Fall is the perfect moment to discover which herbs and spices keep the inner fire burning as we enter the colder months. In Ayurveda, we value herbs and spices as medicine. Let’s look at their lesser-known preventative health benefits.
Did you know you can beat the beat the fall/winter blues with turmeric? Studies have found it helps to reduce depression. Turmeric owes its preventative and curative skills to an active ingredient, curcumin, a diverse compound with rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
For 1000s of years, curcumin has been shown to protect and improve the health of every organ in the body. This has been documented more recently in human and animal studies.
Curcumin combats over 70 maladies including some of our biggest health threats: cancer, heart disease, Type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s. It also helps alleviate asthma, blemishes, high blood pressure, gout pain, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis and cholesterol problems.
In India, turmeric is called the anti-cancer spice. It inhibits the action of genes that actually trigger cancer, curbs the proliferation of tumorous cancer cells, prevents the development of blood supply necessary for cancer cells to form and enhances cancer-destroying effects of chemotherapy in radiation.
Stir a dash of turmeric into kitchari, any rice dish or couscous and savor your meal’s delightful flavors.
Ginger is a spice that quiets that queasy feeling. Researchers have found it to improve symptoms of nausea and vomiting caused by upset stomach and diarrhea, and it can even prevent motion sickness before boarding a plane or a boat. Apparently ginger suppresses the vasopressin released from the central nervous system, a hormone that constricts blood vessels.
50% to 80% of women suffer from morning sickness during their first trimester – the nausea can trigger vomiting. Ginger can improve symptoms of nausea and vomiting and it’s also clinically safe for pregnant women.
It also reduces the effects of post-anesthesia and chemotherapy-induced nausea. People who suffer from migraine-induced nausea find relief from ginger. Ginger is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. In Ayurveda we call it an anti-disease spice.
It contains gingerol, a natural anti-inflammatory that research finds may help to reduce next-day muscle pain, and also eases discomfort from period cramps.
Add it to kitchari, Asian cooking, make a tea, cookies, bread – all using fresh, high quality ginger. Your digestive system will sway in a happy dance from feeling fabulous.
Cloves calm your belly as well. When you add a pinch to applesauce or in tea, it’s yummy and aromatic.
The key ingredient in cloves is eugenol, which has anti-bacterial properties. It’s highly effective in treating stomach ulcers linked to stomach cancers. In lab studies it’s been proven that the H. pylori bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers can be completely diminished when you consume cloves in the right amount.
The eugenol in cloves stopped the growth of H. pylori strains in 40% of the people tested at a rate 25% faster than the use of amoxicillin or any other pharmaceutical medication meant to treat stomach ulcers.
Oil of cloves is just as effective as benzocaine in numbing oral tissue before a needle stick at the dentist’s office. Because it’s an anti-inflammatory, it reduces swelling, pain & redness around any type of injury. As an anti-bacterial, it also kills germs.
In traditional and folk medicine, cloves have also been used for indigestion, nausea, gas, diarrhea, bloating and colic. It’s used against infections, for muscle spasms, to help women prepare for labor, for skin problems including acne, ulcers and sores. It’s also used as a memory aid and even as an aphrodisiac.
Stay tuned for Part II for more spicy goodness…
What spices do you love? Let me know in the comments below!