‘We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.’ Adelle Davis Spices have been traditionally used for their therapeutic properties. Tumeric The turmeric root is a valued condiment that adds flavour and a pronounced yellow colour to food. Indian physicians have always used turmeric, or haldi as it is known in India, to treat arthritis, dysentery and ulcers. But it is not just the Indian people who have recognised the wisdom and complexity of this amazing natural spice. Millions of Indonesians, Japanese and Chinese people are also familiar with the powerful healing properties of this natural root. Even in the West, the potent plant compounds in turmeric are considered to be the most powerful healing rhizome on the planet. Turmeric is part of the curcuminoid family of spices. Curcuminoids have been scientifically shown to enhance brain function and directly inhibit the enzymatic activity of COX-2, an enzyme that helps regulate inflammation and pain. The curcumin element in turmeric prevents the enzyme from even forming. The therapeutic, medicinal properties of curcuminoids have not gone unnoticed by the pharmaceutical industry. The biological activity of turmeric as a healing agent explains why companies are interested and why they have filed for so many patents. The curcuminoids group of natural compounds can be easily isolated and synthesised which makes them suitable for drug formulations. The Indian government successfully overturned a patent application for turmeric. In 1993, a patent was filed by the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in America for the use of turmeric powder as a wound-healing agent, the patent was granted in 1995. The New Delhi-based Council of Scientific and Industrial Research challenged the patent, and the US patent office upheld the objections, which lead to the subsequent cancellation of the patent. Dr R. A. Mashelkar, an Indian scientist, alerted the Indian government to these issues. A spokesman for the government said: ‘We will not allow anyone to patent something that we have known about for thousands of years.’ Turmeric can also be taken in supplement form which is useful if you are not making spicy food each day. The supplement delivers high concentrations of this natural wonder. Watch out for supplements that contain synthesised additives to ensure you are not ingesting chemical solvents. It takes about two or three months before you get the full benefits of this herbal remedy. If you are pregnant, check with your medical practitioner or naturopath if you can take supplements. Turmeric and arthritis In addition to its anti-cancer properties, this pungent deep-yellow powder is also useful for healing wounds, aiding digestion, relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Since inflammation is responsible for playing a large role in many diseases, if you have arthritis, rheumatism, muscular problems or memory loss, you should add turmeric to your daily diet and ensure you are getting good quantities of it. This potent natural anti-inflammatory has no adverse side-effects unlike many anti-inflammatory drugs available on prescription. Cumin Cumin seeds have a nutty, peppery taste and they are a key ingredient of curry powder. The seed can be bought whole or ground into a powder. It is rich in iron, which is a vital component of haemoglobin. Cumin is also rich in calcium, manganese and magnesium. It slows down free-radical damage in the body and research show it has anti-cancer effects. I like to add cumin to crackers and curry (see recipes on page XX) This culinary spice gives a good kick to crackers, soups and sauces. I use the seed rather than cumin powder, as the seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle and they don’t lose their flavour as quickly as the powder. Ginger This is another excellent anti-inflammatory root and rhizome. I absolutely love adding it to my green juice. It gives it a lovely warm taste, especially in the winter months when drinking cold juices can seem unappealing. Ginger is very effective in treating morning sickness as it blocks a neurotransmitter that can trigger nausea. I well remember how my mother used to give me a warm ginger drink for a queasy stomach. She never read a health book in her life, yet she instinctively knew what foods helped each specific ailment. Just like turmeric, ginger takes a while before you get its full effects. It’s also very effective at preventing colds. I put ginger in my green juices every day, not only is it full of health boosting properties but it also tastes lovely in the juice with some lemon. Cayenne Cayenne is another amazing spice that is useful for the heart. Cayenne pepper improves circulation and it helps to clean and maintain the cardiovascular system. It has a variety of other therapeutic properties that has earned it its healing reputation. It calms ulcers, lowers blood pressure and it is used to coagulate blood from cuts and wounds. For cuts apply ground cayenne powder directly to the affected area and cover with a bandage. Be warned it will sting but it does a fantastic job. The virtue of this natural product is it provides effective, long-term relief. Cayenne can be added to a glass of water first thing in the morning to improve circulation. It also adds a nice kick to bland meals. It’s extremely hot, so use it very sparingly until you get used to its peppery taste. I use it on nearly everything instead of pepper. Try it in hummus, soups, curries, crackers and sauces to give them extra flavour. I don’t know how I ate food without it. I usually top my salad with some hummus and a sprinkling of cayenne on top to give it a nice spicy flavour! Cinnamon This has many medicinal uses. For example, it is believed to improve digestion and it is used for colds, nausea, diarrhoea and painful menstrual cramps. The rolled cinnamon sticks can be grated into warm drinks or the ground powder can be sprinkled over cereals or oatmeal as an alternative to sugar. The old saying ‘variety is the spice of life’ has always been true, and with health-care costs on the rise, it might be well worth taking a closer look at the benefits of these medicinal plants and spices. If you are looking for more natural remedies try these healing spices. They are cheap and they have no side-effects. As consumers learn more about their health benefits, I have no doubt they will find that putting some spice into their life will be a valuable addition to a healthy diet. Adding these spices to your foods and juices is so easy and such a good way to boost your immunity especially coming into these winter months. So to quickly recap;
- Use turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties. If you don’t want to add it to your food, it can be taken in supplement form as the supplement delivers high concentrations of this amazing spice.
- Cayenne is useful for the heart. Add it to water first thing in the morning to improve circulation and to help clean up the arteries of the heart.
- Cumin’s nutty, peppery taste adds a nice flavor to crackers, breads, soups and sauces and, of course, curries.
- Ginger can be added to your juices and it gives the juice a lovely warm taste. Ginger is very effective in treating nausea or a queasy stomach and colds.