Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
13 Aug

Top 10 Favorite Herbs and Spices

This article was originally published last year following the release of the Primal Blueprint Publishing book Rich Food, Poor Food. I’m reprinting it here today to coincide with a very special offer. As many of you may know, it’s my life mission to help 10 million (or more!) people take control of their health for good. As a small effort to that end, I’ve teamed up with Buck Books over the last few weeks to give select Primal Blueprint Publishing books away for under a buck. The response has been absolutely incredible. These one day sales have helped get life-changing information to tens of thousands of people that desperately need it. So today, I’m doing it again. Through midnight tonight you can get Rich Food, Poor Food on Kindle for just 99 cents. It’s the ultimate grocery purchasing guide, with detailed analysis and recommendations for all food groups. So have a look at Buck Books, and grab your Kindle copy before time runs out. Enjoy!

SpicesFollowing is an excerpt from the Caltons’ popular new book, Rich Food, Poor Food. I’ve chosen their section on herbs and spices because I learned more details about how to choose the best herbs and spices, and what benefits they offer, from reading their material. If you notice on my Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid, herbs, spices and extracts occupy a nice little triangle at the top. You’re not consuming mass quantities of them as a big calorie source, but they make an important contribution to a healthy diet nevertheless. Besides adding flavor and protecting against microbes, herbs, spices, and extracts provide outstanding levels of antioxidants – some of the highest values found in any food.

Yep, I’m a big fan of herbs, spices, and extracts…and after reading Rich Food, Poor Food and having follow up discussions with the Caltons, I’ve tossed most of the stuff in my cupboard! Why? Because most of the jars found in my own home were not organic, and/or have been in there longer than a year. According to the Caltons, most conventional spices you find in the grocery store have been irradiated during their processing. This compromises their nutritional value and introduces health risks, which are detailed in the following excerpt.

Sorry, herbs and spices do not get better with age (maybe you’re confusing them with the Primal Blueprint indulgence of red wine?); in fact, they lose their potency and become bottled up free radicals when they linger too long on your shelves. For kicks, I asked several folks in the office to go home, take a look at their spice rack or cupboard, and guesstimate how long the stuff has been in there. One realized that her spinning tabletop rack was a holiday gift from seven or eight years ago! Here’s more on the subject from Rich Food, Poor Food, including a nice promo for their gold medalist (and one of my favorites) in the spice category: turmeric.

Rich Food, Poor Food – Excerpt from Herbs and Spices Section

Most grocery store spices are irradiated. Irradiation is the process of exposing food to radiation in order to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, or insects that might be present in the food. While irradiation works to kill bacteria, it also disrupts the structure of everything it passes through. Specifically, irradiation breaks up a food’s DNA, vitamins, minerals, and proteins and creates “free radicals” (atoms, molecules, or ions that contain unpaired electrons and crash into each other, multiplying exponentially), which contribute to many degenerative diseases, including heart disease, dementia, cancer, and cataracts.

Additionally, irradiation destroys the essential micronutrients that can help you reach micronutrient sufficiency. Your spice rack has so much to offer, that is, when you buy the Rich Food option, which is always the non-irradiated organic spice – our top pick. Here’s a rundown on the benefits of some of our favorite spices:


Dill: Helps your Digestion. A teaspoon a day can reduce 80 percent of bloating in only three days. Its antibacterial oils not only kill any possible stomach bugs but also help in the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins.

Uses:  Feathery texture is sharp-tasting. Great on fish, in chicken and potato salads. Used in pickling.


Tarragon: For Heart Health. One teaspoon daily lowered LDL cholesterol more than 40 percent while increasing good cholesterol nearly 30 percent. Tarragon contains a chemical called rutin, which boosts circulation and reduces plaque in the arteries.

Uses:  Flavor of anise, licorice, mint, hay, and pine. Try it in Bernaise sauce.


Oregano: Bacteria Be Gone. Due to the high levels of antibacterial compounds and antioxidants, oregano is just as effective at killing E.Coli and staph bacteria as penicillin.

Uses:  Tastes Robust. Best in tomato dishes, usually of Mediterranean or Mexican origin.


Bay Leaf

Bay Leaf: Natural Pain Reliever. Eliminates headaches and migraines. Bay leaf is rich in eugenol, a natural anesthetic that alleviates pain.

Uses:  Tastes woody. Perfect in soups, sauces, stews, and pot roasts.



Rosemary: The Brain Booster and Fatigue Fighter. With just one sniff, the phytochemicals found in rosemary can rev up your mind by increasing production of beta waves. Carnosol, a nutrient unique to this herb, fights fatigue by flushing out energy-sapping toxins from the body.

Uses:  Smell rosemary sprigs to increase alertness in only five minutes. Intense pine flavor. Great on grilled meats; adds an interesting boost to chocolate desserts.


