Ten of the healthiest herbs and spices to keep you fighting fit

March 13, 2016

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Naturopathy

An article on Stuff (opens new window) makes a lot of claims about these herbs and spices, but makes sure to qualify their claims with phrases such as:

  • could be beneficial
  • can be linked to
  • age-old remedy
  • used to ward off
  • best known for its
  • believed to be helpful for
  • said to be
  • often used to
  • is known for its
  • apparently can help with
  • promotes
  • thought to assist with
  • best used to
  • often added to help with
  • aids

The medical claims all seem to be based on preliminary results from small scale tests, and should not be taken as evidence that the substances are actually able to treat the conditions that Stuff lists.

StatsChat says (opens new window):

Or, for a total failure to do arithmetic, saffron. Stuff says "It is a good source of vitamins, magnesium and iron." Now, it's true that saffron is high in nutrients for its weight. A mere 100g of saffron will supply about two-thirds of your daily iron and magnesium, and substantial amounts of vitamins C and B-6. By weight, it does better than spinach. But the typical serving of saffron is a small fraction of a gram, with nutrient contents that would round to zero in any sensible display.

I did a quick google search and found major websites making claims about the cancer treating properties of all ten:

  1. Cinnamon (opens new window)
  2. Chilli (opens new window)
  3. Ginger (opens new window)
  4. Turmeric (opens new window)
  5. Mint (opens new window)
  6. Saffron (opens new window)
  7. Nutmeg (opens new window)
  8. Sage (opens new window)
  9. Black Pepper (opens new window)
  10. Licorice (opens new window)

I talked to a local manufacturer of chilli sauce last year about claims they made on their website that chilli sauce can be used to treat cancer. I explained that the claims they made were not supported by adequate evidence, and that if they were the company would have to register its chilli sauce as a medicine. I also pointed out that their customers were most probably not buying the chilli sauce because it was able to treat cancer, but rather because it was very, very hot! They removed their webpage about the health benefits of chillies within 24 hours.