Aug. 6, 2008 -- The spice cabinet may prove to be a source of help for diabetes patients.
Some of the most commonly used dried herbs and spices may help block the inflammation believed to drive diabetes and other chronic diseases, laboratory studies conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia suggest.
The researchers tested extracts from 24 common herbs and spices and found that many contained high levels of inflammation-inhibiting antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols.
The early findings suggest that liberal use of cinnamon in your morning oatmeal or Italian seasonings in your spaghetti sauce could have big payoffs for your health, researcher James L. Hargrove, PhD, tells WebMD.
"We might all be better off if we used less salt and pepper, and focused more on herbs and spices," Hargrove says. "I've started putting oregano in my eggs. That's not a big change."
Hargrove and colleagues found that ground clove had the most inflammation-calming polyphenols of any of the spice and herb extracts they tested.
Cinnamon came in second, but because it is used more in cooking and in larger amounts than ground cloves it has more potential to positively affect health, he says.
So much has been written about the benefits of cinnamon for lowering blood sugar that many diabetes patients now take cinnamon supplements.
But the research on cinnamon's effect on diabetes has been mixed.
Richard Anderson, PhD, was among the first modern researchers to link the antioxidants in cinnamon to increased anti-inflammatory response and blood sugar reductions in diabetes patients.
A scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Anderson tells WebMD that he made the connection after finding that instead of raising blood sugar as expected, apple pie lowered blood glucose in their test tube study.
"At first we thought it was the apples, but it soon became clear that it was the cinnamon," he says.