Note: The following is a compilation from articles and reportage found on some of the following web sites: drweil.com, wikipedia.com, motherearthliving.com, whfoods.com and several other which are but a few of the thousands of sites online that present information on the benefits of herbs and spices.

Common herbs and spices have been the basis of medicine for thousands of years but, it's only relatively recently that doctors and researchers have honed in on what these wondrous plants can do. Studies are continually proving that herbs and spices, most already in our kitchens, may help protect against certain chronic conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Herbs, including basil and parsley, are from plants and plant parts while spices often come from the seeds, berries, bark, or the roots of plants.

David Heber, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition agrees that “Studies show that many different herbs and spices offer health benefits. Most of the evidence exists for chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary.”

One of the main health benefits associated with herbs and spices is provided by polyphenols, a type of plant compound. Polyphenols are also abundant in certain fruits and vegetables, tea, and red wine.

Ancient Greek physicians knew that certain herbs and spices curb inflammation in the body, which modern doctors now believe may give rise to heart disease and cancer. For example, antioxidants in cinnamon have been linked to lower inflammation, as well as reductions in blood glucose concentrations in people with diabetes.

Eschewing sugar, salt and sodium dependent food enhancers for herbs and spices to season your food can aid in reducing a multitude of sodium and sugar related problems in the human body.

Dr. Heber goes on to say that, “Tastier foods are more satisfying than bland ones, which you tend to eat faster, and with less fulfillment. If you’re not satisfied, you’re more likely to overeat."

According to Heber, dihydrocapsiate, a compound in chili peppers, boosted fat-burning capacity when people ate it three times a day during a study. And a recent study in CellMetabolism showed that consuming capsaicin, the ingredient in chili peppers that provides heat, lowered blood pressure in lab animals.

Some of the most common and best Herbs and Spices for your health are:

1. Turmeric

Turmeric is a powder made from the root of the curcuma plant which is a relative of ginger. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. It is also used widely to make medicine. Turmeric is used to treat arthritis, heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems and gallbladder disorders.   It is also used for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual problems, and cancer. Other uses include treatment for depression, Alzheimer’s disease, water retention, worms, and kidney problems.   Some people apply turmeric to the skin for pain, ringworm, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, inflammatory skin conditions, soreness inside of the mouth, and infected wounds.  

In food and manufacturing, the essential oil of turmeric is used in perfumes, and its resin is used as a flavor and color component in foods.

Modern medicine confirms some excellent health benefits as well; most of these benefits are associated with curcumin, a compound in turmeric that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures; it’s also being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.  A recent review of research results found over 50 studies that indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaque that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer's disease.

Ways to incorporate into your diet: Sprinkle on egg salad; mix with Greek yogurt and use as a dip or sandwich spread; add to chicken or seafood casseroles, and to water when cooking rice.

2. Sage

Sage has a myriad of  health benefits including being an excellent memory enhancer. Research is also showing sage to benefit mild Alzheimer’s suffers with word recall. It is rich in rosmarinic acid which helps reduce inflammation in the body (including sore throats) and has a potent antioxidant action. This health-promoting herb can also help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and has been traditionally used by menopausal women to ease hot flushes.
Modern herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats; one study found that spraying sore throats with a sage solution gave effective pain relief. Sage has also been proven effective when used in steam inhalation for respiratory problems, including bronchitis, congestion and sinusitis.  and is effective when used in steam inhalation for respiratory problems, including bronchitis, congestion and sinusitis. Recent preliminary research suggests the herb may improve some symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a key enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and learning. In another study, college students who took sage extract in capsule form performed significantly better on memory tests, and their moods improved.

Ways to incorporate into your diet:
1. Mix cooked navy beans with olive oil, sage and garlic and serve on bruschetta.
2. Use sage as a seasoning for tomato sauce.
3. Add fresh sage to omelets and frittatas.
4. Sprinkle some sage on top of your next slice of pizza.
5. Combine sage leaves, bell peppers, cucumbers and sweet onions with plain yogurt for
   
an easy to prepare, refreshing salad.
7. When baking chicken or fish in parchment paper, place some fresh sage leaves inside
   
so that the food will absorb the flavors of this wonderful herb.

