Basics of Indian Spices
BEGINNERS GUIDE TO INDIAN SPICES AND ITS BENEFITS
Indian spices include a variety of spices grown across the Indian subcontinent (a sub-region of South Asia). With varying climates in different parts of the country, India produces a variety of spices, most of which are native to the subcontinent. Some others were imported from countries with similar climates and have since been cultivated locally for centuries.⠀
Some common spices used in the Indian kitchens from ancient times contain medicinal value and a wide scope of conventional medication utilized for the treatment of different illnesses including transferable and non-communicable diseases. These spices are coriander, green cardamom, cumin seeds, turmeric, black cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and fenugreek seeds.⠀
A spice like turmeric is being used in India as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat gas, colic, toothaches, chest pains, and menstrual imbalance. It is a prominent medicine for the healing of the injury and it is widely used in cosmetic treatment as well. ⠀
Turmeric originates from India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. It has likewise been utilized to treat ulcers, parasitic contaminations, different skin infections, against resistant illnesses, and restoring the manifestations of colds and flu.
Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric. Its property contains antifungal, antimicrobial renal, and hepatoprotective activities. Hence, its possible uses are against various cancer, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic and hard curable diseases. At present, it is being used in stomach or intestine illness, especially for liver disease and bile cuts, and hepatic disorder, wounds from diabetes, joint pain, inflammation, sinusitis, anorexia, fever, and cold.
Cumin seeds are harvested by hand from an annual plant; they are small, boat-shaped, and resemble caraway seeds. The most common variety of cumin is a brownish-yellow color, although you can also sometimes find black cumin, green cumin, and white cumin. You will find whole seeds in Indian recipes (also called jeera) and ground cumin as an ingredient in Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes, as well as chili, barbecue sauce, baked beans, soups, and marinades.
Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor and aroma with a bit of both sweetness and bitterness. The whole seeds need to be toasted in order to reach the optimum flavor.
According to Ayurveda, cumin seeds have tremendous restorative worth, especially for stomach-related diseases. They are utilized in incessant looseness of the bowels and dyspepsia. Cumin seeds contain naturally occurring substances that work as antioxidants.
Cumin was used as a part of an herbal drug trial for diabetes. The drug successfully helped people with diabetes to manage their condition.
Researchers believe that cumin could help kill harmful bacteria that are trying to attack your immune system. This may explain why cumin has been used as a preservative in food for centuries.
Cumin can help your body by stimulating your central nervous system to be more effective. This can result in a sharper memory and greater control over your limbs. Cumin might even be able to help treat Parkinson’s disease because of its contribution to the body’s central nervous system function.
Fenugreek is a powerful medicinal plant.
The most notable utilization of fenugreek as nourishment is as an enhancing operator in curry dishes, yet the ground seeds are an imperative element of curry powders as well as of oriental sauces.⠀
Based on the available evidence, fenugreek has benefits for lowering blood sugar levels, boosting testosterone, and increasing milk production in breastfeeding mothers. Fenugreek may also reduce cholesterol levels, lower inflammation, and help with appetite control, but more research is needed in these areas.
An 8-week study in 49 athletic men found that taking supplements with 500 mg of fenugreek daily slightly increased testosterone levels and significantly improved strength and body fat compared to a placebo group
All parts of the Coriandrum sativum plant are edible, but its seeds and leaves taste very different. While coriander seeds have an earthy flavor, the leaves are pungent and citrus-like — though some people find that they taste like soap.
Whole seeds can be added to baked goods, pickled vegetables, rubs, roasted vegetables, and cooked lentil dishes. Warming them releases their aroma, following which they can be ground for use in pastes and doughs.
Meanwhile, coriander leaves — also called cilantro — are best to garnish soup or use in cold pasta salads, lentils, fresh tomato salsa, or Thai noodle dishes. You can also purée them with garlic, peanuts, coconut milk, and lemon juice to make a paste for burritos, salsa, or marinades.
Animal studies suggest that coriander seeds reduce blood sugar by promoting enzyme activity that helps remove sugar from the blood.
One test tube study found that the antioxidants in coriander seed extract lowered inflammation and slowed the growth of lung, prostate, breast, and colon cancer cells.
A research study noted that coriander leaves improved memory, suggesting that the plant may have applications for Alzheimer’s disease. Coriander may also help manage anxiety.
In populations that consume large amounts of coriander, among other spices, rates of heart disease tend to be lower — especially compared with people on the Western diet, which packs more salt and sugar
Coriander has been represented to show, for instance, cell fortification, unfriendly to diabetic, anticonvulsant, diuretic, antifungal, anticancer, anxiolytic, hepatoprotective, threatening to protozoal, against ulcer, post-coital, antifertility, cholesterol cutting down, and overpowering metal detoxifier.⠀
It is impossible to imagine Indian cuisine without red chilies. Whether in powder form or the whole spice, the entire country uses it in some form or the other. There are many different kinds of red chilies available throughout the country, each with its own unique taste and form. Red chilies are also a part of many spice blends, condiments, and sauces. The fiery hot taste and spicy kick that it renders to dishes are only one of the many benefits of red chili powder.
While it is rarely discussed, there are many health benefits of having red chilies as a part of our daily food. Beyond adding taste, our dishes get healthier with every pinch of this versatile red spice. The primary bioactive plant compound in red chilies, known as capsaicin, is responsible for the taste and health benefits of red chilies. The higher the amount of capsaicin in the spice, the hotter it tastes and the more benefits it adds to your food.
Capsaicin in red chilies is known to reduce inflammation and act as natural pain relief remedy. It binds with nerve endings that sense pain to reduce the feeling of pain. Capsaicin also helps reduce pain and inflammation in the muscles and joints of the lower back.
Red chilies are good for digestive health as they help increase the secretion of digestive juices which prevent problems such as constipation and gas. It is also used as a preservative due to their antibacterial and antifungal properties, which also helps in reducing harmful bacteria. This can help in keeping the intestines healthy.
Capsaicin in red chili powder is known to increase fat burning and reduce appetite. It reduces food cravings and increases metabolism, both beneficial for weight loss. Capsaicin is also thermogenic.
Red chili powder’s key component capsaicin can help reduce triglycerides, cholesterol, and platelet aggregation. It may also help the body dissolve fibrin, which helps prevent the formation of blood clots. This can contribute towards overall better heart health.
SOURCE: Journal of Ethnic Foods (https://doi.org/10.1186/s42779-020-00058-0)
Abdul-Hamid, M., & Moustafa, N. (2013). Protective effect of curcumin on histopathology and ultrastructure of pancreas in the alloxan treated rats for induction of diabetes. The Journal of Basic & Applied Zoology, 66(4), 169-179.