Herbs and spices have been used as food and for medicinal purposes for centuries. Research interest has focused on various herbs that possess hypolipidemic, anti-platelet, anti-tumor, or immune-stimulating properties that may be useful adjuncts in helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Research has centered on the biochemical activity of the Allium sp. and the Labiatae, Umbelliferae, and Zingiberaceae families, as well as flaxseed, licorice root, and green tea. Many of these herbs contain potent antioxidant compounds that provide significant protection against chronic diseases. Plants have played a significant role in maintaining human health and improving the quality of human life for thousands of years. Culinary herbs have also been used to flavor foods since antiquity. Government agencies and health professionals recommend that for optimal health we should reduce our salt intake. This can be achieved by flavoring our meals to a greater degree with culinary herbs and seasonings. Furthermore, using culinary herbs generously provides a variety of active phytochemicals that promote health and protect against chronic diseases. (Craig W, Am J Clin Nutr, 70: 491S–9S, 1999)

Gaia Research/Organics, with its philosophical focus on achieving, restoring and maintaining true vibrant health via natural foods, rather than medicines, natural or otherwise, has taken the initiative to scientifically formulate a tasty natural salt substitute to conveniently utilize effective and safe low sodium / high potassium powdered herbs, spices and kelp, with pure sodium-chloride-substituting and balancing potassium chloride and magnesium peroxide, to this end. Gaia Organics Nutrispice, there are several similar products in the market, but none quite like it, is the end result of this research. One way to safely ensure reasonably rapid sodium-potassium balance is in addition to the use of specific potassium-rich fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and kelp, to use the similar tasting concentrated potassium chloride as a salt substitute, as in the Gaia Organics Nutrispice formula. Potassium chloride occurs in nature as the mineral sylvite, mined from deposits or extracted from salt lake brines, as a plant nutrient and food additive (Hawley’s Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, 1993).

International expert, Professor Alexander Schauss points out that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sodium should maintain optimal potassium levels, but due to poor absorbability of potassium in foods that are low in chloride, only 40% of the potassium is retained. This factor is not calculated into food values, which is one reason that when supplementation is suggested by a health professional, potassium chloride is recommended. (A Schauss, Minerals, Trace Elements & Human Health, Life Sciences Press, 1995) Like sodium chloride, it is acutely toxic only in large concentrated doses, which in oral overdose will be self-limiting due to purging (The Merck Index, Merck and Co, 1989). Diuretics deplete potassium. Sodium chloride and potassium chloride are the main ingredients in intravenous drips used to replace lost electrolytes and prevent dehydration and are perfectly safe for humans. In fact, a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, established the efficacy of moderate potassium chloride supplementation in substantial reduction of systolic blood pressure and concluded that its use may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of hypertension (Gu D, et al, J Hypertens, 19(7): 2001).

Do not under-estimate the importance of ingesting sufficient potassium to balance added sodium. Sure, life cannot be maintained without sufficient salt (sodium chloride), since both sodium and chloride are essential elements, not least for the “sodium/potassium pump”, which regulates intra and extra cellular fluids and its numerous functions. The problem is that by far the vast majority ingests too much sodium relative to potassium, about five or more times as much as potassium (Philip and Phylis Morrison, Scientific American, March 2001). Naturally occurring dietary potassium has traditionally protected against human addition of sodium chloride. Unfortunately, dietary changes and especially the massive amounts of salt added by food processors to maintain colour and flavour and as a preservative have upset the delicate balance. By way of example (not the worst case), 100g of fresh peas contains approximately 2mg of sodium, but in canned peas, the sodium content jumps to approximately 236mg and the potassium decreases from approximately 316mg to 96mg. (Robert Rodale, Our Next Frontier, Rodale Press, 1981)

Carnivorous diets fare worse than herbivorous. Animals need sodium, especially for muscular locomotion, but plants don’t, requiring potassium instead for intracellular functions, as do we too for both purposes. Plants therefore, in their natural state, have a healthy preponderance of potassium. Increasing potassium has been found to be as effective as lowering sodium (salt) in hypertensive individuals. Potassium and sodium exit in a seesaw balance in the body, where an abundance of one causes the other to be excreted in the urine. Some sea-foods actually contain more sodium than the seawater from whence they came, whereas kelp, a sea vegetable, which grows in the sodium predominant ocean, provides the proper 2:1 ratio of potassium to sodium, yet tastes salty and provides all the macro- and micro-elements, in addition to other nutrients. (Babal K, NFM’s Nutrition Science News, March 1996)
(See also
KELP at the internal URL Click Here)

Herbs and spices are an important part of the human diet. Not only do they enhance the taste and flavour of foods, they also increase their shelf life by being both antimicrobial and anti-oxidant. Herbs and spices also exhibit a wide range of physiological and pharmacological properties. (Fisher C, Chapter 9, Phenolic Compounds in Food and Their Effects on Health I, ACS Symp. Ser. 506, 1992) Dietary factors play an important role in human health and in he development of certain diseases, especially cancer. In particular, many Phenolic compounds are attracting the attention of food and medicinal scientists because of their anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties and their capacity to modulate some key cellular enzyme functions. (Ho C, et al, Preface, Phenolic Compounds in Food and Their Effects on Health, A.C.S. Symp. Ser. 506, 1992)