3. Rosemary

Rosemary has been traditionally used to boost memory and concentration, and to relieve stress, making it a great herb for students (as if they’re not taking enough “herbs”). This wonderful herb can also improve circulation, ease indigestion, heartburn and excess wind. Rosemary contains high levels of antioxidants and has anti-microbial properties too.

Studies are finding that it may help with mental focus and fight a variety of foodborne bacteria.

In ancient Greece, scholars wore rosemary garlands to help them study—and one recent report found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were piped into their study cubicles. Rosemary is often used in marinades for meats and poultry, and there’s scientific reason why. Rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds in the herb fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling, and may even make cooked meats healthier. Kansas State University researchers have reported that adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs)—cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.
Today, rosemary is an essential part of aromatherapy to boost mental alertness and promote well-being. It contains compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Fresh or dried rosemary provides iron, calcium and fiber.

Ways to use rosemary in your diet:

1. Add fresh rosemary to omelets and frittatas.
2. Rosemary is a wonderful herb for seasoning chicken and lamb dishes.
3. Add rosemary to tomato sauces and soups.
4. Even better than butter—purée fresh rosemary leaves with olive oil and use as a dipping
    sauce for bread.

4. Oregano

Oregano is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin K, which is important for improving the body’s ability to fight off infections and for improving bone density and blood clotting. This herb has strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been traditionally used to treat gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders, urinary tract problems and menstrual cramping. It can also be used topically to help clear dandruff and acne and is a good natural insect repellant. 

Oregano is one of the easiest herbs to add into your diet. 
1. It can be used with scrambled eggs, salad dressings, and pasta sauces.
2. Sprinkle oregano on pizza and use it to enhance the flavor of a variety of sandwiches.
3. Oregano goes great with healthy sautéed mushrooms and onions.
4. Sprinkle some chopped oregano onto homemade garlic bread.
5. Add oregano to salad dressings.

 5. Chili peppers

Chilies can create sensations of heat from one to five alarms. They are most popular in hot climates since they trigger perspiration, the body’s natural cooling system. Studies show that capsaicin (the compound in hot chilies that makes them hot) revs up the body’s metabolism and may boost fat burning, but the jury is still out on whether that translates to long-term weight loss. Recent research found that capsinoids, similar but gentler chemicals found in milder chili hybrids, have the same effects—so even tamer sweet paprika packs a healthy punch. Capsaicin may also lower risk of ulcers by boosting the ability of stomach cells to resist infection by ulcer-causing bacteria and help the heart by keeping “bad” LDL cholesterol from turning into a more lethal, artery-clogging form. 
The properties of capsaicin make it an option for relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. Capsaicin is used to relieve muscle pain, joint pain, or nerve pain and is an ingredient in a large number of over-the-counter pain relief creams.

Add chopped peppers to chili, burgers, soups, stews, salsa, and egg dishes.

 6. Thyme

Thyme is an herb whose flowers, leaves, and oil are used as medicine, sometimes in combination with other herbs. According to WebMD, Thyme is taken by mouth for bronchitis, whooping cough, sore throat, colic arthritis, upset stomach, stomach ache, bedwetting, gas, parasitic worm infections and skin disorders. It is also as an appetite stimulant.

Some people apply thyme directly to the skin for hoarseness, swollen tonsils, sore moth and bad breath.  Thyme oil is used as a germ-killer in mouthwashes and liniments. It is also applied to the scalp to treat baldness and to the ears to fight bacterial and fungal infections.
In manufacturing, red thyme oil is used in perfumes. It is also used in soaps, cosmetics, and toothpastes.

Thyme has strong anti-bacterial and anti-microbial action. The herb has proven beneficial in the treatment of bacterial respiratory infections, acne and candida. Thyme may also help reduce high blood pressure and offer protection from breast and colon cancer. 

Oh, I almost forgot…In foods, thyme is used as a flavoring agent.

Ways to easily add thyme to your diet:
1. Sprinkle dried thyme onto cooked vegetables in place of butter or margarine.
2. Add dried thyme to scrambled eggs and salad dressings.
3. Use it in a rub when cooking salmon.
4.
Add fresh thyme to chicken salad and chicken soup.

