Since ancient times our ancestor’s harvested the many herbs and spices that grew wild around them, mixed potions, and treated ailments. Man was after all a hunter-gatherer, and an omnivore, (an organism which gets its food energy from both plant and animal material).

The beautiful spice rack sitting on your counter-top or hanging on the wall in your kitchen should be more than just a decorative feature, your spices should be used every time you cook a meal. These spices and herbs are actually loaded with natural healing ingredients on top of hading great taste to the food you cook every day.

Of all the herbs and spices you can choose from for flavor, there are 15 who should be on your “must have” list. Here is the list of these powerful everyday spices and you may be surprised to learn of the many diverse conditions for which they’ve proven so very useful!

Basil has been used since the most ancient times as a culinary herb and medicinal herb. It removes heat and toxins from the bloodstream, liver, portal circulation and intestines. The pungent volatile oils help basil open the skin and lungs, relax the digestive tract, and purge the blood of heat and toxins. It detoxifies through the skin by diaphoresis and removes mucus from the lungs, so it is serviceable in colds, flu, and acute respiratory conditions. It stimulates the appetite and digestion, removing stagnant food and flatulence. It also penetrates to the deeper regions of the organism to detoxify the blood, liver, portal circulation, spleen and intestines.

Cinnamon has long been used in the medicine of the Old World. It is warm and stimulating, so it tends to warm up the digestion and the interior, but it is also sweet and astringent, so it nourishes and tones. It is therefore indicated as a stimulating diaphoretic in weakness, tiredness, chilliness and lack of resistance. As a stimulant it opens up the peripheral blood supply to lessen local bleeding. As a warming astringent it is excellent for some kinds of diarrhea, where it restrains fluid loss. It has been shown to have an influence over the microorganisms associated with botulism, staph infections, aflatoxin, E. coli and candida.

Cloves are a sweet, warming stimulant used for cold/depressed tissue states. Clove oil is spicy, stimulating and heating. It is classified as hot and dry in the third degree. it stimulates the circulation, raises the temperature of the body, increases digestion and nutrition, and is antiseptic. The volatile oils exit through the liver, bronchi, skin and kidneys, and as they move through them they stimulate and disinfect.

Dill is a member of the apiacae family native to Europe. It is similar to other mild carminatives such as fennel, caraan and anise. It contains flavonoids, coumarins, fixed oils, proteins, phenolic acids, triterpenes and volatile oils. it is traditionally used in Europe for colic and gas. Because it is so mild it is especially favored for children. It also is used to stimulate lactation. These uses are also found under its cousin, fennel.

Fennel is a member of the Apiacea family native to Europe, Africa and Asia, although nicely naturalized in warm, dry, salty soils in California. It has long been used in Greek, Arabic, Indian and European medicine. Fennel seed has been widely used as a carminative to improve digestion. As a moist, oily herb lessens dryness and flatulence. It has anti- spasmodic properties and is a specific for colic, especially in infants. It thins unhealthy mucus and improves the secretion and health of the fluids. Hence, it is beneficial for the lungs.

Garlic is one of the most important, widely known, and universally applicable of all medicinal plants in the Old World pharmacopoeia. Although garlic has been (and is still) rated as a general panacea, it possesses specific properties that are due to its strong warming and mildly moistening capacities. Like many warming medicines, garlic is rarefying or dissolving, so that it thins cloying substances and then expels them. The strong smell of garlic is due to the sulphurous alliin compounds that are stimulating, detoxifying, and antimicrobial. Garlic increases secretion from the mucosa to improve digestion and lubricate the passage of viscid mucus, stimulates internal metabolism and kills bacteria through direct attack and by changing the environment in which they thrive.

The warm, stimulating properties of the fresh rhizome suit it to cases where the organism or a part is cold, depressed, cramped up, or inactive. It is suited to people who feel chilly. A hot tea or soup with fresh ginger rhizome quickly opens the skin to release perspiration, chill, cold and flu. It warms up the stomach to improve digestion, increases bile secretion, and improves fat digestion and movement of food through the tract, reducing stagnation, irritation and gas. it reduces nausea of motion sickness, pregnancy and other causes. A poultice of fresh ginger rhizome on the chest increases blood circulation, activates respiration, and begins to move mucus out of the lungs, like onion and mustard packs.

