Benefits of Indian Spices & Herbs

Benefits of Indian Spices & Herbs

Ginger

Used for centuries in Indian and other Asian cuisines, ginger root also has a long history as a home remedy for digestive problems. A 2008 study published in the “European Journal Gastroenterology and Hepatology” found a scientific basis for ginger’s benefits to the G.I. tract, showing that it helps move food more quickly from the stomach into the small intestine for absorption. Steep a slice of peeled ginger root in a cup of hot water when you have an upset stomach. Ginger also appears to assist with inflammation, according to a report in “Arthritis Today.” Participants in a study at the University of Miami showed a 40 percent improvement in osteoarthritis pain after taking ginger extract.

Turmeric

A relative of ginger, turmeric gives curry dishes a bright yellow color – earning it the nickname “Indian saffron.” Ancient Indian and Chinese healers used turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties, treating everything from menstrual pain to toothaches. Modern scientists, however, are interested in the benefits of curcumin, the active agent in turmeric, as a powerful antioxidant. The American Cancer Society notes that a number of studies have found curcumin kills cancer cells in vitro and reduces the size of tumors in animals. Research on humans with cancer is still preliminary, as researchers try to find safe, effective dosages of curcumin to produce similar effects. Make a turmeric-flavored side dish by cooking the spice into rice, then serving the rice with a stir-fry.

Cardamom

Cardamom grows wild in India, Ceylon and Malaysia, and has been used by healers in those regions much like ginger, as a digestive aid. A 2008 study published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” confirmed cardamom’s use for gastrointestinal ailments such as diarrhea, colic and constipation, and also its benefits for lowering blood pressure in laboratory animals. Cardamom adds flavor to everything from sweet potatoes and squash to pastries. Combined with cinnamon, cloves and ginger, cardamom makes a delicious and good-for-you chai tea.

Coriander

India is one of the world’s main producers of coriander, a spice that has been in use for at least 7,000 years, according to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.” The fresh leaves of this spice are called cilantro; the dried seeds are sold ground or whole in supermarkets. Like other Indian spices, coriander gains its fame for its anti-inflammatory properties and aid to digestion. But one study, published in the “Journal of Environmental Biology” in 2008, found that coriander seeds also lowered LDL, or “bad” cholesterol in rats, while also raising HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels. A 2011 study published in the “Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences” concluded the antioxidants in coriander seeds help relieve oxidative stress in diabetes patients – leading researchers to recommend coriander as part of the dietary therapy for this condition.

Turmeric/Curcumin

This is the king of spices when it comes to dealing with cancer diseases, besides it adding a zesty colour to our food on the platter. Turmeric contains the powerful polyphenol Curcumin that has been clinically proven to retard the growth of cancer cells causing prostrate cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, brain tumour, pancreatic cancer and leukemia amongst a host of others. Curcumin promotes ‘Apoptosis’- (programmed cell death/cell suicide) that safely eliminates cancer breeding cells without posing a threat to the development of other healthy cells. In cases of conventional radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the surrounding cells too become a target in addition to the cancer cells. Therefore, the side-effects are imminent.

 

Fennel

Armed with phyto-nutrients and antioxidants, cancer cells have nothing but to accept defeat when the spice is fennel. ‘Anethole’, a major constituent of fennel resists and restricts the adhesive and invasive activities of cancer cells. It suppresses the enzymatic regulated activities behind cancer cell multiplication. A tomato-fennel soup with garlic or fresh salads with fennel bulbs make for an ideal entree prior to an elaborate course meal. Roasted fennel with parmesan can be another star pick.

