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Herbalism at home: Top 5 kitchen herbs and spices

  • Sebastian Pole
    Sebastian Pole

    I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) and the Herbal tradition to help transform health. I have been in clinical practice since 1998.

    Having co-founded Pukka Herbs in 2001 I have become experienced in organic herb growing, practitioner grade quality and sustainable value chains. I am a Trustee of the FairWild Foundation, a Director of The Betonica School of Herbal Medicine and an Advisor to The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and The Sustainable Herbs Project. Fluent in Hindi, a qualified Yoga therapist and passionate about projects with a higher purpose, I am on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life. And that is why I started Herbal Reality and what it is all about.

    I live in a forest garden farm in Somerset growing over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. And a lot of weeds!

    Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006), A Pukka Life (Quadrille 2011), Celebrating 10 Pukka years (2012) and Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea (Frances Lincoln 2016).

    Listen to our Herbcast podcast with Sebastian as the host.

  • 15:46 reading time (ish)
  • Making herbal remedies

One of the wonderful things about herbalism is that it is so accessible. We can make nutritious foods that are both delicious and healing. In this article we share some of the finest culinary herbs and their medicinal properties.

Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum spp)

Spicy and sweet with a heating and drying quality, cinnamon is a renowned spice for invigorating circulation and warming digestion. Recent research has validated its age-old use for reducing blood sugar levels and resisting weight gain. It’s a true tonic that protects and brings strength.

Cinnamon sticks (Cinnamomum spp)
Cinnamon sticks (Cinnamomum spp)

Traditional descriptions of cinnamon emphasised its warming qualities as well as its role in helping digestion. Consider using cinnamon for any conditions where you feel the cold, for example in respiratory infections, joint pains, and particularly if you want to help with a digestive problem where you instinctively look for warmth (such as where symptoms are helped by a hot water bottle).

It has long been used as a women’s remedy, for menstrual and other pains, especially when these are relieved by warmth. Cinnamon combines especially well with ginger. A fresh ginger and cinnamon tea will provide instant relief and even healing at the first sign of a cold, chest or upper respiratory infection. Cinnamon is particularly useful if you are recovering from an illness or chronic fatigue condition, and again especially when you are feeling the cold. It will help restore a healthy appetite and reduce the many digestive and abdominal problems that are associated with being run down.

Most of the traditional reputation for cinnamon has yet to be tested by modern research.  Published papers focus on prospects that different species of cinnamon may affect blood sugar control, particularly in diabetic conditions. 

Here there is evidence that cinnamon reduces tissue resistance to insulin, decreases inflammatory markers, and lowers glucose, lipids, and blood pressure in people with ‘metabolic syndrome’ (‘insulin resistance’ or pre-diabetic state) (2). There are similar benefits in people with fatty liver problems and even with healthy subjects. An interesting extension of this benefit is to polycystic ovary syndrome, which is marked by disturbances in blood sugar control. Women may also find cinnamon helpful to relieve menstrual pains (4). Recently, other trials have explored the beneficial prospects of cinnamon in Alzheimer’s disease (3), arthritis, and arteriosclerosis.


A triple blind randomised controlled trial was carried out to investigate the efficacy of cinnamon supplements in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. 140 patients with the conditions were randomly assigned either cinnamon bark powder or placebo in 500 mg capsules. Dosage was taken twice a day for a period of 3 months. 

The results shat that cinnamon improves; anthropometric parameters, glycemic indices and lipid profile in patients with type II diabetes. There was a significant improvement, specifically seen in patients with higher baseline BMI (1).


A comprehensive review was carried out on the available data from a number of scientific databases to investigate the effects of a number of cinnamon polyphenols with oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory signalling pathways in the brain, with a view to understanding how cinnamon may benefit in Alzheimer’s disease. A number of interesting correlations and findings were discussed, including one in which there is a possible connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. The review discusses a number of mechanisms by which cinnamon and its compounds are repeatedly found to have neuroprotective properties via a number of different mechanisms (3). Further research is required to identify the therapeutic efficacy and safety for using cinnamon in Alzheimer’s disease, particularly using clinical trials.

Sebastian Pole

I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with... Read more

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