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Spice Story 2 - Spices that cool and Spices that Warm

In my Spice Story 1, I had discussed cooling spices and in Spice Story 2, I will be shedding some light on warming spices.

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.

These days, with the objective of boosting one’s immunity, people are consuming a lot of herbal and ayurvedic “kadhas” concoctions which largely comprise ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, basil, ajwain which are all warming spices. Overconsumption of these concoctions is causing issues like acidity, gastric distress, ulcers, GERD etc.

It therefore becomes important to balance these warming spices with cooling spices to maintain body temperature and stay comfortable. This can be done when one is aware of the inherent characteristics of these ingredients.

Some well-known warming spices are discussed below:

Black Pepper - Black pepper is the world's most traded spice and is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world. Its spiciness is due to the chemical compound piperine. Pepper has many a therapeutic benefits like when mixed with turmeric it is known to prevent cancers, it is good for Digestion, helps prevent constipation, helps treat skin problems, aids in weight loss, believed to treat depression, especially useful in Treating Respiratory Diseases therefore extensively used in Kadha for cough, cold, covid19 etc

Cloves -Cloves are the flower buds of the clove tree, an evergreen also known as Syzygium aromaticum. Cloves are best known as a sweet and aromatic spice, but they have also been used in traditional medicine. They possess antioxidative properties chiefly due to eugenol – the polyphenol contained in them. Cloves have antioxidants that help in fighting free radical damage to the body and boost our immune system. 2. Cloves also have antiseptic, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties that keep common infections, cold, and cough at bay. Clove oil comes many a times at rescue for those who have tooth ache.

Garlic – Garlic is a widely used addition to a variety of dishes globally. It has a distinct taste and flavour. The active compound in garlic is allicin, which is a sulphur compound with antioxidant and antiseptic properties. Therapeutically, garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, heart attack, coronary heart disease, and hypertension. It is also effective in treating common colds and coughs.

Ginger – The ginger that is used in foods and medicine is the rhizome part of the ginger plant. It has been known as highly beneficial as an anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial agent. It is best used in treatment of cold and cough. It is also known to relieve gas and aid in digestion, supports cardiovascular health and relieves pain.

Ajwain/Carom seeds – This is a universal component of any kitchen. Often thought to be seeds, there are actually flowers of the ajwain herb. Usually used to address digestive issues like gas, this magic ingredient is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent, helps in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lowers blood pressure, effective in cough by opening the airways and is an anti-inflammatory agent.

Cinnamon - Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. It is used as a flavouring agent in many cuisines. It can be used as whole piece of the bark or as powder. It is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, helps to lower blood pressure, lowers blood sugar thus aids in diabetes management. Some research suggests it helps in Alzheimer’s disease. It is also a potent anti-fungal agent.

Nutmeg - Nutmeg is the seed or ground spice of several species of the genus Myristica. The same plant is used for two spices derived from its fruit: nutmeg, from its seed, and mace, from the seed covering. Nutmeg and mace are used for diarrhoea, nausea, stomach spasms and pain, and intestinal gas. They are also used for treating cancer, kidney disease, and trouble sleeping.

Hing/Asafoetida - Asafoetida is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula. It has a pungent smell, lending it the trivial name of stinking gum, but in cooked dishes it delivers a smooth flavour reminiscent of leeks or other onion relatives. The odour dissipates upon cooking. Besides being used in cooking it has a multitude of therapeutic benefits too like relieving stomach pain and gas in kids and adults, relieve asthma, lower blood pressure, relieve menstrual pain, reduces headaches

Basil – Tulsi or Basil is very well known globally and extensively used in Thai, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines. In India, it is considered holy and many a household pray to Tulsi plant every day. It is highly beneficial in treating colds and coughs and inflammation. It is also known to improve liver health, fights cancer, improves blood sugar, supports cardiovascular health, improves skin texture, boosts mental health, combats infection.

All the above spices have many therapeutic benefits while are warming/heating in nature. Therefore caution needs to be exercised while consuming them in summers by balancing the diet with cooling spices. Additionally, over consumption of these spices might cause ulcers, acidity, gas etc. So take care.

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