Spices are well-known as appetizers and are considered essential in culinary art worldwide.
Apart from adding colour, flavour, and taste, the consumption of spices provides infinite health benefits, including potential health benefits for protection from chronic diseases. For centuries, spices have been used to bolster human health. Indian traditional medicine has long recognized the potential health benefits of Indian spices. Recent research has further confirmed many of these properties. For instance, spices intensify salivary flow. They cleanse the oral cavity from food adhesion and bacteria, help check infection and caries, and protect the mucous membrane.
Spices act as a stimulant to the digestive system and aid digestion in many ways. Stroke frequency and blood pressure can be diminished or augmented using spices. Some spices may even serve as a substitute for costly beauty products and medicines. Here are the Top 10 Kitchen spices that have healing effects.
1. Fenugreek (Methi):
It is mainly a green leafy vegetable, and seeds are used for seasoning and preparing masalas. It also has many medicinal uses. Fenugreek seeds and leaves are good for increasing breast milk in lactating women. It is also helpful for treating diabetes and lowering cholesterol, as it helps reduce blood sugar levels. You can consume it by incorporating it into your diet or chewing its seeds (after soaking them overnight). Fenugreek also helps maintain a good metabolism and prevents constipation. It purifies blood and helps in flushing out the harmful toxins.
2. Coriander (Dhania) leaves/seeds:
All parts of the coriander plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are commonly used in cooking. Seeds can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly before grinding to enhance and alter the aroma. The leaves of coriander are stimulant and tonic. They strengthen the stomach, relieve flatulence and increase the secretion and discharge of urine. Coriander seeds reduce fever and promote a feeling of coolness. Coriander juice is highly beneficial in vitamin A, B1, B2, C and iron deficiencies. One or two teaspoons of coriander juice, added to fresh buttermilk, is highly helpful in treating digestive disorders such as indigestion, nausea, dysentery, hepatitis and ulcerative colitis. It is also beneficial in typhoid fever. Regularly drinking coriander water helps lower blood cholesterol as it is a good diuretic and stimulates the kidneys. It can be prepared by boiling dry coriander seeds and straining the decoction after cooling.
3. Chilies (Mirch):
Your eyes may start watering just with the name of it, but you would be surprised to know that these spicy ones have healing power, too. Since ancient times, healers have used chillies to cure various ailments. They have been used externally to provide pain relief and internally to fix anything from yellow fever to the common cold. The active ingredient in hot red peppers is capsaicin, which gives it that unique sting. Capsaicin triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, which has a pain-relieving effect similar to that of morphine. Their high vitamin C content can also substantially increase the absorption of non-heme iron from other ingredients in a meal, such as beans and grains. Studies have shown that consuming spicy foods like cayenne pepper can help with something that causes a lot of internal pain: ulcers. Capsaicin, found in spicy foods, aids in reducing ulcers by restricting the growth of ulcer-causing bacteria, reducing excess stomach acid, increasing blood flow, and reducing inflammation.
4. Turmeric (Haldi):
Although usually used in its dried, powdered form, turmeric is also used fresh, much like ginger. Turmeric, a bright yellow spice and a staple in Indian cuisine, is sometimes also used as an agent to impart a rich, custard-like yellow colour to the dishes. In Ayurvedic practices, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties. Many use it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts, burns, and bruises. It also makes coping with diabetes easier. Raw Turmeric juice is used to treat hyperacidity and indigestion. The juice of raw turmeric also acts as a blood purifier. Curcumin – an active component of turmeric, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it helpful in treating arthritis, inflammatory conditions, and possibly cancer. Turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as its ability to enhance brain health, combat Alzheimer’s, and lower the risks of heart disease and cancer, make it a recommended choice for managing arthritis. Turmeric is also an inexpensive and indigenous beauty aid. It is used in the formulation of some sunscreens. Smearing with turmeric paste cleans and beautifies skin. Its antiseptic and healing properties prevent and cure pimples. Turmeric, this bright yellow spice, is often found in curries, rice dishes, and lentil stews.
5. Clove (Laung):
Cloves can be used in cooking either whole or in a ground form, but as they are solid, they are used sparingly. Cloves promote enzymatic flow and boost digestive functioning. They are used in various states of gastric irritability and dyspepsia. Licking the powder of fried cloves mixed with honey effectively controls vomiting. Chewing a clove with a crystal of common salt eases expectoration (the process of coughing up and spitting out), relieves the irritation in the throat and stops cough in the pharyngitis – inflammation of the pharynx. Clove is an effective remedy for asthma. A teaspoon of decoction prepared by boiling six cloves in 30 ml of water can be taken with honey thrice daily as an expectorant. The use of a clove in toothache decreases pain. It also helps to reduce infection due to its antiseptic properties. Ginger, known for its ability to soothe nausea, including morning sickness, can be an alternative remedy for gastric irritability, dyspepsia, and motion sickness.
