Friday, May 27, 2011

10 Health-Boosting Spices (spices #1-5)

A glimpse of some of the array of spices available worldwide. Photo courtesy: houseofnubian

Forget diamonds, spices are a girl's real best friend. Not only will adding them to most of your meals help stave off disease, they can also prevent aging (the wrinkles, weight gain!) and age-related conditions. Of all the spices out there, here are 10 you should add to your diet immediately.

1. Cardamom: Use this ground-up spice to add flavour to exotic Asian dishes -- it's known to detoxify the liver and boost the immune system.

According to traditional wisdom, cardamom is effective in improving digestion, relieving nausea and stomach cramps. It is a good stimulant and beneficial for those suffering from flatulence and gas.

Cardamom also helps in cleansing the body as it has detoxifying properties. It improves blood circulation to the lungs and can be helpful in prevention of spasms or convulsions. Hence, cardamom in small quantities is beneficial for those suffering from asthma or bronchitis.

Cardamom enhances appetite and provides relief from acidity in the stomach. It is used in the cure of halitosis. It is chewed after a meal in India, not only to help with the digestion of the meal; but, to freshen the breath. It is beneficial for those suffering from various kinds of respiratory allergies. When you have a sore throat, you can try out a little quantity of this medicinal spice.

2. Cayenne or Dried Chili Flakes: These fiery spices may enhance your metabolism while also making you feel fuller longer. Use them in salsa, guacamole, pasta sauces, etc.

Cayenne has the ability to ease stomach upset, ulcers, sore throats, spasmodic and irritating coughs as well as diarrhea.

When you have a cold or flu, cayenne pepper helps break up congested mucus and gets it moving. Once the mucus starts to leave your body, you will get some relief from many of the flu symptoms you may be experiencing.

The results of one study indicated that cayenne pepper could effectively prevent the formation of the fungal pathogens phomopsis and collectotrichum.

Many naturopaths have known of the health benefits of cayenne pepper, especially for migraine symptoms. This may be related to the pepper’s ability to stimulate a pain response in a different area of the body, thus reverting the brain’s attention to the new site. Following this initial pain reaction, the nerve fibers have a depleted substance P (the nerve’s pain chemical), and the perception of pain is lessened.

Cayenne is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent and may even help relieve allergies.

This spice is a well-known digestive aid. It stimulates the digestive tract, increasing the flow of enzyme production and gastric juices. This, in turn, aids the body’s ability to metabolize the food (and toxins) we take into the system. Cayenne pepper is also a wonderful medicinal herb for relieving intestinal gas. It stimulates intestinal peristaltic motion, aiding in both assimilation and elimination.

Cayenne’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a great herb for arthritis, diabetes, psoriasis and herpes-related nerve damage.

Cayenne stimulates the production of saliva, an important key to excellent digestion and maintaining optimal oral health.

Cayenne pepper also helps reduce atherosclerosis, encourages fibrinolytic activity and prevents the formation of blood clots, all of which can help reduce the chances of a heart attack or stroke.

Cayenne is a known circulatory stimulant. It also increases the pulse of our lymphatic and digestive rhythms. By heating the body, the natural process of detoxification is streamlined. Cayenne also causes us to sweat, another important process of detoxification.

Extremely high in a substance called capsaicin, cayenne pepper acts to cause temporary pain on the skin, which in turn sends chemical messengers from the skin into the joint, offering relief for joint pain.

Cayenne is an excellent food-preserver and has been used traditionally to prevent food contamination from bacteria.

Studies done at the Loma Linda University in California found that cayenne pepper can prevent lung cancer in smokers. This may be again related to cayenne’s high quantity of capsaicin, a substance that can stop the formation of tobacco-induced lung tumors. Other studies have also shown a similar reaction in cayenne’s ability to inhibit liver tumors.

Scientists at the Laval University in Quebec found that participants who took cayenne pepper for breakfast were found to have less appetite, leading to less caloric intake throughout the day. Cayenne is also a great metabolic-booster, aiding the body in burning excess amounts of fats.

Cayenne helps to keep blood pressure levels normalized. It also rids the body of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Cayenne is an excellent agent against tooth and gum diseases.