 

Saffron

A natural carotenoid dicarboxylic acid called ‘Crocetin’ is the primary cancer-fighting element that saffron contains. It not only inhibits the progression of the disease but also decreases the size of the tumour by half, guaranteeing a complete goodbye to cancer. Though it is the most expensive spice in the world for it is derived from around 250,000 flower stigmas (saffron crocus) that make just about half a kilo, a few saffron threads come loaded with benefits you won’t regret paying for. Saffron threads can be used in various ways:

Cumin

Yes, it aids digestion and probably that is why we like chewing a handful of cumin seeds at the end of every meal. However, its health benefits go beyond. A portent herb with anti-oxidant characteristics, cumin seeds contain a compound called ‘Thymoquinone’ that checks proliferation of cells responsible for prostate cancer. So, instead of loading your usual snack options with calories and oil, add this seasoning to your bread, fried beans or sauce and make the dish rich in flavour and high on health. You can rediscover the magic of cumin in your regular bowl of tadka dal and rice too!

(Content Credit- healthyeating and timesofindia)

How Healthy is Turmeric ?

Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. Many high quality studies show that it has major benefits for your body and brain. Here are the top 10 evidence-based health benefits of turmeric.

  1. Turmeric Contains Bioactive Compounds With Powerful Medicinal Properties

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color.

It has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb.

Recently, science has started to back up what the Indians have known for a long time… it really does contain compounds with medicinal properties

These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.

Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.

However, the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high… it’s around 3%, by weight

Most of the studies on this herb are using turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using the turmeric spice in your foods.

Therefore, if you want to experience the full effects, then you need to take an extractthat contains significant amounts of curcumin.

Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine… a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2000%

I personally prefer to swallow a few whole peppercorns along with my curcumin supplement, in order to enhance absorption.

Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it may be a good idea to take it with a fatty meal.

Bottom Line: Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most studies used turmeric extracts that are standardized to include large amounts of curcumin.

  1. Curcumin is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound

Inflammation is incredibly important.

It helps the body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage.

Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria could easily take over our bodies and kill us.

Although acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial, it can become a major problem when it is chronic (long-term) and inappropriately deployed against the body’s own tissues.

It is now believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions

Therefore, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases.

It turns out that curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory, it is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs

Curcumin actually targets multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway, at the molecular level.

Curcumin blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. NF-kB is believed to play a major role in many chronic diseases

Without getting into the gory details (inflammation is extremely complicated), the key takeaway here is that curcumin is a bioactive substance that fights inflammation at the molecular level

In several studies, its potency has compared favorably to anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs… except without the side effects

Bottom Line: Chronic inflammation is known to be a contributor to many common Western diseases. Curcumin can inhibit many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation.

  1. Turmeric Dramatically Increases The Antioxidant Capacity of The Body

Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases.

It involves free radicals, highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons.

Free radicals tend to react with important organic substances, such as fatty acids, proteins or DNA.

The main reason antioxidants are so beneficial, is that they protect our bodies from free radicals.

Curcumin happens to be a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure. But curcumin also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes

In that way, curcumin delivers a one-two punch against free radicals. It blocks them directly, then stimulates the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms.

Bottom Line: Curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects. It neutralizes free radicals on its own, then stimulates the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.

  1. Curcumin Boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Linked to Improved Brain Function and a Lower Risk of Brain Diseases

Back in the day, it was believed that neurons weren’t able to divide and multiply after early childhood.

However, it is now known that this does happen.The neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain, they can also multiply and increase in number.One of the main drivers of this process is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain.Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone. This includes depression and Alzheimer’s disease

Interestingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF. By doing this, it may be effective at delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function

There is also the possibility that it could help improve memory and make you smarter. Makes sense given its effects on BDNF levels, but this definitely needs to be tested in human controlled trials

Bottom Line: Curcumin boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain.

  1. Curcumin Leads to Various Improvements That Should Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease is the biggest killer in the world

It has been studied for many decades and researchers have learned a lot about why it happens.

It turns out that heart disease is incredibly complicated and there are various things that contribute to it.

Curcumin may help reverse many steps in the heart disease process

Perhaps the main benefit of curcumin when it comes to heart disease, is improving the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels.

