Saturday, May 28, 2011

10 Health-Boosting Spices (spices #6-10)

6. Ginger: Used as a medicinal for centuries, ginger is kind of a cure-all, treating everything from headaches and stomach aches to nausea and colds. It's a great addition to marinades for fish or as a sushi topper.

Ginger has been revered for its medicinal and culinary benefits for centuries. The underground stem known as the rhizome contains the most medicinal benefits of the plant. The volatile oils of the ginger plant gives ginger its characteristic odor and taste. Ginger is used as a common spice to add flavoring to many dishes as well as baked goods such as the famous gingerbread cookies. It is best to use ginger in its fresh form to obtain the most health benefits from its use.

Ginger can help alleviate diarrhea, aid digestion and reduce flatulence. It also helps relieve the nausea associated with morning sickness and motion sickness. Ginger also helps to neutralize stomach acid that can cause upset and diarrhea.

Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties. It helps reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis. A study conducted by the University of Miami on osteoarthritis patients showed a marked decrease in pain in the group given ginger over a six-week period.

Ginger is a natural decongestant and antihistamine. It helps to relieve the congestion of colds, and reduces fever as well. Sipping ginger tea sweetened with raw, unpasteurized honey is an excellent aid to reducing symptoms of cold or flu.

Ginger may help prevent the formation of blood clots by relaxing the muscles around blood vessels. Ginger is also a natural blood thinner.

Ginger can help lower cholesterol and prevent blood platelets from clumping together. It also stimulate the circulatory system.

Ginger may also be beneficial in the prevention of heart disease and cancer, as well as in the treatment of diabetes. Research continues to determine the effectiveness of ginger in these areas as well as other health conditions.

7. Oregano: With as much antioxidant power as broccoli, this spice can stave off ageing and diseases like cancer. It adds a flavourful kick to pizza, pasta and salad dressings.

Hippocrates, the great Greek philosopher and scholar, used oregano for medicinal purposes. He used it as both an anesthetic and for digestive problems. Oregano’s key chemical components are Acetate, Borneol, Bisabolene , Carvacrol, Caryophyllene, Cymene, Geranyl, Linalool, Linalyl Acetate, Pinene, Terpinene and Thymol. All of these chemicals are present in the leaves and in the oils, so they have both topical and internal benefits.

It has been thought to be an effective treatment for bacteria and parasite infestation in the colon and intestines. In fact, Mexican researchers have found it effective in combating giardia, a bacterial amoeba.

Because of its anti-parasitical affect, its oil has been used in head lice treatments. Herbalists recommend it for the treatment of E-coli.

Oregano also has anti-inflammatory benefits. Some people rub the oil on inflamed joints and muscles. Topically, it can also be used as an antiseptic and anti-bacterial spread to relieve acne, cold sores, and minor cuts and scrapes.

It has been used in the treatment of allergies and even to regulate menstrual periods. Some cultures use it as a powerful pain killer. A few drops of the oil in juice consumed for 3-5 days may help clear up a sinus infection.

Oregano also has a large amount of antioxidants in its oil and leaves. It has 42 times the antioxidants as a medium sized apple, 30 times more than a white potato and 12 times more than an orange.

Warning: women who are pregnant should not eat oregano during the pregnancy. While oregano has very definite health benefits; it is one of those herbs that should not be ingested in large quantities.

8. Rosemary: Delicious on pizza or in potatoes, this spice is known to improve the health of the heart and may reduce inflammation. I have a pot of rosemary growing on my balcony. It is a hardy plant and very easy to grow.

Rosemary leaves contain certain phyto-chemical (plant derived) compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.

The herb parts especially flower tops contain phenolic anti-oxidant rosmarinic acid as well as numerous health benefiting volatile essential oils such as cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, α-pinene etc. These compounds are known to have rubefacient (counter irritant), anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal and anti-septic properties.

Rosemary leaves provide just 131 calories per 100 g and contains no cholesterol. Apart from nutrients this humble herb contains many noteworthy non-nutrient components such as dietary fiber (37% of RDA).

The herb is exceptionally rich in many B-complex group of vitamin, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin. It is one of the herbs contain high levels of folates; providing about 109 mcg per 100 g (about 27% of RDA). Folates are important in DNA synthesis and when given during peri-conception period can help prevent neural tube defects in the new-born babies.

Rosemary herb contains very good amounts of vitamin A, 2924 IU per 100 g; about 97% of RDA. Vitamin A is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin A is known to help body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

Fresh rosemary leaves are good source of antioxidant vitamin; vitamin-C. Contains about 22 mg per 100 g, about 37% of RDA. It is required for the collagen synthesis in the body. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals fro the body.

Rosemary herb parts, whether fresh or dried, are rich source of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

This herb is an excellent source of iron, contains 6.65 mg/100 g of fresh leaves (about 83% of RDA). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

9. Thyme: Looking for a respiratory system boost? Adding thyme to stir-frys or dips can help -- the powerful spice has compounds that promote lung health.

Thyme contains an essential oil that is rich in thymol, a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, and a strong antioxidant. The oil of thyme is used in mouthwashes to treat inflammations of the mouth, and throat infections. It is a common component of cough drops.

Because of its essential oil, thyme possesses expectorant and bronchial antispasmodic properties, making it useful in the treatment of acute and chronic bronchitis, whooping cough, and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. Thyme enhances the action of the cilia in the bronchi and directly acts on the bronchial mucosa. The terpenoids are responsible for the expectorant activity of thyme while a variety of flavonoids are responsible for the spasmolytic effect of thyme on the bronchioles.

All the members of the mint family, including thyme, possess terpenoids which are recognized for their cancer preventive properties. Rosmarinic and ursolic acids are major terpenoids in thyme that possess anti-cancer properties.

A tea can be made by adding one teaspoon of crushed thyme in half cup of boiling water, letting it steep for 10 mins and then straining. The tea can be drunk 3 to 4 times a day for the treatment of coughs. The tea may be sweetened with honey, which also acts as a demulcent, thereby increasing the tea's effectiveness.

10. Turmeric: A popular spice in India (it's used in curries), this spice contains curcumin, a spice that promotes liver health and fights infection as well as respiratory ailments. It may also stave off brain degeneration.

It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.

When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.

Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.

May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.

Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.

Is a natural liver detoxifier.

May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.

May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.

It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.

Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice.

Is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor.

May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.

Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Boosts the effects of chemo drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects.

Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.

Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple myeloma.

Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.

Speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.

May help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.

IF you don't want to add the actual spices to your cooking; but, you still want the health benefits, remember most health food stores sell empty gel caps. That way, you can save by buying the ground spices in bulk; storing them in a cool, dry place; and, making up a couple gel caps when you won't be eating the spice that day.

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