Herbs and Spices

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Just one word enough to make people abandon whatever work they were doing, no matter how important it might be,  and slip into a delectable fantasy spread over millions of cultures. And I bet most of you are checking out Zomato at the same time, in a separate tab. Sigh. The happiness of imagining food and the even greater bliss of actually tasting it, after a long wait is something unmatched by any other activity. If only we could eat everything all the time. There are so many cuisines waiting to be explored. So much is left to eat. So much left to be tasted and talked about. So much to be explored.

We haven’t even finished with Indian cuisine yet, so how is it possible to even start off with the others? True. In a land as diverse as the colors of a rainbow, the cuisine , too, is varied. But what makes our dishes so tasty? What is it, that lends our cuisine that special, distinct taste found in no other? What makes our biriyani so flavored and aromatic? How does a curry taste so distinct that even the British love it so much?

It’s nothing but the secret of the spices.


Yes, you read that right.

India’s rich diversity is further heightened by the availability of a large number of spices and herbs that enrich our foods and lives as well. We all knew about the existence of these items in some of the best dishes that we have ever tasted, but how many of us knew about their equal influence in maintaining a healthy body and mind? Read on to know the immense benefits of these spices…

Turmeric:  You thought this was only useful to add color to the food? Seems like you know only one effect of this immensely useful spice. Often cited as the “King of Spices”, turmeric contains curcumin, its primary antioxidant, which is an essential ingredient for liver detox. What’s more? It’s a natural arthritis treatment for its anti-inflammatory effects. And, yes, scientific studies have shown that turmeric may prove to be an essential dietary aid to prevent fat in the belly area by inhibiting the growth of fat cells.

Cinnamon:  Ah. Another aromatic spice, instantly reminding us of Biriyani. Native to India, this spice is rich in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties and is said to ease digestion as well. It even helps to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It has been shown to conquer E.coli and other bacteria and also helps in the stimulation of blood flow, and is thus used as a herbal remedy for blood circulation. And you thought this modest-looking piece of stick was only helpful for your Biriyani?

Bay Leaf: A dry-looking leaf, often seen to be used by our cooks as they dropped it in a deep pan full of oil and moved away. The Bay Leaf. Or “Tez patta”. In traditional medicinal systems, it has been used as a remedy for headaches.Modern research has concluded that bay leaves contain parthenolides, which have been found effective in the treatment of migraines. They also contain eugenol, a compound with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, thus explaining their use in the treatment of cold, in ancient medicine.

Cardamom: The very aroma of this little pod calms our senses. Did you know, it’s called the “Queen” of all spices? It’s so versatile that it is used as a flavoring agent in a wide range of dishes and even tea and desserts! It is believed to counteract stomach acidity, stimulate appetite and even ease nausea. It contains potent antioxidants and is often included in liver detox. Who knew such a small seed had so many properties? Big surprises come in small packages!

Ginger: This is one spice that is a really good companion during a bout of cold. Packed with many active compounds, including gingerols, oleoresins, zingiberole, to name just a few, its many proven uses include treatment of nausea during morning sickness, motion sickness; easing muscle and joint pains due to its anti-inflammatory properties; causing sweat, thus enabling its usage as a detoxification agent as well. And we all know, how effective it is in treating bronchitis and congestion.

Garlic: Portrayed in many fantasy novels as an effective weapon against vampires, this little spice has more potency than just driving away creatures of the night. Garlic is a great source of Vitamin B6, which is important for the development of the immune system. Vitamin B6 is said to have cancer-fighting abilities as well. It also regulates blood sugar, as it enhances the level of insulin in the blood. do consult your doctor if you think garlic can help your condition. Scurvy can be cured with ingestion of garlic, as it contains a good amount of Vitamin C as well. The reason why garlic is so potent, is that it gets into our blood stream. which means, it oozes out when you sweat. So, be careful about your intake if you already sweat too much.

Coriander: The fresh and green leaves are a treat to the eyes! Specially when used as a garnishing on your favorite curry, say, Paneer Butter Masala or maybe stuffed into that Vegetable Pakoda to add that extra freshness. Well, did you know that this herb contains antioxidants that prevents animal fats from becoming rancid? And hence, it helps to soothe the stomach and relieve bloating. Also, the oil extracted from coriander is helpful as a medication against arthritis. Who knew a simple bunch of leaves could do so much!

Parsley: Scientists from the University of Missouri have found that this herb can actually inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. Apigenin, a compound found abundantly in parsley, boosted resistance to developing cancer tumors, when tested on lab rats.

Sage: Perhaps, it’s no coincidence that a “sage” is a wise person. The herb is known to enhance memory and prevent certain processes in the brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Sage oil is proved to have effects of calmness and  is hence used as an essential oil as well. Like most other herbs, this too has antioxidants and also regulates blood sugar levels. It is often called nature’s metformin, as it performs like the common anti-diabetic drug.


Now, by this time I’m sure some of you have already ordered something to eat or are still planning to. If you haven’t yet, try eating stuff having some of the above herbs and spices. Chances are, you’ll be having a tasty yet healthy meal.

Happy eating!



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