Spices made from the leaves, bark, seeds, bulbs and roots of various plants add flavor to your meals without adding fat, calories or sodium. Traditionally, many spices have also been used for their numerous medicinal benefits. Ground spices release their flavors faster than whole and fresh spices, but may lose some of their potent essential oils over time. Both types can be commonly found at your local supermarket. Stock your pantry with healing spices for head-to-toe wellness.
Turmeric, the sunny, yellow spice that gives most curries their color, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spice. Curcumin, the compound found in turmeric spice, is often comparable to some anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to decrease swelling and pain that comes with rheumatoid arthritis. Research published in the journal "Arthritis and Rheumatism" reported that when rats bred to develop rheumatoid arthritis were given injections of turmeric, their joint swelling almost completely disappeared. Turmeric has also been shown to help reduce walking time and morning stiffness in patients with arthritis, however, the doses needed for treatment is not yet determined.
Some spices have also been shown to ease stomach bloating and indigestion. A study in the "International Journal of Food Science Nutrition" explains that cumin, turmeric, chili, and peppercorn increase pancreatic activity as well as bile volume. This helps improve the digestion of fats and carbohydrates found in most foods as bile acts like a detergent-like emulsifier that helps break down foods. These spices also decrease the time that food spends in the intestines, which may offer some protection against gastrointestinal cancers. Adding a few of these spices to everyday dishes may help decrease minor digestion ailments. Consult your doctor if you have chronic or severe digestive problems.
The essential oil extracted from the clove bud has been traditionally used in dentistry to temporarily treat pain. Often placed whole on the affected tooth, many Mediterranean cultures still use this natural spice to ease dental pain. A recent study in the "Journal of Dentistry" has shown that clove bud essential oil is as effective as the drug benzocaine for reducing dental pain in some cases. Store whole cloves or its essential oil away from heat.
Cinnamon might conjure up images of apple pie and warm cinnamon tarts, but this spice has also been associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes. A study in the journal "Diabetes Care" reported that patients with type two diabetes given approximately 1/4 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon or approximately one gram of ground cinnamon per day showed reduced blood glucose levels by approximately 20 percent. The same patients also showed lowered cholesterol and triglycerides. Cinnamon may be used in conjunction with prescribed medical treatment to help control diabetes.
- International Journal of Food Science Nutrition: Influence of Dietary Spices or Their Active Principles on Digestive Enzymes of Small Intestinal Mucosa in Rats
- Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Traditional Indian Spices and Their Health Significance
- Arthritis and Rheumatism: Efficacy and Mechanism of Action of Turmeric Supplements in the Treatment of Experimental Arthritis
- Diabetes Care: Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.