Power spices

Turmeric

Turmeric (also called ‘Indian saffron’) grows in South and Southeast Asia. It has been part of Indian food and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. The roots are either used fresh or dried and ground into powder. Its scientific name is Curcuma longa and its active chemicals are the polyphenols curcumin and other curcuminoids.

Curcumin interacts with fat and muscle cells, pancreas and liver tissue, and macrophages in the immune system, helping to counteract insulin resistance and lower blood glucose and blood lipid levels.

Clinical trials show that curcumin:

  • may help prevent the development of diabetes and it improved the function of Beta-cells in the pancreas
  • reduced symptoms such as joint tenderness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis
  • reduced the severity of pruritis (skin itchiness)
  • decreased heart attack associated with coronary artery bypass grafting
  • decreased protein and blood in the urine and decreased systolic blood pressure in patients with inflammatory kidney disease
  • improved postoperative pain and fatigue following surgical removal of the gallbladder
  • improved the general health of patients with colorectal cancer by increasing p53 molecule expression in tumor cells, speeding up tumor cell death

Be aware that very high doses of turmeric can increase urinary oxalate levels, increasing the risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.

Reference: Chris the “KIWI”

 

Ginger

Ginger belongs to the same family as turmeric and has the same geographical origins and ancient Ayurvedic history. Like turmeric, the part used for food is the root, or rhizome. Its scientific name is Zingiber officinale and its active chemicals include gingerol, shogaol, paradol, zerumbone and zingerone.

Ginger is used commonly in folk medicine to reduce nausea. While other traditional uses include digestive function, anti-inflammatory effects, a pain killer (most likely linked to any anti-inflammatory effect), and as an immune booster, the majority of clinical trials point to ginger’s ability to assist in digestive stability and combat nausea.

Clinical trials showing variable results on ginger’s anti-emetic properties suggest that its effect varies between individuals.

In clinical trials, ginger:

  • reduced the severity of nausea induced by chemotherapy in adult cancer patients
  • mixed effects of ginger on post-operative nausea across different trials
  • mixed effects of ginger on morning sickness in pregnant women across different trials
  • reduced muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury
  • reduced pain scores in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee
  • very high doses of powdered ginger reduced platelet aggregation in patients with coronary heart disease (but this effect was not shown at low doses, or in other studies)
  • a review of clinical trials showed that ginger reduced subjective pain reports in patients with osteoarthritis, period pain, and experimentally induced acute muscle pain – the authors suggest this effect may be due to ginger’s anti-inflammatory activity

Warning: people with heavy susceptibility to bleeding should seek medical advice before taking large amounts of ginger due to studies suggesting it may reduce platelet activity (necessary for blood clotting

Reference: Chris the “KIWI”

 

Chili

There are many Capsicum species, including all the familiar chilies and bell peppers and many exotic others. Examples include C. annum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, C. frutescens, C. pubescens. Originally native to the Americas, the fruits of these plants contain varying degrees of the active chemical capsacin and other capsaicinoids and have been used in food since ancient times.

Absolutely chock full of bioflavonoids and anti-oxidants, and with some interesting FAT LOSS benefits, from a medical perspective, capsicum binds to receptors on nerves that sense pain.

Clinical trials show that red chili peppers:

  • decreased the intensity of abdominal pain and bloating in patients with irritable bowel syndrome
  • activated brown adipose tissue in healthy men
  • decreased blood glucose and maintained insulin levels in healthy men
  • a review of trials involving capsicum species and weight loss showed that chilies reduced abdominal adipose tissue levels, reduced appetite and energy intake, and increased energy expenditure

Warning: chilies can taste HOT! as well as delicous

Reference: Chris the “KIWI”

 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon spice comes from the sweet inner bark of certain trees, originally grown in Sri Lanka, India, China, the Middle East and parts of Africa. When dried, the bark curls into quills; it can also be powdered. In ancient times cinnamon was highly prized for its fragrance in Egypt and the Middle East and it has been used in traditional medicine in China for thousands of years.

The two most common types of cinnamon sold commercially are Cinnamomum verum, also called true cinnamon, Sri Lanka cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon, and Cinnamomum cassia, also called cassia or Chinese cinnamon. The active chemicals are cinnamaldehyde, cinnzeylanine, and eugenol.

Cinnamon has antibacterial effects. In clinical trials it also appears to improve blood parameters, which may help prevent/improve diabetes and aid fat loss. However some studies show no statistically significant effect of cinnamon on blood glucose levels. The most consistent benefit observed across different studies is reduced fasting blood glucose.

Clinical trials show that cinnamon:

  • improved blood glucose concentrations, fasting blood glucose, postprandial glucose response and insulin sensitivity in normal weight adults, obese adults, and patients with type 2 diabetes

Note: Don’t go totally nuts: Cassia cinnamon contains high levels (up to 1%) of coumarin, the parent compound of the anticoagulant warfarin. Very high doses of coumarin are toxic. A tolerable daily intake is 0.1 mg/kg body weight. At 110 lbs, that would be about 5 grams of cinnamon. At 220lbs, about 10 grams of cinnamon, to be well inside the tolerably daily intake. To be honest, probably not going to happen.

Reference: Chris the “KIWI”

 

Cumin seeds

Cumin is a herb belonging to the same family as fennel and caraway and the seeds are used in cooking. It is native to areas stretching from the Mediterranean to India. Its scientific name is Cuminum cyminum and the active chemicals are cuminaldehyde and polyphenols. It is extremely rich in vitamin C.

Reference: Chris the “KIWI”