Herbalists the world over use mint, as a premier stomach tonic, to counteract nausea and vomiting, promote digestion, calm stomach muscle spasms, relieve flatulence, and ease hiccups. Menthol, the aromatic oil in peppermint, also relaxes the airways and fights bacteria and viruses. Menthol interferes with the sensation from pain receptors, thus it may be useful in reducing headache pain. Scientific evidence suggests that peppermint can kill many kinds of micro-organisms, and may boost mental alertness. In one study, people who inhaled menthol said they felt as if it relieved their nasal congestion, although it didn’t increase their measurable air flow.

Wild oregano is an Old World mint, easily naturalized in North America. It is analogue in taste to its American cousin Monarda fistulosa, and probably also in properties. It is likewise used in fever, candida, and tinnitus. Wild marjoram contains flavonoids, triterpenoids, vitamins A and C, and volatile oils. It is helpful with cold and flu, respiratory tract infections with mucus.

The name Parsley (Petroselinum sativum)comes from the Greek, meaning "celery of the rocks”. The growth habit amid the rocks is a signature in traditional herbalism for a kidney or stone-breaking remedy. Parsley is one of the five "opening roots” of traditional Greek/Arabic medicine, used to remove obstructions to the movement of blood, lymph, sweat, urine, stool and menstrual blood, along with celery, fennel, butcher‘s broom, and asparagus. All but the last two are in the Apiacea or carrot family. Parsley contains flavonoids, fixed oils, mucilage, vitamins A and C, coumarins, minerals (iron, calcium, sodium, trace elements), and volatile oils.

Both the leaves and the oil of Rosemary have long been used in Mediterranean medicine. The properties are described by Dioscorides, Plinius and Galen. The Arabic physicians considered it one of the most valuable items in the material medica. Rosemary is mentioned in the herbals of northern Europe from the Renaissance down to the present. It has an ancient reputation in folklore as an herb for remembrance. it was used from ancient times to the Renaissance as an emblem for fidelity. Shakespeare mentions it several times. "There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance”. Rosemary was popularized by Father Sebastian Kneipp and is still used in conventional medicine in Germany. The leaves contain flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, tannins, terpenoid bitters, phenols, acids and volatile oils. The oil contains borneol, bomyl acetate, dipentene, eucalyptol and camphene. Both the herb and the oil are warming and stimulating. Rosemary stimulates the metabolism, enhancing the burning and consumption of blood.

Turmeric is a spice native to the Spice Islands, long used in Chinese and Indian cooking and medicine. It has long been used in Western herbalism, but has enjoyed a renaissance in recent decades. It contains curcuminoids (antineoplastic, cholagogue, and antioxidant), fixed oils, volatile oils, vitamin C, potassium and sesquiterpene ketones. Curcuma (part of the Turmeric) is a stimulant with an affinity to the liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract. As a stimulant to the liver it acts on both the catabolic side, to "purify the blood”, and on the anabolic, to create more bile. By increasing the output of bile it promotes gallbladder function, clears intermittent heat and chills, fullness, constriction, heat and pain in the gallbladder region, and jaundice. While increasing bile production, it also stimulates digestive secretions and is used as a carminative (like ginger).

Sage is a member of the mint family native to Mediterranean region but much more widely grown in gardens. There are numerous varieties and species of Salvia, many of which have the same properties as the officinalis. The great white sage, native to California, can be used in place of garden sage. It is more stimulating and warming, but less astringent. The leaves are the part used in herbalism; they contain fixed and volatile oils (including thujone), tannins, and hitters. Sage is astringent, oily and slightly warming, so it acts on three tissue conditions, relaxation, atrophy and depression, or a combination of them. Sage tea is not uncommonly used for simple fever, especially where there is sore throat. It acts deeply when there is stress on the nervous system from fever. It is an old remedy for fevers with reduction of consciousness, delirium, drowsiness and lethargy.

Thyme is an ancient Mediterranean remedy, still used in commercial products as an antiseptic and in modern European medicine as a specific for whooping cough. The name thymos comes from the Greek word for "strength". It is a very strong remedy, deeply dredging the system, opening it up so that heat and toxins can be removed and thinning phlegm. It contains volatile oils, including thymol, carvacrol, borneol and others. Thyme is suited to cold, inactive conditions where there are tendencies to chills, shivering, putrefaction, sepsis and stagnant, stuck mucus. It is seldom appreciated today as a deep and powerful detoxifier.