8. Parsley

Parsley is an herb. The leaf, seed, and root are used to make medicine used for urinary tract infections, kidney stones, gastrointestinal disorders, constipation, jaundice, intestinal gas, indigestion, colic, diabetes, cough, asthma, fluid retention, osteoarthritis, anemia, high blood pressure, prostate conditions, and spleen conditions. It is also used as an aphrodisiac, and as a breath freshener.

There are two types, curly and flat leaf, both with bright green leaves. The leaves, seeds, oil and root of the parsley plant are used for medicinal and culinary purposes.

Some people apply parsley directly to the skin for cracked or chapped skin, bruises, tumors, insect bites, lice, parasites, and to stimulate hair growth.

 Chewing the fresh leaves is a traditional, effective breath freshener, and chewing the seeds can reduce gas and bloating. It is a good source of flavonoids and antioxidants, as well as folic acid and vitamins A, C and K.

In foods and beverages, parsley is widely used as a garnish, condiment, food, and flavoring.

In manufacturing, parsley seed oil is used as a fragrance in soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes.

University of Missouri scientists found that parsley can actually inhibit breast cancer-cell growth, as reported by Holly Pevzner in the September/October 2011 issue of EatingWell magazine. In the study, animals that were given apigenin, a compound abundant in parsley (and in celery), boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors. Experts recommend adding a couple pinches of minced fresh parsley to your dishes daily

9. Garlic

Garlic is an herb and is best known as a flavoring for food. But over the years, garlic has been used as a medicine to prevent or treat a wide range of diseases and conditions.

Garlic is used for many conditions related to the heart and blood system. These conditions include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis). Some of these uses are supported by science. Garlic actually may be effective in slowing the development of atherosclerosis and seems to be able to modestly reduce blood pressure and reduce clotting of the blood

Some people use garlic to prevent colon cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. It is also used to treat prostate cancer and bladder cancer.

In addition raw garlic is a potent antibiotic, especially active against fungal infections, with antibacterial and antiviral effects as well. An effective home remedy for colds is to eat several cloves of raw garlic at the first onset of symptoms. Eating raw garlic does not appeal to everyone, but garlic loses its antibiotic properties when you cook or dry it, and commercial garlic capsules do not preserve the full activity of the fresh bulb. You can make raw garlic more palatable by chopping it fine, mixing it with food, and eating it with a meal. Or cut a clove into chunks and swallow them whole like pills.

Garlic has been used for treating diabetes, osteoarthritis, hay fever, traveler's diarrhea, high blood pressure late in pregnancy, cold and flu. It has also showed promise for building the immune system, preventing tick bites, and preventing and treating bacterial and fungal infections.

Other uses include treatment of fever, coughs, headache, stomach ache, sinus congestion, gout, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, high blood sugar, and snakebites. It is also used for fighting stress and fatigue, and maintaining healthy liver function.

Some people apply garlic oil to their skin to treat fungal infections, warts, and corns. There is some evidence supporting the topical use of garlic for fungal infections like ringworm, jock itch, and athlete’s foot; but the effectiveness of garlic against warts and corns is still uncertain.

There is a lot of variation among garlic products sold for medicinal purposes. The amount of allicin, the active ingredient and the source of garlic’s distinctive odor, depends on the method of preparation. Allicin is unstable, and changes into a different chemical rather quickly. Some manufacturers take advantage of this by aging garlic to make it odorless. Unfortunately, this also reduces the amount of allicin and compromises the effectiveness of the product. Some odorless garlic preparations and products may contain very little, if any, allicin. Methods that involve crushing the fresh clove release more allicin.

While garlic is a common flavoring in food, some scientists have suggested that it might have a role as a food additive to prevent food poisoning. There is some evidence that fresh garlic, but not aged garlic, can kill certain bacteria such as E. coli, antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella enteritidis in the laboratory.

Fresh garlic can go with just about everything in your normal diet.  Add fresh chopped or minced garlic to pasta dishes, stir-fry dishes, pizza, fresh tomato sauce, and meat and poultry recipes.

NOTE: Chopping or crushing garlic and letting it rest before cooking appears to enhance its cancer-fighting properties.

