Many of us use spices in our homes. But not everybody knows that they can be as healthful and nutritious as they are delicious, curing everyday ailments naturally and even warding off chronic disease. Sure, a sprinkle of ginger isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, but science is beginning to confirm what traditional medicine has known for centuries: that nature has its own medicine cabinet! Reap the benefits by adding the following five wonder spices to your spice rack.
Commonly used in both sweet and savory foods, this fragrant, great-tasting spice has proven to cure a number of everyday health ailments. Its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it a good remedy for stomach bugs and IBS-related bloating, cramps, and discomfort, and the large quantities of antioxidants contained in cinnamon protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Cinnamaldehyde, which gives this spice its aroma and flavor, is the organic compound responsible for most of the positive effects on our health. Cinnamon has also shown to lower blood sugar, stave off heart disease, fight HIV, and protect against cancer and Alzheimer’s. Look for “Ceylon (true) cinnamon.”
Saffron is an exotic spice used to liven up dishes with its strong essence and distinctive yellow-orange coloring. It is associated with Indian, Greek, and Spanish cuisines, among others, being used as an ingredient in England, France, the United States, and a number of other countries. Cooking aside, saffron has many valuable uses, including use as a natural medicine. The spice – which is rich in manganese, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamin B6 – has been used for treating cramps, indigestion, asthma, high blood pressure, fever, and more. It has also demonstrated efficacy in relieving premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and treating mild depression. Moreover, it shows potential for treating cancer.
Turmeric adds color and flavor to curry powders, mustards, and cheeses. It has been used as a dye and condiment for thousands of years. The spice’s main active ingredient, curcumin (this is what gives it its yellow color, peppery taste, and mustardy aroma), is a powerful anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant capable of neutralizing free radicals, making turmeric useful in medicine. Packed with iron, vitamin B-6, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and zinc, the spice has proven effective in treating numerous ailments and diseases, including headaches, heartburn, arthritis, stomach pain, flatulence, fever, depression, and lung infections. It can also help control diabetes and prevent (or even treat) cancer.
Cumin is a staple spice in Latin American, North African, and Middle Eastern cuisines. The whole or grounded seeds add a warm, earthy flavor and distinct spicy aroma to foods, making it ideal for soups, stews, gravies, and many other dishes. Cumin also serves medicinal purposes. A good source of iron, magnesium, and vitamins and minerals, it is widely used as a remedy for colds, anemia, and indigestion, stimulating the production of pancreatic enzymes within the body. The spice is also used to treat insomnia, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, piles, and asthma, and it is thought to enhance vision and mental function. Furthermore, some studies suggest that it can prevent cancer (particularly colon cancer) and diabetes.
Chili is loved by many for its zesty hotness and endorphin-releasing effects, but this wonder spice offers more than just culinary thrills. It is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and it contains an alkaloid compound known as capsaicin, which is known to effectively clear headaches and sinus congestion, fight inflammation, and relieve muscle, joint, and nerve pain. In fact, topical capsaicin is now a recognized treatment for osteoarthritis pain. Studies also show that capsaicin alleviates symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy and psoriasis. Other possible chili benefits include better digestion, weight loss, and improved cardiovascular function, and (bowel and prostate) cancer prevention.