The medicinal properties of spices have been attracting a considerable amount of scientific research over the past couple of decades. I thought that I would open this new topic as there is so much to say about the health benefits of culinary herbs and spices.
In this context a spice is: any aromatic plant used as a food flavorant - therefore culinary herbs are included in this definition.
Spices provide many health benefits but here are 10 of the most important of them:
Anti-oxidant activity: Damaging oxidative stress occurs when there are insufficient antioxidants available to “mop up” excess free radicals. Damage caused by oxidative stress has been implicated in a range of diseases including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Some antioxidants are produced by the body, but these need to be supplemented by the antioxidants found in foods. The best way to do this is by regularly eating a variety of antioxidant-rich foods such as culinary herbs and spices.
Spices have the highest antioxidant activity of all food groups including fresh fruit and vegetables (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition July 2006).
Inflammation: There is a pervasive type of systemic inflammation underlying a wide range of chronic diseases and causes damage to most tissues and organs.
The phytonutrients found in spices can reduce the pathological effects of inflammation by acting against each of these contributory factors as well as by direct anti-inflammatory action.
The most potent anti-inflammatory spices are bay leaf, garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary, thyme and turmeric.
Immune System: Although our immune systems weaken as we age we can counter this by eating a diet rich in spice-based immune boosting compounds. These will help aid our aging immune systems by helping to fight off cancer and infections and prevent the development of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus etc. Spices particularly rich in immunomodulating phytonutrients are black pepper and garlic.
Toxins: Spice-derived compounds are extremely effective in augmenting the body’s mechanisms for combating toxins. Spices such as mustard, wasabi, caraway, citrus, coriander garlic, rosemary and turmeric neutralize a whole range of environmental carcinogens and toxins.
Cancer: The fundamental cause of cancer is DNA damage that can occur as a result of aging, genetic susceptibility, and exposure to an assortment of carcinogens.
Many of the phytonutrients found in spices act as potent preventive agents against cancer by defending DNA against free radicals and other toxins. They prevent the overproduction of toxic chemicals within the body, assist the body’s detoxification processes and modulate a range of mechanisms involved in the development of cancer.
Spices may also become powerful treatments for certain types of cancer.
Some spices enhance the effects of the traditional cancer treatments of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as well as reducing the negative side effects of these therapies.
The most important anticancer spices are anise, basil, black pepper, caraway, clove, fennel, garlic, ginger, green tea, mustard, rosemary and turmeric.
Diabetes: The phytonutrients found in spices help to control many of the pathological mechanisms that underlie diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Cinnamon, fenugreek, garlic, coriander, ginger and caper are the spices most effective in lowering blood glucose.
The myriad of antioxidant compounds in spices also help to protect against the severe oxidative damage to which all diabetes sufferers are subject.
Alzheimer's Disease: The precise cause of Alzheimer's disease is unknown. However several factors such as oxidative stress, inflammation and the accumulation of toxins in the brain are known to be associated with its development. Turmeric, rosemary, ginger and garlic show impressive protective and curative effects against this disease. Their anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory anti-toxin and other effects all contribute to their position as the most important food group in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
Heart Disease: Spices are powerful preventative agents against cardiovascular disease as they modify most risk factors as well as other illnesses and pathological processes associated with this condition.
Caper, cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mustard, oregano, rosemary, thyme and others exhibit powerful, protective effects against the development of heart attacks and strokes.
Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration is a disease of the macula of the eye that is found predominantly in elderly people and is the leading cause of central vision loss in the USA for those over the age of 50 years.
Several very large studies have shown conclusively that those individuals who eat a diet rich in antioxidants reduce their risk of developing macular degeneration by up to 35%.
Aging: The processes underlying aging such as oxidative stress and inflammation are common to many age-related illnesses such as those mentioned above.
Therefore the aging process can probably be retarded by foods, such as spices, that contain high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and other protective compounds.
Very true spices act like medicines .
Any information about asafoetida as per my knowledge it is a gum of a tree .
This is very useful for digestion.
Turmeric is one of nature's most powerful healers. It has shown promise in treating cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, psoriasis, melanoma, and many more health ...20 Health Benefits of Turmeric
Yes, asafoetida is a resinours gum that is used as a spice and as a traditional medicine primarily in the East. It has also been used as an attractant by fishermen.
Not much scientific research has gone into this spice but it has been shown to have potential anti-viral and anti-parasitic properties.
Indeed, turmeric is one of the star healing spices but should be used with other spices in order for the body to utilize it to the fullest extent.
