Today, many of the spices that we use in cooking are commonly available in health food stores Spices provide flavour and aroma to food, as well as have medicinal value. They can do much to help us live healthy lives.

A touch of spice

Taste is an important factor in both diet and digestion. Use spices to give subtle or strong accents to soups, sauces, raitas, dals, stews, vegetables, cereals and desserts.

Cinnamon

Properties

Warming stimulant

Anti-septic

Anti-viral

Parts used

Inner bark and twigs

Benefits

Used as flavouring in food, cinnamon is now one of the worlds most important spices with a plethora of healing properties. Stimulating and warming, cinnamon is a traditional remedy for digestive problems such as nausea, as well as for symptoms of viral conditions such as colds and fever.

Ginger

Properties

Anti-nausea

Circulatory stimulant

Boosts immunity

Parts used

The root

Benefits

Ginger contains an active constituent gingerol, which is responsible for its hot, pungent taste, as well as its stimulating and healing properties. Ginger is often used as a therapeutic spice, working on the digestive system by encouraging secretion of digestive enzymes. Due to its warming and soothing properties, it is also a favourite home remedy for relieving colds and coughs.

Tip

As ginger has heating qualities, consume small quantities in the summer months when the outside temperature is hot, or else, if you are sensitive to the spice your may develop acne.

Turmeric

Properties

Stimulates secretion of bile

Analgesic

May lower cholesterol

Parts used

The root

Benefits

Turmeric is known to have effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It is high in antioxidants and due to its active ingredient, curcumin, it is believed to have anti-bacterial and even cancer-fighting potential. It is a useful remedy that can help treat premenstrual discomfort and skin conditions.

Anise

Properties

Stimulant

May relieve muscle spasm

Parts used

Seed and fruit

Benefits

Used for centuries as traditional medicine as well as a spice, anise seed and its fruit, star anise, have similar therapeutic properties. Anise seed is often used as a remedy for griping, intestinal colic and flatulence. With mild oestrogenic effects, anise seed can be used to increase milk secretion in lactating women. The fruit, star anise, has similar effects, and additionally has the ability to soothe muscle spasms and aches.

Cayenne pepper

Properties

Stimulant

Improves metabolism

Treats wind and colic

Parts used

Fresh and dried pepper

Benefits

Cayenne pepper is a fiery spice. It is a finely ground variety of chilli. Cayenne, with the active constituent capsaicin, is a warming stimulant and a remedy for poor circulation. It is often consumed to help relieve wind and colic and to stimulate secretion of digestive juices, as well as to aid metabolism.

Tip

Winter months or during monsoons is the best time to consume hot spices such as cayenne pepper. Avoid too much consumption of cayenne pepper in summer as it has heating properties.

Nutmeg

Properties

Anti-nausea

Reduces nausea

Promotes healthy skin

Parts used

The seed

Benefits

Nutmeg has a natural anaesthetic effect on the stomach and intestines, and may help reduce nausea. It can be a helpful remedy for gastroenteritis, diarrhoea and relieve abdominal pain. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is sometimes used as a remedy for insomnia, and it is believed to promote healthy skin.

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.

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