Need a Bit More Spice in Your Life?


It’s no secret that eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is really good for you, but did you know that herbs and spices have some great health benefits too?

Many of the leaves (herbs) and other plant bits (spices) that we use to flavour our cooking have been added to food for their medicinal properties for centuries throughout the world.

As modern science begins to be introduced into the mix, we are finding out all kinds of fascinating things about how these amazing plants work with our bodies to help us be healthier.



The most common kind of “active ingredient” in these plants is their volatile oils, which are different in each plant, and also give them their distinctive flavour and aroma.
The fresher your herbs and spices, the more volatile oils they have in them and thus the better the flavour, hence my excitement at being able to showcase fresh turmeric in this week’s recipes!

Organic grown herbs (and other plants) are not grown with as much fertiliser and so have more time as they grow to pack in the healthy flavour-giving goodness.

Different recipes will give you guidance on how to use your dried spices well, but if you are wanting to strike out on your own, buying whole spices and gently toasting each spice on its own in a pan before grinding them in a mortar and pestle yourself will give you the best possible flavour, but well-stored ground (powdered) spices are wonderfully convenient and flavoursome too.

The handful of herbs and spices in our recipe this week are reputed to have a few fancy tricks up their sleeves.

• Turmeric – often used in food for its striking golden colour, turmeric has been used as both a dye (ever wonder how Buddhist monks get their robes that beautiful colour?) and a flavouring. The yellow is cucurmin, which has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent studies have suggested that it may help prevent some kinds of cancer, and it is also thought to help the body detoxify itself. It is used in Chinese medicine to treat depression.
• Coriander – helps to settle down the stomach, particularly tummy pains to do with gas. Also aids digestion.
• Garlic – fights bad bacteria, viruses and even some parasites. Because it gets secreted into the lungs (garlic breath!), it is especially good for coughs and colds, and supports the development of good gut flora. Studies have shown that it can reduce high blood pressure and reduce blood cholesterol levels.

• Ginger – is great for your circulation. A few slices of fresh ginger in hot water with a spoon of honey can help all kinds of tummy aches. It is used in some travel sickness tablets.

• Chilli – regulates the blood flow, strengthening the heart, arteries, capillaries and nerves, as well as being useful in warding off colds. A pretty handy source of vitamin C.

Of course, please consult a qualified health professional for information specific to your own health needs.
                                                                                                            Article by Elise Ruthenbeck