Based on the complex nature of antioxidants and ROS, it would thus be extremely unlikely that a magic bullet with a high dose of one or a few particular antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, or β-carotene would protect all parts of the cells, organs, and tissues against oxidative damage and oxidative stress, at the same time without destroying any of the numerous normal and beneficial functions of ROS. Indeed, supplementation with antioxidants has often resulted in no effect or even adverse disease outcomes. Recently, several reviews and meta-analyses have concluded that there is now a strong body of evidence indicating that there is no beneficial effect for supplemental vitamin C, vitamin E, or β-carotene (Vivekananthan et al. 2003; Eidelman et al. 2004; Bjelakovic et al. 2007; Bjelakovic et al. 2008). An alternative and much more likely antioxidant strategy to test protection against oxidative stress and related diseases would be to test the potential beneficial effects of antioxidant-rich foods, since such foods typically contain a large combination of different antioxidants that are selected, through plant evolution, to protect every part of the plant cells against oxidative damage. This is especially relevant for herbs and spices. The aim of this chapter is to discuss the potential role of antioxidants in herbs and spices in normal physiology, oxidative stress, and related diseases. We begin with a brief introduction of ROS and their role in normal physiology and oxidative stress, and then present data that demonstrate herbs and spices are the most antioxidant-dense dietary source of antioxidants that has been described. We end the chapter with a discussion on the potential role of herb and spice antioxidants in oxidative stress.
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