Spices are a wonderful way to enhance the flavor of the food we eat but did you know that spices are actually used to heal the body as well? Spices originated in India, Indonesia and other parts of south and southeast Asia as early as 2600BCE. It is from these countries that spices were introduced to the eastern Mediterranean such as countries like Syria and Egypt and the rest of the world. Spices are pieces of root, bark, seeds or other parts of a plant that have been dried.
Spices contain an abundance of phytonutrients, plant compounds that bestow health and promote healing in a variety of ways. Most spices are powerful antioxidants that control and disarm the free radicals that can damage cells, causing illness and aging. Phytonutrients are anti- inflammatory and chronic low grade inflammation has been linked to the development of debilitating and deadly health problems. There have been documented research studies that show that people that eat a diet rich in spices have lower rates of certain diseases. An example of this is the United States has a colon cancer rate three times that of India, which is well known for its spicy cuisine. India also has one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease. In Ayurveda, which originates from India, herbs and spices may be suggested to the client to aid in healing and maintaining balance within the body and mind with the goal of keeping the client free of illness and disease.
What I would like to share with you are some of the benefits the spices that you may have in your kitchen are to your overall health and well-being. My goal is to let you know that when you spice it up a bit you begin a natural healing method that can bring wellness to your life.
- All Spice ~ this spice is just one spice and not a mixture of many, as it is believed to be. It contains more than two dozen compounds with an even greater variety of healing actions, making it a genuine all- round curative. It is grown in Jamaica and is a bit spicy, warm and aromatic. It is a powerful antioxidant.
- Bay Leaves ~ these leaves come from the Laurel tree in California. It contains over 80 active compounds of antioxidants that it uses to help keep disease at bay. Bay leaves are known to assist with decreasing elevated blood sugar levels such as in Type 2 Diabetes as well as lowering “LDL” the bad cholesterol and raising “HDL” the good cholesterol. These leaves have a bitter flavor and are great for using in tomato sauces.
- Cayenne Pepper ~ is made from the dry ground up pod of a chili pepper. It has spicy heat and is commonly associated with Mexican cooking. It is also widely used in Thailand, India, Turkey, Southern Italy and Spain. Great for bringing heat to a dish.
- Cinnamon ~ this spice is great for balancing blood sugar and is most effective on people with Type 2 Diabetes. This spice also has heart protecting power due to its ability to assist with decreasing “LDL” the bad cholesterol as well as assisting with dropping triglycerides. It is wonderful for stopping spikes in blood sugar after eating a meal. Cinnamon has a sweet-spicy taste and is derived from a tropical evergreen tree.
- Ginger ~ is my favorite spice for quieting that queasy feeling that can come from nausea or motion sickness. Ginger comes from Asia and is sometimes referred to as “the hand” because of its shape. Ginger is used in Asian cooking and taste delicious in stir- fry dishes. It has a hot, pungent taste. It is also great for nausea after surgery or chemotherapy-induced nausea. Ginger is rich in phytonutrients called gingerols, which are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-disease.
As you can see this is just the beginning the the healing benefits of using spices in the food that you eat. There are so many spices to learn about, use and enjoy that I could actually write a book about them. My first suggestion for you however would be to begin experimenting with the spices listed above and then add to your spice collection, as you get more comfortable utilizing them in your cooking, get a good resource book that gives you some information about the healing benefits of spice, preferably an Ayurvedic book and just dive in. Be free and let your taste buds guide you to a life of “spicy healing.”
Wishing you much health and wellness!
Rochele Lawson, RN,AHP,CMS
The Queen of Feeling Fabulous