There is two basic differences between the stuff on your spice shelf and the stuff on an herbalist’s supply shelf: amount and preparation.
To get a “therapeutic effect”, in other words, for an herb or spice to help fix something that’s wrong, it takes a good bit more of the stuff than you would use in cooking. The helpful stuff needs to be used in big quantities…like in capsules or pills, or concentrated through “decoction” which is more like a sauce reduction than a tea.
In general, beverage-strength teas or the pinch and sprinkle amounts used in cooking doesn’t help or hurt either one from a healing perspective. Of course those of us on friggen’ blood thinners and with (sigh) medical issues have to be a little careful even with those small amounts sometimes…BUT overall, herbs and spices can do a couple of important things. I don’t have the science to prove it, but those little smidges used regularly over time can give you a little nudge toward health, or at the very least give a little boost to the health and antioxidant effect of an otherwise healthy diet. Of course my favorite effect of using herbs and spices in cooking is that it tastes good!
Take for example, one of my breakfast favorites, cinnamon.
There are several varieties of cinnamon, all with a history of herbal medicine use. The cassia variety that is so readily available has benefits too. A good cinnamon tea can help a gassy tummy, soothe a cold, ease menstrual pain, and at higher amounts, can help with diabetes (some studies hint at a preventative effect, while there is some thought that it improves the body’s use of insulin in type 2 diabetes).
Coumadin / Warfarin folks…cinnamon has naturally occuring coumarin in it, so it can have a blood thinning effect and an additive effect to the medication. So don’t use high doses of cinnamon without supervision…to make sure it doesn’t drive the inr too high. I take the nudge approach. I put a little sprinkle in my morning oatmeal or coffee, and follow INR measurement as my doctor orders. So far so good. I do mean GOOD. As in YUM. Especially in cold weather. Cinnamon is considered a “warming” spice in herbalism.
So for a little tasty, warming oompf that might help you digest and might help sugar metabolism, cinnamon might be a good choice. For a big oompf, consult your herbalist. And read the disclaimer on the “about” page of the blog while you are at it, ok?