Healing Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease
Book Review, Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Self-Care

Healing Spices: How to Use Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease

Healing Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease

Food is our first medicine

Ever wonder why they serve ginger with sushi? Not only does ginger warm the belly–a good balance for all that cold, raw fish about to go into the stomach–but it also helps prevent toxicity (in this case, seafood toxicity). Helpful, right? Knowing that before you head to the sushi restaurant might even be more helpful!

Healing spices

Spices are a universal gift to our health, as they taste great and are easy to obtain. Chinese medicine makes use of a number of them; meanwhile Western medicine continues to deepen their understanding of the vast benefits that come with choosing the right herb/spice for one’s constitution and condition.

A few years ago a book came out highlighting the hidden benefits of your spice rack, “Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease.” It’s quite beautiful and a nice addition to Paul Pitchford’s excellent book on nutrition and Chinese medicine, “Healing with Whole Foods.” Even better, the book is even available through the public library.

Get to know your herbs and spices

See below for a starter list of spices and their studied effects within Western medicine, as cited and published on Huffington Post. In Chinese medicine, we use a few of these regularly for additional health benefits; for these medicinals I’ve included the Chinese medicine name below the English.


As always, food is medicine; too much of one thing isn’t always a good thing. Before you start changing your diet, be sure to discuss your plan with a healthcare professional to avoid herb-drug interactions or other unwanted side effects.


Looks Like

Potential Health Benefits*


Healing Spices: Allspice
  • may help combat prostate cancer
Healing Spices: Cinnamon
  • lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • reduces proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells
  • may help to alleviate tremors and poor mobility in Parkinson’s disease
Healing Spices: Nutmeg
  • relieves symptoms of depression


  • high in antioxidants
  • essential oil of oregano was found to kill drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus

Pepper, Black

胡椒 (Hu Jiao)

  • manganese and copper content supports metabolism and maintain bone health
  • peperine was found to halt, and even reverse, fatty liver disease in mice


Healing Spices: Rosemary
  • carnosic acid content protects retinas from degeneration (may help to prevent or halt age-related macular degeneration)


Healing Spices: Sage
  • may increase cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s disease
Healing Spices: Turmeric
  • reduces tenderness and swelling in arthritic joints

* Studies cited on Huffington Post article, “8 Herbs And Spices That Fight Off Disease.” A reminder: The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Self-Care, Uncategorized

Good Sun, Bad Sun

Sunspot TRACE

The sun’s not the only who gets spots. So what’s the story, anyway? We need sun exposure for vitamin D production, indicated for everything from bone loss/fracture to heart, pulmonary, and skin disease–heck, you name it, and you’ll probably find a correlation! In fact, no more than about 20% of our vit. D comes from food sources such as fish and fortified foods; the rest comes from the sun. And sorry folks of color – you’re at higher risk of deficiency. Between 2001 and 2006, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, found that as much as almost 75% of blacks were showing inadequate or deficient levels of the vitamin (yikes!). But with more and more information available about damage from the sun’s rays, our culture has gone from sun bathing to sun scathing. Everyone is asking, “What’s the safest way to protect oneself and stay healthy?”

The most important thing I learned only within the last two years (if you’d believe it took that long!) is that there’s actually two types of sunscreens – chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens (e.g. avobenzone, octinoxate, oxybenzone, etc) actually get absorbed into the skin, where they then absorb incoming UV rays before they damage your skin. Physical, or mineral (such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), sunscreens sit on top of the skin where they deflect the rays. Now seeing as we absorb about two-thirds of what’s put on the skin, it may be interesting to note that cosmetic UV filters were found in 85% of human milk sampled from Swiss mothers between 2004-2006. (Whoa!) These are the same chemicals found in mice to actually disrupt hormones. While it may not be worth getting your panties all up in a bunch–people are still on either side of the bench as to whether or not these chemicals have the potential to actually increase your risk for cancer–I can’t help but ask, is it really worth the risk?

Mineral sunscreens get their load of bad rap too. The main argument is against nanoparticles which some argue are toxic to humans and the ecosystem. Specifically, nano-titanium dioxide has been shown when inhaled (i.e. not applied topically) to show pulmonary inflammation as bad as that induced by asbestos. Others argue that zinc oxide is photoreactive, and can cause free radical damage to the skin. (Badger does a good job of explaining these arguments in detail.) While the first argument is easy to get around – there are plenty of mineral sunscreens that do not use nanotechnology – there is something to the last argument. How effective added antioxidants are to a sunscreen is a little up for grabs; but certainly I’d much rather go with this class of sunscreen than dumping yet more chemicals into my body and sewer.

A lot of people ask, “What about sunscreen in a facial moisturizer?” Almost inevitably, these sunscreens are your typical chemical sunscreen. And what’s worse – is most of the time folks put moisturizer first thing in the morning and perhaps again at night, but only go out in the sun in the afternoon. All that chemical absorbed for absolutely no good reason! The FDA has even stated companies can no longer claim products to be “waterproof,” “sunblock,” or “sweatproof” simply because people aren’t applying their sunscreen often enough for them to be effective (a “water-resistant” product will only be effective for 40 – 80 minutes). So, I encourage folks to use sunscreen as sunscreen, when you need it. The NIH suggests 5 – 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the exposed areas without sunscreen for sufficient vitamin D production; given this, consider how often are you in sun and during what hours to get a better idea of how often you’ll need to apply and *reapply* sunscreen.

Lastly, [your word here] bless the simplicity of a hat and long sleeves! Be fashionable, and comfortable while saving your skin. While I was down in Australia, I used something like this — saved me big time!

PS. Always look for products that offer broad-spectrum coverage. Interested to learn more about safety ratings? Try the EWG Cosmetic Database.

PPS. On the subject of the vitamin D and its role in bone health, Liz Smith of Medical Integration Services will be conducting affordable and easy bone density tests at Met Market in Queen Anne on June 15th (Fri) 3 – 7p and June 16th (Sat) 11 – 2p.