Spices were some of the most valuable items of trade in the ancient and medieval world as they have been a part of healing remedies for centuries. Recently, modern medicine has begun to study the powers of spices and validates several useful properties. Some are found to be useful for the heart.
Coriander seeds are rich in two main compounds linaloon and decanoic acid. It has a long been known or its cholesterol lowering and blood sugar lowering effects. For therapeutic benefits, a teaspoon or two of coriander seeds soaked overnight and consumed the next morning seems to be useful in dealing with heart disease and diabetes.
Turmeric or haldi, often referred as Indian Gold, is well known as a spice and medicine in Siddha and Ayurveda. The benefits for heart health arise from curcumin, an active principle which has several properties including anti-oxidant, anti-clotting, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative.
Piperine, a major active component in both black and white pepper has numerous reported physiological and drug-like actions. Several scientific studies provide evidence that black pepper has cholesterol lowering properties and may help in cardiac function recovery after heart attacks. A word of caution; piperine can strengthen or modify the effects of numerous other medicines.
Circulatory stimulant effects of cinnamon have been reported in several books on medicinal plants and Ayurveda. It helps in reduction of total and bad cholesterol (LDL) and helps increase good cholesterol (HDL). It also helps to improve insulin resistance, thereby making it useful in diabetes management. While cinnamon too is integral to the spice box, added benefit can be obtained by making a decoction and consuming it like tea.
Fenugreek seeds or methi have been used extensively for extracts and powders for medicinal uses since ancient times and have been described in Greek, Latin and Ayurvedic literature. Fenugreek seed powder has been known to lower levels of serum lipids such as total cholesterol and triglycerides.
Black cumin seeds
Black cumin seeds, also known as kalonji or black caraway, should not be confused with the herb cumin. A recent study (2009) revealed that black cumin seeds have a diversified effect on lipid profile. It was found to have a significant impact in lowering total and bad cholesterol. Presence of phytosterols further strengthens its benefits.
Ginger traditionally has been used in Chinese, Ayurvedic and Yunani medicines. It is well known for its use in ailments such as sore throats, cramps, pains, arthritis, indigestion, vomiting and high blood pressure. The bioactive compounds in ginger include gingerol, which is believed to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. Ginger is also a good anti-inflammatory agent.
Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, and the first Indian physician Charak, the Father of Ayurvedic medicine, said garlic acts as a heart tonic by maintaining the fluidity of blood and strengthening the heart. Allicin, a sulfur-containing compound is one of the key components of garlic. It is known for its cholesterol lowering, anti-clotting and blood pressure-lowering properties.