Asian Food Spices & Herbs- Health Benefits
Our cooking is characterized by the use of a variety of spices and herbs. These traditional ingredients give our food many distinct and delightful “flavors”, besides promising many health benefits or medicinal properties. The health benefits of spices and herbs range from aphrodisiac properties to reduce blood-sugar and cholesterol. Get relief from morning sickness and sore throat, while treating heart ailments – the list goes on…
Health Benefits of Spices and Herbs
Pakistani cuisine. It’s colorful, flavorful, and the spices are not only tasty—they come with a plethora of health benefits. These spices can be used in either sweet or savory dishes and they will leave your taste buds asking for more. Take a look at our list below for some common Pakistani spices and the medicinal benefits that each one provides.
Curry Leaves – The flavory energizer of Heart
Commonly used as seasoning, this leaf adds a special tinge & flavor to every dish. But the humble curry leaf promises much more than simply flavor.
Packed with carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, irons and vitamins A, B C and E, the curry leaves strengthen your heart functions, fight infections and can enrich your hair and skin with vitality.
Coriander Leaves – The treasure trove of nutrients, cures & minerals
Fresh Coriander Leaf is full of an unusual array of healing phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants. Its leaves and seeds contain the right amounts of several essential oils to make this herb useful for preparing traditional herbal medicines too.
• It is an anti-septic, analgesic, aphrodisiac and a natural stimulant, that promises better digestion, along with fungicidal benefits.
• It is a very good source of vitamins A, C, and K, with traces of the B vitamins.
• In the minerals department, it provides the ideal amount of calcium and potassium, both of these have proven relief against various ailments.
• Moreover, it offers; iron, manganese and sodium too.
Fresh Mint Leaves – The refreshing reliever of abdominal pain
Mint is a plant that has been used since centuries, across a variety of cultures and communities, such as Pakistan, the Middle East, and Europe. This plant is characterized by a sweet flavor coupled with a cooling sensation and a soothing after-taste. It can be used fresh or dried to create a distinct taste in; curries, soups, chutneys, salads, juices, and ice cream.
Consuming mint has great benefits for the body, as it cools down the digestive tract, or it can even provide relief from abdominal pain.
Bay Leaf: (Urdu name: Tez Patta) – For a stronger heart
Modern scientific research has confirmed numerous health benefits of Bay leaves, especially in case of diabetes and heart diseases. Several scientists have proved that Bay leaves contain; Enzymes that break down proteins and promote healthy digestion; while providing Phytonutrients that help improve heart function and Compounds believed to aid in cancer prevention.
• And for those seeking to treat diabetes, the antioxidants found in Bay leaves aid in the absorption of insulin, which delivers a powerful health effect on the whole body.
• Bay leaves are often used as a natural remedy for headache, besides providing a strong defense against common cold.
Nutmeg- The detoxifier and stress reliever
Globally known for its numerous health advantages, since ancient times, this popular spice has been used as a remedy against various ailments or a powerful protector of general health.
Nutmeg effectively stimulates your brain to eliminate fatigue and stress. It thus provides relief against anxiety or depression.
Nutmeg also helps in Detoxification, which is crucial for maintaining good health. An unhealthy Diet, pollution, stress, tobacco, medication and other external substances can lead to a harmful build-up of toxins in your organs. The liver and kidney are two of the organs, which are highly prone to become toxic.
Nutmeg acts as a tonic, to clean your liver and kidneys by removing these toxins. In case of liver diseases, nutmeg is highly recommended, while it also prevents and dissolves kidney stones. A detoxified liver and kidney performs its functions much better.
Cardamom: (Urdu name: Elaichi) – The Lung strengthener
It can treat bad breath and is commonly used as an after-meal breath freshener. This versatile spice has long been valued medicinally for its ability to increase circulation and improve energy.
• Considered an aphrodisiac in the Middle East, cardamom may also improve digestion, asthma, bronchitis, halitosis, and even help improve a bad mood.
• It’s believed to counteract stomach acidity, heartburn, loss of appetite, ease nausea, cure bad breath, and relieve gas and bloating.
• Cardamom has also been used as both an aphrodisiac and to fight obesity.
In order to get the full benefits of this spice, the outer shell needs to be broken to expose the tiny pods inside —In preliminary studies it has also been shown to have cancer fighting effects against non-melanoma skin cancer. However, more research is needed before cardamom can be recommended for cancer prevention.
Red Chili: (Urdu name: Lal Mirch) – The bone and muscle healer
This super hot spice is a powerhouse of healing – Its diverse curing properties are too numerous to list don.
• Only a few of its myriad benefits include; speedy metabolism, and relief from ache, Arthritic pain and other sprains, strains and bruises (The popular Capsaicin Cream is made from cayenne pepper).
• It warms the body and stimulates blood flow, prevents blood clots, heals ulcers, effectively relieves symptoms of cold and flu, dramatically reduces blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, treats high blood pressure, improves heart health, kills certain cancer cells, immediately stops heart attack … and the list goes on.
Health benefits of cayenne pepper have been listed in numerous medical journals and across the Internet. Hot chili peppers (any color) are also considered as aphrodisiacs.
Cinnamon: (Urdu name: Dalchini) – The blood circulator & Cholesterol reducer
This spice is a rich source of antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, eases digestion, and reduces both sugar and cholesterol levels in the blood.
It also helps stimulate blood flow and is a proven herbal remedy for poor circulation. Cinnamon also has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac.
Cloves: (Urdu name: Laung) – The tooth Doctor of the world
The active compounds in clove lend it a variety of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It also has some anti-inflammatory effect.
