Can Herbs Help With Your Weight Loss Goals?
You may have an arsenal of natural health-boosting supplements sitting on your spice rack! Herbs and spices add flavor to your favorite foods, but do they curb cravings and help you lose weight?
Learn which studies claim your favorite seasonings can give you a weight loss boost.
Check Out Our List of Herbs for Weight Loss
Oregano is a staple in all of your favorite Italian dishes! It increases the flavors of your favorite foods and may help you lose weight — that’s amore.
Oregano belongs to the perennial herb family (think: mint, basil, and thyme) and contains the compound carvacrol (according to a study from Leiden University in the Netherlands).
A study supported by the Department of Food and Nutrition (Korea) from Yonsei University claims that carvacrol helped adult male mice lose more weight than the other mice in a controlled study by feeding the mice carvacrol supplements.
It is important to reiterate that the above study monitored adult mice and not humans.
Mint does more than cleanse your breath.
According to a study by the Department of Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Slovakia, the menthol oil derived from mint has great antibacterial properties. Due to its antibacterial properties, many ancient civilizations used menthol oil to ease indigestion.
Another study by National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (India) experimented with menthol oil to prevent weight gain through oral and topical menthol administration on mice (further human studies are needed).
You can drink hot or iced mint tea, add the herb to salads or scrambles, or add mint extract to a post-workout recovery drink, like this super-satisfying Mint Chocolate Protein Shake.
Not the Spice Girl, but just as cool. Ginger is a spice derived from a flowering ginger plant. Ginger has ties to folk medicine due to its purported stomach-soothing benefits. It may do more than soothe your tummy; ginger may also help smooth your waistline.
A recent review of 14 studies involving over 400 subjects found that people who consumed supplementary ginger had “significantly reduced” body weight, waist-hip ratio, and fasting blood sugar levels.
Researchers have reported ginger may work as an all-around MVP by increasing calorie burn, preventing fat absorption, and reducing appetite.
Turmeric is a bright orange spice and a staple of Indian cooking. The compound curcumin (derived from turmeric) has powerful effects on the body, like relieving stomach aches.
According to the US National Library of Medicine from Central Michigan University, curcumin may reduce soreness, aiding in muscle recovery and performance for active people. Note that curcumin has poor bioavailability and needs to be combined with an absorption enhancer.
In one European study, 44 overweight people who took bioavailable curcumin supplements lost twice the weight and decreased their body fat by eight times compared to those who didn’t have curcumin.
The most buzzed about herb for weight loss is an ancient staple of traditional Indian and Chinese medicine.
Scientists have studied fenugreek for its potential health benefits for humans and animals. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition from the Human Performance Lab, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, took two groups of males and separated them by height and bodyweight composition. Each group had different supplements to test. One supplement was a placebo while the other supplement contained fenugreek. The study showed that after weeks of strict weight training and supplement intake, the males who took the fenugreek supplements had an increase in upper- and lower-body strength than the placebo group.
Are you interested in this herb? Sip it in tea, or use it in a spice blend to pep up your meal prep.
This tangy spice, ground from seeds of a plant related to parsley, adds tons of flavor to traditional Indian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern food dishes.
A study from the Nutrition and Food Security Research Centre in Iran showed that cumin has a promise for weight loss and decreasing body fat when combined with nutritional counseling. The study consisted of a group of overweight and obese women in Iran who ate yogurt with or without three grams of cumin twice a day for three months. The women who consumed the cumin who were a part of this study lost significantly more weight, body fat, and inches from their waists than those who didn’t consume cumin.
What Is the Best Herb for Weight Loss?
- Cayenne Pepper – Cayenne pepper (chili pepper) is known to kick up the flavor index of your favorite foods. Cayenne contains a natural chemical called capsaicin, which studies have found slightly revs your metabolism temporarily through a process called thermogenesis (generation of heat in the body). Thermogenesis is diet-induced, i.e., the thermogenic effect of food. To exemplify, capsaicin is studied in the article for anti-obesity therapy due to its temporary increase in human body energy expenditure.
- Black Pepper – Comes from the dried fruit of a Piper nigrum plant. The compound derived from black pepper that we are most interested in is piperine. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that piperine seemed to reduce the number of fat cells by actually turning down the genes responsible for fat formation.
The Difference Between Herbs and Spices
How do you know what constitutes an herb and what is a spice? Let’s nerd out for a second and look at the anatomy of a plant. An herb comes from the green, leafy part of the plant. Spices derive from other parts of the plant like the roots, stems, flowers, and/or seeds. Unlike herbs, spices tend to have more color options.
Topical Herbs for Weight Loss
Some herbs come in topical creams or oils that require an application to the skin and may reduce the appearance of fat. One animal study published in the journal Obesity found that the use of a topical capsaicin cream reduced weight gain and belly fat in mice. Of course, this is one study, and studies in humans are needed. Capsaicin is an ingredient in several over-the-counter pain-relief creams.
Overall, we need to study more about topical herbs for weight loss — and topical preparations should never be considered a substitute for diet and exercise.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Weight Loss
There are several Ayurvedic herbs — herbs used in traditional Indian holistic medicine — sold as supplements and marketed with weight loss claims. Some of the most popular include holy basil, horse gram, and Triphala. Exercise caution here because the FDA does not evaluate Ayurvedic herbal medicines before they go to the market. Also, human studies on the link between Ayurvedic herbs and weight loss effects are scant.
Now, let’s kick the bad eating habits and see how herbs and spices can lend a hand with your weight loss goals.