Spices – briefly
According to “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition“, “historically, spices have shaped many events throughout the world. Many voyagers, including the legendary Christopher Columbus, explored the seas in search of treasured spices. These commodities were valued to flavor, to color, and to preserve food in many places. Today, spices are increasingly valued not only for their culinary properties but also for their potential health benefits.” Herbs tend to be used to make tea, but perhaps the distinction between herbs and spices is arbitrary.
This list of spices is not complete. It includes available spices that I enjoy for cooking and eating. A good chef never tells their secrets, but I am not a chef, much less a good one. Of course, we each have different tastes, so if you do not like these spices, then use others. Some spices have medicinal properties, such as relieving or preventing excess gas or constipation. On the other hand, some spices have these effects for some people, but not for others.
Besides giving flavor to food, spices have minerals and vitamins. They can improve digestion, which is the basis of good health. What is optimal digestion? It begins with an absence of constipation, diarrhea, stomach pains, and excess gas. It continues with absorption and assimilation of the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins in the food into your blood, tissues, organs, and bones.
Leaves of some herbs can be used both to make tea and to flavor food, such as peppermint, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage. This article lists spices that I use, their common names, their botanical names, and brief descriptions. If you buy them online, then be sure to check the botanical name of what you order before you buy it. Beware that like fruits and vegetables, spices, besides minerals and vitamins, can also contain heavy metals from the soil where they were grown. Look for a supplier that who can give you a certificate of analysis of the spice, else try to control the quality yourself, else live with this uncertainty. On the other hand, some claim great health benefits of herbs and spices. Spices and herbs have long been used in traditional medicine. Beware.
Table of common spices and their uses
|Common names||Botanical names||Description|
|anise/aniseed||Pimpinella anisum||has a taste similar to fennel and licorice; used in traditional Chinese cooking to decrease bloating and to calm the digestive system, it is also drunk in tea between meals|
|basil||Ocimum basilicum||used to make pesto, the Italian vegetable sauce; has various health benefits|
|chile (red pepper), cayenne||Capsicum annuum L.||warming, stimulates blood flow, antiviral|
Cinnamomum cassia often substituted
|may slow absorption of sugar,
beware of large doses of cinnamon,
also beware of different varieties,
may be useful for blood type A most of all.
|clove||Syzygium aromaticum||may be useful to keep blood thin, has manganese, ancient use for other benefits, digestion, diarrhea, tooth ache|
|coriander/cilantro||Coriandrum sativum||used in curry (with fenugreek and cumin), may detox heavy metals, may have other salutary effects, carminative|
|cumin||Cuminum cyminum||used in curry, contains magnesium, promotes digestion, can control some infection, carminative|
|fennel||Foeniculum vulgare||may reduce gas, carminative|
|fenugreek||Trigonella foenum-graecum||used in curry, contains calcium, stimulates the appetite|
|garlic||Allium sativum||has sulfur (for detox), can thin and clean the blood, may be useful to strengthen the heart and lower blood pressure, possible alternative to overused antibiotics, used in ancient Egypt, Greece, and India|
|ginger||Zingiber officinale||may be useful to strengthen the lungs, may reduce nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness, (can prevent seasickness); can stimulate digestion, carminative|
|gomasio||none||mixture of sesame seeds and salt commonly used as a condiment in Japan, sometimes combined with seaweed|
|licorice||Glycyrrhiza glabra||has antiviral properties, used as a sweetener and in traditional Indian, Chinese, Greek and Egyptian medicine,|
|Mentha piperita||cooling herb, can stimulate digestion in some people|
|nigella (black seed)||Nigella sativa||controls blood sugar, has other documented salutary effects, can thin blood, controls some cancer|
|oregano||Origanum vulgare||related to mint, anti-fungal, carminative|
|paprika (not hot)||Capsicum frutescens||if fresh, contains much vitamin C, can stimulate digestion and aborption of nutrients|
|parsley||Petroselinum crispum||has calcium, diuretic (makes you pee)|
|rosemary||Rosmarinus officinalis||has vitamin B6, can decrease estrogen, can reduce inflammation, carminative|
|salt||Sodium chloride (chemical name)||useful (for some people) with protein to acidify the stomach, can disinfect severe wounds|
|sesame||Sesamum indicum||has calcium, used to make tahini (sesame seed paste), may have various salutary effects on blood pressure, the bones, and the hear|
|stevia||Stevia rebaudiana||can satisfy sugar cravings, natural substitute for aspartame, saccharin, and artificial sweeteners, may control blood sugar, beware of packaged, processed stevia adulterated with artificial sugar alcohols (xylitol, maltitol, and erythritol)|
|thyme||Thymus vulgaris||strengthens the respiratory system, other salutary effects, carminative|
|turmeric||Curcuma longa||anti-inflammatory, analgesic, may reduce amyloid plaque|
This list of spices is not complete, but it includes the spices that I enjoy and that have documented effects to promote health. For an excellent reference to published academic research about herbs and spices, read “Nature’s Pharmacy – Evidence-based Alternatives to Drugs” by Pamela Duff, a registered retired nurse. You can obtain this book for free in a pdf file, if you subscribe to the newsletter of GreenMedinfo.com.
Ji, Sayer, “Top Ten Spices to Have in Your Medicine Cabinet, and How to Use Them“, 1:30 video
“Spice Up Your Life: Using Herbs & Spices to Improve Your Health!“, Stanford Health Care, 2014, 1:28
Axe DC, Dr. Josh, “Natural Blood Thinners You Already May Have in Your Kitchen“, June 2020, article
Maharlouei N, Tabrizi R, Lankarani KB, Rezaianzadeh A, Akbari M, Kolahdooz F, Rahimi M, Keneshlou F, Asemi Z., “The effects of ginger intake on weight loss and metabolic profiles among overweight and obese subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.“, Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(11):1753-1766. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1427044. Epub 2018 Feb 2. PMID: 29393665.
Mashhadi NS, Ghiasvand R, Askari G, Hariri M, Darvishi L, Mofid MR. “Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence.” Int J Prev Med. 2013;4(Suppl 1):S36-S42.
Viljoen E, Visser J, Koen N, Musekiwa A., “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting.“, Nutr J. 2014;13:20. Published 2014 Mar 19. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-20
Hu ML, Rayner CK, Wu KL, et al., “Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia.“, World J Gastroenterol. 2011;17(1):105-110. doi:10.3748/wjg.v17.i1.105
Black CD, Herring MP, Hurley DJ, O’Connor PJ., “Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise.“, J Pain. 2010 Sep;11(9):894-903. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013. Epub 2010 Apr 24. PMID: 20418184.