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FEATURES Mar 11 2013 8:27AM

4 Spices That Heal

by Wendy of Food Heaven Made Easy
I’m sure you can recall having a family member prepare you a spice concoction to treat some type of ailment. For years, spices have been used to help heal a variety of health conditions. In addition to providing healing properties, spices are a great substitute for salt because they add a boost of flavor to our meals. Here are four research-backed spices that have been shown to promote health, as well as different ways you can incorporate them into your cooking!
1. Turmeric
Turmeric is herbaceous plant that belongs to the ginger family. The root of the plant is dried and grounded up into a yellow powder for culinary usage. This yellow powder is usually incorporated into different curry blends, and can also be purchased on its own as turmeric powder. Turmeric is rich in curcumin, which has been shown to have anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects. Curcumin also plays a role in the distribution of fat throughout the body, and may lower one’s risk for developing visceral fat accumulation. My favorite thing about this spice is that it’s incredibly affordable, and lasts for long periods of time in the food pantry. It also has multiple uses that extend outside of cooking. In India, it’s commonly used for treating a variety of skin ailments including acne, eczema, and rosacea.
Cooking Tip:
Add turmeric as a base for sauces or stews by sautéing the powder with a dash of olive oil, onions, and garlic, and then proceed to usual recipe preparations.
2. Ginger
I’m sure many of you have used ginger, especially during the winter season. Whenever I’m coming down with a cold, I make ginger shots, ginger teas, ginger soups…prettymuch ginger everything! The root of the ginger plant is typically used for cooking, and it’s available in the fresh or dried powder form. This miraculous spice has been proven to be an immunity powerhouse. Research has shown that the active component in ginger, gingerol, activates T-cells, which are white blood cells responsible for fighting off infection in the body. Ginger is also packed with anti-oxidants, which protects our cells from the potentially harmful effects of free radicals.
Cooking Tip:
If you’re coming down with a cold, I recommend you prepare 1 ounce of freshly juiced ginger. You can either drink it on its own (be advised that it has a very strong taste) or you can dilute it in 1 cup of water.
3. Cayenne Pepper
If you’re into heat, cayenne pepper is definitely the spice for you. It goes down as one of my all time favorites, and I incorporate it into most of my dishes. Cayenne pepper has a high concentration of capsaicin, which is responsible for its heat. Capsaicin has been shown to improve digestion by increasing the secretion of digestive fluids in the stomach. It’s also a powerful anti-oxidant that protects our cells from potentially harmful molecules; this decreases our risk for cancer development. Furthermore, cayenne pepper is rich in vitamin A, an essential nutrient needed for vision, immune function, and skin health.
Cooking Tip:
You can use cayenne pepper mixed with garlic, onions, and other spices, to make your own hot sauce!
4. Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the bark of cinnamomum trees, and can be used either grounded or whole. The bark of the tree contains essential oils that contain active components linked with powerful healing functions. One of these components is cinnamaldehyde, which as been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory action in the body. Cinnamon is also a known anti-microbial spice that can help stop the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast.
Cooking Tip:
When baking, incorporate cinnamon. It compliments sweet and savory flavors. It’s also great for adding into curries and stews!
Wendy Lopez is the co-founder of Food Heaven Made Easy, a monthly cooking and nutrition web-series that demonstrates how to prepare culturally diverse, delicious, quick and cost conscious meals at home.


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