By adding bold spices and natural herbs to your diet, you can not only add flavor to food, but reap substantial health benefits. Consider some “prescriptions” for replacing common drug therapies with natural nutrition. Of course, we always recommend checking with a medical professional before throwing away those pill bottles, but these substitutions have been found to be effective. At the very least, you’ll be eating more naturally, and your food will taste better.
Ancient peoples might have known the medicinal properties of exotic spices, or they may have just liked the taste. It is a fact, though, that caravans carried spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cloves and black pepper from one side of the ancient world to the other. In a book entitled “Cumin, Camels, and Caravans, a Spice Odyssey,” Gary Paul Nabhan chronicles trade history throughout Arabia, China and India. He also ties in the culinary use of peppers, herbs and spices in the Western Hemisphere, from South America to the American Southwest, to ancient spice trade roots.
It makes for fascinating reading; old traditions have now been reinforced through scientific research. It turns out that those “C” spices, including cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamom, cayenne, chili (peppers), coriander, curry, along with others like turmeric add a lot more than flavor to food. The more colorful the spice, the better. Choose foods made interesting with saffron, green chilis, crushed red peppers and exotic peppercorn blends. Ginger packs a wallop in terms of health and well-being, as does garlic. And don’t forget mustard.
Learn to season or garnish food with green. Be liberal in your use of sage, basil, rosemary, thyme; parsley, cilantro and mint are good for both mind and body. Lavender, a member of the mint family, is known for its calming abilities and is a mainstay of modern aromatherapy. It curbs agitation related to dementia, fights depression, alleviates insomnia, relieves exhaustion and reduces headache pain.
The Power of Spice
As counterintuitive as it may seem, spicy foods can be good for you! Capsaicin, the active ingredient in spicy peppers, aids digestion, lowers blood pressure, boosts metabolism, reduces mood swings and may help curb hunger.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a strong antioxidant, has been shown to reduce growth of cancer cells, is instrumental in regulating insulin levels and triglycerides, and helps fight or regulate autoimmune system disorders. As it reduces inflammation, it can also be used as a natural pain reliever. A diet rich with cinnamon, curry, and cumin may relieve chronic arthritis pain.
- Cinnamon: Second in popularity only to pepper, cinnamon was once almost a panacea for multiple ailments. Modern research suggests a bit of caution, but the probable benefits are still extensive.
- Ginger: A natural antidote for nausea, including motion sickness, ginger also offers protection against gastric ulcers and can be the “go-to” supplement for controlling osteoarthritis pain, chronic headaches or menstrual cramps. It’s available fresh, powdered or candied. Make your own ginger ale by adding seltzer water to ginger syrup.
- Saffron: Its antidepressant effects may outpace drugs like Prozac, according to researchers. Saffron is expensive, but even small amounts increase blood flow to the brain; benefits might include slowing development of degenerative eye problems.
- Rosemary and Sage: Both are associated with wisdom and memory, and both can be beneficial in preventing or controlling dementia and Alzheimer’s. Use them in conjunction with parsley and thyme for flavorful recipes.
One thing is certain: Adding spice to your diet cannot hurt! Adjusting your diet to include these spicy natural ingredients is an effective and sensible way to encourage life-long wellness.