Most of us in the field of holistic medicine could spend hours discussing different approaches to food and diet. However, I think that we often overlook the power that a diet varied in an abundance of spices can provide.
Capsaicin, the oily compound in cayenne and its peppery cousins, is the active ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter creams, ointments, and patches for arthritis and muscle pain; it’s also used for treating shingles pain and diabetes-related nerve pain.
Turmeric is a spice that is often used as a foodflavouring in Asian dishes. It belongs to the ginger family. It is also known as Indian saffron, jianghuang, haridra, haldi, as the major ingredient of curry powder 2, and as a bright yellow orange food colouring agent (E100).
Cumin seeds, whose scientific name is Cuminumcyminum, are an excellent source of iron, a mineral that plays many vital roles in the body. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism.
Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Only recently, however, have researchers pinpointed some of the components in thyme that bring about its healing effects.
Ginger has a long history of use for relieving digestive problems such as nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness and pain.The root or underground stem (rhizome) of the ginger plant can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in oil form or as juice.
Basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These anti-bacterial properties of basil are not associated with its unique flavonoids, but instead with its volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene.
Cinnamon has been proven to fight fungal, bacterial, and viral elements in foods, thus preventing spoilage. It’s no surprise that in the Middle Ages, when food spoilage was far more frequent due to lack of refrigeration, many recipes, both sweet and savory, were flavored with the spice.
One of the earliest reported or documented uses of rosemary for health reasons was as a cognitive stimulant. It was said to improve memory and help to increase intelligence and focus. While many of those claims are still being researched and studied, its effects on the brain do indicate an increase in memory retention, which is never a bad thing; keeping your mind quick will help to keep it young.