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.
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 chilies; 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.
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.
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.