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The Spices of Life

August 23, 2017 Read Time - 3 minutes

About Author

Dr. Shikary is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Medicine, and trained in pediatrics at UCSF in San Francisco. She specializes in holistic/integrative medicine and nutrition.

Zanzibar is known as the spice belt of the world. Spices found in the fragrant markets there include vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper. Some of my favorite spices include tumeric, chili powder and cardamom. For me the unique mixtures of these spices and others bring memories of home and my mom’s cooking. Spices have a powerful ability to not only make foods taste amazing, but have been used for many centuries for their medicinal properties as well.

Tumeric, a spice often found in Indian cooking, has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and contains a substance called curcumin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Tumeric can be helpful in treating gas and bloating associated with indigestion. It has been studied in people with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, and can keep people in remission for longer periods of time than conventional medicines alone. Many ancient cultures have touted tumeric’s anti-cancer properties. In vitro lab studies suggest that it may be helpful in treating prostate, breast, skin and colon cancer however more research is needed.  

Ginger is another spice with many medicinal properties. Most commonly ginger is used for people with motion sickness. Studies are, however, inconclusive on it’s effectiveness for this purpose. Conversely, there are many studies that show that ginger can be effectively used for morning sickness when used for short periods of time. Ginger is also useful for people with arthritis associated with aging as it can decrease pain and use of other medications such as Ibuprofen.

Garlic is an amazing spice, used as an antiseptic in WWII for gangrene, garlic is very good at treating bacterial infections and reducing inflammation. It is commonly used topically for ear infections. Garlic can also be useful for people with heart disease, slowing down the progression of atherosclerosis and thinning out blood and therefore lowering the risk of heart attacks. Garlic may also be useful in preventing colds during cold and flu season. In one study, people who took garlic supplements during the cold and flu season had fewer colds than their counterparts. Garlic may also be useful in cancer prevention. People who eat garlic on a regular basis seem to have lower rates of colon and stomach cancers.

There are so many different spices, all with their own unique qualities that it’s impossible to write about them all in one blog article. Spices encompass the flavors of life, make our foods more interesting, and keep us healthy. So next time you’re cooking a meal, remember to add some spice!

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