6. Cinnamon (Dalchini):
An Aromatic smelling bark, Cinnamon is widely used in most kitchens. It is principally employed in cooking as a seasoning and flavouring material. Ancient Chinese references mention Cinnamon as early as 2700 BC as a medicine for relieving nausea, fever, diarrhoea, and gastroenteritis problems. Cinnamon is used for stimulating gastric and digestive juices and carminative. It is an antiseptic that helps kill bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease, which is why most toothpastes are cinnamon-flavoured. It also kills many fungi and viruses that cause diseases. It helps calm the stomach and clears up urinary tract infections. In diabetic patients, it helps metabolize sugar better using less insulin by slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract and improving insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon contains high levels of antioxidants, such as polyphenols, that can protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants have potent anti-inflammatory properties, which may help your body fight infections and repair tissue damage. Additionally, cinnamon aids in lowering cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
7. Black Pepper (Kali Mirch):
Pepper is one of the oldest and most important of all spices. It is usually dried (known as a peppercorn when dried) and used as a spice and seasoning. Black pepper helps relieve flatulence. Pepper stimulates the digestive organs and produces an increased flow of saliva and gastric juices. Powdered black pepper, thoroughly mixed with malted jaggery (gur), may be taken to treat such conditions. Alternatively, a quarter teaspoon of pepper powder mixed with thin buttermilk can be taken during indigestion or heaviness in the stomach. An equal part of cumin (jeera) powder may also be added to the buttermilk for better results. Three peppers sucked with a pinch of cumin (jeera) seeds and a crystal of common salt provide relief from cough. In a small study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2020, it was found that peppermint scent can soothe an upset stomach and reduce nausea in surgical patients post-procedure.
8. Cardamom (Elaichi):
Cardamom is the “queen of spices”; it is one of the most valued spices in the world. Cardamom has a strong, unique taste with an intensely aromatic fragrance. Cardamom is used chiefly in medicines to relieve flatulence and strengthen digestion. Ground cardamom seed mixed with ginger (adrak), cloves (laung) and coriander (dhania) is an effective remedy for indigestion. A tea made from cardamom is valuable in headaches caused by indigestion. This can also be used as a remedy in the treatment of depression. Green cardamom is broadly used to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, and congestion of the lungs. Daily gargling with an infusion of cardamom and cinnamon (dalchini) cures pharyngitis and sore throat and also protects one from the flu. Furthermore, its anti-inflammatory attributes aid oral health and can even be used for teeth whitening and breath freshening. Cardamom is also believed to lower blood pressure potentially.
9. Cumin (Jeera)/Carom (Ajwain):
Cumin and Carom seeds are used for cooking and possess many medicinal properties. They are a good source of iron and keep the immune system healthy. Water boiled with cumin seeds is good for coping with dysentery. Cumin (also known as Caraway) oil is specially used to remove flatulence. Also, a cup of tea made from caraway seeds taken thrice daily after a meal will relieve relief. The tea is prepared by adding a tsp of caraway seed in 1.5 – 2 litres of boiling water and allowing it to simmer on a slow fire for 15 minutes. Strain and sip hot to get the best results. Caraway seeds are known to be an effective treatment for cough, making them a valuable addition to your spice collection. Cumin may also play a role in weight loss, as one study found that those who ate a little less than a teaspoon of cumin a day while on a low-calorie diet lost more body fat and weight.
Ajwain is mucous clearing and beneficial in treating respiratory diseases. A mix of the seed and buttermilk effectively relieves difficult expectoration caused by dry phlegm. A hot fomentation with the sources is a popular household remedy for asthma. Ajwain is good for muscular pains. The seeds should be fried in coconut oil and massaged to treat this condition. Ajwain shouldn’t be used excessively as it can cause fluid dryness and damage your eyes.
10. Asafetida (Hing):
Asafetida is used as a digestive aid and as a seasoning in food. When uncooked, its odour is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers; otherwise, the aroma will contaminate other nearby spices. However, its fragrance and flavour become milder and more pleasant upon heating in oil or ghee. It has many medicinal uses. Add a pinch of hing to buttermilk with a bit of salt for gas and flatulence, and drink it after meals. A little thing should be dissolved in water in case of stomach ache, and the paste should be applied to the navel. A piece of hing placed on an aching tooth reduces pain. Raw asafetida may be given to patients with lung infections like bronchitis in a dosage of 5gm per day. It can be fried in ghee and given to patients suffering from neuro-muscular disorders such as sciatica, facial palsy, paralysis, etc., for relief from pain. Breathing disorders such as coughs and colds can be consumed in dosages of 12-15 gm for relief. You can even apply it on itching skin for comfort.
Though these spices provide innumerable benefits, they should be used sparingly. The excessive use of spices in food can cause harm to the health. Try to make specific use of these spices. This will help you to make optimal use of the resources provided by nature. Strike the right balance and add some spice to your life.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can adding spices to your food improve your overall health?
Adding spices to your food can improve your overall health in various ways. Spices like cumin, turmeric, and others are packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and beneficial compounds that can boost digestion, enhance immune function, reduce inflammation, and even help manage weight.
Can consuming too many spices be harmful to your health?
Consuming spices in moderation is generally safe and can even have health benefits. However, drinking excessive spices, especially in concentrated forms or supplements, may cause adverse effects like digestive issues or allergic reactions. It’s best to enjoy herbs as part of a balanced diet.
What is the difference between fresh and dried spices regarding their health benefits?
Fresh spices are generally believed to have higher antioxidants and essential oils levels than dried spices. However, fresh and dried spices can provide health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, aiding digestion and boosting the immune system.