Spices and herbs are integral parts of our kitchen as they impart aroma, color, and taste to the recipe and sometimes mask the odor. Apart from culinary usage, they are beneficial as a medicine. A few spices have cosmetic uses too.
Generally, spices (the aromatic substances of a plant origin – roots, barks, leaves, fruits, flowers, seeds) originate in warm tropical/subtropical climates while herbs (fresh leaves of non-woody plants) originate from a temperate climate.
Both can be used fresh or in dehydrated form. Spices come in three forms – whole, powders, and derivatives like essential oils.
They act as antioxidants and have anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties; hence provide potential protection against cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and cancer. Spices are helpful in boosting immunity, increasing memory, and improving digestion by regulating metabolism. Spices help us fight allergies, infections, and nasal congestion.
Here are a few spices and their health benefits–
Allspice: aids digestion, and improves blood circulation.
Black Pepper (king of spices): antioxidant, boosts metabolism, helps in weight loss, relieves cold and cough aids in cardiac functional recovery.
Cardamom: helps in weight loss, cholesterol, and stress management.
Carrom seeds (‘Ajwain’): aid in digestion, and relieve stomach aches.
Cayenne pepper: relieves pain, reduces appetite, and boosts fat burning, it has shown anti-cancer potential in animal studies.
Cinnamon: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antidiarrheal, lowers blood sugar, relieves bloating.
Cumin: offers protection against foodborne infection, and helps in weight loss, cholesterol, and stress management.
Fenugreek: lowers blood sugar, increases milk production in lactating mothers, and helps to reduce the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Garlic: is a good cardioprotective agent.
Ginger: anti-inflammatory, prevents nausea, relieves pain.
Holy basil: improves immunity function and inhibits microbial growth.
Peppermint: provides pain relief, especially in IBS patients, the aroma oil has anti-nausea effects.
Rosemary: suppresses allergic symptoms and reduces nasal congestion.
Sage extract: improves brain and memory function. There is evidence and ongoing research that it helps with Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric and curcumin extract: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, relieves menstrual pain, aids healing of the wound. Curcumin has been shown to delay the formation of galactose-induced cataracts in rats.
- Spices are good when used in moderation.
- We must consult the doctors (Vaidya – Ayurved experts) while using the spices for medicinal purposes. People troubled from acid reflux and gastric ulcers during covid after drinking the ‘kadha’ (decoction).
- Always consult an expert while buying commercial spice extracts for medicinal purposes or as supplements because most of these medicines are not regulated.
- Though spices don’t have known side effects, few people might have allergic reactions.
- Rarely, certain spices may react with certain medications. Always discuss such with prescribing doctor about such possibilities.
The benefits of spices certainly outweigh (the negligible) side effects.
Let us celebrate the most essential things that go into our meals and induce flavors into them while keeping them healthy.
She Writer Dr. Aabha Pimprikar is a Dentist, Entrepreneur, Life skills trainer Owner, and Founder of Subhojyam Spices