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Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices

Ana Campos, Senior Librarian, International Languages Department,
A table of herbs and spices

Herbs and spices have been used to improve and maintain health by people around the world for thousands of years. Adding some spice to your life enhances not just your food, but also your overall well-being. The International Languages department will be hosting a series of workshops presented by Integrative Health Specialist, Dr. Desmonette Hazly. The lectures will cover the history of common herbs and spices and their health properties and use. This series is very unique because it is part of a much larger project that has been developed to help our community’s most vulnerable populations.

“Many people that the LA Regional Food Bank serve are not only facing hunger but are also struggling with various health challenges”, states Yesenia Vasquez, Manager of Nutrition Programs at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. “Our Executive Director, Michael Flood, often talks about members of our community having to choose between buying food and purchasing medications needed to manage their health conditions. This is the reality for a rapidly growing number of people. Dr. Hazly realized the urgency of the circumstances and took it upon herself to find constructive ways to address this issue”.

Using the Integrative Health Culinary Arts program that she developed for the food bank as the foundation for the project, Dr. Hazly began researching the health benefits of commonly used herbs and spices and included the information into her classes. As demand for more information grew, Dr. Hazly contacted the UCLA Louise Darling Biomedical Library for guidance in her research as she developed the project. “I needed reliable, science-based research that would provide accurate information the community could easily understand and use. The Louise Darling Biomedical Library at UCLA has an incredible amount of resources and is the home of the Endowment Collection for Complementary and Alternative Medicine founded by the late Dr. Irwin Ziment and his wife Yda”.

Dr. Hazly extensively studied herbs and spices and how they are used globally for health and wellness among different cultures and incorporated into daily food preparation. “When we think of improving the nutritional value of our diets, most of us do not think of using herbs and spices. We associate herbs and spices with just improving the flavor of food, but they can also contribute to our overall health and wellness when added to meals regularly”.

As a result of Dr. Hazly’s research and diligence, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank now offers culinary arts classes that teach the health benefits of herbs and spices and how to utilize them in everyday meals. “The community has had a very positive response to the herbs and spices culinary program”, says Yesenia Vasquez. “The classes are very popular and are in high demand because people want to know how to improve their diet to better manage their health”.

A bilingual information booklet with accompanying recipes is being developed and will be made available to the communities that the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank serves. Dr. Hazly will be presenting workshops inspired by this unique project at the International Language Department on March 9 and 23.

Dr. Hazly will also be presenting a summer series of culinary arts and gardening classes at Vernon Library focusing on herbs and spices for health and wellness; stay tuned to our blog for upcoming dates and times.

Further Reading