are seven common herbs and spices Americans use that are packed full of flavor and health benefits. 


Taste: Slightly sweet, versatile. Goes well with tomatoes, pasta, olives.


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-stress 
  • Pain relieve
  • Blood vessel protector
  • Immune booster 
  • Cancer fighter


Tip: When using fresh basil, add it at the end of cooking time or as a garnish. 

Recipe: Easy Peasy Caprese, https://foodfoundation.com/articles/7-sexy-simple-summer-salads

Bay Leaf

Taste: distinctive savory flavor. Goes well in sauces, soups and stews. 


  • Antimicrobial
  • Antifungal 
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Cancer fighter
  • Improves insulin function
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Prevents candida
  • Treats dandruff
  • Improves skin infections 
  • Supports wound healing

Tip: Bay leaves can be used dry or fresh. Dried leaves are more aromatic. Unlike other spices, bay leaves are added at the beginning of cooking because they require time to release flavor. Bay leaves have sharp edges that can injure the mouth, and they need to be removed from a dish before serving. Dried, ground leaves can be safely consumed.

Recipe: Bone Broth, https://foodfoundation.com/articles/beef-bone-broth-video


Taste:  Earthy, fiery, spicy. Goes well with leafy greens, beans, soups, rice. 


  • Supports digestion
  • Prevents blood clots
  • Relieves migraines
  • Eases nerve and joint pain
  • Promotes detoxification
  • Improves allergy symptoms
  • Increases metabolism

Tip:  Sprinkle dried cayenne powder on a cut finger or other wounds and it will stop the bleeding. Note: don’t apply fresh peppers to the skin.

Recipe: Cauliflower Kuku or Persian Fittata, https://foodfoundation.com/articles/cauliflower-kuku-or-persian-frittata



Taste:  Warm, sweet.  Goes well with root vegetables, desserts, pork and lamb. 


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Boosts immunity
  • Protects heart 
  • Fights cancer

Tip:  Place a cinnamon stick (also called a quill) in water and let it infuse its healing properties into your beverage. The odor of cinnamon alone can boost brain activity. 

Recipe: Homemade Chai Tea, https://foodfoundation.com/articles/homemade-chai-tea


Taste:  pungent.  Can be consumed both cooked and raw. It can also be used in powder form to season meats, vegetables, soups, and stews.


  • Antimicrobial
  • Antifungal
  • Anticancer 
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Prevents infection

Tip:  Garlic is a natural mosquito repellant (and sometimes humans too 😉)

Recipe: Asian Chicken Slaw, https://foodfoundation.com/articles/asian-chicken-slaw


Taste: sweet, spicy,  peppery, earthy, lemony. Ginger is versatile and used in many forms including fresh, dried, pickled, candied, and powdered. Try it in marinades, smoothies, dipping sauces, desserts and tea. Goes well with miso, rice, pears, potatoes.


  • Eases nausea and motion sickness
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  •  Antioxidant
  • Pain reliever
  • Stimulates metabolism 

Tip: Through many centuries and throughout civilizations, ginger has been considered to be aphrodisiac. It heats your insides and stimulates circulation while the intense scent awakens olfactory glands. 

Recipe: Ginger Lime Halibut, https://foodfoundation.com/articles/ginger-lime-halibut


Taste: sharp, minty, grassy, floral. Pairs well with many foods, including most vegetables, meats, eggs and cheese. 


Tip: Ancient Romans used thyme as an embalming agent and also to add aromatic flavor to their cheeses and liqueurs. Try adding thyme, or any herb, to oil or butter to add extra interest and help your health. 

Recipe: How to Make Herb Butter (from any fresh herbs) - The Kitchen Herbs

Herbs and spices make food flavorful and are powerful nutrients that positively affect our health. For the most medicinal benefit, fresh or grated is best. 

As for dried herbs and spices, try to keep them as fresh as possible. It’s wise to purchase and store spices in small quantities and use them up within a year. 

The best place to store dried herbs and spices is in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place, such as a pantry, drawer, or cabinet. 

Unlock the medicinal magic of your spice cabinet, and let’s get cooking! 

*While this article discusses herbs and spices used in foods, supplements may be used for greater effectiveness. Talk with your healthcare professional before using concentrated doses.