The Healing Power of Spices
The eternal magic of spices sent explorers around the globe, built and destroyed empires and still excites our appetite and senses.
Exotic tastes from the East have never been so widely available, yet few of us know the ancient healing powers associated with even the most common spices. Not only do they give our food the flavours we crave, but latest research shows many of the miraculous qualities attributed to spices are based on scientific fact.
And the most exciting new discovery is that turmeric, traditionally thought to be good for healthy skin and combating arthritis, may also help beat cancer!
Scientists at Leicester University announced this spring that the active ingredient in turmeric – called curcumin – has been found to kill cancer cells and they are now running tests with bowel cancer patients at local hospitals.
Forty sufferers will be given seven days of curcumin tablets before beginning standard cancer treatment, said Prof William Steward. “The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer,” Prof Steward explained.
Back in the kitchen, finding reliable suppliers of quality herbs and spices seems a relatively simple task, but as Dave Painter, brand manager with importers World of Spice says, there are plenty of pitfalls.
“Even something as simple as ground black pepper could be diluted by adding ground husk by unscrupulous manufacturers “We import tonnes of herbs and spices every year and as a family business we are committed to ensuring the very highest quality.
“So one thing we insist on is that everything we buy is brought over in bulk and then packed here in the UK.
“That way we know exactly what’s actually going into our packets and jars and then on to our customers,” said Dave, whose clients include Pizza Express.
So here is Take Stock’s very own guide to some lesser-known healing properties of our favourite spices.
The seeds or leaves can help ease indigestion & flatulence and it is thought to be great for purifying the kidneys.Grander claims are that it can even help tackle typhoid and hepatitis.
Great for stimulating the metabolism and also releasing endorphins in the brain for a boost in happiness. Chillies are also considered capable of curing the common cold and even yellow fever.
Great for digestion, black pepper can increase the flow of saliva and gastric juices. And sucking whole peppercorns is known as a traditional cure for irritating coughs.
This aromatic bark is mentioned in ancient chinese manuscripts as early as 2700BC for its antiseptic properties. It can kill the bacteria which cause tooth decay and gum disease – hence it’s use as a Flavouring in toothpaste.
Root ginger has long been glorified for its health value and is a common ingredient in eastern medicines. Often used to fight colds and coughs, it is also used to purify the blood and help with arthritic aches and pains.
Best known for helping to improve chronic skin conditions such as eczema when applied as a paste, it can also be used as an antiseptic and is also thought to limit the effects of diabetes. Plus its new link to killing cancer cells.
An effective remedy for toothache, these strong tasting spices are also able to relieve asthma and generally improve respiration.
Water boiled with cumin is a good cure for an upset stomach and is even said to be potent enough to cure dysentery. The seeds are also a good source of iron and will help bolster the body’s immune system.
Known as ‘the Queen of Spices’ it is one of the most valued spices in the world and can be used to give relief from throat troubles and breathing difficulties. Cardamom tea is also used as a remedy for mild depression.
The seeds and leaves are good for increasing breast milk in lactating women, easing constipation and for flushing toxins from the blood. It can also help cut blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels.