In Indian cooking, spices and herbs are an integral part of recipes. We now have scientific proof for the medicinal qualities of these spices. They don’t just add flavour to our food, but also help in combating various diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer, and from gastroenteritis to depression. Boom News lists eight of the healthiest spices and herbs enjoyed around the world which can be found easily in your kitchen.
Chilli Pepper: Apart from adding ‘heat’ to your dishes, chilli peppers also give a boost to your metabolism. Studies show that capsaicin, a compound that is found in fresh chillies, and spices like cayenne and chipotle, can increase the body’s metabolic rate, causing one to burn more calories. They also stimulate brain chemicals that help us feel less hungry. In fact, one study found that people ate 16 per cent fewer calories in a meal if they’d sipped a hot-pepper-spiked tomato juice (vs. plain tomato juice) half an hour earlier.
Ginger: An ingredient which is found in almost all Indian recipes, ginger can help relieve an unsettled stomach. Studies also show ginger extracts can help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness or following surgery and chemotherapy. In a recent study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days reported 25 per cent less muscle pain as compared to those who did not. Another study found that ginger-extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis pain in the knee.
Cinnamon: A few studies suggest that adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to food might help people with type 2 diabetes. It lowers post-meal blood sugar spikes, controlling their blood sugar.
Turmeric: A formula used by our grandparents, this goldenrod-coloured spices used in India, helps in healing wounds. Sometimes ginger is also added to tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems. Modern medicine confirms some of these health benefits as well. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, apart from relieving arthritis pain, also helps in dental procedures.
Saffron: Saffron has long been used in traditional Persian medicine as a mood lifter. Research from Iran’s Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital at Tehran University of Medical Sciences has found that saffron may help to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and depression. In one study, 75 per cent of women with PMS who were given saffron capsules daily reported that their symptoms declined by at least half, compared with only 8 percent of women who didn’t take saffron.
Parsley: According to scientists at the University of Missouri, parsley may help in combating cancer-cell growth. In the study, animals that were given apigenin, a compound abundant in parsley, boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors.
Sage: Herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats. It is also believed that this herb may help in fighting early Alzheimer’s disease. In a study done by the University of Texas, college students who took sage extracts in capsule form performed significantly better on memory tests.
Rosemary: One recent study found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were spread into their study cubicles. In a study done by the Kansas State University, researchers reported that adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a cancer-causing compound, which is produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.