Several commonly used herbs have been identified by the US National Cancer Institute as possessing cancer-preventive properties. These herbs include members of the Allium sp. (eg garlic); members of the Labiatae family (eg oregano, rosemary, and thyme); members of the Zingiberaceae family (eg turmeric and ginger); and members of the Umbelliferae family (eg cumin) (Caragay A, Cancer-preventative foods and ingredients. Food Technol. 1992; 46:65–8.) Cumin, (garlic,) oregano, rosemary, thyme, tumeric, and others herbs and spices have remarkably effective anti-oxidant activities and are one of the most important targets to search for natural anti-oxidants from the point of view of safety. It is expected that natural antioxidants will lead to chemo-prevention of inflammation, cancer and aging. (Nakatani N, Chapter 16, Food Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention II, A.C.S. Symp. Ser. 547, 1994)

Why common herbs and spices?

Common does not mean inferior, rather, the fact that they are common is testimony to their popularity, and the reason for that is their time-proven and broad utility and their well-established epidemiologically determined safety. The health-enhancing properties of common culinary herbs and spices probably exceed that of the most popular exotic botanicals. Just witness the documented efficacy for the selection of funky foods which are the focus of the Gaia Research catalogue and website, eg green tea, flaxseed, garlic and kelp; nothing fancy, all widely used for thousands of years, and yet with health enhancing properties that will assuredly surpass any selection of exotic botanicals, but are nevertheless overshadowed by the far more commercially and media hyped exotics, which actually have far less broad and specific potential and assuredly even less both quantity and quality of research.

You can’t really hype up green tea, garlic and flaxseed with fancy labelling and advertising without actually “testing” the law, which states: “Prohibited Statements: The following shall not be reflected on a label or in an advertisement for a foodstuff: the words ‘health’, or ‘healthy’ or other words or symbols implying that the foodstuff has ‘health-giving properties’ as part of the name or description of the foodstuff”. The definitions of “label” and “advertise” are no less ridiculously restrictive than the aforementioned regulation, which has no legitimacy in a constitutional country claiming an open democratic society.

Reference: Foodstuffs Act, No 54 of 1972. Regulations Governing the Labeling and Advertising of Foodstuffs (as amended in 1993 and 1996, at which time an earlier provision quite fairly reading: “shall, unless such word, indication or claim can be scientifically substantiated, be guilty of an offence” was maliciously removed therefrom).

Without attempting to afford a comprehensive review of the literature, let us evaluate (restricted to scientific sources only and to one reference per established property) the potential of some common culinary herbs, using the Gaia Research / Organics Nutrispice selection as an reference sample to illustrate the rich diversity of the established range of (dare I say it) “health” enhancing properties of culinary fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices:

Allium sativum / Garlic (bulb)

Garlic has been extensively dealt with under its own heading, GARLIC.

Apium graveolens / Celery (seed)

Anti-carcinogenic (1); Anti-epileptic (2); Anti-fungal (3); Anti-hypertensive (3); Anti-inflammatory (4); Anti-oxidant (5); Anti-microbial (6); Anti-ulcer (7); Chemo-protective (8); Hepato-protective (9); Sedative (2)

Capsicum annuum / Red Pepper (fruit)

Analgesic (10); Anti-carcinogenic (11); Anti-inflammatory (12); Anti-microbial (6); Anti-mutagenic (11); Anti-tumorigenic (11); Digestive (13); Thermogenic (14)

Cuminum cyminum / Cumin (seed)

Anti-bacterial (15); Anti-carcinogenic (16); Anti-genotoxic (17); Anti-hyperglycemic (18); Anti-microbial (6); Anti-oxidant (19); Anti-spasmodic (20); Carminative (20); Digestive (13); Larvicidal (20)

Curcuma longum / Tumeric (root)

Anti-dyspeptic (21); Anti-fungal (22) Anti-inflammatory (23); Anti-oxidant (24); Anti-carcinogenic (25); Anti-hepatoxic (26); Anti-thrombotic (25); Anti-tumorgenic (27); Chelator (28); Chemo-preventive (29)

Ecklonia maxima / Kelp (foliage)

Kelp has been extensively dealt with under its own heading, KELP

Origanum vulgare / Oregano (foliage)

Anti-bacterial (30); Anti-carcinogenic (31); Anti-oxidant (32); Anti-spasmodic (33); Anti-viral (34); Carminative (20); Choleretic (35); Diaphoretic (29); Diuretic (35); Expectorant (33); Spasmolytic (36)

Rosmarinus officinalis / Rosemary (foliage)

Anti-oxidant (37); Anti-carcinogenic (38); Anti-fungal (39); Anti-inflammatory (40); Anti-mutagenic (41); Anti-tumorigenic (42); Anti-viral (43); Diuretic (44); Hepato-protective (41); Spasmolytic (45);

