For millennia, we’ve known that many spics have healing powers and medicinal benefits. Discover five culinary spices right in your pantry which help fight colds and flu as well as stomach bugs. Add these spices to egg dishes, soups, and cuisine—for not just flavor but your health!
It was a rough winter for colds, flus, and bugs in our house. While sometimes a virus just has to run its course, there are some things we can do to help alleviate some symptoms, bring about some comfort and give our bodies what it needs for a recovery to optimal health. As spices became popular for their gastronomic prowess, they were also revered for their medicinal properties and in recent years certain ones have gained popular attention through scientific study for their healing abilities.
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, may be the most studied spice there is. Turmeric comes from the root of a perennial plant, and it can be purchased in whole form or in its ground and dried form. With it’s deep golden-yellow hue, the spice is considered a healing superstar.
The active healing ingredient in turmeric responsible for its preventative and curative abilities is called curcumin. Studies show that curcumin is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is a common ingredient in any Indian curry however you don’t have to wait for a curry to take advantage of turmerics’ healing properties.
You can start adding a teaspoon of turmeric to your scrambled eggs or rice to impart a nice golden hue with a very subtle flavor or toss a sprinkling into your soups, stews or smoothies. The idea is to add in a bit here and there on a daily basis for a consistent boost to your body.
This righteous rhizome is the root of the Zingiber officinale plant. Ginger is a pungent and warming spice that has garnered a well-deserved reputation for its anti-nausea properties. Whether its morning sickness, motion sickness or simply a queasy belly, ginger in all its forms can offer relief.
Ginger is rich in phytonutrients known as gingerol, which are responsible for its pungency and its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Settle your stomach with an easy ginger tea that can be made from a few slices of fresh ginger root left to steep in a cup of hot water. A touch of lemon and honey can be added to make it more palatable, especially for young taste buds. Ginger in its fresh or dried and ground form can be added to baked goods and puddings, Asian dishes and sauces, soups, stews, or smoothies. We just had this divine carrot ginger soup that was nourishing and family friendly.
Did you know you that you can grow ginger at home? Simply take a fresh ginger rhizome and break off a piece about 2 inches long. Plant it in sandy soil and water occasionally keeping it slightly moistened. In 4 to 5 weeks the root will start to grow and you can break off a piece as needed. The root will continue to grow.
3. Cayenne Pepper
Officially called Capsicum annum, cayenne peppers are red, long, skinny, and fairly spicy when raw. However, if you sprinkle dried and powdered cayenne pepper into your meals, it just adds some kick. You’ll find cayenne spices in Mexican dishes, chowders, and even hot chocolate.
Cayenne is rich in vitamins. One fresh pepper has 72% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and 50% of vitamin A! Even a teaspoon of dried cayenne powder gets you 15% of your daily vitamin A.
This spice has many many benefits but if you have a stomach ache, it’s very helpful for digestion, increasing gastric juices to break down food. Also, as with with other hot peppers, cayenne contains capsaicin which relieves pain. Cayenne peppers have also been shown to help relieve headaches. Creams made from the potent spice can be rubbed on your skin to treat arthritis pain. Some evidence suggests that spicy peppers are good for an achy (or stuffy) head, clearing congestion.
Simply add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to any dish from a stir-fry to a chili or tacos. Or, sprinkle cayenne in coffee or hot chocolate like the Mexicans do.
Image credit: marcin jucha/Shutterstock
Thyme is a spice cupboard workhorse. All varieties contain an important ingredient, thymol. Thymol is the volatile oil responsible for the antiseptic and antimicrobial properties found in the plant species, Thymus vulgaris. Thymol is one of the main ingredients in common mouthwash and many of the cleaning agents on the market. The properties of thymol lend itself to kill germs and fight infection.
Using more thyme in cooking is easy. It is prominent in French blends such as herbes de provence or bouquet garni and can be found in most cajun blends as well. In the Middle East, a specific variety of wild thyme referred to as za’atar is one of the main ingredients in a blend of the same name. A few sprinkles of this along with olive oil on toasted pita bread is both heavenly and healthy. There’s no time like the present to pull out your thyme and get cooking, for the health of it.
Cinnamon is an ancient spice that actually bark that comes from a tree! Cinnamon is rich in the antioxidant compounds, cinnamaldehyde, which reduces inflammation, soothes arthritis pain, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties which aide in digestion and help with stomach problems.
There are SO many ways to add cinnamon to food and drinks. A modest amount of cinnamon in tomato sauce or chili can be an excellent addition; this is a classic Greek style. Of course, cinnamon is wonderful in warm oatmeal or we love a cinnamon butter spread on morning toast. Give some zip to a standard batch of brownies with the addition of a 2 to 3 tablespoons of cinnamon, 1 to 2 teaspoons of chili powder, and a dash (or more) of cayenne. Of course, many baked goods contain cinnamon for its warm, welcoming scent.
So next time you are fighting off a cold, bug or just feeling run down, don’t hesitate to head to your spice pantry and pull out some healing spices to help you out. Always be sure your spices are fresh to maximize their potency and flavor. To learn more about how long spices and herbs keep check out this article.