Do Dried Herbs and Spices Have Nutritional Value?

by Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN on April 5, 2011

Do Dried Herbs and Spices Lose Their Nutritional Value?Q. Do dry herbs and spices have the same nutritional benefits as their fresh counterparts or are they only good for flavor?

A. It depends on which herbs and spices (and which nutritional benefits) you’re talking about!

  • Cinnamon, for example, is only consumed in its dried form but powdered cinnamon has been shown to help modulate the rise in blood sugar after meals.
  • Ginger can be used either as a fresh root or as a dried powder but either way, has anti-inflammatory benefits.  Same with garlic and onions.
  • Dried spices like cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper all have high ORAC scores, which indicate antioxidant potential.  A teaspoon of these spices is comparable to a serving of blueberries or strawberries.

Clearly, there is still plenty of nutritional benefit to be had from dried spices.

The Difference Between Fresh and Dried Herbs

When it comes to green herbs, some nutrients–and some flavor compounds–will inevitably be lost  in the drying process, and more will be lost with extended storage.   But that doesn’t mean that all dried herbs are nutritionally worthless.

How Do Fresh and Dried Herbs Compare, Nutritionally?

One ounce of fresh basil, for example, provides 30% of the DV for vitamin A, 145% of the DV for vitamin K, 8% of the DV for vitamin C. It contains 88mg of omega-3 fatty acids and has an ORAC value of 1200.

One tablespoon of dried basil (which is roughly the same amount) provides just 4% of the vitamin A, 43% of vitamin K, and only 2% of vitamin C.  It only has about 33mg of omega-3 fatty acids.   Apparently, quite a bit is lost in the drying process–although a third of a day’s supply of vitamin K is nothing to sneeze at.  It’s also possible that the dried basil they analyzed had been sitting on the shelf for a while and that a fresher sample would have fared better.

And despite the loss of certain nutrients, the ORAC  value of equivalent amounts of dried and fresh basil is actually about the same, which suggest that both are a significant source of antioxidants.

Dried and Fresh Herbs Both Have a Place in Your Kitchen

For maximum flavor and nutrition, you want to pick your herbs right before you use them.  All fresh vegetables–including herbs– will lose nutritional value just sitting in your refrigerator, or the grocer’s case.

See also my podcast on growing and using herbs.

When fresh herbs aren’t an option, dried herbs still are a source of both nutrition and flavor.   But again, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of flavor or nutrition from  a dusty bottle of dried herbs that’s been in your cupboard for several years. Every fall,  I dry a supply of oregano, rosemary, mint, and thyme—just enough to get me through the winter until I can start growing them outside again.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

ben April 5, 2011 at 10:44 am

Anyone try growing Tulsi Holy Basil? I’ve heard the taste is not very good, but it is quite healthy? !

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Monica Reinagel, MS, LN April 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

With so many herbs that taste good and are good for you, why grow one that doesn’t taste very good?

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Jim April 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Great answer to an interesting question. I’ve become hooked on these Dorot brand cubes of frozen herbs. They’re not like fresh, and probably have fewer health benefits, but they’re sure easy, and save a lot of time.

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KK April 9, 2011 at 9:37 am

Along those lines, how do frozen herbs compare to fresh or dried? Planning a big garden with lots of herbs.

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vandana June 25, 2011 at 8:14 am

Who said tulsi doesn’t taste great! I have always just loved chewing on the leaves. It is also very easy to grow here in India.

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brenda June 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm

does any one know how much 24 basil leaves is in dry measuring

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shailendra September 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm

i would like to know which kind of herbs do we get in spain which we use most and its nutrtion value please

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jennifer combs January 19, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I am doing some research about the value of dried verses fresh herbs and other plants. Can you please send me the research that backs your findings? Please?

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Oliver August 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm

What about freeze-dried herbs like e.g. in my case it’s chives, parsley, dill, sage and alike? Do they have still some nutritional value or should I dismiss them instead? Some situation in life and one haven’t the possibility to always use fresh herbs, so this is quite interesting for me to know.

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