Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

Nutritional Information about Herbs and Spices QandA

Is the caraway a health seasoning? What is it good for? JB

Caraway has long been thought to aide digestion. I checked the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's informative pages on using botanicals for healing and they didn't even have it listed.


Hi, I am very allergic to any thing pepper. My questions is ....Is CUMIN part of the pepper family? Can you give me a list of any or all spices that are? I know of several but some I have questioned. Thanks for your response. ID

As always, I urge you to seek out such important information from your allergist. In answer to your question, cumin is a member of the Apiaceae (formerly known as Umbelliferae) family. Black pepper is a member of the Piperaceae family while chile peppers are capsicums, a genus from the Solanaceae family.

My daughter consumes a whole packet of cardamon pods each day, eating them like sweets uncooked. .... she seems to have an addiction because if there aren't any in the house she becomes very irritable. Is it dangerous to the body to eat such large amounts? Thank you so much for your help. CH

Women who are pregnant or nursing as well as people who have trouble with gallstones should avoid large amounts of cardamom. Your daughter's consumption sounds excessive to me (and expensive!) and I think you should check with a health professional about the potential danger of such a habit.


Hello: Can you tell me if there is a difference in nutritive value between fresh garlic and garlic powder? And is there a difference in nutritive value between fresh ginger and ginger powder. There is a distinct difference in taste between fresh and powdered forms in both garlic and ginger. The powdered form is bland. Thank you very much and very much obliged. SCW

You're right about the distinct difference in flavor of fresh or dried ginger and garlic, but I suppose that is true about most foods. Anyway, here's what I learned about the nutritional values at a nifty site called In garlic, measuring 1 ounce fresh vs. 1 Tablespoon garlic powder: total weight 28g/8g; calories 42/27; no fat; protein 2g/1g; carbohydrates 9g/6g; dietary fiber 1g/1g. For 1 ounce of ginger root vs. dried ground ginger: total weight 28.35g/5g; calories 22/18; no fat; protein 1g/0g;carbohydrates 5g/4g; dietary fiber 1g/1g. Interesting, isn't it? Thanks for asking.


My daughter-in-law is allergic to ground cinnamon. What would be a good substitute for ground cinnamon if any? EH

Allspice or nutmeg would provide the warm flavor that cinnamon imparts but you should check with her allergist before trying to substitute them. Faithful reader KJ offers this insight into spice allergies: "It is common for people that have celery allergies to present Celery Mug Wort/Birch Spice Syndrome. I cannot drink Chai because this syndrome can cause allergies to cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and vanilla of all things. All of these ingredients are used to make Chai."


I have several salad dressing recipes that call for dried spices. My granddaughter has food allergies and I wonder if there are substitutions that can be used for thyme, basil, marjoram and rosemary. PJ

It's difficult to suggest a substitution since you don't say what it is about these particular herbs that she is allergic. Your best bet would be to talk to an allergist.


Hi. I'm trying to find information about the nutritional value of herbs, and also, or should I say mainly, if they work synergistically with other foods when you add them to recipes. Do you have any info? Can you point me in the right direction? I'd really like to know if the nutritional value is more than the sum of its parts. I've recently joined a herb gardening group and would like to share any info I gather. Thanks, CF

I'm not aware of any studies that have been done on the synergy of herbs but I can point you to some nutritional information. The World's Healthiest Foods website has many herbs and spices listed if you search on the individual ingredient.


I’ve just recently had two severed allergic reaction with shrimps but I love seafood and never had a problem. Could it be the old bay seasoning? CR

Hard to say. You should take this matter up with an allergist.


Are nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves considered tree nuts? AMM

The short answer is no but you should be aware that these spices may be processed for packaging at places that are also processing tree nuts and sesame seeds. I found an interesting discussion on the topic at the Allergic Living website's forum. I encourage you to talk to a health professional about this question.


Hi! I was wondering if anyone can tell me if I take cinnamon directly I get irritation in my mouth, if I take small pinches when added to tea it's ok. Shall I continue taking it or internally is it going to harm me? PS

This is a question for your doctor or naturopath. I can see, however, how the intense essential oils of cinnamon taken by itself could cause irritation but cinnamon is generally recognized as safe. We are all different so do see a professional about this question.


Is it true that cinnamon raises blood pressure? I

This is way out of my league so I refer you to a website I respect: The World's Healthiest Foods for more information about cinnamon's health properties. And, don't forget, your doctor is the best person to ask about blood pressure.


Was interested in trying epazote until I read on your site that it is poisonous in large quantities...could you elaborate on much is a large quantity...thank you. D

The essential oil from the seeds of epazote is considered toxic and should not be taken internally. Pregnant and lactating women should stay away from even epazote leaves. I have searched and searched for a definitive answer to how much is too much but didn't come up with an answer. WHO studies have shown that 1/2 cup of a decoction given for 4 days had no side effects. In my mind, anything more than a Tablespoon (which weighs in at .1 ounce) might be considered a large amount for one person to consume. Most recipes that serve 4 to 6 people don't even call for that much. One source recommended using the leaves only rather than whole stems to avoid the strongest essential oils.


