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Spice Story 1 - Spices that cool and Spices that Warm

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

To some, the word “Spices” invokes the exotic magical world whilst to others, “Spices” are a treasured addition to their kitchen and find a pride of a place in the ubiquitous “Masala Dabba” in the Indian kitchen irrespective of the geographical location.

No doubt spices are a blessing from mother nature, loaded with innumerable health benefits, imparting unique flavours and aromas to a variety of foods and impacting our senses to relax and rejuvenate. They have been accorded a special place globally, more so, with the COVID 19 pandemic looming large, as they have special properties to boost the immune system and assist us to fight off infections better .

It becomes, therefore, increasingly important to know the inherent nature of spices, their interactions within the body and the mechanism of action such that they do not affect us adversely.

I am writing this post in August and would start with spices that provide a cooling sensation to the body, have therapeutic effect on common problems faced during summers like indigestion, bloating, cramps etc and cool the body temperature to provide a comfortable feeling during summer months.

Notable among the spices which possess this cooling quality are Fennel, Coriander, Mint, Cumin, Cardamom and Turmeric.

Besides being cooling they have unique properties which aid in the digestive system, relieve anxiety, provide relaxation and protect against common cold and seasonal flu. They possess anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, digestive, soothing and cooling qualities.

Mint – Mint is great when used as a fresh herb and wonderful addition when used as a dried powder. The menthol in mint helps relieve indigestion and relief from chest pains. The principle of “Evaporation causes cooling” is applicable here since it helps to open pores in the skin, assisting in sweating that causes cooling.

Fennel – This is a common ingredient found in most Indian households and is used as a mouth freshener after meals. Besides providing a fragrant flavour it also aids in digestion. It can calm inflammation in the body caused by the heat and ease in acid reflux. It is a powerful antioxidant which aids in stimulating intestinal juices, promoting proper digestion and reducing acid reflux.

Turmeric – This is known as the golden spice and known globally for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic action. It is used both in summers and winters. Sure does have a heat element to it, thus it should be used in smaller quantities in summers.

Its active ingredient is Curcumin- an antioxidant that promotes healthy heart function and boost the immune system to guard against seasonal allergies. Turmeric reduces pain and swelling in the body, as well as cleans the liver and purifies the blood.

Cardamom – The beautiful light green bud like spice known as cardamom has its fair share of lovers and haters. Nevertheless it has many benefits. It counteracts excess stomach acids and when the seeds are ground, helps ease stomach cramps. Drinking the water in which these have been boiled provides cool sensation to the body.

Coriander – This is a highly versatile spice/herb as it is used as a fresh herb, as seeds and as dried powder. It balances out spicy flavours and provides a fresh kick to a variety of salads, chutneys, dips and salsas. It helps detoxify the body when used as coriander water. It also helps purify the kidneys. Its high volatile oil content makes it a great relaxant and helps relieve anxiety.

Cumin – This is a balancing spice and extensively used as a tempering agent in Indian cuisine and as a flavouring agent, in powdered form, in Middle Eastern Cuisines. It helps cool the body, aids in digestion as well as may help ease asthma symptoms, gas, bloating, and aid in detoxification.

All the above herb/spices greatly help during summers to cool the body and aid in digestion, bloating and other gas issues. They are great for detoxification and warm concoctions.

I would be discussing Warming spices in the Part 2 blog post….Stay tuned.

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