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Herbs, Spices and Nutrition

by Vivienne Bradshaw-Black(more info)

listed in herbal medicine, originally published in issue 150 - August 2008

Herbs: plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine, scent, etc.
Spices: aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to enhance foods.
Nutrition: food efficient as nourishment or sustenance.

Using the definition of herbs as above, any familiar vegetable, fruit or flower, such as broccoli, tomatoes or salad flowers like nasturtiums would come into this category. However, in the collective mind of the Western general public, medicinal herbs (traditionally packaged as teas, tinctures, capsules, tablets, creams and ointments, etc.) have been separated from fresh, frozen, canned and dried herbs generally thought of as foods (e.g. fresh sweetcorn, frozen peas, canned strawberries, dried beans). Culinary herbs and spices, used according to cultural exposure and taste, are commonly considered a separate category to ‘vegetables’ and ‘medicinal’ herbs.

Hippocrates,1 the ‘Father of medicine’ believed that the human body had the ability to restore itself to health when given the materials needed. He famously quoted, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” but he did not have today’s Western diet and artificial food categories as his definition of ‘food.’ However, on the upside, there is a natural demarcation of usage in choosing foods for nutrition, in that the function of an unpolluted healthy appetite determines what is eaten and in which amounts. Conversely, on the downside, appetite is both nurtured and restricted by cultural and familial heritage.

Unless appetite is grossly perverted (out of balance), food proportion comes naturally in that foods like potatoes, rice and bread would constitute the major meal portion, and the butter, seasoning and honey on each would constitute the minor portion, e.g. jacket potato, savoury rice, breakfast toast. It would be abnormal in any culture to have a pack of butter with a spoon of potato on it, a bowl of seasoning and spices topped with a little rice, or a cup of honey with some pieces of bread sprinkled on it. Therefore, normal appetite naturally discerns proportions. However, taking the example above, rice without the seasonings and spices is not savoury rice, and both aspects of food provision are essential. What the modern Western diet mostly overlooks, in addition to the quality and wholeness of foods, is the importance of herbs and spices as essential nutrition rather than ‘optional extras.’

Abnormal eating conditions (such as pica,2 anorexia, bulimia, and gluttony from any individually-determined combination of nutritional deficiency, toxicity, low self-esteem, isolation, comfort eating, wrong food choices and/or depression/ anxiety, childhood baggage, post traumatic stress, etc.) are ‘relatively’ easily detected, whereas ‘unidentified inadequate eating patterns’ are often the consequence of cultural and societal ‘norms’ and, therefore, not seen as a causal factor worth consideration in therapeutic terms. Today’s therapist, regardless of modality of treatment, is faced with a challenge because there is no longer a single cause of any effect (if indeed that ever was the case).
A symptom is merely a biological signpost pointing to anatomical, physiological or psychological imbalance.

Symptoms are rarely singular or simple. The condition of the average person is vaccinated, chronically drugged (lifetime of antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatories, cough remedies, pain-killers, ‘recreational’ drugs, etc.), fluoride treated,3 chlorinated, heavy metal contaminated, chemicalized and subjected to microwaved/irradiated foods, genetically modified foods and foods unfit for human consumption, marketed in haste to prevent the real condition ‘coming to light’, such as in young battery fowl (excuse the unintended pun). Removing heavy metals (e.g. mercury amalgam fillings, cooking in aluminum, etc.) and existing toxic loads via detoxification protocols is an important step to health, as is stopping intake of toxic water, fluoride products, processed/depleted foods and non-organic meats/foods, but what is so important about the foods which constitute the minor portions in balanced nutritional meals?

To look at just a few qualities of minor ingredients, herbs and spices such as garlic, tarragon, turmeric, parsley, coriander, cayenne pepper, basil, ginger, unrefined sea salt,4 pepper, mustard, olive oil, hemp oil and cider vinegar, have qualities of being anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, oxygenating, metabolizing, alkalizing, nutritive, immune enhancing, detoxifying, protective against cell aberrations, calming and cheering (helping with mood and digestion), chelating (helping to avoid damage to blood vessels), vaso-dilating (helping with high blood-pressure) to state a few! Ginger alone contains hundreds of chemically active ingredients and, amongst its many properties, greatly benefits digestion, cardio-vascular health, immune function and is traditionally eaten with raw fish (very unwise) to destroy parasites.

When used regularly as part of a normal diet, these qualities in herbs and spices help counter toxins in water and food, food sensitivities, effects of stress on digestion, unseen bacteria, fungi and parasites, overly acid foods, anaerobic metabolism leading to fungal problems and structural damage to DNA, etc. The chemical pie ‘look-alike/taste-alike’ substitutes of the food processing industry do not have the qualities of real herbs and spices, and add a burden of un-utilizable chemicals to a diminished nutritional status. The qualities of even one herb or spice deserve book-sized space, but thinking ‘outside-the-box’ about this aspect of nutrition will open up avenues for exciting culinary experience and untold health benefits. Nutrition is complex food chemistry, and foods eaten together equal far more than the sum of the parts individually.
Looking to herbs and spices as a medicinal arsenal is good but putting them back where they belong is better, combining everyday nutrition with preventive medicine.


1.    Hippocrates (c460-c377 BC) the famous Greek physician brought a mind-change to medicine in that he looked for the causes of sickness and sought restoration to health by natural and environmental means.
2.    Pica is an appetite/eating disorder where inappropriate items (such as dirt or kitchen roll) are eaten, or foods themselves eaten inappropriately (such as raw sausage).
3.    Fluoride is a binary compound of fluorine (i.e. fluorine and something else, such as calcium fluoride, sodium fluoride, aluminum fluoride). Fluorine is a poisonous pale yellow gaseous element and the most reactive element known. Anything fluorinated has fluorine introduced to it to form a compound. Anything fluoridated has a fluoride added to it (e.g. drinking water). Fluoridation is an unethical, unsubstantiated politico-economic programme for the adding of fluorides to such things as water, baby milk, salt, foods, toothpaste, dental materials, etc. The fluoride(s) used for fluoridation are industrial waste produced by several major international industries and have long-standing use as rat poison and pesticide. (extract from ICHC article: Fluoride)
4.    Unrefined sea salt is not the same as toxic white table salt. (ICHC article: Unrefined Salt v Industrial Grade Sodium Chloride – Does It Matter Which?).


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About Vivienne Bradshaw-Black

Vivienne Bradshaw-Black Cert Ed produced a health information course. She believes that the understanding of what causes health and what causes sickness can cut through the maze of confusion which dominates the sickness industry. Her desire is to teach this to those who choose health and offer contacts and support to individuals and groups taking responsibility for their own health choices. She can be contacted initially by email at

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