The Spice of Life!

Submitted by Dr Becky Wise

As a species, we have added spices as flavorings and preservatives to our food for nearly 100,000 years but we have known for nearly as long that many of these spices help us stay healthy. Spices may just be “the Spice of Life”!

spices-WEBHowever, just like any other chemical you ingest, don’t “binge” on any of these, and you will be generally be safe using any of them in your food or drink, regardless of what prescription or OTC medications you use.

Risk comes when you over-use these or take them as supplements (pills) in concentrated forms without first checking with your physician or pharmacist. There are also risks if you have specific medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, ulcers/GERD, hypertension, anxiety/depression, etc. or are pregnant. In addition, spices should be used in reduced amounts in children as the effects may be different in little ones with under-developed digestion.

If you have a chronic condition or take a chronic medication, talk to your physician or pharmacist about what spices you should avoid and which are safe. Also check with your pharmacist if you use other medicinal supplements (fish oil, vitamins, soy, etc) to be sure they don’t interact.

Many of these are used in different parts of the world for different conditions than the ones listed below. The ones shown are scientifically studied effects, so you may consume one of these for a different benefit. If you don’t have negative consequences, there is generally no harm.

Let your physician and pharmacist know (ie. a daily Chai Tea which has black pepper, clove, ginger, and cinnamon) so they can make note in your records in case your health changes. Also, consume a relatively constant amount of whatever spices you like – again don’t binge, but also don’t abruptly stop. As with any chemicals you are putting into your body, there will be a radical adjustment with a radical change – which can alter all the other chemicals you use (prescriptions, OTCs, etc.).

In summary, feel free to have a cup of ginger tea for an upset stomach, or heat up your food with black pepper if you are trying to stop smoking. Enjoy your spices, but remember that getting too spicy can lead to consequences you don’t expect.

The Spice of Life!
The Spice of Life!

Following is a list of common spices that may help if you are having any of the listed symptoms.

Basil – improves circulation / reduces cholesterol, upset stomach, headache

Black Pepper – constipation, earache, insect bite itching, arthritis, smoking cessation

Cardamom – nausea/vomiting, reduces phlegm, flatulence, acid reducer

Cayenne/Capsaicin – improves circulation and metabolism, reduces pain (topical)

Chamomile – anti-anxiety, muscle relaxer, smooth skin

Cinnamon – reduces appetite/improves metabolism, arthritis and PMS pain

Clove – antifungal, antimicrobial, dental pain (topical)

Coriander/Cilantro – diarrhea/IBS, lowers blood sugar, high in fiber and iron, lowers cholesterol

Garlic – reduces heart disease, blood thinner, cholesterol reducer, antibacterial, antifungal, tick repellant

Ginger – nausea/motion sickness, improves circulation to cold hands and feet

Lemon Balm – stomachache, bloating, toothache, improves memory

Marjoram – improved appetite, thyroid protection

Mustard – stimulates appetite, reduces chest congestion, improves circulation to cold hands and feet

Nutmeg – antibacterial (dental cavity protection), may improve memory and depression

Oregano – weight loss / promotes digestion, tooth ache, sinus congestion

Parsley – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, upset stomach, itching (topical)

Peppermint – gas, toothache pain, stomach ache

Raspberry Leaves – common cold/flu symptoms, tonsillitis, gingivitis

Rosemary – stress relief, antimicrobial

Sage – boosts insulin, sore throat and cough, upset stomach, improves memory, acne (topical)

Thyme – diarrhea/stomach cramps, hangovers, antiparasitic

Turmeric / Cumin – antioxidant/anti-inflammatory, pain relief, improves GI motility

Vanilla – anxiety/depression/anger, blood disorders, libido

For more information:

Be Well, Be Wise,


Dr. Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an assistant professor and ambulatory care specialist at a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinic in Erie, PA.

Soon to be released is Dr Becky’s new website which will address women’s issues, watch for it:

You must be logged in to post a comment Login