How your spice cabinet could double as a medicine cabinet


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Books and articles about the medicinal benefits of herbs and spices seem all the rage, with colorful infographics listing herbs and their healing properties making the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest. But for me, using herbs and spices to treat minor ailments from menstrual cramps to stubborn chest congestion is hardly a recent fad.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has depended as much on what she has in her cupboards as she does on conventional medicine. Mom never considered herbs and spices a substitute for going to the doctor for a proper checkup, but rather as something to do in the interim to keep healthy and strong. She also keeps a list of what she and Dad take for their doctor, so they can make sure nothing conflicts with any medications prescribed to them.


Oregano for menstrual pain

Oregano helps with digestive woes and respiratory issues, but it also helps relieve menstrual cramps. Grab a bunch of fresh oregano (dry oregano works as well), throw it in the kettle and brew yourself a cup of tea. It’s an acquired taste, and one that as a young girl I found absolutely vile, but when that time of the month hits, I would rather pinch up my face than double over in pain. Oregano contains thymol and carvacrol, which relax the uterine muscles and prevent those painful contractions that cause cramping and pain.


Rosemary oil for headaches

Rosemary was considered an effective treatment for headaches in ancient China — and today, many use the herb’s natural oil to treat the same problem. Gently rub a drop or two of the oil on your temples and forehead, and relax for a few minutes for the effect to kick in. According to Reader’s Digest, a 2010 study found that rosemary oil, as well as thyme oil, contained carvacrol, a substance that acts similarly to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.


Cilantro for fatigue

Start garnishing your food with cilantro. Cilantro has caused many a heated online debate on Facebook and forums because people seem to either love it or hate it. But it may be the answer for those who are chronically fatigued, forever sleepy and always yawning, regardless of how much sleep they get and how much coffee they drink. Cilantro contains carboxylic acid, which binds to heavy metals in your blood, such as mercury, and flushes them out of your body.


Parsley for kidney stones

Parsley is a natural diuretic, so drinking parsley tea will increase your urine output. More trips to the bathroom means you are flushing out toxins in your kidneys. If you are prone to kidney stones, as some of us unfortunately are, drinking parsley tea might also help you flush out smaller stones. People who have kidney stones should see a doctor and discuss with them whether supplementing parsley tea with their prescribed treatment is a good idea.

Parsley’s ability to flush out kidney stones has not been scientifically proven, but frequent urination might explain why smaller stones might successfully pass. At any rate, it definitely helps prevent bloating as a result of water retention. Parsley tea doesn’t taste as pungent as oregano tea does, but don’t overdo it. Use fresh parsley in salads and fresh or dry parley in pasta sauces to get your daily dosage.

(Note: Women who are pregnant should not take anything that promotes uterine contractions. Talk to your doctor before using what’s in your cupboard to treat even minor ailments.)