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spice, girls: how a pinch of spices can create a magic inside you

Hippocrates claims that medicine is an art of imitating the healing effects of nature. There are about 35 000 plants with healing properties in the world, which were repeatedly addressed in the works by Dioscorides (author of «Materia Medica»), Indian doctors Charak, Sushruta and Tibetan authors of «Zhudshi.» How can a pinch of ground pepper affect the operation of a complex human body? Both healers ans scientists have explanations about it.

Have you ever noticed how a pinch of cinnamon fills the morning oatmeal with cozy warmth? And the chili pepper subtly emphasizes the softness of the avocado? It's not just about taste. People started to use spices even earlier than salt in order to increase the shelf life of the products. The bactericidal properties of spices were described in the writings of the healers of East ancient civilizations, and until the 18th century they were luxury items and means of accumulating capital.

Properly selected spices can strengthen the basic energy of the body and mind, and thereby improve the assimilation of not only the food, but also your life experience.

 

Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic physician

Spices inherently are roots, bark or seeds of plants with a high concentration of essential oils. Because of this, spices betray such spectacular flavours and are used little by little. The scientific article «Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition» (2015) noted that «spices provide a beneficial effect on the acid-alkaline environment and are comparable in their effect to chemical alternatives and antiseptics.» The content of antioxidants in spices is so great that some of them help to overcome Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, heart problems and arthritis.

Cinnamon, perhaps, is one of the most popular spices in the world. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, cleans the liver and diuretic system. Cinnamon is able to regulate the level of sugar in the blood, so it is recommended to all the lovers of any kinds of sweets. However, it contains coumarin, which can be toxic in big doses. It is recommended to make a choice in favor of Ceylon cinnamon, as the content of coumarin in it is much lower than in its analogue from other parts of Asia.

In Ayurveda it is believed that this warming spice is able to absorb ama (toxins) and significantly accelerates the metabolism. And in Chinese traditional medicine, cumin is actively used to improve women's health. It can be added, for example, in stew or homemade hummus.

Recently, this spice has conquered the world in the garb of golden milk, ceasing to be the lot of Indian cuisine and becoming the mainstream. And absolutely deserved! Turmeric has unique anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have confirmed its ability to cope even with cancer cells.

How to cook turmeric golden milk at home? Whisk in a blender a glass of warmed almond milk (or any floral one), 1 tsp. of turmeric, a bit of coconut oil and honey or stevia for sweetness until the lush foam.

Cardamom, like many spices, comes from India and it is considered as one of the most expensive spices (after vanilla and saffron). In ancient times, in many countries of Asia, a cardamom pod was boiled with ginger and other spices to treat this drink after dinner, as cardamom improves digestion and promotes the qualitative assimilation of food. Even the American manufacturer of chewing gum Wrigley included cardamom in the list of its ingredients, explaining that it copes with bad breath. Cardamom oil is not less unique, because it contains a lot of iron and magnesium.

If we are talking about digestion, then we can't ignore a fennel! Fennel is able to relieve colic in infants and is part of all herbal remedies that remove bloating, gases and other unpleasant side effects of a dense dinner. In many restaurants of Indian cuisine, fennel seeds  lie right on the counter in the saucers, so that guests can chew them on the way home.

Black pepper is the most common spice in many cultures. In Ayurveda, it is believed that black pepper cleanses our channels for unimpeded movement of prana. A unique feature of this spice is its ability to increase the assimilation of other spices.

 

Research confirms that by adding the black pepper to turmeric, the bioactivity of turmeric is increased by 2000 (!) percent. Black pepper, like other spices, is recommended to buy in peas and crumble them right before adding to the dish, as in the form of a powder it quickly oxidizes and loses its strength.

 

Spices are better to buy in small quantities, fresh and by weight. It is better to store them in the dark place in tightly closed jars and monitor the expiration date frequently.

Daria Buchman, coach for a healthy lifestyle, author of the blog Vitamin L