Here is a link to an article on Natural News -
Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar, is anti-microbial, has anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, and is a rich source of antioxidants
Ginger helps with nausea, is a powerful antioxidant, is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain, digestive aid, anti-inflammatory
Oregano has potent anti-bacterial properties, effective against candida albicans overgrowth, antioxidant
Thank you Kieth for sharing with us.
Good links Kellie.
Cumin is is good for the digestion as it stimulates the appetite.
Hi Diana and everyone,
yes indeed, cumin is good for the digestion...Doctors often use a cumin-solution to empty and above all thoroughlly clean intestin and stomach before they "mirror" or radiograph....Also very true as far as ginger´s concerned.
Rosmarin tea (=infusion. They call it here tea), luke warm with 2 spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar sweetened with organic honey, is good for the heart and said to prevent heart attacks if used 2 or 3 times a day, plus lots of water -this in general-, as otherwise probably nothing happens...
And above all, make it a habit...
I study this "subject" continually.
WHAT AN EXCELLENT POST to bring AWARENESS!!!
...and plenty of water, some light stretching (if not yoga... )
is ALSO an effective compliment to Our HEALTH.
...always with GOOD FRIENDS.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee have found that, glycyrrhizic acid a compound found in the common root spice licorice, is a powerful weapon in the fight against colorectal cancer.
Cancer of the colon is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the USA and there are few preventive strategies available to help fight this scourge. Some reports suggest that a diet high in animal fats and proteins increases the risk for colorectal cancer; but recent evidence has refuted that theory. Other studies have shown that bioactive compounds found in plant foods such as spices may help to counter this disease. Licorice is the latest spice to be studied in this context.
One group of compounds that have shown to help prevent colorectal cancer are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and the cyclooxygenase (COX-2) inhibitors such as Celebrex and Vioxx. The only problem with these drugs is that they have frequent, severe side effects such as intestinal ulceration and cardiac toxicity. Licorice on the other hand has been found to aid in the healing of ulcers by inhibiting the ulcer-causing Helicobacter bacteria.
Writing in the Journal of Clinical Investigation the Vanderbilt researchers describe how glycyrrhizic acid, found in licorice, helps to prevent the formation of colon tumours by inhibiting the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11βHSD2).
One of the principal pathological processes underlying cancer is inflammation; and it is the presence of too much 11βHSD2 in the colon that aggravates the inflammatory component of colorectal cancer. The anti-inflammatory drugs mentioned previously work by blocking the inflammatory process generated by the 11βHSD2 enzyme. Glycyrrhizic acid however works by blocking the 11βHSD2 enzyme itself; thereby preventing the formation of the inflammatory compounds themselves.
Other properties of Licorice
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a spice that has been used as both a food flavourant and a traditional medicine for thousands of years. Glycerhizin, the compound that gives licorice its sweet flavour, is a potent anti-viral agent. It is both active against HIV and protects the immune systems of those infected with the virus.
If taken to excess for long periods of time licorice may have side effects such as fluid retention and electrolyte imbalance. However these are minor when compared to those caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Moreover it is unnecessary to eat large quantities of licorice in order to ward off colorectal cancer. Rather take small quantities regularly with other cancer fighting spices (such as coriander, fenugreek, garlic and mustard). Eat these with a diet rich in a variety of fruit and vegetables and you will protect your colon with foods that contain a wide range of cancer fighting phytonutrients.
Rosemary and sage are both believed to be good for memory.
Herbs are a healthy part of the diet and should definitely be used instead of salt to add flavor to food.
Spices are helping people to overcome deficiencies .
I am glad that this thread has been resurrected as a new member to the community. It was interesting to refresh on the benefits of spices. One benefit, that will sound pretty obvious when I say it, is that using more spices will allow us to use less salt. I recently read an article about the health-damaging effects of salt on our bodies in the Nutrition Action Healthletter by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). (Here is a link to their website if you haven't heard of them: http://www.cspinet.org/nah/index.htm. You can read archived issues on this site. The salt issue isn't there yet because it is the most recent one.) Don't get me wrong, I knew that salt was bad for us before, but that article as has made me look freshly at my dietary choices (as that healthletter always does).
This is the great topic Keith. I am amazed that more people are not aware of the powerful healthing properties of food ingedients that most people have sitting in their kitchens right now.
All food has healing properties but spices are particularly cencentrated as you can tell from thier taste.
I agree Randy, so much in our spice rack is valuable food.
This is a very informative thread, I learned a lot! Thanks!