Spices may play an essential role in your favorite recipes but these natural wonders can also be secret ingredients in your skin care regimen. Many spices contain high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and nutrients your skin and hair need to look healthy, according to “Everyday Health”.
Read on to learn how herbs and spices can fight wrinkles, soothe redness, and keep your skin glowing.
Chamomile to Calm Beard Burn
Few of us can resist a man with sexy five o'clock shadow, patches of redness, flaking, itching, and general irritation around the mouth, chin, and cheeks that resemble sunburn. Fortunately, nature's most soothing herbal leaf can heal distressed skin quickly. "Chamomile is a natural anti-inflammatory, with the power to reduce redness, itchiness, and swelling, and it's a great alternative to cortisone," says Jessica Wu, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California medical school.
Cinnamon for a Glowing Complexion
Cinnamon adds a kick to cookies and hot drinks, but it's also packed with antioxidants — substances that fight skin damage. "Cinnamon has more antioxidant value than half a cup of blueberries," says nutritionist Keri Glassman, the author of The O2 Diet. For an easy antioxidant boost, sprinkle half a teaspoon of cinnamon on your coffee grounds before brewing.
To ensure you're using the most potent spices, says Glassman, discard bottles that are more than two years old; also, store spices in a dark cupboard, because heat from the stove and sunlight will decrease their potency.
Garlic for Healthy Hair
While garlic may be killer for your breath, it's a lifesaver for thin hair. Your hair follicle needs nutrients to produce thick, healthy hair. When you aren't eating the right ones, your hair pays the price. Foods that are high in cysteine, an amino acid found in garlic, can help reinvigorate your follicles, says Dr. Wu. "Cysteine molecules are linked together in a strong sequence of disulfide bonds," she explains, "which gives your hair its strength."
Here's one more reason to go green: Green tea
Green tea has a high concentration of catechins, which have strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-aging effects on skin. Says Wu, "Topical green tea can also help thicken the epidermis, speed the healing of wounds, and inhibit an enzyme in your skin that causes uneven pigmentation, which means fewer sun spots."
Studies have shown that using a lotion or serum containing green tea 30 minutes before going out in the sun can reduce DNA damage and the risk of sunburn. "If you're going to be outside for several hours and won't be able to reapply sunscreen as diligently as you'd like," says Wu, "then applying green tea on top of your sunscreen before you go out is a great idea."
Hot Peppers to Fight Wrinkles
Hot peppers like chili, paprika, cayenne, and jalapeño do more than put your taste buds on alert — they also defend your skin. "Vitamins A and C in peppers help combat free radicals, preventing the breakdown of collagen to maintain the integrity of our skin," says Marti Wolfson, the culinary director at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, N.Y. The colorful peppers also contain capsaicin, which acts like a sunscreen to shield skin from damage caused by UV rays.
You have to ingest peppers to enjoy their regenerative powers, though, as the capsaicin that works wonders for skin internally will burn if applied topically. Says Wolfson, "Hot peppers are so easy to add to any dish: Try jalapeño or cayenne in guacamole, and chili peppers in curry sauce. You can also make a rub for fish or chicken with paprika."
Red Clover to Ease Eczema
Medicinal herbalists have long used red clover to help soothe the red, scaly, and maddeningly itchy patches of skin that plague eczema sufferers. "Herbs like red clover help eliminate toxins in the bloodstream that appear to trigger inflammation," says Liz Earle, a holistic skin expert who herself suffers from eczema.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center's health reference library, red clover can be ingested as a tea or applied topically. If you're going to drink the tea, steep one to two teaspoons of dried flowers in hot water for half an hour, and sip two to three cups daily to reap the benefits. If you want to take red clover as a supplement, 40 to 160 mg per day is recommended. Ointments are also available that contain 10 to 15 percent red clover flower.
Turmeric to Reduce Inflammation
Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years; the herb has powerful anti-inflammatory benefits because of its high concentration of the antioxidant curcumin. Research has shown that curcumin may also help fight melanoma when the affected skin is treated topically with turmeric. "Curcumin inhibits angiogenesis, which is the growth of blood vessels," explains Susan Blum, MD, an integrative medical practitioner at Blum Center for Health. "A lot of cancer research is focused on 'starving' the cancer cells, and curcumin appears to be a potent inhibitor of tumor activity in animal studies."
Add turmeric to deviled eggs, pasta, and potato salads, as well as hearty savory soups, chili, and brown rice. Mixed with ginger, it also makes a tasty tea.