Nine Must Have Spices/Herbs

Twice per year or so I order most of my herbs and spices in bulk, this saves me money and I feel I’m able to get a better quality product ordering it straight from the supplier instead of buying old spices from the grocery store or more expensive spices from the health food store. Good quality spices and herbs can have a profound affect on your food, making it more delicious than you’ve ever thought possible! I find I use less, because the flavor is more pronounced.

The following are “Must-Haves” in my kitchen!

1. Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

photo credit: themarmot

Native to India, it also grows in Asia and Malaysia, and is one of the most important herbs to Indian homes.

Holy Basil is used in ayurvedic medicine for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria. Holy Basil is considered an adaptogen, which means that it assists the body adapt to stress (environmental, physical, or chemical), restore balance in the body, and normalize body functions. It is currently being studied for its beneficial properties and has been found to be effective for cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, stress, wound healing, the immune system, inflammations, liver support and protection, hypoglycemic conditions, ulcers, digestion, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, radiation poisoning, cataracts, the memory, respiratory system, urinary problems, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions, and it is an antioxidant. – Mountain Rose Herbs

Probably the most used herb in my kitchen, I use it almost daily for things like; Italian Cream Cheese Chicken, Garlic Herb Butter, Pizza Sauce, Spaghetti Sauce, and Scrambled Eggs. Basically gets added to anything where I want to impart an “Italian” flavor.

If one is trying to conceive or currently pregnant, please take care in using basil medicinally as it’s been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage and promote menstruation. (medicinally means that you would use it in large doses each day – much more than a bit at a time with meals)

2. Oregano


photo credit: joi

A herb I usually pair with all the basil I use, oregano is another mainstay in my spice cabinet! In fact, normally when I use basil, oregano follows it into the pot/pan. I don’t know how to use one without the other! Coming from the same family as mint, the Greeks used it for sore muscles, the Romans for spider bites.

The leaves and flowering stems are strongly antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and mildly tonic. Oregano is taken by mouth for the treatment of colds, influenza, mild fevers, indigestion, stomach upsets and painful menstruation. It is strongly sedative and should not be taken in large doses, though mild teas have a soothing effect and aid restful sleep. Used topically, oregano is one of the best herbal antiseptics because of its high thymol content. – Mountain Rose Herbs

Just like basil, oregano is an emmenagogue, meaning that it can stimulate menstruation and should not be used medicinally while trying to conceive or during pregnancy. Culinary use is fine.

3. Minced Garlic


photo credit: felipe_gabaldon

My love affair with garlic began just a few short years ago. Something about eating a whole foods diet that caused me to love this flavor! Before I liked garlic… I put it in everything. And while using fresh minced garlic is my preferred method, I make sure to have dried minced garlic in my cupboard at all times. Some recipes just work better with dried garlic as I can more easily measure, and I find it also has a lighter flavor than fresh – something my young son prefers. I also do not use garlic powder unless absolutely necessary for a recipe.

Garlic is also naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, helping boost the body’s immune system.

Garlic has a very long folk history of use in a wide range of ailments, particularly ailments such as ringworm, Candida, vaginitis colds, flus, and bronchitis, where its fungicidal, antiseptic, tonic and parasiticidal properties have proved of benefit. – Mountain Rose Herbs

4. Minced Onion


photo credit: flavorrelish

Tossed into many of my dishes, minced onion is great for adding flavor to dishes. Fresh onion most often times adds better flavor to a dish, but the quickness of adding a bit of dried onion out-ways  benefits to flavor more often than not. And again, my young son can pick out a fresh onion like a vulture finds roadkill, and will refuse to eat dinner. But dried minced onion? He has no idea……

5. Chili Powder


photo credit: neeta_lind

Need a bit of spice? Chili powder to the rescue! It’s truly a sad day when I run out of chili powder – I don’t know how to cook without it! We add it to our homemade taco seasoning, burritos, hamburger beef patties, and jerky. And quality and freshness truly make a difference when it some to chili powder. Some brands just don’t cut it! I’ve been very happy with buying it from Mountain Rose Herbs and have perfected my recipes based on this powder. (when I run out and have to buy a different brand, the taste of our recipes change)

6. Cumin


photo credit: seljes

Most often over priced in a normal grocery store, cumin can be purchased at a steep discount when buying in bulk! It adds wonderful flavor to mexican dishes and finds it’s way into the same dishes as chili powder. Tacos just aren’t tacos without cumin.