Cayenne: Appetite Suppressant and Metabolism Booster. Capsaicin, found in cayenne, has thermogentic properties that increase your blood flow and metabolism. Individuals who only use cayenne infrequently also find it reduces hunger.

Uses:  Sweet heat. Works well with meats and cheeses.


Cinnamon: Controls Glucose Levels. Cinnamon contains antioxidants called polyphenols that boost levels of three key proteins responsible for insulin signaling, glucose transport, and inflammatory response. Sprinkle one half teaspoon on your food to slow carbohydrate absorption by 29 percent.

Uses: Sweet and Savory. This spice is found in almost all world cuisine. From stews to pies this spice doesn’t discriminate.


Cardamom: Treats Indigestion. Chew one teaspoon of these seeds to soothe a sour belly. The aroma and therapeutic properties of cardamom are due to the volatile oil in its seed, which contains cineol, terpinene, limonene, sabinene, and terpineol.

Uses:  Pungent and sweet. This fragrant spice is used in rich curries and milk-based preparations, as well as in spice cakes and desserts.


Sage: Memory Minder. Both the phytonutrients and volatile oils in sage maintain levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports memory.

Uses:  Piney with eucalyptus notes. Lovely addition to stuffing and pork dishes.


And our favorite Rich Food spice is . . . Turmeric


This mildly woody spice is a key ingredient in many Indian, Persian, and Thai dishes. This “poor man’s” saffron is rich in benefits. The active ingredient, curcumin, is so powerful that it is commonly made into expensive nutraceutical capsules. According to Ajay Goel, Ph.D., Director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, “Curcumin is a complete well-being tonic – it benefits every organ in the body… It shows promise of fighting nearly every disease.” Dr. Goel suggests that curcumin aids in the prevention of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and depression.

Why not just cook up a cure in your kitchen tonight?

Curcumin Controls Blood Sugar: It switches on the liver genes that keep glucose levels in check. It improves the pancreas’s ability to make insulin and helps slow down the metabolism of carbohydrates after meals.

Curcumin Fights Cancer: It inhibits the genetic switches that allow for cancerous cell growth to occur.

Curcumin Speeds Up Metabolism: USDA research shows that is enhances cellular energy to speed metabolism.

Curcumin Clears Plaque: It removes amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain that can cause Alzheimer’s.

Making Cents

Let’s face it, organic spice jars are small and pricey, and it can take along time to use up some of these specialty ingredients. Your best bet is to buy your organic spices in the bulk section of your local health food or specialty spice store, where you can buy smaller amounts of the spices you need right away. This guarantees that your spices are fresh, loaded with flavor, and saves you money when a recipe only calls for a pinch. Buy your own glass jars online or wash out old spice jars and transfer contents from store baggies into convenient glass jars. Store them in a cool, dark place to prevent oxidative damage from light and oxygen.

Read an extended excerpt below, and check out the Buck Books offer to get a Kindle copy of this book for just 99 cents here.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great post! I bookmarked your site so I can have a look around when I have more time :)

    Jessica wrote on June 5th, 2013
  2. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Does this mean that the non-organic store bought turmeric I have been shovelling into me is actually bad for me?

    David wrote on September 17th, 2013
  3. ha crap

    josh wrote on May 21st, 2014
  4. Wow, there are some herbs I don’t even know, like Tarragon, Sage and Turmeric. Really nice list and great information about those herbs. I often use rosemary and oregano but I’m sure I’ll try out the other ones:)

    Alessandro wrote on August 13th, 2014
  5. I grabbed this one!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 13th, 2014
  6. “Antibacterial properties” for Dill & Oregano – isn’t that counter to the primal way of fostering the most hospitable climate for our best gut bugs? Spent the last few weeks dosing them with more happy gut flora (yogurt, supplement) and feeding them resistant starch. Seems like a shame to eat these herbs which claim to kill them all off! Am I missing something?

    Primal in Houston wrote on August 13th, 2014
    • Dill and oregano are toxic to cocci like staph. Dill actually has a symbiotic relationship with some beneficial species of lactobacillus.

      Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 13th, 2014
  7. Love to see all the benefits of my favorite herbs and spices! Turmeric is a must for me if I feel a cold coming on and also for recovery when my running miles increase.

    Michele wrote on August 13th, 2014
  8. Favorite Breakfast: Sweet potato roasted in the oven. slice open and load with butter and tumeric, place fried eggs in the middle. I sometimes add sauteed greens.

    Elliot wrote on August 13th, 2014
  9. I was going to ask… What about garlic??!! Then I realized it’s really not an herb or a spice.

    BodyweightFan wrote on August 13th, 2014
  10. Cayenne and cinnamon on a daily basis for me!

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on August 13th, 2014
    • Me too! I add them both to my morning coffee grinds. The cinnamon seems to sweeten the brew

      Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 13th, 2014
  11. Thyme deserves an honorable mention. The active compounds are antioxidants and it is antibacterial against staph, salmonella, E coli, and the common parasitic nematodes. It grows like a weed and is a perfect complement to chicken, shellfish and lamb. It is great in cream based soups as well as bone stocks. Eggs too!

