We all have favourite flavours that we like in our food. Some enjoy hot cayenne while others love cinnamon or fresh peppermint. Without the many spices of the world, our food would surely taste bland and boring! But there is more to spices than simply flavour–spices contain many health benefits unknown to the common observer. Spices are full of phyto-nutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, which can help us in a number of various interesting and potentially life-saving ways.
Let’s explore some commonly used spices together to become better acquainted with the healing benefits of spices. Szechuan peppercorns have been used by Native Americans as a toothache remedy as well as a cure for many various digestive ailments.
Cayenne peppers are found in some of the hottest dishes around. If you can tolerate the spice level, you will reap the many health benefits Cayenne has to offer. Cayenne has a very high concentration of vitamins and minerals. Just 100g of Cayenne pepper can help you to fulfil your daily requirements of various vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin B-6, Niacin riboflavin, vitamin A, iron, copper, and potassium. Cayenne has been used to help fight arthritis, diabetes, and obesity. It is found in many cuisine styles such as Cajun, Indian, and Asian.
Capers are the flowered buds of a Mediterranean shrub commonly found pickled and in many dishes native to the region. They are very low in calories at only 23 calories per 100g, yet capers contain a lot of phytonutrients, anti-oxidants and vitamins. Capers are one of the highest sources of rutin and quercetin. Quercitin has anti-bacterial, anticarcinogenic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, while rutin helps strengthen capillaries and fight obesity. Capers have been used to relieve rheumatic pain, as an appetite stimulant, and also to help relieve stomachaches and flatulence.
Bay laurel, deemed tree of the sun god under the sign of Leo, the bay tree originated in the Asia Minor region and is dispersed throughout the Mediterranean region. Bay leaves are commonly found in Asian curries, herbal teas, as a sweetener in some dishes, and many classic sauces.
Bay leaves contain many compounds which are antiseptic, anti-oxidant, digestive, and are believed to help prevent cancer. Bay leaves have been used medicinally to stimulate appetite, soothe stomach aches and relieve flatulence/colic pain, and to treat arthritis, muscle pain, bronchitis and flu. Additionally, the folic acid in Bay leaves has been used as a natural bug repellent.
Cinnamon is a common spice that most of us our familiar with in desserts and many dishes to add a warm mild spice. But little do many know that Cinnamon has properties, which make it especially useful in fighting diabetes. Cinnamon helps to offset difficulties diabetics have when processing insulin.
Native to the rainforests of Indonesia, nutmeg has long been known for its array of qualities. Nutmeg has been used traditionally in Chinese and Indian cultures to help alleviate nervous and digestive system ailments. Nutmeg’s eugenol content has also made it useful in soothing toothaches. Nutmeg oil can be used in massage to help with muscular and rheumatic pain in joints. When coupled with honey nutmeg is useful in relieving nausea, gastritis, and indigestion.
The vanilla bean comes from the pods of a tropical climbing orchid and is commonly found in sweet drinks and desserts. The bean contains traces of B vitamins and various minerals. In addition to these, vanilla is also known for its aphrodisiac qualities. Ancient Mayans used vanilla drinks to help cure sexual dysfunctions, an interesting alternative to Viagra!
Szechuan (Sichuan) Pepper Corns
If you love spicy Chinese Szechuan cuisine, you will be delighted to know that the peppercorns (one of the five spices inside of the Chinese five spice powder) found in them are filled with health benefits.
The peppercorns come from the prickly-ash tree a citrus family flowering plant which is native to the Szechuan region in China. Szechuan peppercorns help aid digestion by increasing gastro-intestinal juice in the gut. They contain essential oils, which provide a delicious citrus flavour, and terpenes, minerals vitamins and antioxidants. Some of the vitamins found in Szechuan peppercorns include vitamin A, carotenes, pyridoxine, and thiamin; and minerals include copper, potassium, iron manganese, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc. These can help improve skin, blood circulation/cardiovascular health, and immunities.
Next time you consider using that pepper shaker, go ahead, sprinkle some pepper – it’s good for you! Black pepper is not just a good way to add some flavour to your meal, it is also healthy.
Pepper contains piperine which helps with the absorption of various nutrients. Peppercorns are also a good sources of anti-oxidant vitamins and polyphenolic anti-oxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and carotenes. Black pepper has been used in dentistry as an antiseptic and to decrease gum swellings. Peppercorns have also been used traditionally to alleviate flatulence and indigestion.
Native to South Europe and cultivated in many countries, saffron has been a prized spice throughout the ages.
The saffron plant (Crocus Sativus) is a purple flower which produces dark orange threads. These threads are what is used in seasoning. Saffron has been used traditionally as an anti-spasmodic and diaphoretic. It is also known to have antioxidant properties, which make it useful in fighting cancer and depression.