Here are some medicinal properties of popular Indian spices.
By Dr Surya Bhagwati
The traditional Indian diet is extremely nutritious, and this is due to the diversity and multitude of spices. To lead a healthy and balanced life by avoiding ailments and lifestyle diseases, a nutritious diet rich in spices is exactly what is required. Make it part of your child’s diet, too, as early as possible.
Plants owe their medicinal properties to their natural ability to synthesise numerous chemical compounds, which protect them from herbivores, insects and fungi. Contrary to popular belief, even the most sophisticated modern medicines rely on plants to an astounding degree. This isn’t quite the same as eating a root or tuber, but rather deriving chemical extracts synthesised in plants.
Here are some health benefits of popular Indian spices:
Also known as haldi, turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and has a bright yellow hue. It is used topically for skin aliments like inflammation, infected wounds, and ringworm. It is highly effective in the treatment of arthritis, heartburn, and stomach infections like diarrhoea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating and loss of appetite. It also helps in minimising liver damage caused by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol and the overuse of painkillers. The most effective way to relieve the symptoms of cough and cold, if your child is suffering from it, is a warm glass of turmeric mixed with milk. Turmeric is also believed to have anti-carcinogenic properties, making it effective in preventing cancer.
Black pepper, also known as peppercorn, is made from the dried fruit of a flowering vine, native to South India. For centuries, it has been used to facilitate digestion and soothe upset stomachs. If your child has indigestion or heaviness in the stomach, a quarter teaspoon of black pepper powder mixed in thin buttermilk should be consumed to alleviate discomfort.
Cardamom is a spice with a strong taste, resinous fragrance, and intense aroma. It can be used to halt a number of digestive issues including bloating, gas, heartburn and loss of appetite, being most potent when the outer shell is removed to expose the internal tiny pods. Cardamom has a rich variety of vitamins, making it ideal for cardiovascular health, treating depression, controlling cholesterol levels, and alleviating urinary tract infections. Owing to its powerful flavour, it is often used as a breath freshener after meals.
Clove is a spice derived from the dried flower-buds of the clove tree. Clove oil acts as a painkiller when applied topically, and can help with stomach issues like gas, diarrhoea, nausea and upset stomach. It also contains compounds that help with blood circulation, and can stimulate the skin when applied directly to it, making it indispensable to acne patients.
Ginger is a plant whose roots are used as an additive in many cuisines for its pungent flavour. It is believed to help in relieving common cold in adults and children, as well as the effects of heartburn, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhoea, motion and morning sickness. It is a natural remedy for headaches, minor body aches and even certain cases of arthritis. Ginger is also believed to have anti-carcinogenic properties, making it effective in preventing cancer.
Cumin is a spice derived from the seeds of the cumin plant. It is known to relieve digestive problems, reduce instances of anaemia and common cold, and help fight the flu by boosting the immune system. Cumin is also used toreduce stomach pains and prevent indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea and morning sickness. Make it part of your daily cooking to increase immunity for the family.
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice obtained from the bark of certain kinds of trees. It helps in relieving nausea, fever, and diarrhoea, and alleviates the discomfort caused by menstrual problems. Cinnamon also decreases blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which makes this spice excellent for keeping the heart healthy.
Saffron is obtained from the flower of the saffron crocus, and is the world’s most expensive spice by weight. It is used in the treatment of kidney, bladder, and liver disorders, and improves blood circulation to the organs during digestion. It is documented to lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides among heart patients, and has several cosmetic applications due to its ability to lighten one’s skin tone.
Garlic also enjoys special powers, which include the ability to battle infections and bacteria. It’s also great for the skin and boosts your family’s immune system.
(The writer is an Ayurveda consultant at Saifee Hospiital.)