Spice Up for Health

The cool and wet weather makes hot and spicy dishes particularly welcoming. Besides warming our stomachs, these dishes can be good for our health as well. Here are a few common spices that have been around for thousands of years as kitchen essentials and as natural remedies. They are good ingredients to keep in the pantry.

Ginger

This pungent root is widely used in cooking nowadays in various forms - e.g. fresh ginger in stir fries; young pickled ginger with sushi, and candied ginger in chocolates, cakes and cookies. Traditionally, ginger is used to relieve stomach upset, nausea and diarrhea. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), it has also been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and joint and muscle pain. Fresh ginger tea is a home-made remedy for the cold. Give it a try next time you feel a chill. Use a 1/8" slice of ginger, skin peeled. Press it with a knife to release the juice. Boil covered in 1-1/4 cup of water for about 15 minutes. For more pungent taste, leave the ginger in the water for another 5 minutes while it cools.

Turmeric

This yellow powder is a common ingredient in curry and mustard. It is used widely in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Traditionally, it has been used as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent. According to the NCCAM, it is also used to aid digestion and liver function, relieve arthritis pain, and regulate menstruation. Early animal and laboratory studies suggested that ingredients in turmeric may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Further studies are being conducted to evaluate the potential benefits on Alzheimer disease, cancer treatment, and type II diabetes prevention. Curry for dinner anyone?

Cinnamon

The cinnamon in your tooth paste is not just there for its taste. It can actually help with fighting tooth decay and bad breath due to its antiseptic nature. It is high in antioxidant. It is believed to be able to aid digestion, treat diarrhea, and cure cold. It has also been reported to have positive results in treating type II diabetes. So don't be shy to sprinkle your warm apple cider or hot chocolate with some of this magic.

These herbs are generally considered safe and have few side effects. See the NCCAM website (nccam.nih.gov) for more detail.

Reference: NCCAM, wikipedia

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