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20 Unusual Uses for Spices You Already Have in Your Kitchen

Updated on June 9, 2015
ChristinS profile image

Christin is a simple living, frugal, DIY enthusiast who loves showing others how to live their best by embracing simplicity.

Unusual uses for common spices
Unusual uses for common spices | Source

Spices have been used throughout the world for thousands of years for many purposes beyond the culinary. In many cultures, spice was a highly valued commodity for trade and for good reason. Spices were valued and used for many purposes from medicine to the embalming of the dead.

As someone who loves to cook, my spice cabinet is full of a little bit of everything and I wouldn't have it any other way, especially knowing that spices have many uses beyond just the culinary! Below are a few common spices and their alternative uses.

Cinnamon has many uses around the house.
Cinnamon has many uses around the house. | Source

Unusual Uses for Cinnamon

Ants hate it! Especially the essential oil. Place several drops of essential oil of cinnamon into a bit of water and spray around areas where ants are prone to enter. When that dries, make a line of powdered cinnamon in front of entry areas and the ants won't cross the line.

Moths don't like it either. Break up a few cinnamon sticks and add them to a sachet bag with some whole cloves and a few peppercorns. Hang them in closets or put them inside of drawers to deter moths.

Sprinkle actual cinnamon (Celyon NOT Cassia) into your coffee each morning or sprinkle it on food. It is a natural mood enhancer and it also works to regulate blood sugar levels. This helps prevent and stop cravings for sugar and refined junk foods so you can get them out of your life.

Mix cinnamon with a bit of honey and apply to insect bites to ease inflammation and soothe itch.

Cinnamon is also an excellent natural remedy during cold and flu season. It is part of this natural cough syrup that is safe for kids.

Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne Peppers | Source

Unusual Uses for Cayenne Pepper

Protect your garden from rabbits and other pests by spraying your garden in the evening with a mixture of water and cayenne pepper juice.

You can also create a natural bug spray for the garden with cayenne. In a food processor, combine 4 onions, 2 cloves of garlic, and a couple of tablespoons of cayenne pepper. Blend until smooth and add 6 cups of water. Blend again and add this mixture to a spray bottle. Use it all around the edges of the plants on the ground, and spray the undersides of leaves on less delicate plants. Mix up another batch and apply after heavy rain. This mixture will keep most insects and other critters away. You can even sprinkle powdered cayenne around the edges of plants as an added deterrent.

Capsaicin, the substance that gives the peppers their heat, can be used to treat arthritis and joint pain. If you like to eat really hot foods – go for it! Otherwise, try purchasing capsaicin in supplement form.

Cayenne is an excellent blood cleanser and body purifier. If you are doing a cleanse, add some cayenne to a drink with pure maple syrup and lemon. This drink is used as part of the “master cleanse” to help purify and detox the body. Cayenne has been shown to be heart healthy. It lowers cholesterol and reduces blood pressure.

Can't deal with all that hot stuff? You can still get the health benefits of capsaicin (hot peppers) taking it in an inexpensive supplement form.

Garlic has many strange and unusual uses
Garlic has many strange and unusual uses | Source

Unusual Uses for Garlic

  • Cut a toe of garlic in half and rub directly onto acne. It may not smell the best, but the antibacterial properties in garlic are excellent for clearing breakouts.
  • Garlic cures athletes foot. Crush garlic and add to warm water and soak your feet for several minutes to allow the garlic to cure the fungi that cause the condition.
  • Crush garlic and mix with warm olive oil. Place a drop in your ears to relieve infection. Garlic's anti-fungal and antibacterial properties can help rid you of the infection.
  • Garlic can remove splinters by drawing them out of the skin. Place a very thin slice over the area and hold or tape in place until the splinter emerges and then use tweezers to grab it.
  • Eat more garlic during cold and flu season. It has antiviral and immune boosting properties that may keep you from getting sick.

Unusual Uses for Bay Leaf

  • Bay leaves can help relieve dandruff. Boil a handful in several cups of water for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle and use this as a rinse for your hair when you have flake buildup.
  • Bay leaves repel pests like grain worms and moths. Add a bay leaf to your dry goods like flour and rice containers to keep them from getting infested.
  • Bay leaves can relieve indigestion and excess gas. Chew a leaf after a problematic meal and it will help ease digestion.
  • To ease chest congestion, boil bay leaves for 20 minutes. Allow to cool a bit and then soak a rag in the mixture. Place the rag on the chest to relieve the cough and congestion from bronchitis and chest infections.

