Spices Heal the Body

How Spices Heal the Body

It’s late fall – a time to spice things up! Warm, aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cumin and allspice help warm us during the cool, crisp weather of fall and the cold chill of winter. Warming spices such as black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, cumin and mustard powder have a subtle heat that tricks the palate into feeling warm. Plus, spices heal the body in so many ways.

And, as most of us already know, the scent of spices can warm the heart.

Spices Heal such as this Indian Spice Blend
Indian Spice Blend

During the 18th century, spices were grown around the world, becoming one among many commodities in world trade. In the 21st century we see the history of spices repeat itself – only this time in terms of scientific exploration. Medical and nutritional researchers are discovering unimaginable riches in how spices heal and aid our health.

Spices heal with an abundance of phytonutrients, plant compounds that promote health and healing. Most spices are also powerful antioxidants. Spices also derive their healing power from their large concentration of volatile oils, the compounds that supply their pungent aromas.

Spices heal & contain many unique phytonutrients. Here are just a few examples:

  • Curcumin: Potent anti-cancer properties plus the ability to fight many other diseases. Its
    only source is the spice turmeric.
  • Thymoquinone: Powerful immune booster found only in the Indian spice black cumin.
  • Piperine: The compound that makes you sneeze when you get a whiff of black pepper, protects brain cells and has a dozen other healing actions.
  • Carbazole alkaloids: Found only in the Indian spice curry leaf; fights type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Galangal acetate: Eases arthritis – found only in the Asian spice called galangal.
  • Diosgenin: Found in fenugreek, can reduce inflammation and kill cancer cells.
  • Anethole: Found in both anise and fennel, relaxes menstrual cramps and can quiet a colicky baby.
  • Clove Buds add a delicious zing to tea, and are widely used as medicine in Asian herbalism. With a warming quality, they promote circulation in the stomach, enhancing digestion and reducing gas. By warming the lungs, they thin mucus to ease cough. Cloves promote lymph function and balance triglycerides and blood sugar. Cloves contain an essential oil that is a powerful pain reliever.
  • Eugenol: Gives clove its distinctive aroma, is a powerful, natural painkiller.
  • Rosemarinic acid: Makes rosemary one of the most powerful antioxidants on earth.
  • Gingerol: The compound in ginger that helps tame nausea.
  • Capsaicin: Found in chiles; can help relieve symptoms of arthritis and psoriasis.

These and other compounds have many different mechanisms of action, along with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers.

Cinnamon Spice
Cinnamon Spice

Never Fear the Opportunity to Spice Things Up!

Don’t be intimidated by spices that are unfamiliar to you. Don’t fear what appears to be a lot of spices in a recipe.

Spice things up – ’tis the season, after all!

Favorite Baker’s Spice Blend

Sweet, savory and warm!

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Blend the spices thoroughly and store in a cool place in glass jar.

Organic Spices

Just a quick, but honorable mention – many spices are now made in organic varieties. These are highly recommended for their health benefits, but also for their aroma and flavor. The natural flavors in organic spices are superior to that of non-organic.

 

Top 10 Most Potent Herbs and Spices

Top Ten Most Potent Herbs and Spices

According to the Journal of Medicinal Foods, the top ten most potent herbs and spices are as follows:

  1. Cloves. The oil and the extract are used commercially to flavor meat products, condiments, spiced fruits, candies, chewing gum, wines and liqueurs. The distilled leaf oil which is milder, is also used to flavor meats.
  2. Cinnamon. Commercially, cinnamon is used to flavor baked foods, meats, candy, pickles, chewing gum, soft drinks, ice cream and liqueurs. Cinnamon is an amazing spice with many health benefits.
  3. Jamaican allspice. A clove like aroma and a heavy sweetness. Used whole in poached fish stock, vegetable and fruit pickles, wild game. Used ground in cakes, puddings, cookies, gravy.
  4. Apple pie spice. Commonly a combination of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground allspice and ground ginger. Adds wonderful flavor to baked goods such as apple pie, strudel and baked apples.
  5. Oregano (ground). Used extensively in Greek and Italian cooking. Pairs well with tomatoes, eggplant, and any meat. Pairs well with pasta dishes.
  6. Pumpkin pie spice (mixture). A flavorful spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.
  7. Marjoram. Mainly used in stuffing
  8. Sage. Sage and onion stuffing for ducks, geese and pork enables the stomach to digest the rich food.
  9. Thyme. Add thyme to stocks, marinades, stuffing’s, sauces and soups. Thyme aids digestion of fatty foods. Add to chicken, fish, hot vegetables, fruit salads and jams.
  10. Gourmet Italian spice. A very unique blend of Thyme, Rosemary and sage. Brings a taste of Italy to your table.

Top 10 Most Potent Herbs and Spices

Side Note: How About Upgrading Your Marinades with Herbs?

Researchers discovered that cooking meat at high temperatures can create carcinogenic compounds (see also, Remove Carcinogens when Grilling Meat), but herbs can be your hero! Rosemary, mint and oregano contain ployphenol antioxidants that help block the formation of these heterocyclic amines, suggests research from Kansas State University.