Herbs and spices add flavour, colour and fragrance to meals – but many have great health traits as well.

Three spices that are rich in medicinal properties and commonly found in Australian pantries are turmeric, ginger and cinnamon.

Turmeric

Said to have turned up in the notes of Marco Polo himself, Turmeric seems to be just about everywhere these days, with its medicinal potential drawing interest.

Scientists studying turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, have found that it has some anti-inflammatory attributes that are effective in helping to calm indigestion, ease stomach ulcers and treat irritable bowel syndrome.

The gold-hued spice has also set the medical science world aflutter with promising indications that it may help lower the risk of dementia and control type two diabetes.

So, will a turmeric latte a day suffice? Hardly. Getting the safe optimal medicinal dose of turmeric can be a gamble, so scientists recommend getting the advice of doctors and pharmacists first.

Cinnamon

Extracted from the bark of trees in the cinnamomum tree group, cinnamon has been a popular additive in cooking, as well as in therapeutic and cleaning regimes, for centuries.

It has antioxidant, antidiabetic, and antibacterial properties, giving it a very broad spectrum of uses. These range from potentially delaying cognitive decline and brain damage to helping improve memory and curb inflammation.

The active ingredients in cinnamon include a host of vitamins and polyphenols, which may also give the spice tumour-fighting properties, help regulate blood sugar and control blood pressure. Like turmeric and ginger, cinnamon is a great alternative to sugar and salt on food and in drinks.

Ginger

Derived from the root of the ginger plant, ginger is an effective pain reliever, with its active ingredients being similar to those found in chilli. It has been found to help ease muscular discomfort after heavy exercise, while its beneficial role in the treatment of osteoarthritis has also been noted.

Ginger helps reduce nausea and has been found to help modify the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, with Indian researchers finding that a daily dose of 800 milligrams of ginger extract helps improve working memory and attention.

As with all things, these additives only work in combination with nutritional and lifestyle choices that also enhance health and wellbeing.