Most people think spices flavor only food, but there are many that have shown to have health benefits. Spices have been used in Ayurvedic medicine in India and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in China for more than 5,000 years. The most obvious path to health and healing is spices that aid in digestion, which in turn boosts the immune system. Some spices can also offer pain relief from arthritis and chronic pain.
Let’s look at a few of the top spices in Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet.
This spice comes from a flowering vine. The fruit it produces is harvested and dried yielding peppercorns. When the peppercorns are ground, a chemical called piperine is released and it stimulates the digestive system by increasing the flow of saliva and gastric juices. This in turn helps reduce indigestion, gas and bloating. Black peppercorns can be added to food during the cooking process or ground pepper added right before the meal is eaten.
Cardamom pods are often used whole in Indian recipes. The little black seeds inside are ground up for Indian food and for Scandinavian baked goods. It is known to ease heartburn and can offer relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and flatulence. It also encourages digestive enzyme secretion, so the food you eat is broken down more efficiently and the nutrients absorbed more rapidly. This slightly sweet spice can also be used as an antiseptic when applied topically to help heal infections. It can also be added to tea.
This spice comes from the pepper family and offers a warming quality and pain relief. Many creams used for arthritis contain active ingredients found in this pepper. It is also good for blood circulation.
Coriander seeds and leaves are used in Indian, Thai, and Mexican food. It has a pungent flavor and is full of healthful fatty acids. It is good for soothing the stomach and has a lot of fiber to help with bowel health. For those that have IBS-D, the oil from the seed can be beneficial as it helps with diarrhea. It is antispasmodic which helps relax the digestive muscles. Plus, it has anti-oxidant properties too which help protect cells from free radicals, which some associate with preventing colon cancer.
Used frequently in Mexican and East Indian foods, this spice not only provides a unique flavor to food, but it too reduces flatulence and aids in digestion. Because of the compound Cuminaldehyde in its essential oil, it kicks the digestive process into high gear while still chewing food by activating the salivary glands in the mouth. Due to another compound called thymol, it stimulates the acids, bile, and enzymes in the stomach and digestive tract making for a more complete breakdown of food. When ground cumin is mixed with water and drank, it can help relieve a stomach ache. It is also high in fiber and used to help naturally relieve hemorrhoids.
Ginger is a tasty root that can be used in sweet and savory recipes. It is a staple of Indian and Chinese food and is used for digestion and pain relief. It can be used for skin conditions such as acne and eczema. It is also good for blood circulation.
This root is used to regulate blood sugar and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with the ability to lose weight. It aids healthy digestion and can be a tasty treat for those who like black licorice.
This aids in overall digestion and is also commonly used as a liver detoxifier that relieves liver inflammation. The liver plays an important role in filtering harmful substances out of the body, but as a result, it can accumulate toxins and need to be cleansed. Milk thistle and ginger can also help heal stomach ulcers.
Peppermint is another tasty spice used to aid digestion. It soothes the stomach and supports gallbladder function. It can also help detox the liver. It is generally considered safe if it is not consumed in large doses, though pregnant women may wish to avoid it.
This bright yellow root from the ginger family is powdered into a spice that has a warming quality and is great for both digestion and pain relief. It is ideal in rice and chicken dishes and is one of the bases for curry powder for over 2,500 years in East Indian food to treat excess acidity and indigestion. It is also used to stop the growth of the bacterium H pylori which can cause stomach ulcers and even stomach cancer.
Plus, it can treat a whole host of conditions from cuts, burns and bruises when used topically to serving as a potent painkiller that is just as effective as ibuprofen.
Here are some other spices with health benefits.
Incorporating spices into your food can boost your digestion along with relieving many other health-related symptoms. In many instances they work better than prescription or over-the-counter medications.