The Pain Free Diet Blog

Plant-based, Paleo, probiotics, prebiotics, antibiotics, GMO, gluten-free, organic, all-natural, cleanses, detoxification, supplement, don’t supplement. Pretty confusing right? What is truly healthy and what is not? What is missing in the healthcare system that can treat your pain safely and effectively? Weekly articles explore trending topics, dig into the science, and debunk myths while giving you a sustainable approach to eliminate pain and improve your long-term health, function and vitality.

By: Jonathan Tait, D.O.

In the last post, I challenged Colonel Sanders and his secret herbs and spices

Teas, spices, and herbs have been used to treat various ailments and diseases, preserve food, and support a healthy digestive system for thousands of years in “eastern medicine” – Asia, the Middle East, as well as several other cultures.

For a period of time in western countries, it was also fairly common for physicians and other health professionals to use medicinal herbs to treat various ailments.

Mainly plant, but also animal “materials”, were extracted and made into tinctures, then dispensed with exact prescriptions to help treat certain conditions.

Using herbs and spices will make every recipe taste better, guaranteed. They work as a catalyst in your cooking experiments, multiplying not only the taste, but also the capacity of the body to maximally extract the vital nutrients in healthy foods consumed.

According to weight, spices by far have the highest antioxidant value of any food. Remember though that the ORAC value (or antioxidant capacity of a food) is calculated based on 100 grams of the food.

Most people are probably not going to chow down on nearly a quarter pound of any one spice in any recipe, but small amounts incorporated into the diet daily can still be quite potent and have a positive effect.

Previously, I challenged Colonel Sanders to a duel, commenting on his secret herbs and spices.

I’m going to give you the “Doctor’s Top 9 Secret Herbs and Spices” to use in your battle against pain and improving your health.

If you are suffering from pain or punish your back, neck, shoulders, hips, or knees on a regular basis working out, then you will want to start eating a few of the following (probably not all at once):

Cloves (ORAC 290,283)

  • Origin – Native to Indonesia, from the flower buds of the evergreen tree family Myrtaceae.
  • Taste: sweet, spicy, similar to cinnamon, but not as hot
  • Culinary uses: combines well with allspice, cinnamon, vanilla, basil; can be added to tea, coffee or dessert dishes
  • Medicinal uses: In Indian ayurvedic medicine as well as Chinese medicine, the essential oil derived from cloves is used as a potent pain killer, particularly for dental procedures.
  • Caution: Cloves can overpower the flavor of your dish, so only use a small amount.

Oregano (ORAC 175,295)

  • Origin: Native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean, part of the mint family Lamiaceae, a perennial herb.
  • Taste: aromatic, warm, bitter, spicy
  • Culinary uses: Italian dishes, soups
  • Medicinal Uses: It is a potent antioxidant due to a high concentration of flavonoidsand phenolic acid.1 The essential oil derived from oregano shows antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal qualities.2,3 In some cultures it is still used for treatment of stomach and respiratory ailments, and even parasites.

Rosemary (ORAC 165,280)

  • Origin: Native to the Mediterranean region, part of the mint family Lamiaceae, a perennial herb.
  • Taste: highly aromatic, bitter, astringent
  • Culinary Uses: stuffing, roast meats
  • Medicinal uses: Has been shown to help concentration, improve mood, and have a positive impact on memory.4 Can also be effective for muscle soreness and headaches.
  • Other effects: Marinating meats in liquid mixtures containing rosemary and other herbs/spices can dramatically help to reduce HCA’s (heterocyclic amines), which are carcinogenic compounds that can form when meats are grilled.
  • Caution: Large amounts can stimulate bile production and should be avoided if there is a history of gallstones.

Thyme (ORAC 157,380)

  • Origin: Thought to be native to the French and Italian Riviera now multiple regions, from the family Thymus, most commonly Thymus Vulgaris.
  • Taste: lemon, pepper, mint
  • Culinary Uses: savory dishes like stews and soup
  • Medicinal Uses: The essential oil derived from thyme is thymol, an ingredient commonly used in commercially made mouthwashes and alcohol-free hand sanitizers.5 Can also be used for mild indigestion.
  • Other Effects: Greek mythology shows that thyme was burned as incense, and was thought to be a source of courage before battle.

Cinnamon (ORAC 131,420)

  • Origin: Native to Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, from the inner bark of the evergreen family Lauraceae.
  • Taste: bitter, spicy, hot
  • Culinary Uses: desserts, tea, coffee
  • Medicinal Uses: Due to the potent anti-inflammatory effect, used daily it can help with joint pain, stiffness and inflammation. Has been shown to help regulate blood sugar in Type II diabetics, as well as improve LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.6 It is also thought to be antimicrobial and research is ongoing using cinnamon as a natural food preservative, rather than the harmful chemicals commonly used.7 Researchers have also show that cinnamon extract may have a powerful effect on memory and cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s dementia.8

Turmeric (ORAC 127,068)

  • Origin: Native to tropical south Asia, from the family Zingiberaceaea, member of the ginger family.
  • Taste: mild aromatic, earthy, bitter, ginger, pepper
  • Culinary uses: used to impart a yellow color to foods, commonly used in combination with other spices such as curry or cumin
  • Medicinal uses: The active ingredient, curcumin is tied to the anti-inflammatory effect, and why turmeric is felt to significantly ease pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis.9 Has also shown promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia.10
  • Caution: Although it can be a remedy for irritable and inflammatory bowel disease, it can have the opposite effect causing nausea and diarrhea. Large amounts can stimulate bile production and gallbladder contractions so may want to be avoided if there is a history of gallstones.

