Spices have always been popular as they add a unique flavor to the bland foods that we eat. There are more than 100 varieties of spices that not only have concentrated flavor and smell, but also are source of antioxidants and have a plethora of health benefits. Let us explore the flavors and health benefits of some of the common spices used worldwide.
This popular spice is obtained from the bark of cinnamon tree and is known to have regulating or lowering blood sugar levels, reducing cholesterol levels and keep the heart healthy. It gives a sweetish taste without adding sugar.
Cloves are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It helps reduce pain. Rubbing clove oil has reduced tooth and gums pain, reduced itching and pain due to athlete’s foot. Using clove in our food adds an aromatic taste, boosts immunity, improves digestion and helps in fighting of flu and cough.
Cardamom is an aromatic spice used in preparing sweet as well as spicy dishes. It is known to cure mild urinary tract infections. It is used as a mouth freshener, is rich in manganese and other micronutrients that keep the heart healthy and improves blood circulation.
Used as a main ingredient in the oily seasoning, asafetida improves digestion, prevents and treats acne and helps in improving skin. It is used effectively to relieve symptoms of dry or whooping cough and other dry respiratory conditions, just by applying a paste of ground asafetida in water on the chest. Studies have shown that it restricts the growth of harmful virus in the body.
This is a type of chilli pepper and adds spice to the dishes. It is known to reduce appetite and improve metabolism. Capsaicin fights some forms of cancer like those of lung, liver and prostate cancer.
With a pungent and distinct smell, garlic is known to combat sickness, common cold, improve heart health, reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Application of oils like coconut oil or sesame oil heated and infused with garlic on hair has reduced head-lice in school going children. The oil has to be applied, left for about half an hour and the hair has to be washed well with shampoo.
This little seed has mighty benefits of enhancing libido and masculinity, control of blood sugar and increase milk production in lactating mothers.
A must-addition in all of curry dishes originating from India, turmeric is known to reduce inflammation in body and brain. Regular use of curcumin supplements have shown improvement in memory, mood and also better cognitive skills. Curcumin is also known to have anticancer properties, reduce pain and swelling in people with arthritis.
With its pungent taste, it also packs in a lot of micronutrients like magnesium, vitamin K, iron and vitamin C. It also has antibiotic properties and is known to relieve symptoms of tonsillitis. Piperine content in black pepper keeps the contents of the stomach moving and the bowels clean.
This bitter and pungent, tiny seeds, called ajwain, is a staple item in every Indian kitchen. Several common ailments like stomach ache due to bloating, flatulence and acidity and upper respiratory tract conditions like cold and congestion are relieved with use of water boiled with carom seeds.
Another popular spice of India and South-Asia, it has a strong flavor, is rich in fiber and acts as a natural laxative. Cumin contains melatonin, the sleep-inducing enzyme.
One gram of ginger can help relieve nausea that is caused by morning sickness, motion sickness and also chemotherapy. Ginger has anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relief) properties. One study has shown a significant reduction of pain and swelling in people with osteoarthritis, when combined with cinnamon, mastic and sesame oil.
This is different from the regular basil and is considered to be sacred in India. Indians have a tradition of adding a leaf from the plant in water and after morning prayers and rituals, have a sip of this water before eating food. It is found to boost immunity by increasing immune cells in blood and inhibiting the growth of bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Some studies have shown use of holy basil has shown significant improvement in people with anxiety and anxiety related depression.