10. Basil

Basil is an herb and the parts of the plant that grow above the ground are used to make both internal and topical medicine. It is used for stomach spasms, loss of appetite, intestinal gas, kidney conditions, fluid retention, head colds, warts, and worm infections. It is also used to treat snake and insect bites and shown to be effective as a digestive aid and sedative. The herb is also used in the treatment of headaches and migraines. The essential oil of basil can be used in aromatherapy as both a stimulant and an antidepressant.

Women sometimes use basil before and after childbirth to promote blood circulation, and also to start the flow of breast milk. Some people use it as a gargle. In foods, basil is used for flavor. It contains many chemicals. A study in the Journal of Microbiology Methods reported that the essential oil of basil inhibited strains of widespread and difficult-to-treat bacteria including Staphylococcus, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas. Another study published in Food Microbiology reported that produce washed in a one percent solution of basil (or thyme) resulted in lower numbers of Shigella, an infectious bacterium that causes diarrhea. These chemicals might help get rid of intestinal worms.
Basil is rich in vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamin C.

Ways to incorporate basil into your diet:
1. Combine fresh chopped basil with garlic and olive oil to make a dairy-free variety of pesto
    that can top a variety of dishes including pasta, salmon and whole wheat brushetta.
2. Layer fresh basil leaves over tomato slices and mozzarella cheese for a delicious salad.
3. Purée basil, olive oil and onions and add to tomato soups.

11. Holy Basil

Holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is a sacred plant in India. As to its health benefits, Jim Nicolai, M.D., medical director of the Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, claims he has great success with holy basil. Most of his patients have stress-related conditions, and holy basil is at the top of his list of plant-based strategies to target such issues. His personal experience is that it lengthens his “emotional fuse” and leaves him feeling calm and balanced in otherwise stressful situations.

Holy basil is a plant and is related to our culinary basil but with a stronger, clove-like aroma and taste. It’s originally from India and is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an “adaptogen” to counter life’s stresses. (Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world's oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems. It was developed thousands of years ago in India and is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease.) Holy Basil is considered a sacred plant by the Hindus and is often planted around Hindu shrines. Medicine is made from the leaves, stems, and seeds.

Chemicals in holy basil are thought to decrease pain and inflammation. Other chemicals might lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. There is interest in using holy basil seed oil for cancer. Beginning research suggests that the oil can slow progression and improve survival rate in animals with certain types of cancer. Researchers think this benefit may be explained by the oil’s ability to act as an antioxidant.

Research on both animals and humans demonstrates lack of toxicity and a variety of benefits, including reducing inflammation and protecting the body and brain from harmful effects of stress. It also has a positive influence on mood, and is safe to use with pharmaceutical antidepressants.

Holy basil is also used for the common cold, influenza ("the flu"), H1N1 (swine) flu, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, earache, headache, stomach upset, heart disease, fever, viral hepatitis, malaria, stress, and tuberculosis. It is also used for mercury poisoning, to promote longevity, as a mosquito repellent, and to counteract snake and scorpion bites.

In cooking, holy basil is often added to stir-fry dishes and spicy soups because of its peppery taste. Cookbooks sometimes call it "hot basil."

12. Black Cumin (Black Seed)

Black Seed is a plant. People have used the seed to make medicine for over 2000 years. It was even discovered in the tomb of King Tut. Historically, black seed has been used for headache, toothache, nasal congestion, and intestinal worms. It has also been used for “pink eye” (conjunctivitis), pockets of infection (abscesses), and parasites.

Today, black seed is used for treating digestive tract conditions including gas, colic, diarrhea, dysentery, constipation, and hemorrhoids. It is also used for respiratory conditions including asthma, allergies, cough, bronchitis, emphysema, flu, swine flu, and congestion.

Other uses include lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, treating cancer, and boosting the immune system. You may read that a patent has been issued to cover the use of black seed to improve immunity, but don’t be misled. The presence of a patent doesn’t mean black seed has been shown to be effective for this use.

Black seed is sometimes used in combination with cysteine, vitamin E, and saffron to ease the side effects of a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin.

Some people apply black seed directly to the skin for joint pain (rheumatism), headache, and certain skin conditions.

There's some scientific evidence to suggest that black seed might help boost the immune system, fight cancer, prevent pregnancy, and lessen allergic reactions by acting as an antihistamine, but there isn't enough information about it's effect in humans yet.