Spices

Spices – briefly

From “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. An ancient tradition is to use herbs as medicine, which is not the subject of this article.

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, their spices, 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 everybody.

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.

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) Capsicum annuum L. warming, stimulates blood flow, antiviral
cinnamon Cinnamomum verum,
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
coriander/cilantro Coriandrum sativum used in curry (with fenugreek and cumin), may detox heavy metals, may have other salutary effects
cumin Cuminum cyminum used in curry, contains magnesium
fennel Foeniculum vulgare may reduce gas
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, used in ancient Egypt, Greece, and India
ginger Zingiber officinale may be useful to strengthen the lungs, may reduce or offset nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness, (can prevent seasickness); can stimulate digestion
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,

mint
(peppermint)

Mentha piperita  cooling herb, can stimulate digestion and sex drive in some people
nigella Nigella sativa controls blood sugar, has other documented salutary effects
oregano Origanum vulgare related to mint, anti-fungal
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,
sage Salvia officinalis  
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 stevia adulterated with artificial sugar alcohols (xylitol, maltitol, and erythritol)
thyme Thymus vulgaris strengthens the respiratory system, other salutary effects
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.

References

European Spice Association,

American Spice Trade Association,

Greenmedinfo.com

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