SpicesProtect against cataracts, Prevent cancer, Lower cholesterol, Prevent blood clotting
Research into the world of spices is very new and scientists are only beginning to understand their healing potential. But what has been discovered so far is impressive.
In biblical times, mustard seeds were thought to cure everything from toothache to epilepsy. Saffron, black pepper, fenugreek, and many other spices were also prized for their healing power.
As it turns out, the ancients had an uncanny sense of which spices were most likely to be effective. Researchers have identified many substances in spices that offer health benefits.
Unlike herbs, which come from the leaves of plants, spices are made from buds, bark, fruits, roots, or seeds. The drying process doesn’t appear to diminish their healing powers. When properly stored, spices can retain their active ingredients for months or even years.
Spices contain an abundance of components called phytochemicals or phytonutrients, many of which help prevent normal, healthy cells from turning into cancer. And the ways in which these compounds work as varied as the spices themselves.
Many spices, for example, contain antioxidants, substances that block the effects of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are harmful oxygen molecules that punch holes in healthy cells, sometimes causing genetic damage that can lead to cancer.
Turmeric, for example, is a very rich source of antioxidants, including a compound called curcumin. In recent studies, curcumin has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer by 58%. Other research suggests that it may work against skin cancer as well.
What’s more, some spices have the ability to help neutralize harmful substances in the body, taking away their cancer-causing potential. Nutmeg, ginger, cumin, black pepper and coriander, for example, have been shown to help block the effects of aflatoxin, a mold that can cause liver cancer.
Finally, some spices appear to be capable of killing cancer cells outright. In laboratory studies compounds from saffron were placed on human cancer cells, including cells that cause leukemia. Not only dangerous cells stop growing, but the compounds appeared to have no effect on normal, healthy cells.
There is good evidence that getting more spices in your diet can help keep arteries clear. The reason, once again, is antioxidants. Cloves, for example, contain a compound called eugenol, which is a powerful antioxidant. The curcumin in turmeric can protect the arteries. At least five spices – turmeric, fenugreek, cloves, red chili papers and ginger – have been shown to prevent platelets in blood from clumping. In fact, a compound in ginger called gingerol has chemical structure similar to aspirin which is a proven clot-busting drug.
Since spices contain a large number of compounds, researchers have just begun mapping their healing powers. But research from around the globe indicates that the list of benefits will only keep growing.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, for example, have found that the curcumin in turmeric can prevent HIV, the virus that causes AIDS from multiplying. Research has shown, that when people with AIDS were given curcumin, the illness progressed at a slower rate.
Curcumin has also been shown to protect the eyes from free radicals, which is one of the leading causes of cataracts. Laboratory study found that curcumin was able to reduce free radical damage to the eyes by 52%.
Researchers at University of Wales College of Medicine discovered that a strain of black pepper called West African Black Pepper that appears to produce changes in the brains that can reduce severity of seizures.
At this point in time, we only have information on a few researched spices so far. But no doubt we will be uncovering similarly exciting information about many others in the future.