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From a very young age, I enjoyed climbing to stand in a chair beside the stove as my grandpa created tasty dishes. He was a cook while serving in the US Navy and always knew how to serve a large crowd. Spices were always the number one way he could dress up even the most boring dishes and toughest cuts of meat.
As a young girl, he would tell me the history of each spice used. I wish I could recapture every detail that he shared! The endless knowledge of the varied uses was too big for my little mind to absorb; but the love for spices and seasoning has long stuck with me.
For more than 5,000 years, spices have been used in Ayrvedic medicine in India and traditional Chinese medicine. Here in the United States, though, these are still considered a form of alternative medicine. Modern medicine is based upon a diagnosis. TCM is a treatment that stems from discovering and underlying imbalance.
The Handbook of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda: An Integrated Practice of Ancient Healing Traditions is one of my favorite resources. It’s full of information about both Aryvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. The tools for self-assessment help you to find what you personally need and include easy-to-follow guides.
My boys attend public school, so they are constantly in contact with an assortment of germs, colds, etc. During the winter, our school system experiences a break-out of flu, strep throat, and other immune-hindering illnesses. I can’t put them in a bubble to prevent being exposed; however, I can do some early prevention by boosting their immune systems using particular spices.
Let’s look at a few of the top spices in Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet. Note that with the exception of the first one, most of these can be eaten fresh rather than dried so you don’t lose any nutrients. Dried herbs and spices can be three to seven times more concentrated in flavor than fresh. Begin your spice journey by adding a little to start with when learning how to cook with them, and then use more if needed to suit your personal flavor preferences.
Cayenne comes from the pepper family and also offers a warming quality and pain relief. Many creams used for arthritis contain active ingredients found in this pepper. It is also good for blood circulation. Fish is one of my favorite dishes to use ground cayenne pepper in. Blackened Fish Tacos are quick, easy, and seasoned with just the right amount of cayenne to let your tongue know it’s there!
Turmeric is a bright yellow root that is powdered into a spice that has a warming quality and is great for both digestion and pain relief. It is ideal in rice and chicken dishes and is one of the bases for curry powder. Instant Indian features Khichuri Bengali Red Lentil Risotto that includes turmeric and several other spices on this list. It’s delicious!
Ginger is a tasty root that can be used in sweet and savory recipes. It is a staple of Indian and Chinese food and is used for digestion and pain relief. It can be used for skin conditions such as acne and eczema. It is also good for blood circulation.
4. Licorice Root
Licorice root is used to regulate blood sugar and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with the ability to lose weight. It aids healthy digestion and can be a tasty treat for those who like black licorice.
5. Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle aids in overall digestion and is also commonly used as a liver detoxifier that relieves liver inflammation. The liver plays an important role in filtering harmful substances out of the body, but as a result, it can accumulate toxins and need to be cleansed. Milk thistle and ginger can also help heal stomach ulcers.
Peppermint is another tasty spice used to aid digestion. It soothes the stomach and supports gallbladder function. It can also help detox the liver. It is generally considered safe as long as it is not consumed in large doses, though pregnant women may wish to avoid it.
Cardamom pods are often used whole in Indian recipes. The little black seeds inside are ground up for Indian food and for Scandinavian baked goods. It is known to ease heartburn and can offer relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It also encourages digestive enzyme secretion, so the food you eat is broken down more efficiently and the nutrients absorbed more rapidly.
Coriander seeds and leaves are both used in Indian and Thai food, as well as in Mexican food. It has a pungent flavor and is full of healthful fatty acids. It is good for soothing the stomach and also has a lot of fiber to help with bowel health. Some have associated the antioxidants in coriander with helping to prevent colon cancer. I recently used coriander in my Lemon Butter Herb Black Cod recipe — YUM!
Cumin is often paired with coriander in the same cuisines. It aids in digestion and encourages the secretion of digestive enzymes. It is also high in fiber and used to help naturally relieve hemorrhoids. These Keto Taco Bowls with Avocado Salsa wouldn’t be the same without cumin!
Spices are an easy way to improve your health in 2020. Investing in high-quality, fresh seasonings will change how you view food. They can dramatically change the flavor of dishes and even encourage kids to choose healthier options!