Nutritional information and health benefits of Indian spices.
Herbs and spices have traditionally been used to treat diseases for thousands of years. The advantage of using of spices and herbs over commercial drugs is the decreased side effects. Indian spices are very popular not only in India but elsewhere also. They add flavor and nutrients to dishes without fat or calories!
Asafoetida - gets its name from the Persian aza, for mastic or resin, and the Latin foetidus, for stinking. It is a gum from the sap of the roots and stem of the ferula species, a giant fennel that exudes a vile odor. It is vital to keep asafoetida in airtight containers as its sulfurous odor will affect other foods and spices. This is a very powerful spice and even in its ground state lasts well over a year if stored properly, away from light and air. This is traditional powdered asafoetida, that is, the pure ground resin mixed with rice flour and gum arabic. It is much easier to use than the pure resin alone, and may be added directly to recipes (the unmixed resin requires preparatory frying).
Asafoetida is used mostly in Indian vegetarian cooking, in which the strong onion-garlic flavor enhances many dishes, especially those of Brahmin and Jain castes where onions and garlic are traditionally prohibited. It is used in many lentil dishes (often to prevent flatulence), vegetarian soups and pickles. It is also suited to many fish dishes, and some pappadums (lentil-flour flatbreads) are seasoned with asafoetida. Cooking radically improves both the taste and smell of asafoetida powder.
Cardamom - its prime uses are similar to those of
cinnamon and ginger - as carminative, digestion and stimulant. It is
also a valuable flavoring agent for herbal medicinal preparations for
indigestion and flatulence.
The intense heat produced by cayenne pepper is produced by its high concentration of capsaicin. This compound is well recognized in clinical research as an effective pain reliever, as a digestive and antiulcer aid and for its cardiovascular benefits.
In addition capsaicin has the ability to lower body temperature by stimulating the cooling center of the hypothalamus in the brain, helping to deal with the intense tropical heat.
Capsaicin is also responsible for the irritating effect of red pepper when is applied to the skin or ingested via its ability to cause the release of substance P.
But the repeated applications of capsaicin deplete substance P from small nerve fibers thereby eventually blocking the pain sensation. A similar occurrence happens with the ingestion of cayenne pepper in that the more frequently it is consumed, the greater the tolerance. Capsaicin containing creams and gels are available as FDA approved topical treatments for arthritis and pain such as that seen in diabetic neuropathy. Clinical studies demonstrate that capsaicin products applied topically can produce impressive result in cases of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post herpetic neuralgia.
Topical capsaicin preparations have been shown to be an effective treatment for cluster headaches and osteoarthritis pain.
Perhaps most important are its effects of stimulating and enhancing digestion.
Although people with active peptic ulcer may be bothered by spicy foods containing cayenne pepper, spicy foods do not cause ulcers in normal individuals. There is some evidence that supports the idea that spicy food contains cayenne pepper and turmeric may actually help to heal peptic ulcers. Red pepper consumption protects against aspirin - induced stomach damage and improved abdominal pain, fullness, and nausea scores in people with nonnuclear dyspepsia.
Cayenne pepper also exerts a number of beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. Specifically, it reduces the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis by reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and platelet aggregation, as well as increasing fibrinolytic activity, referring to the ability to prevent the formation of blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism.
Several studies has shown that increasing the intake of cayenne pepper may be an effective method of increasing the basal metabolic rate and the burning of fat for energy (lipid oxidation).
Capsaicin also has a stimulating effect on mucus membranes of the nose and sinuses. Capsaicin stimulates blood flow through the membranes and causes mucus secretions to become thinner and more liquid. This action makes it beneficial in combating the common cold or sinus infection.
- has a long history of use in both Eastern and Western cultures as a
medicine. Cinnamon's unique healing abilities come from three basic
components in the essential oil found in its bark. These oil contain
active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl
alcohol, plus a wide range of other volatile substances.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods - Michael Murray
Cloves - contain
significant amount of an active component called
eugenol, which has
made them the subject of numerous health studies, including studies
showing benefit for the prevention of toxicity from environmental
pollutants, such as carbon tetrachloride, prevention of digestive tract
cancers and treatment of joint inflammation.
Coriander seeds - have a health supporting reputation that is high on the list of the healing spices. The essential oils in the seeds make it and effective carminative and digestive aid. In parts of Europe, coriander has traditionally been referred to as an anti diabetic plant. In parts of India, it has traditionally been used regarding to its anti-flammatory properties. Modern scientific investigations of coriander have focused on its antimicrobial properties., antanxiety action and cholesterol – lowering effects.
Cumin - cumin seeds
have traditionally been noted to be of benefit to the digestive system.
Fennel seeds are a common
cooking spice worldwide, popular with fish and curries. Fennel is an
element of Chinese five spice powder, and is part of innumerable
traditional Mediterranean, Arabic, Iranian, Indian and European recipes.
Fennel's sweet earthy taste enhances meat dishes, fish, breads, pickles
and vinegar. The herb is also traditional in Chinese, Arab, Indian and
Western pharmacopoeias. After meals, fennel seeds are used in several
cultures to prevent gas and upset stomach. The 1997 Commission E on
Phytotherapy and Herbal Substances of the German Federal Institute for
Drugs recommends Fennel seed for 'Dyspepsias such as mild, spastic
gastrointestinal afflictions, fullness, flatulence. Catarrh of the upper
respiratory tract. Fennel syrup, fennel honey: catarrh of the upper
respiratory tract in children.' 'Side Effects: In individual cases
allergic reactions of skin and respiratory tract.' 'Daily dosage: 5 - 7
g herb; 10 - 20 g fennel syrup or honey (Erg. B. 6); 5 - 7.5 g compound
fennel tincture; equivalent preparations. Mode of Administration:
Crushed or ground seeds for teas, tea-like products, as well as other
galenical preparations for internal use. Duration of Administration
Fennel preparations should not be used on a prolonged basis (several
weeks) without consulting a physician or pharmacist.' 'Actions: Promotes
gastrointestinal motility, in higher concentrations acts as an
antispasmodic. Experimentally, anethole and fenchone have been shown to
have a secretolytic action in the respiratory tract; in the frog,
aqueous fennel extracts raise the mucociliary activity of the ciliary
epithelium.' The main active constituents, which include the terpenoid
anethole, are found in the volatile oil. Anethole and other terpenoids
may have mild estrogen-like activity, and inhibit spasms in smooth
muscles, such as those in the intestinal tract. Recent studies have
found fennel to possess diuretic, choleretic (bile-producing),
pain-reducing, fever-reducing, and antimicrobial actions. Fennel was
formerly an official drug in the United States and was listed as being
used for indigestion and possibly for stimulating milk flow in women.
Whole seeds may be chewed or used in tea. Grieve's classic 'A Modern
Herbal': 'On account of its aromatic and carminative properties, Fennel
fruit is chiefly used medicinally with purgatives to allay their
tendency to griping and for this purpose forms one of the ingredients of
the well-known compound Liquorice Powder.' 'Fennel water has properties
similar to those of anise and dill water: mixed with sodium bicarbonate
and syrup, these waters constitute the domestic 'Gripe Water,' used to
correct the flatulence of infants.'
Ginger – it is very
effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In
herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as excellent carminative, a
substance that promotes the elimination of intestinal gas, and
intestinal spasmolytic, a substance that relaxes and soothes the
A combination of ginger
cardamom, cinnamon and coriander is carminative and stimulating to the
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