Just wanted to let the poster who mentioned Old Bay know that I had a severe reaction to it and called the company to find out that Cayenne Pepper is one of the ingredients. I've had reactions to cayenne pepper before and now know to avoid Old Bay. Sad, since I live in Baltimore! SC

Thanks for the info.


My husband has a severe milk allergy - not lactose intolerance, but allergic to anything with milk protein. (You would not believe the amount of prescription and over-the-counter medications that contain milk!) The hives he experiences are horrible. We have been told to avoid natural and artificial flavorings, because of potential milk proteins. Can you tell me what natural and artificial flavorings to watch? Thanks so much - MR

You will probably get a good deal of help from the website. I found an article there specifically dedicated to "hidden milk."


We had the opportunity to taste sumagh (Iran possible spelling) or sumac. We thought it might be a nice substitute for salt which we are trying to cut back. Please advise if there is a potassium level to this spice and any moderation advice on usage. Thank you, FG

My goodness, this question sent me on a real quest. I wandered about the internet into unhelpful sites that said 1 sumac had no potassium. Who knows just what 1 sumac might be: a gram? A berry? Hmmmp. Other sites didn't mention potassium on the nutritional information lists. Then I landed in the middle of a very scientific study that was more baffling than anything. From what I could glean, a half gram sample of sumac berries has 7963.35 (plus or minus 47.85) parts per million potassium. I hope this means more to you than it does to me. I didn't find any warnings against eating the spice in general. I suppose that you have seen the article "All About Sumac?"


Can eating poppy seed muffins cause children to become hyperactive and change their behavior? RG

I can't find any information that indicates that sort of problem. Depending on the recipe, there is probably more sugar than poppy seeds in a muffin so it might be hard to tell.


Please: I have a serious allergy to cinnamon. What can I substitute for it. Allspice and nutmeg are almost as bad as cinnamon. Thanks. WPS

In this case it's important to know what it is in cinnamon that causes your allergic reaction. I encourage you to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian in this case.


Good day, I would love to have poppy seeds included in my curries cooking. My questions: Does it have any bad affects if eaten in excess? If yes, what's the maximum dosage like in sauce cooking? Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks! Cheers + regards, JL

 Aside from possible false-positive results on a drug test and as long as you are eating culinary poppy seeds derived from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, you should be safe even in large amounts. Other garden varieties of poppy are grown as ornamentals and are not safe to ingest.

Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

Hello, I want to know how potent rose hips are with vitamin C. I have some rose hips powder that I'm thinking of making into a tincture to use in place of vitamin C supplements and am wondering if this would be as good. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, D

I couldn't come up with the specific vitamin counts of rose hips from any of my regular, reliable sources. Your question would probably be better answered by someone in the medical or horticulture field.


Hi, I recently bought a beautiful bowl for food purposes for someone, but I had accidentally got a bowl which should be used for potpourri. I wanted to know whether I can still use that bowl for food purposes or is my money wasted because at the back of the bowl a label said NOT TO BE USED FOR FOOD PURPOSES.

You should definitely follow the warning label since the reason may be lead in the paint or glaze. It may or may not be water-tight either so you probably don't want to use it for holding liquids. It's not a complete loss, if it is a beautiful bowl you could still use it as a decorative piece. My favorite local pottery shop creates only beautiful functional stoneware.


Hi. I have been studying the benefits of Garlic and its apparently fantastic for lowering blood pressure and Cholesterol. I wondered if you could tell me the recommended daily amount of Garlic in cloves and milligrams to achieve the above ailments? Regards, DG

This site is all about cooking with herbs and spices, I never make suggestions for medicinal use. I do encourage you to talk to a doctor about this matter.


How much Turmeric is recommended as a daily supplement. I have arthritis (was taking vioxx) and acid reflux (taking nexium) and have been told this is good for digestion and as an anti-inflammatory agent. Please advise. JF

This site is all about cooking with herbs and spices, I never make suggestions for medicinal use. I do encourage you to talk to a doctor about this matter. Self-prescribed herbs interacting with prescription drugs have been in the news a lot lately--usually because of fatal



Hi, You probably think I am crazy, but I bumped into a Natropath today, and he checked my eyes and told me I needed Celery Seeds. But dummy me in all the confusion, I forgot to ask what it is for. Can you give me a list of all the things it does to help you? Regards,CB

Sorry, we concentrate on culinary uses for herbs and spices here, not how to use them medicinally. To find out more about the seeds in general, please see "All About Celery Seeds."


I had a severe allergic reaction to old bay seasoning. Have you ever heard of this before? Thanks, J

I haven't heard of anyone ever having problems with this popular seasoning blend but it does have more than a dozen flavors that may or may not include MSG--I'm not sure. Many people have a violent reaction to MSG. I suppose you have considered that maybe your reaction was actually to the food that the Old Bay was used to season?