Since ancient times in world history, Clove oil has been globally used for treating and curing toothache.
The little bud resembles a tiny black flower, used not only in sub-continent cuisines, but in African and Middle Eastern as well. In cosmetic uses, clove is found in toothpastes, soaps, and perfumes. Indian healers have used the oils, flower buds, and stems from the plant in an array of medicine.
Clove oil can also help with pain when applied topically, and can help with stomach issues like gas, diarrhea, nausea and upset stomach.
Coriander seeds: (Urdu name: Dhania) – The bone & stomach soother
These seeds of the cilantro plant have many antibacterial properties.
• It also helps soothe the stomach and relieves bloating.
• It also offers anti-inflammatory properties, while the coriander oil is a natural remedy for arthritis pain.
Cumin seeds: (Urdu name: Zeera) – The Di-uratic bowel reliever.
As a traditional herbal remedy its uses include: Diuretic effects (helps the body shed water), relief from diarrhea and bowel spasms, relief from morning sickness, and easing of Carpal tunnel syndrome.
• Antiseptic properties of cumin can help fight flu by boosting your immune system.
• A cup of water boiled with cumin seeds, ginger, basil leaves and honey, can give great relief against flu.
• Cumin also helps against indigestion, diarrhea and nausea, besides providing a good amount of iron.
Fennel seeds: (Urdu name: Saunf) – The Gastric regulator
Besides being loaded with powerful antioxidants, fennel also contains fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin C. It is believed to boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and aid in detoxification of the body. It contains compounds that help relieve muscle spasms, which in effect, also helps ease abdominal cramping and spasms.
Fennel seeds are a natural remedy for bloating and gas. Chew a teaspoonful of fennel seeds after each meal to prevent gas. Fennel seeds also prevent bad breath.
Fenugreek seeds: (Urdu name: Methi Daane) – The blood sugar reducer
Like many of the other herbs and spices, the ground seeds of fenugreek have anti-inflammatory properties and help in digestion. Fenugreek seeds are also believed to reduce blood sugar levels and have been used as natural supplement for use with insulin.
• Fenugreek seeds are also a potent expectorant, and is used for natural remedies to ease congestion, allergies, and bronchitis.
• Paste of fenugreek seeds applied to the scalp and later rinsed off with a dandruff shampoo is an effective treatment for dandruff.
Garlic: (Urdu name: Lassun) – Cholesterol & blood pressure easer
Garlic is considered as natural remedy for a number of ailments.
The important uses include treatment of acne, for cardiovascular health and for lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, as an anti-bacterial agent, as an anti-arthritic agent (to treat joint pains), to improve digestion and so forth. It also helps the body to produce certain antioxidants which have beneficial effects on the liver
In India people still rub warmed cooking oil with crushed garlic in it on the chest and back (particularly of babies, but adults too) to relieve chest congestion due to cold.
Ginger: (Urdu name: Adrak) – The Nausea Buster
Ginger is used to treat many things including nausea from morning sickness and nausea related to motion sickness (travel sickness). Its anti-inflammatory properties help ease muscle and joint pain. It also has a diaphoretic property (promotes sweating) and so is used to cleanse and detoxify the body, stimulate circulation, and ease bronchitis and congestion.
Adding crushed ginger to tea while steeping it, is a household remedy for throat pain and cough due to common cold. Ginger is also considered as an aphrodisiac.
Onion: (Urdu name: Piyaz) – The Heart friendly ingredient
Onions, and other members of the same botanical family like; garlic, chives, leeks, scallions, and shallots, are highly useful herbs possessing great culinary and medicinal values. Some of their beneficial effects are seen and felt only after long-term usage.
• Onion may be a useful herb for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, especially since it diminishes the risk of blood clots.
• Onions also protect against stomach and other cancers, as well as protect against certain infections.
• Onions can improve lung function, especially in asthmatics.
The more pungent varieties of onion appear to possess the greatest concentration of health-promoting phytochemicals.
Turmeric: (Urdu name: Haldi) – The Cancer fighter and liver healer
This bright yellow spice, one of the most important spices for cooking “curries”, has many medicinal
properties. Rich in antioxidants, researchers have discovered the power of turmeric. There are reports that it may help in the fight against cancer.
• Studies show that it may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and joint inflammation.
• Turmeric also help minimize liver damages caused by taking excessive alcohol consumption or regular use of pain-killers.
• And no wonder why grandmothers across the country advise a warm glass of milk with turmeric in case of cold and cough.
Black Pepper (Urdu Name: Kaali Mirch)–The Fat reducer & sweat generator
Black pepper stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. Black pepper has long been recognized as a carminitive, (a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas), a property likely due to its beneficial effect of stimulating hydrochloric acid production. In addition, black pepper has diaphoretic (promotes sweating), and diuretic (promotes urination) properties.
• Black pepper has demonstrated impressive antioxidant and antibacterial effects–yet another way in which this wonderful seasoning promotes the health of the digestive tract.
• And not only does black pepper help you derive the most benefit from your food, the outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn.
Star Aniseed – The Anti-Oxidant seed, rich in B Complex Vitamins
While it lends a soft, exotic scent and taste to a meal, Star Anise also has a history as a healing herb. Exotic Anise spice contains some of the important plant-derived chemical compounds, that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties. The chief component that gives the characteristic sweet, aromatic flavor to anise is anethole, the essential volatile oil present in the seeds.
The seeds are an excellent source of many essential B-complex vitamins. The spicy seeds are also a great source of minerals like calcium, iron, copper, potassium, manganese, zinc & magnesium.
Source: Medical News Pakistan