In herbal medicine it is often times used as a diuretic and to treat stomach upset. According to MRH, it may also promote menstruation, so don’t use medicinally when TTC, and can also increase lactation in nursing mothers.

7. Cinnamon


photo credit: nanymata

Most often used in baking in our home, cinnamon gets it’s fair share of use! I often add it to muffins, pancakes, and sweet potatoes or squash for added flavor. The powder loses flavor over time, so it’s best to buy amounts you will use within a few months.

Medicinally it’s often times used as a remedy for insulin resistance and PCOS, though it is also not recommended during pregnancy.

8. Black Pepper

spice 023

photo credit: tokyofoodcast

What dish doesn’t include black pepper? If I sprinkle salt on food, it’s usually followed by pepper! you can buy it in whole peppercorns and grind yourself (stronger flavor) or already ground. And again, freshness and quality counts – old pepper that’s been sitting for months on the shelves won’t impart as much flavor into a meal. One interesting fact that I didn’t know until just today is how it’s actually harvested and made:

To make black pepper, the clusters are plucked when they are not quite ripe. They are then left in piles to ferment. After a few days, the berries are spread out on a mat and left to dry in the sun for two or three more days until they are shriveled and nearly black.- Mountain Rose Herbs

9. Paprika

szárad a paprika

hoto credit: nagy_pite

One of the milder chilis, paprika is often times used for garnish and color, all while imparting a lighter flavor to dishes than the stronger peppers. The type of paprika you buy also has a lot to do with flavor as there are different varieties. The stuff in the store? Eh…kind of boring, lacking in flavor. I tend to buy Hungarian paprika which is a tiny bit spicier, though not necessarily “heat-wise”, just in overall flavor.

 *I buy all of my herbs and spices in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Herb Store.

So those are my 9 must have spices and/or herbs. What are yours? Did I miss any?


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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Hi, I just found your site, and have been looking for a place to buy good quality, good price spices at a discount. Where do you get yours from? Thanks!

    Donielle Reply:

    @Erin, I have been ordering from Mountain rose Herbs every few months and have been happy with the quality. I’ve also heard good things about the Bulk Herb Store and may try them next time.

    Adrienne @ Whole New Mom Reply:

    @Donielle, I haven’t heard about Bulk Herb Store, so I will look into it. I will say, however, that we really prefer Frontier’s spices to MR Herbs. We’ve done taste tests on them and across the board the taste is better. Hope that helps!

  2. My husband is a chef so our spice rack is a bit larger than the average kitchen’s, but this is a good starting list. We buy spices a little at a time from the bulk section of the health food store. The price/ounce is much lower than buying jarred spices and he only buys what he can use within a month or two.

  3. This is a good list. I would say these are my staples too. I just ordered more Cumin and Chili Powder from Azure Standard, but neither was sent. :( I’ll have to see if I can get some in bulk from a local health food store.

  4. Do you all buy dehydrated herbs when you purchase in bulk? And how long do bulk herbs “keep” (do they ever, really “go bad”)?

  5. Thyme and sage are must-haves in my kitchen. I use them in many chicken dishes, and thyme is also on my pork chops, in my scalloped potatoes, and lots more. Oh, I use parsley a fair amount too. I’ve made my own onion powder before (have recipe on my blog) so I do use that often too. If I can make it in my kitchen…I will use it! I do that for my husband and daughter, who claim not to like onions (though my daughter goes through phases…sometimes she hates even the powder, sometimes she eats raw onions). My family has pretty plain tastes (at least half of them…) so spices are one way I can get creative in the kitchen without starting a revolt!

  6. I agree–cumin in Mexican dishes makes them so much better! I call it my secret ingredient :) Whenever I use cinnamon, I also include nutmeg, allspice, cloves and sometimes ginger. It gives it a little bit fuller flavor than just cinnamon. But I think your 9 are about my top spices too :)

  7. We LOVE cumin as well and coriander too. We have a spice mix that I concocted that is a remake of Chat Masala and it is on our table ALL the time. It really makes everything have that special something. Sometimes we even take it with us when we will be eating elsewhere :-).

    Dad’s version has pepper and mine and my son’s has none so it is not as spicy.