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The medicinal world of spices you must know about

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Often regarded as the heart of Indian cooking, Sarmistha Neogy writes about some desi spices that do a lot more than just add taste & flavour to our food

Have you ever felt like discovering the vast medicinal properties of the everyday spices which we all use in our kitchen? The rich world of spices has a cure to all ailments, it is easily available, pocket-friendly and there is no fear of any side-effects.

In 2010, Lily Gupta, resident of Mumbai, faced an acute kidney problem and her creatinine levels shot up, doctors then wanted her to go on an immediate dialysis. Her husband didn’t want that and so on random Googling, he came across Ananddham Nature cure center in Kutch and thought about giving it a last try. “When I first arrived at Ananddham, my creatinine levels were 8, but after staying there for 20 days, it came down to 4. With the help of proper diet and natural spices in the forms of medicines, I started feeling much better and I was not required to go on dialysis for the next 6 years,” says Gupta.


Gupta’s doctor, Dr Jay Singhvi, Ayurvedacharya, Naturopath says, “Our kitchen is like a pharmacy and the spices there are like your prescribed drugs. Every spice which we have at home is a treasure of medicinal properties.”

The need for a holistic diet:

Methi Seeds

Geeta Shenoy, renowned and experienced Mumbai-based Medical Nutritionist and Diet and Fitness Consultant feels, a diet has to be holistic to combat any illness, be it acidity, obesity, diabetes, cholesterol, constipation, menstrual problems etc. There’s no one single remedy to treat a particular disease. But while some spices offer immediate respite in acute cases, say Hing (asafoetida) for gases or ginger juice for nausea and bloating; for chronic ailments like blood glucose control or cholesterol, it requires sustained and prolonged usage of spice like Methi (fenugreek seeds).

Methi, Ginger, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Ajwain, Cumin, Saunf, Hing, Nutmeg, Turmeric, Clove, Saffron are some of the most useful spices, which we can find in the kitchen to cure common ailments.

Curb the growth of cancerous cell:

Balwinder Pal Singh, ex-District Ayurveda officer, Punjab explains “Every spice is a wonder in itself and has a wide range of medicinal properties. For example, turmeric, can strengthen your immune system and it can also help in curbing the growth of the cancer cells.”

Cure to viral fever, cold & cough: 

Haldi Milk

A slight change in the temperature and you are down with cough and cold. Instead of popping a pill to treat the bacterial infection, why not try to get cured in the natural way. Ginger has anti-inflammatory compounds and it helps in curing cough and cold, the good old grandma’s way of having Haldi milk is also very useful. Cinnamon and pepper can also be used when you are down with a sore throat or affected by any viral infection. Amla or the Indian gooseberry has Vitamin C properties and you will not be down with fever, if you have them daily.

Weight loss:

Weight loss can’t be achieved in a day, you need proper diet and exercise to help you lose weight. The use of certain spices like – ginger, turmeric, mustard seed can surely help to keep your weight in check and aid in weight loss.

Spices that gives relief during acidity: 

Dhaniya gives relief from acidity and methi is useful for diabetics and in constipation too. Pepper helps in cleaning the stomach.

Gynaecological Problems: 

Saunf

Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) is today very common among girls, it results in irregular menstruation and ovulation related infertility. The everyday spices can give a lot of relief and cure some of the symptoms of gynecological problems.

Dr Aarati Patil, MD, Gynaecology (Ayurveda) says, “Asafoetida (hing) helps in the cure of PCOD, Saunf and the Dhaniya seeds helps in giving relief from heavy bleeding, White Jeera is helpful for patients with scanty bleeding, Methi seeds, helps in reducing the pain during the menstruation and dill seeds, helps in ovulation and curing infertility.”

Expecting mothers & infants: 

Jeera Sherbet

Jeera Sherbet is very good for expecting mothers and the growing foetus. It helps in digestion. For infants who are suffering from colic pain, Hing can give them relief from the pain and can give them comfort.

Are today’s generation open to the idea?

Considering the time crunch and the desire to see everything happen immediate, how open are today’s generation to the idea of using spices to cure ailments? Commenting on it, nutritionist Shenoy cites, “Though popping pills may seem an easy way to most Millennials initially. But they are readily able to adopt spices into their diet once they are convinced about its efficacy. As mentioned earlier, spices have to be moulded into their diet in such a way that it becomes a daily routine instead of sporadic venture. In fact, organic/ Natural are new mantras for the today’s generation and I find that they are ready to accept the kitchen remedies, if counselled properly.”

Like every good thing, some spices may also have their side effects, therefore, it is very necessary to consult a doctor, before you start having one. “While, spices are most readily available, they are cheap and suitable for most without allergic reaction, but internal or external factors will hamper the action and dosage. For example, cinnamon is most frequently used to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s also an excellent antimicrobial and antioxidant, but it also contains a small amount of compound called ‘coumarin’ which may aggravate liver damage in patients with liver disease. The dosage needs to be as prescribed,” she further concludes.