As a poultice, cayenne has been used to treat snakebites, rheumatism, inflammation, sores, wounds and lumbago.

On a personal level, I take 120,000 heat units a day in capsule form.

3. Cinnamon: This sweet spice is loaded with antioxidants and may regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Add a pinch to your yogurt or baked goods. Remember cinnamon toast as a child? One of my favourite treats; and, I had no idea it was so good for me.

Studies have shown that just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.

Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.

In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.

In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.

It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.

In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month.

When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.

One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.

Researchers at Kansas State University found that cinnamon fights the E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized juices.

It is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

4. Cloves: Rich in powerful antioxidants, cloves can help treat inflammation and infection and may work as an all-natural painkiller. For superior oral health: add 2 drops of clove oil to 1/2 glass of warm water. Rinse your mouth thoroughly several times with this making sure to vigorously swish water around mouth for 1 minute each rinse. You should be able to rinse your mouth three times with this clove water.

Eugenol is a chemical compound extracted from the essential oil of cloves and other spices. Eugenol has been shown to be an effective natural anti fungal against the T. mentagrophytes and M. canis dermatophytes (tinia or ringworm), and although tea tree oil is a more effective anti fungal, a combination of tea tree oil and eugenol was found to be more effective. Tests have also demonstrated that essential oil of cloves to be effective against Candida albicans.

The fungicidal potency of clove oil compares very well with that of the commercial antifungal drug nystatin, while providing for a less toxic, safe, and inexpensive alternative to commercial drugs without the risk of ever-increasing resistance shown by the target pathogens, toxicity problems at the increasing required doses, and problematic side-effects.

Eugenol is the principal chemical component of clove oil and is used in dentistry due to its analgesic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects. It is used in the form of a paste or mixture as dental cement, filler, and restorative material.

Beta-caryophyllene, another component of clove oil, has also been shown to exhibit local anesthetic activity.

Cloves can be used in relieving a toothache by placing a single clove on the aching tooth. Clove oil can also be used by soaking in some cotton wool and then placing the cotton wool on the aching tooth.

USDA’s Richard Anderson reports that bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric all can treble insulin activity, hinting that as little as 500 mg might be enough to have some effect. A tea of 500 mg each of these spices, with coriander and cumin, should be enough to treble insulin activity, possibly helping in late-onset diabetes.

Extract of clove has been shown to enhance the sexual behavior of male mice. The results of the study resulted in a significant and sustained increase in the sexual activity of normal male rats, without any adverse effects. The results seem to support the claims for its traditional usage as an aphrodisiac.

The natural oil of clove is a natural mosquito repellent and can give protection against mosquitoes for 4-5 hours.

Preliminary studies have suggested the chemopreventive potential of clove for lung cancer, and to delay and reduce the formation of skin cancer.

The compound eugenol from cloves has been found to be a potent platelet inhibitor (prevents blood clots).

Allergic reactions to clove and eugenol have been reported.

Clove supplements should be avoided in children and pregnant or nursing women.

5. Garlic: Potentially the most powerful of spices, garlic has been shown to cure almost all that ails you -- from heart disease to arthritis and cancer. The root veggie (used as an herb) can be added to almost anything for a touch of flavour and spice.

Garlic contains natural antibiotic and antimicrobial properties that can help treat a variety of health issues. Throughout history, people have used garlic for many conditions such as infection, high blood pressure and even snake bites. Garlic is commonly used in modern times for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.

For regular immune-boosting usage, eat one to two cloves of garlic each day. If you prefer not to eat the garlic raw, use this amount to cook with instead.

Studies have shown that eating garlic can help alleviate some of the symptoms caused by gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Garlic's natural antimicrobial properties make it a good treatment for athlete's foot, warts and Candida yeast.

Some studies have indicated that eating garlic can help repel ticks and mosquitoes, resulting in fewer bites.

Preliminary studies have suggested that eating garlic regularly can reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

Multiple studies have shown that eating garlic on a regular basis can help to reduce total blood cholesterol.

Taking a daily garlic supplement can reduce your risk of getting a cold and cut down on the length of time you have a cold.

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