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 13th, 2014
  12. Hi,
    This is REALLY off-topic, but I need an answer!
    How do you explain how Sally Fallon (president of Weston A Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions) is fat on the paleo diet? Yeah, she eats soaked grains, but ALOT of healthy fat. I don’t want to look like her…….

    Cookies n' Creme wrote on August 13th, 2014
    • She probably eats too many carbs and too many calories and doesn’t move enough. I don’t know who she is btw. Paleo/Primal is not a magic weight loss diet. It is just a easy to be fat on primal as anything else if you overeat.

      Jamie wrote on August 14th, 2014
    • WAPF is not paleo/primal as most people define it. Grains are high glycemic which is why I avoid them except for rice and quinoa occasionally. Paleo/primal is not necessarily high fat, though some peeps eat that way. I eat moderate levels of all macros, YMMV.

      Energy! wrote on August 14th, 2014
    • Sally Fallon isn’t technically paleo or primal, she has her own thing, nourishing traditions that follows some of the research of Weston A Price. Vegans like to use her as an example for paleo/primal/WAP being bad for you, they also like to use Jimmy Moore’s ups and downs to dis on anyone eating meats. Ive never met a vegan that wasnt a complete asinine douche, they are right and meat eaters are wrong always. Despite the many examples of Emaciated drug addict looking vegans, throngs of them really. To each their own, Sally fallon isnt really fat or anything and I don’t think she is trying to enter a fitness competition. Plus how do you know she doesn’t have great health markers, like good HDL, Low TriGlycerides and the such, Maybe she hasn’t had so much as a cold in the last ten years. You can’t judge everything based on appearances.

      brandi wrote on August 14th, 2014
  13. I thought some of the health claims (for tarragon, for instance) called for references.

    Martha wrote on August 13th, 2014
  14. I have organic turmeric and cayenne powder made by Indus. Am i not getting health benefits from these?

    Greg wrote on August 13th, 2014
  15. Great post. A couple of things, number one I wish organic spices came in smaller containers, most spices should be used when fresh as possible and not stay on the shelf that long as I understand. Secondly, curcumin is purported to have some great benefits as the article documented, but it needs to be isolated as supplements. Simply put curcumin is not bioavailable in its natural state, and the small amount you find in tumeric will not give you those benefits. That is not to say that tumeric is not a beneficial spice.

    George wrote on August 13th, 2014
  16. Anybody know what a recommended amount for cumin would be on a daily basis? I have seen it in supplement form as capsules but a jar is close to $30 for 60 capsules…and they recommend 1-4 capsules daily! Not a rich food, but more like a food for rich people!!!

    Patrick H wrote on August 13th, 2014
  17. In the UK several herbs are easy to grow. I have Rosemary which is an evergreen, but it doesn’t like biting winds, sage which is also an evergreen and gets a bit woody, mint which comes up every year,lemon balm which comes up every year, marjoram, oregano, thyme in a small pot and a small bay in a big pot. I put the bay and thyme in the green house over winter to protect from frosts. Parsley I grow in large pots in the greenhouse, then one has parsley all year round. I tend to buy basil in a pot for cooking from my supermarket and keep it on the kitchen windowsill to pick as needed. My supermarket sells other herbs in pots for picking as one needs them. Bay, rosemary and sage are easy to dry one self in the airing cupboard.

    Diana wrote on August 14th, 2014
  18. Growing up with the middle eastern diet, I’m a big believer in spices. I add in a bit of spices in most of my meals, especially breakfast. Now though when I visited Thailand, man do they throw in a lot of spices into their foods! I’ve never had food that had so many different spices. And most of them were really spicy.

    I think I feel more alive when I have food that was balanced with the right spices…Great article as always Mark, thanks!

    Nader wrote on August 14th, 2014
  19. At least a few of those spices grow very easily on a balcony or in the garden.

    Dill, tarragon and oregano are really easy to grow in the summer (and maybe all year round in southern places). Rosemary and Bay leaves are extremely hardy perennials – we planted one stick of rosemary a couple years ago and now have a lifetime supply for several households in our front yard, and another plant on our deck. Ditto Bay leaves – we have a small bush, but our in-laws have a 6 foot tall bay bush that provides all the leaves you could ever want, fresh and organic.

    Cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric might be a bit harder, but sage is pretty easy as well.

    rocketpj wrote on August 15th, 2014
  20. I get my turmeric in by mixing a half teaspoon into Kefir with a milk frother every morning. I also add a heaping teaspoon to any ground beef I cook. Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source. They can provide a certificate of analysis for any of their herbs and spices so you can be sure you are not being exposed to too high a level of contaminants.

    Tom Kisthart wrote on September 19th, 2014

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