The seeds, roots, and bark of various plants have inspired trade, battles, discovery, and poetry. They’ve flavored dishes. They’ve served as currency. They’ve bought serfs’ freedom. They’ve created empires. They’ve been touted as miracle cures and aphrodisiacs. They’ve helped preserve food – and human corpses. Arguably, the history of world trade is the history of spices.
In the last century, modern medical research has only affirmed the value of spices. A study conducted by the U.S Department of Agriculture of 27 cooking spices found that most of them contained more antioxidants per gram than fruits and vegetables.
Here are three spices you may want to include in your diet:
Turmeric, the ingredient that gives curry powder its bright yellow color, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. Studies suggest that the curcumin in turmeric may be effective in healing type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it may help prevent childhood Leukemia and slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. It can also be used topically for various skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, and fungal infections.
Dr. Andrew Weil recommends making turmeric tea, which the residents of Okinawa regularly sip on. (They’re some of the longest-living people in the world.) To make the tea, put one teaspoon of turmeric and one teaspoon ginger in four cups of water and boil for ten minutes. Add honey, maple syrup, or lemon to taste.
Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, the author of Anticancer, suggests dissolving turmeric in oil and combining it with pepper to derive the most benefits. You could try adding it to sauteed vegetables, egg salad, scrambled eggs, chicken, or tomato dishes.
A USDA clinical trial found that type 2 diabetes patients who consumed one-half teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowered their blood levels of glucose and triglycerides by 25 percent and cut LDL cholesterol by nearly 20 percent. Ingesting cinnamon also soothes the stomach, prevents urinary tract infections, helps prevent ulcers, and kills the bacteria that leads to gum disease and tooth decay.
You can add cinnamon to pancake batter, oatmeal, coffee, curries, or you can make a tea, by steeping a cinnamon stick in boiling water for ten minutes.
Cayenne contains capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory. It may aid digestion, improve circulation and reduce cholesterol and blood fat levels. Cayenne may also relieve pain when applied topically.
Try adding a pinch of cayenne to fish, meat, or vegetable dishes, or just to a glass of water.
It might be tempting to seek out pills and capsules to get more of these powerful healers into your diet. But the most beneficial way to ingest spices is probably to combine them in delicious dishes like curry.
What are your favorite spices?