Spice health benefit, antioxidant Information, to season, flavor, and marinate by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Feb 22 2014

 

Definition of Spice : A pungent, aromatic plant substance, such as cinnamon, cloves, mustard or nutmeg, used to flavor foods or beverages. Spices can come from almost any part of a plant including seeds, leaves, barks, rhizomes, latex, stigmas, floral buds and modified stems.

   Spices are the common dietary ingredients that contribute to the taste and flavor of foods. Besides, spices are also known to exert several beneficial effects and due to increased research on the health benefits of spices, some of them are now available in supplement form. See below a discussion of each spice, and there are links provided if you wish to purchase some of them.
   In traditional medical systems, the ability of spices to heal various physical, mental and emotional problems has widely been reported. A growing body of research has demonstrated that the commonly used herbs and spices such as garlic, black cumin, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, allspices, bay leaves, mustard, and rosemary, possess antimicrobial properties that, in some cases, can be used therapeutically. Other spices, such as saffron, a food colorant; turmeric, a yellow colored spice; tea, either green or black, ginger, and flaxseed do contain potent plant substances, including carotenoids, curcumins, catechins, lignan respectively, which provide significant protection against several chronic health conditions including cardiovascular conditions and tumor prevention.
   Interesting fact: There appears to be a correlation between preferences for spicy food and risk-taking personalities.

 

Spices, like vegetables, fruit, and medicinal herbs, have a variety of antioxidant effects and other biological activities. Phenolic compounds in these plant materials are closely associated with their antioxidant activity, which is mainly due to their redox properties and their capacity to block the production of reactive oxygen species. Their ability to interfere with signal transduction pathways involving various transcription factors, protein kinases, phosphatases, and other metabolic enzymes has also been demonstrated. Many of the spice-derived compounds which are potent antioxidants are of great interest to biologists and clinicians because they may help protect the human body against oxidative stress and inflammatory processes.

 

A list of spices. With time I will add more and discuss them in more detail.

Spices, like vegetables, fruit, and medicinal herbs, are known to possess a variety of antioxidant effects and other biological activities. Phenolic compounds in these plant materials are closely associated with their antioxidant activity, which is mainly due to their redox properties and their capacity to block the production of reactive oxygen species. More recently, their ability to interfere with signal transduction pathways involving various transcription factors, protein kinases, phosphatases, and other metabolic enzymes has also been demonstrated. Many of the spice-derived compounds help protect the human body against oxidative stress and inflammatory processes.


Allspice
Pimenta dioica herb - Common Names of Pimenta dioica include allspice, pimento, and Jamaica pepper.


Alum powder is used in pickling recipes and as a preservative to maintain fruit and vegetable crispness. Alum is the hydrated aluminum potassium sulfate.

Anise seed
Asafetida


Basil herb information on health benefits.


Bay leaf or Laurel leaf
Bishop's weed
Caraway is found in aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit flavored with spices and citrus peel. It is also found in kummel, a sweet liqueur originally distilled in Holland but now primarily produced in Russia. Known as carum carvi.

Cardamom spice information

Cassia

Catnip

Cayenne pepper information.

Celery Seed
Chilli Powder or chilli pepper, hotness rating 1 to 120, Jalapeno is 15

 

Cliantro is an herb with many health benefits.

Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of the shoots of a tree (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum) that grows predominantly in India, China, and Ceylon. Add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to sweet snacks instead of sugar.

Cloves are an important ingredient in the spice blends of North India.


Coriander seed and leaf


Cumin Seed

Curcumin is an extract of turmeric found in curry.

Curry powder usually has ginger, coriander, cardamom, cayenne, and turmeric
Dill Seed

Fennel seed and plant. All parts of the fennel plant can be used for medicinal and cooking purposes. Fennel supplements are available for sale.

Fenugreek seed is often used in chutney

Garlic may lower blood pressure and cholesterol, however it is not clear whether garlic in capsule form has as good health benefits as fresh garlic. However, some prefer to use a garlic supplement.

Ginger - found in Verner's ale soda
Mace

McCormick is world's largest spice company, sells products under Schilling label

Mustard is one of the first spices known to humans. Mustard is a common spice used in the United States. All parts of the mustard plant are edible, including seeds, leaves, and flowers. Mustard works well with all types of meats, pork, poultry, and seafood.
Nutmeg spice is found in eggnog, has mace, five pounds of nutmeg make a pound of mace.
Onion

Oregano same as marjoram
Paprika used in Hungary
Parsley, curly leaf used as garnish
Pepper - Capsaicin, which makes chili peppers hot, fed to mice causes apoptosis death in pancreatic cancer cells. The spicy compound kills pancreatic tumor cells but does not affect normal, healthy pancreas cells. Researchers in Los Angeles report that capsaicin kills prostate tumor cells. Other studies have shown that turmeric, a yellow spice used widely in Indian cooking, may help stop the spread of lung cancer and breast cancer in mice. Black pepper is a spice which has the compound piperine in the form of a patented extract called Bioperine
 

Rosemary spice is an antioxidant that is thought to provide for brain health.