Tarragon (ORAC 15,542)

  • Origin: Native to Central Asia, a perennial herb in the family Asteraceaene.
  • Taste: aromatic, mint, licorice, pine and pepper.
  • Culinary Uses: Used in chicken, fish, and egg dishes. A key ingredient in Bernaise sauce, usually in the form of tarragon vinegar.
  • Medicinal Uses: Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Institute at Louisiana State University are investigating the positive effect on symptoms of peripheral neuropathy of pre-Diabetes and obesity.11Positive effect on blood sugar and lipid profiles, and may also have a role in cardiovascular disease by decreasing platelet adhesion and blood coagulation.

Ginger Root (ORAC 14,840)

  • Origin: Native to South Asia, from the plant family Zingiberaceae. Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric and cardamom.
  • Taste: pungent, aromatic
  • Culinary Uses: The pickled variety is commonly served with sushi. In many cultures it is brewed into ginger beer or tea.
  • Medicinal Uses: Used for centuries in Chinese medicine as a remedy to decrease muscular soreness and joint pain.12 Fresh and dried ginger demonstrates anti-viral activity against the common cold virus, human respiratory syncytial virus (HSV).13 Can be used as a mild digestive to combat nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness.
  • Caution: Known to be a weak blood thinner. Can lower blood pressure and also add to the effect of some diabetic medications. Large amounts can stimulate bile production and gallbladder contractions so may want to be avoided if there is a history of gallstones.

Garlic, fresh (ORAC 5,708)

  • Origin:  Native to central Asia, front the species of the onion genus, Allium, which also includes onions, leeks, chives, and shallots.
  • Taste: Pungent, spicy
  • Culinary Uses: Very commonly used as a base ingredient, cooked together with onions, for savory dishes
  • Medicinal Uses:  Although there is in conflicting evidence in research studies, it is thought to have a positive impact on heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. It has also been found to help regulate blood sugar levels. Good for overall health. Vegetables and herbs of this species produce sulfur-based compounds that give garlic the characteristic pungent flavor. These compounds can can have an anti-inflammatory effect, help repair cartilage, and reduce muscle and joint pain.

If you want to improve your health, you have to decrease the inflammation that is the root cause for chronic pain and disease.

In The Pain Free Dietyou will learn the science connecting certain foods to inflammation and pain, and  learn a little more about some terrific herbs and spices, as well as teas, that can also be used to stamp out inflammation, pain, and help treat other ailments.

Rest in peace Colonel Sanders



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2. Preuss HG, Echard B, Enig M, Brook I, Elliott TB. Minimum inhibitory concentrations of herbal essential oils and monolaurin for gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Mol Cell

Biochem. Apr 2005;272(1-2):29-34.

3. Manohar V, Ingram C, Gray J, et al. Antifungal activities of origanum oil against Candida albicans. Mol Cell Biochem. Dec 2001;228(1-2):111-117.

4. Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci. Jan 2003;113(1):15-38.

5. Pierce A. American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. NewYork: Stonesong Press; 1999.

6. Lu T, Sheng H, Wu J, Cheng Y, Zhu J, Chen Y. Cinnamon extract improves fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin level in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr Res. Jun 2012;32(6):408-412.

7. Hong YJ, Bae YM, Moon B, Lee SY. Inhibitory effect of cinnamon powder on pathogen growth in laboratory media and oriental-style rice cakes (sulgidduk). J Food Prot. Jan2013;76(1):133-138.

8. Frydman-Marom A, Levin A, Farfara D, et al. Orally administrated cinnamon extract reduces beta-amyloid oligomerization and corrects cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease animal models. PLoS One. 2011;6(1):e16564.

9. Henrotin Y, Clutterbuck AL, Allaway D, et al. Biological actions of curcumin on articularchondrocytes. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. Feb 2010;18(2):141-149.

10. Lazar AN, Mourtas S, Youssef I, et al. Curcumin-conjugated nanoliposomes with high affinity for Abeta deposits: Possible applications to Alzheimer disease. Nanomedicine. Dec 7

11. Watcho P, Stavniichuk R, Ribnicky DM, Raskin I, Obrosova IG. High-fat diet-induced neuropathy of prediabetes and obesity: effect of PMI-5011, an ethanolic extract of Artemisia dracunculus L. Mediators Inflamm. 2010;2010:268547

12. Black CD, Herring MP, Hurley DJ, O’Connor PJ. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise. J Pain. Sep 2010;11(9):894-903.

13. Chang V. Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. J Ethno pharmacol. 2013;145(1):146-151.