Hello! I read that drinking tonic water would get the ridges out of my fingernails. It is the quinine that does the trick. Then I heard that quinine is a poison and is no longer actually put in tonic water, it's just soda. So what's in my gin and tonic anyway???? And is quinine in a drink going to cause me harm? Your pal, VZ

Seems that quinine is used for treating certain conditions these days and can be overadministered. I did a Google search of "quinine safety" and came up with this complicated explanation about tonic water: "The FDA does not allow more than 2.45 mg/ounce of quinine to be contained in a carbonated beverage (CRF 21 part 172.575). Results of a pharmacokinetic study demonstrated that daily consumption of 80 mg of quinine per day (equivalent to approximately 32 ounces of a tonic water beverage) did not significantly alter the pharmacokinetics of astemizole, nor was it associated with any clinically or statistically significant effect on the QT interval." I'd say if you are very concerned about this matter, or if you wish to use quinine medicinally, that you check with your doctor.


Could you tell me if sesame seeds produce an allergic reaction in people with peanut allergies? Thank you, DO

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reported on April 27, 2004 that "Peanuts and tree nuts are common causes of severe food allergies in children. Allergic reactions to seed products such as sesame seeds have been reported occasionally but may be increasing in frequency." Apparently as international foods like tahini and halva are becoming more popular in cultures that are unaccustomed to them, the allergies are showing up more. If this is a concern to you, I can suggest looking for more information at your Canadian Food Inspection Agency's website. It is a very helpful site that is available in English and French.


Is there any sugar or fat in poppy seeds? I had my blood sugar done the other day and my sugar level was high for me, all I ate was poppy seeds I like them right out of the bottle. Thank-you for answering my Question. SA

Poppy seeds have about .7 gram of carbohydrates and 1.25 grams of fat per teaspoon according to the nutritional data at the now defunct Weight Loss Friends website.


Could you please tell me if annato has gluten or casien in it. My son is autistic and on a gfcf diet. Thanks for your help. GM

I have to admit that I am not 100% sure so I hesitate to make a statement regarding important dietary needs. "Casein," not casien seems to be a dairy by-product and gluten is generally associated with flours. Try doing a Google search to learn more about it, making sure to use the correct spellings. Annatto is the most common spelling of that word.


My son heard at school that the spice called cloves can help take care of bad breath. Do you know if you can help me? Please, Thank you.

Although the essential oil of cloves is sometimes used in the manufacture of toothpaste and mouthwash, I found no direct correlation in my resources that they will take care of bad breath. Cloves have long been used to ease the pain of tooth aches. To find out more about cloves, please see the article "All About Cloves."


This is my first time at your website and I just love it.  The information provided is usable and concise.  Thank you. I am looking for a book or a website that contains the nutritional value of some of the more common herbs such as parsley is high in vitamin A and C.  Do you have any suggestions?

I am always on the lookout for this same resource! If I ever find it, I will post a link.  In checking yet again with Amazon, I did come across The Complete Book of Food Counts This book does actually list herbs and spices but only protein, fat and carbohydrate information.


I am hoping that you can help me. I have just been diagnosis with Celiac Disease, which means I cannot have any products that contain gluten. Any one of my favorite products contains Coleman's Mustard Flour. So my question to you is - do you know if this mustard flour contains any gluten? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Lisa

Sorry to hear about your condition.  To the best of my knowledge, mustard flour should be pure and simple ground mustard seed.


I have been told that fenugreek has many medicinal purposes. I am taking it in pill form for fibromyalgia and weight loss.  Am I wasting my time? It is also supposed to give me energy and loss of appetite. Please give me info. Thank you..Peggy

These are questions you really should ask your doctor or a holistic practitioner, Peggy.  Here at aPinchOf I go out of my way NOT to offer advice on using herbs for health simply because I am not an expert on this aspect. You can find out more information about the spice in general at All About Fenugreek.


 Hi, I have a prolonged viral infection and my mom told me to use dill weed, make a tea, this is good for an infection. I want to get better quick, I have been sick for awhile.  Is it the weed or the seed that I should use?  Thanks, HG

Sorry to hear of your ill health. Because I am a cook and not an herbalist, I make it a policy not to dispense any sort of medicinal advice. A pleasant tea can be made from a teaspoon or two of dill seeds in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes. However, the only health claim I make for this concoction is that it may relax you.


Hi. My wife is interested in taking curcumin, what % of curcumin is there in Tumeric? Thanks, regards TT

The short answer is: I don't know. The long answer is: I try really hard not to give information that may be used for medicinal purposes rather than culinary. Please follow this link Just the Facts for information without hype on herbal supplements of all kinds. For cooking with the spice, be sure to see "All About Turmeric."


What is the nutritional value of chervil?

I cannot come up with specific nutritional data for chervil but I have found that it is high in Vitamin C, carotene, iron and magnesium. If anyone knows of a source that does list actual numbers, please let us know.



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