It is well known that endothelial dysfunction is a major driver of heart disease and involves an inability of the endothelium to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and various other factors

Several studies suggest that curcumin leads to improvements in endothelial function. One study shows that is as effective as exercise, another shows that it works as well as the drug Atorvastatin

But curcumin also reduces inflammation and oxidation (as discussed above), which are also important in heart disease.

In one study, 121 patients who were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery were randomized to either placebo or 4 grams of curcumin per day, a few days before and after the surgery.

The curcumin group had a 65% decreased risk of experiencing a heart attack in the hospital

Bottom Line: Curcumin has beneficial effects on several factors known to play a role in heart disease. It improves the function of the endothelium and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant.

  1. Turmeric Can Help Prevent (And Perhaps Even Treat) Cancer

Cancer is a terrible disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells.

There are many different forms of cancer, but they do have several commonalities, some of which appear to be affected by curcumin supplementation

Researchers have been studying curcumin as a beneficial herb in cancer treatment. It can affect cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level

Studies have shown that it can reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis (spread of cancer), as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells

Multiple studies have shown that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells in the laboratory and inhibit the growth of tumours in test animals

Whether high-dose curcumin (preferably with an absorption enhancer like pepper) can help treat cancer in humans has yet to be tested properly.

However, there is some evidence that it may help prevent cancer from occurring in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system (like colorectal cancer).

In one study in 44 men with lesions in the colon that sometimes turn cancerous, 4 grams of curcumin per day for 30 days reduced the number of lesions by 40%

Maybe curcumin will be used along with conventional cancer treatment one day. It’s too early to say for sure, but it looks promising and this is being intensively studied as we speak.

Bottom Line: Curcumin leads to several changes on the molecular level that may help prevent and perhaps even treat cancer.

  1. Curcumin May be Useful in Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and a leading cause of dementia.

Unfortunately, no good treatment is available for Alzheimer’s yet.

Therefore, preventing it from showing up in the first place is of utmost importance.

There may be good news on the horizon, because curcumin has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier

It is known that inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. As we know, curcumin has beneficial effects on both

But one key feature of Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of protein tangles called Amyloid plaques. Studies show that curcumin can help clear these plaques

Whether curcumin can really slow down or even reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease needs to be studied properly.

Bottom Line: Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to lead to various improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Arthritis Patients Respond Very Well to Curcumin Supplementation

Arthritis is a common problem in Western countries.

There are several different types, but most involve some sort of inflammation in the joints.

Given that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory, it makes sense that it could help with arthritis. Several studies show this to be true.

In a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug

Many other studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on arthritis and noted improvements in various symptoms

Bottom Line: Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by joint inflammation. Many studies show that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis and is in some cases more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.

  1. Studies Show That Curcumin Has Incredible Benefits Against Depression

Curcumin has shown some promise in treating depression. In a controlled trial, 60 patients were randomized into three groups. One group took prozac, another group took a gram of curcumin and the third group took both prozac and curcumin. After 6 weeks, curcumin had led to improvements that were similar to prozac. The group that took both prozac and curcumin fared best.

According to this (small) study, curcumin is as effective as an antidepressant.

Depression is also linked to reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and a shrinking hippocampus, a brain area with a role in learning and memory.

Curcumin boosts BNDF levels, potentially reversing some of these changes

There is also some evidence that curcumin can boost the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine

Bottom Line: A study in 60 depressed patients showed that curcumin was as effective as prozac in alleviating the symptoms of depression.

  1. Curcumin May Help Delay Aging and Fight Age-Related Chronic Diseases

If curcumin can really help prevent heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s… then this would have obvious benefits for longevity.

For this reason, curcumin has become very popular as an anti-aging supplement

But given that oxidation and inflammation are believed to play a role in aging, curcumin may have effects that go way beyond just prevention of disease

(Content Credit: By Kris Gunnars, BSc at https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric/)

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