There are many spices that can benefit your health. Eating these spices on a regular basis can help to decrease inflammation, eradicate pathogens, balance blood sugar levels, etc. However, some spices have greater health benefits than others, and there are certain spices which should be avoided in those with autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. And so I’ve decided to discuss the health benefits of seven spices that most people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions can safely consume (although there are a few exceptions).
Spice #1: Garlic. I recommend for most of my patients to consume garlic. Garlic has many different benefits, but one of the main reasons I recommend it to my patients is because it is a wonderful antimicrobial. And many people with thyroid and autoimmune conditions have infections. In fact, the research shows that garlic has antibacterial (1) (2), antiviral (3) (4), antifungal (5) (6), and even antiparasitic activities (7) (8).
In addition to being a great antimicrobial, garlic has other benefits, as it can help people with cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure (9) (10). Garlic can also reduce inflammation (11) (12). And garlic also supports detoxification by increasing glutathione levels. Some people who have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are unable to consume garlic because they experience gas and bloating.
Spice #2: Turmeric. Turmeric is yet another spice that most people can benefit from taking. Inflammation is a big factor in autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease. And while there are numerous benefits of turmeric, perhaps the greatest one is that it is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent. With regards to autoimmune conditions it can help to reduce proinflammatory cytokines (13) (14) (15) and increase regulatory T cells (16). Turmeric also can benefit cardiovascular health (17) (18), and it also has anticancer properties (19), as well as a neuroprotective effect (20).
Spice #3: Cinnamon. This spice has many different benefits, but one of the primary benefits is helping to regulate blood glucose levels. One meta-analysis showed that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL-C levels (21). However, there was no significant effect on the hemoglobin A1C (21). Another meta-analysis showed that cinnamon improves fasting blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (22). Another study showed that cinnamon proanthocyanidins had inhibitory effects on advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), which are substances that contribute to increased oxidative stress and inflammation (23).
Cinnamon also seems to modulate the immune system, which can benefit people with autoimmune conditions. Regulatory T cells help to suppress autoimmunity, and there is evidence that cinnamon can increase regulatory T cells (24). Th17 cells are increased in autoimmunity, and cinnamon can potentially suppress these cells (24). Another study looking at the effects of cinnamon in multiple sclerosis also discussed how cinnamon increases regulatory T cells while decreasing Th17 cells (25). However, I must add that a recent study showed that cinnamon reduces serum T3 levels (26). However, keep in mind that this was conducted on male rats, and it’s just a single study.
H. Pylori is a bacteria that can be a potential trigger of autoimmune thyroid conditions. And there is evidence that cinnamon has an inhibitory effect on H. Pylori (27). A recent study also showed that cinnamaldehyde, which is a major active constituent of cinnamon, has an anti-inflammatory effect on gastric inflammation caused by H. Pylori (28).
Spice #4: Thyme. Thyme has numerous health benefits. First of all, it has antimicrobial activity against yeast and bacteria (29). I did come across an older in vitro study which showed that thyme had a significant inhibitory effect on H. Pylori (30). There is also evidence that thyme can increase the activity of the phase 1 and phase 2 enzymes that are involved in detoxification (31) (32). Thyme might also have anticancer effects as well (33).
Spice #5: Ginger. Ginger belongs to the family Zingiberaceae, and it is very well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to reduce inflammation by suppressing prostaglandin synthesis, specifically inhibiting cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and also suppresses the formation of leukotrienes through the inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase (34) (35). COX-1, COX-2, and 5-lipoxygenase are enzymes which play a role in the inflammatory process. In addition, 6-gingerol, which is a major compound in ginger, has shown to inhibit both Th1 and Th2 cytokines (36), and an imbalance of the Th1 and Th2 pathways are a factor in autoimmune conditions.
Ginger also can be beneficial for certain types of cancers, including prostate cancer (37), pancreatic cancer (38), gastrointestinal cancer (39), and breast cancer (40). Also, for those suffering from primary dysmenorrhea, a recent study also showed that ginger can be beneficial during the first 3 or 4 days of the menstrual cycle (41). Those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes can also benefit from ginger, as a study showed that it improves fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, and apolipoprotein B/apolipoprotein A-I in patients with type 2 diabetes (42).
Spice #6: Sage. Sage has been used for the relief of pain, protection against oxidative stress, free radical damage, angiogenesis, inflammation, along with bacterial and viral infections (43). Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have memory and concentration problems, and sage can potentially help to improve memory and cognition (44) (45).
Spice #7: Rosemary. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) also has numerous health benefits. First of all, it has antioxidant and anti-proliferative properties, and so it can help to reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of cancer cells (46) (47) (48) (49). It also has been shown to have antitumor activity against breast cancer cells, possibly by modulating estrogen (50). There is also evidence that it can protect the liver (51).
Other Spices Can Be Beneficial As Well
Of course there are numerous other spices that can also be beneficial to consume. Examples include parsley, peppermint oil, cloves, cilantro, and oregano. According to Sarah Ballantyne, author of the Paleo Approach, these spices are all autoimmune-friendly. As a result, most people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should be able to consume these spices without a problem.
In summary, most people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions can benefit from consuming spices. Numerous spices have anti-inflammatory effects (turmeric, ginger, rosemary), while other spices have powerful antimicrobial effects (garlic, thyme, sage). Other spices help to balance the blood sugar levels (cinnamon, ginger), while some can help to support detoxification (thyme). All of the spices I listed in this post should be fine for most people with autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.