Unusual Uses for Turmeric

Turmeric really does work on chronic skin conditions. I have had a single patch of eczema on my leg that nothing has worked on for over 2 years. I have tried everything. One day I was researching some of the health benefits of turmeric and saw that people were raving about how it worked for eczema so I did an experiment.

I opened up two of my supplement capsules and mixed them with a tablespoon of coconut oil to make a paste and applied it to the eczema. The itching stopped within an hour and within 2 days there was marked shrinkage of this spot. I am impressed!

The downside to turmeric directly on the skin is that it stains you yellow while it's applied and could potentially stain your clothes or whatever you touch with it. If that's a problem, apply it and wrap in gauze overnight as you sleep.

Turmeric powder can be added to homemade soaps to boost their color and skin healing properties as well.

Turmeric makes an excellent natural dye for cloth and even Easter eggs. Boil a few tablespoons of the powder for several minutes and voila – a natural dye bath is yours. Ironically, although turmeric stains, it is said to be an excellent tooth whitener when you add a touch to your regular toothpaste it helps removes stains.

Add just a touch of turmeric to tinted moisturizer or foundation before applying to give skin a glow.

Do you use herbs and herbal remedies beyond cooking?

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    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 3 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks for reading and commenting Kathryn; glad you enjoyed the hub :)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      This is such an informative article, and I will keep some of these uses in mind. I have always enjoyed using spices and herbs in food, and the idea of using them in other ways is fascinating.

      Thnks for sharing this with us, and have a great day!

      ~ Kathryn

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 3 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks for reading and commenting Maggie - herbs are very useful things for many purposes :)

    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 3 years ago from UK

      Really great ideas here. I've never heard of most of them! I had no idea that garlic could help get rid of athletes foot. My herbs often go out of date before I use them so I might put them to these other uses.

    • shai77 profile image

      Chen 4 years ago

      Wow, what great tips. I know someone with eczema who is going to appreciate the turmeric tip. Excellent info! Thanks

    • profile image

      Justsilvie 4 years ago

      Very interesting and educational. Voted up and shared.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

      Thank you :) glad you enjoyed the hub randomcreative good to see you.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I learned so much! Thanks for all of the useful tips. You've put together an excellent resource.

    • Tom Vogler profile image

      Tom Vogler 4 years ago from The Shenandoah Valley

      I often cook using the combination of turmeric and cumin. The combination tastes great with chicken or rice or salmon. I heard about the alleged great benefits on the Dr. Oz show one time. :-)

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

      I haven't tried the turmeric with toothpaste yet, but have read on forums that several people swear by it. I don't like the flavor of turmeric though to speak of so not sure I can do it. I do love making my own toothscrub out of coconut oil and sea salt though - not the best taste either, but it really works nicely. I do know from my own experience though turmeric is fantastic for skin issues :) and it's also good for a lot of health reasons so I take it as a supplement.

    • Tom Vogler profile image

      Tom Vogler 4 years ago from The Shenandoah Valley

      Turmeric and toothpaste...that must be an interesting taste sensation. I wonder if the turmeric is applied to a dry or wet brush or before or after the toothpaste.

      Like Billie, I also add cinnamon to coffee and oatmeal, though I am not much of a coffee person. Someone told me one time it cuts the bitterness.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks for the pin GiblinGirl glad you enjoyed the hub :)

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks Billie for the awesome comment and further tips :) glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for the shares too :)

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 4 years ago from Newport Beach

      Great article! - never heard of these either. Pin-ing, tweeting, and facebooking, Christin. Not unusual usage but I'll throw this out - cinnamon supposedly speeds up metabolism. I add it to coffee and oatmeal. I also combine all the cloves, cinnamon, etc and boil in a pan to make house smell nice. Nutmeg is supposed to help you sleep. I used the cinnamon for ants at the threshold of my door - works well here in CA. Just heard that insects hate cedar mulch. Cheers, Christin.

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Great info. Pinning this for future reference.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Wow- I never knew the uses for any of these except for the pepper! Great hub and interesting information!