Saffron spice may influence serotonin levels and could be beneficial to women with PMS symptoms. Crocus sativus is the botanical name for saffron spice.

Savory comes in summer and winter varieties

Tamarind

Tarrogan found in Bearnaise sauce

Thyme contains thymol, a powerful antiseptic
Turmeric spice

 

Antioxidant benefits
High blood sugar levels, as they occur in those with diabetes, can lead to the formation of harmful substances known as AGE compounds. These compounds, in turn, cause inflammation and tissue damage, which can contribute to the clogged arteries and heart disease commonly associated with diabetes. Extracts of various herbs and spices -- such as cinnamon, cloves, sage and rosemary -- block the chemical process that creates AGE compounds. When blood sugar levels are high, a process known as protein glycation occurs in which the sugar attaches to proteins to form what are known as advanced glycation end products. These compounds cause inflammation and tissue damage associated with aging and diabetes. The anti-AGE benefits of herbs and spices seem to come from plant antioxidants called phenols. Cinnamon, sage, marjoram, tarragon rosemary, cloves and ground Jamaican allspice appear to be the most potent. Herbs and spices are the most concentrated sources of antioxidants in the diet. Spices such as cloves and cinnamon have phenol levels that were 30 percent and 18 percent of dry weight, respectively, while herbs such as oregano and sage were eight and six percent phenol by dry weight, respectively. For comparison, blueberries which are widely touted for their antioxidant capabilities contain roughly five percent phenol by dry weight. Cinnamon has 50 to 100 times more antioxidant power per unit weight than fresh berries. Journal of Medicinal Food, June 2008.
 
Spices for diabetes or blood sugar control
Among the spices, fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenumgraecum), garlic (Allium sativum), onion (Allium cepa), and turmeric (Curcuma longa) have been experimentally documented to possess antidiabetic potential. In a limited number of studies, cumin seeds (Cuminum cyminum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), mustard (Brassica nigra), curry leaves (Murraya koenigii) and coriander (Coriandrum sativum) have been reported to be hypoglycaemic.
   People with diabetes should consider increasing their intake of various spices. In test-tube experiments, extracts of various herbs and spices -- such as cinnamon, cloves, sage and rosemary -- inhibit a damaging process that can result from high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar is high, as is chronically the case in diabetes, it can lead to the formation of substances known as AGE compounds. These compounds cause inflammation and tissue damage which can contribute to the clogged arteries and heart disease commonly associated with diabetes. Certain herbs and spices appear to block the chemical process that creates AGE compounds.

 

Phenolics
Spices are known to significantly contribute to the flavor, taste, and medicinal properties of food because of phenolics. Most spices contain phenolic acids such as tannic, gallic, caffeic, cinnamic, chlorogenic, ferulic and vanillic acids. A high amount of tannic and gallic acids are found in black mustard and clove. Caffeic, chlorogenic and ferulic acids are found in a good amount in cumin. Vanillic and cinnamic acids are found in onion seeds.

 

Spices and cancer
Ginger spice can kill ovarian cancer cells while the compound that makes peppers hot can shrink pancreatic tumors. The study on ginger was done using cells in a lab dish, which is a long way from finding that it works in actual cancer patients. Researchers tested ginger powder dissolved in solution by putting it on ovarian cancer cell cultures. Ginger killed the ovarian cancer cells in two different ways -- through a self-destruction process called apoptosis and through autophagy in which cells digest themselves. Ginger spice has been shown to help control inflammation, which can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer cells. In multiple ovarian cancer cell lines, ginger induced cell death at a similar or better rate than the platinum-based chemotherapy drugs typically used to treat ovarian cancer.

 

Spices improve health
Adding spices such as basil, oregano, garlic, turmeric, and rosemary to your diet may reduce the risk for chronic health problems. Many Americans can substitute traditional seasonings like sugar, salt and fat with herbs and spices.

 

Pesticide substitute
University of British Columbia researchers led by Professor Murray Isman said spices such as rosemary, thyme, clove and mint -- the so-called "essential oil pesticides" -- represent a relatively new class of natural insecticides that show promise as being environmentally friendly, posing less risk to human and animal health. "We are exploring the potential use of natural pesticides based on plant essential oils commonly used in foods and beverages as flavorings," Murray Isman said, noting they are generally a mixture of tiny amounts of two to four spices diluted in water. Some kill insects, while others repel them. "These products expand the limited arsenal of organic growers to combat pests. They're still only a small piece of the insecticide market, but they're growing and gaining momentum." The study was presented in August 2009 in Washington during a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
 

Emails
Q. Do you think it might be harmful to take many spices at the same time? For instance: ginger, basil, rosemary, garlic and saffron.
   A. One can consume them the same day as long as the amounts are reasonable.

 

Q. Is it true that eating certain spices in the evening can disrupt sleep?
   A. Yes. some of them elevate body temperature and cause alertness. The body likes to be cool at night for optimal sleep. Therefore, eat most of your spicy foods at breakfast or lunch so that the body temperature elevation is reduced by bedtime.