Thymus vulgaris / Thyme (foliage)

Anti-bacterial (46); Anti-fungal (20); Anti-mutagenic (47); Anti-oxidant (48); Anti-spasmodic (20); Anti-tussive (49); Carminative (20); Deodorant (50); Expectorant (49); Spasmolytic (51)


(to above selection of culinary fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices)

  1. Zheng G, et al, Chapter 18, Food Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention I, ACS Symp Ser 546, 1994;

  2. Yu R, You S, Acta Pharm Sinica, 19(8), 1984;

  3. Chan H, But P, (eds), Pharmacology & Applications of Chinese Materia Medica, Vol 1, World Scientific, 1986;

  4. Atta A, Alkohafi A, J Ethnopharmacol, 60(2), 1998;

  5. Saito Y, et al, Chem Abstr, 87, 150314r, 1977;

  6. De M, et al, Phytother Res, 13(7), 1999;

  7. Cheyney G, et al, J Am Dietetic Assoc, 23 Sept 1950;

  8. Zeng G, et al, Nutr Cancer, 19(1), 1993;

  9. Singh A, Handa, S, J Ethnopharmacol, 49(3), 1995;

  10. (Fisher C, Chapter 9, Phenolic Compounds in Food and their Effects on Health I, ACS Symp Ser 506, 1992;

  11. (Surh Y, et al, Biofactors, 12(1-4), 2000;

  12. (Joe B, et al, Mol Cell Biochem, 169(1-2), 1997;

  13. (Platel K, Srinivasan K, Nahrung, 44(1), 2000;

  14. Yoshioka M, Br J Nutr, 80(6), 1989;

  15. Agnihotri S, Vaidya A, Indian J Exp Biol, 34(7), 1996;

  16. Aruna K, Sivaramakrishna V, Food Chem Toxicol, 30(11), 1992;

  17. Abraham S, et al, Mutat Res, 413(2), 1998;

  18. Roman-Ramos R, et al, J Ethnopharmacol, 48(1), 1995;

  19. Beddows C, et al, Int J Food Sci Nutr, 51(5), 2000;

  20. Leung A, Foster S, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients, John Wiley & Sons, 1996;

  21. Monograph, Curcumae longae rhizoma, Bundesanzeiger, no 233, 1985/1990;

  22. Ammon H, Wahl M, Planta Med, 57(1), 1991;

  23. Cipriani,B, et al, J Immunol, 167(6), 2001;

  24. Nakatani N, Biofactors, 13(1-4), 2000;

  25. Shah B, et al, Biochem Pharmacol, 58(7), 1999;

  26. Kiso Y, et al, Planta Medica 49, 185-187, 1983;

  27. Motterlini R, et al, Free Radic Biol Med, 28(8), 2000;

  28. Tonnesen H, Chapter 11, Phenolic Compounds in Food and Effects on Health I, ACS Symp Ser 506, 1992;

  29. Chuang S, et al, Carcinogenesis, 21(2), 2000;

  30. Dorman H, Deans S, J Appl Microbiol, 88(2), 2000;

  31. Hartwell J, Lloydia, 32, 247, 1969;

  32. Lagouri V, Boskou D, Int J Food Sci Nutr, 47(6), 1996;

  33. Monograph, Origani vulgaris herba, Bundesanzeiger, no 122, 1988;

  34. Hermann K, Lebens Unters Forsch 116, 224, 1962;

  35. List P, Horhammer L, Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, Vols 2-5, Springer-Verlag, 1969-1976;

  36. Jiangsu Provl Inst Modern Med, Encyclopedia of Chinese Drugs, Shangha Sci & Tech Publications, 1977;

  37. Lamaison J, et al, Pharm Acta Helv, 66(7), 1991;

  38. Singletary K, Rokusek J, Plant Foods Hum Nutr, 50(1), 1997;

  39. Opdyke D, Food Cosmet Toxicol, 12 (Suppl), 977, 1974;

  40. Ho C-T, Chapter 1, Food Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention II, ACS Symp Ser 547, 1994;

  41. Fahim F, et al, Int J Food Sci Nutr, 50(6), 1999;

  42. Ho C-T, et al, Biofactors, 13(1-4), 2000;

  43. Aruoma O, et al, Food Chem Toxicol, 34(5), 1996;

  44. Haloui M, et al, J Ethnopharmacol, 71(3), 2000;

  45. Monograph, Rosmarini folium, Bundesanzeiger, no 223, 1985/1990;

  46. Essawi T, Srour M, J Ethnopharmacol 70(3), 2000;

  47. Namiki M, Chapter 4, Food Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention I, ACS Symp Ser 546, 1994;

  48. Haraguchi H, et al, Planta Med, 62(3), 1996;

  49. Omar M, Chapter 12, Phenolic Compounds in Food and Effects on Health I, ACS Symp Ser 506, 1992;

  50. Miura K, et al, Chem Oharm Bull, 37, 1816, 1989;

  51. Van Den Broucke C, Lemli J, Pharm Weekbl [Sci], 5(1), 1983.

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