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Your Go-To Guide: the Healing Benefits of 41 Herbs & Spices

By Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health


We believe in the power of plants to heal, restore and recharge us. Whether you brew them in a cup of tea, toss them in your salad or use them in creams and tinctures, they provide all-natural health benefits for every system of the body.


Anise: Great for digestion, as well as rheumatism, congestion and coughing.

Arrowroot: Soothing for the digestion, including conditions such as IBS

Basil: Powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that fight cancer, premature aging, common skin issues and bacterial infections.

Black pepper: Proven to protect against high cholesterol, clear the lungs of congestion and stimulate the digestive system.

Calendula: Has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help heal cuts, scrapes, bruises, insect bites and minor wounds, as well as conjunctivitis and sore or infected gums.

Caraway: Contains mild antihistamines and antimicrobial compounds that benefit a wide range of conditions, including gas and bloating, congestion, eye infections, rheumatism, toothaches and candida.

Cardamom: Clears congestion, relieves nausea and morning sickness, improves bad breath, strengthens digestion and contains the phytochemical cineole, which calms the nervous system; also linked to anti-tumor activity.

Cayenne: Helps relieve allergies, muscle aches and cramps, improves circulation and heart health, and helps fight prostate cancer and ulcers.

Chamomile: Calms anxiety and stress, and may have a positive effect on attention deficit disorder; antibacterial and anti-inflammatory; beneficial for the liver and digestive system; eases skin inflammations, as well as bacterial skin diseases, cuts and abrasions.

Chives: Supports the digestive and respiratory systems, relieves fatigue, shown to prevent cancer.

Cilantro: Contains antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins and fiber that reduce LDL (“bad choles - terol”) levels, regulate heart rate and blood pressure, improve digestion, aid in Alzheimer’s treatment by limiting neuron damage, and protect against heavy metals (such as mercury in fish).

Cinnamon: The highest antioxidant values of any spice—reduces inflammation, lowers blood sugar, alleviates nausea.

Cloves: Rich in eugenol, proven to fight environmental toxins and inflammation, as well as colon cancer cells; serves as a mild painkiller and topical anesthetic.

Comfrey: Relieves pain and inflammation, particularly for those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis; great topical treatment for burns, abrasions and other skin irritations.

Cumin: Digestive benefits; shown to prevent or relieve conditions associated with diabetes.

Dill: Antibacterial properties that relieve stomach upset, respiratory disorders, menstrual issues and possibly cancer.

Echinacea: Improves immunity, reduces stings and itching when applied topically.

Eucalyptus: Clears congestion in the lungs and nasal passages, relieves sore muscles and arthritis pain.

Fennel: Promotes a strong immune system and improves metabolism and digestion.

Fenugreek: Best known for its power to improve blood sugar control through promoting insulin function; also soothes the gastrointestinal inflammation.

Garlic: Contains the compound allicin, which fights cancer, reduces LDL cholesterol and lowers blood pressure (in one study, it was just as effective as blood-pressure drugs).

Ginger: Relieves nausea and morning sickness, helps with pain management, has anti-inflammatory properties that may fight colon cancer.

Ginkgo: Used to treat Alzheimer’s disease because of its benefits for memory and mental clarity; relieves tinnitus, vertigo, diabetes and asthma; combats stress and anxiety; fights allergic reactions.

Hibiscus: Natural antioxidant proven to lower blood pressure.

Horseradish: Clears congestion, fights infection, soothes sore throats and stimulates circulation.

Juniper: Relieves indigestion, clears congestion, helps heal wounds and inflammatory diseases.

Lavender: Enhances healing, improves digestion, relieves muscle tension and reduces stress; improves the circulatory, immune and nervous systems; has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antiseptic abilities.

Lemon balm: Known for its calming properties, which relieve stress, headaches and indigestion, and promote a good night’s sleep.

Mustard seeds: Clears congestion in the lungs and stimulates circulation.

Nutmeg: Has detoxifying properties that support the liver and digestion.

Oregano: Antiviral, antibacterial, anti-cancer and antibiotic; used to treat cough, fever, congestion and body aches.

Parsley: Helps control blood cholesterol and protect against cancer; used as an antiseptic for teeth and gums; proven to reduce blood sugar levels; rich in antioxidants.

Peppermint: Improves digestion, relieves pain and eases nausea.

Rosemary: Promotes healthy digestion and good cholesterol levels, stimulates the nervous system, improves memory, relieves muscle pain, eases migraines and headaches, improves circulation, boosts the immune system, eases asthma and allergies.

Saffron: Shown to be an effective treatment for depression.

Sage: Proven to improve brain function and memory; in one study, sage extract produced significant improvements in brain function for those with Alzheimer’s.

St. John’s Wort: Acts as an antidepressant in cases of mild depression and anxiety, via the phytochemicals hyperforin and hypericin; also an antiviral that fights the flu.

Thyme: A potent antioxidant that relieves gum infections, treats athlete’s foot, helps with cold symptoms, reduces fever and improves sleep.

Tulsi (Holy Basil): Helps bring down fevers, cures cold and sore throat, relieves insect bites and skin infections, helps with kidney stones and cardiovascular disease

Turmeric: Best known for its cancer-fighting properties, via the cancer-fighting compound curcumin; reduces inflammation and eases joint pain and arthritis; soothes the digestive system; has potential benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis; contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Valerian: The most widely recognized herbal sedative, used for insomnia, anxiety and pain relief.

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