Spices and herbs are common ingredients used in Indian food. Many of them are also used in ayurvedic treatment as ingredients in ayurvedic medicines. We bring you the benefits of some of them. Ayurveda practioners Dr V.C. Ajith Kumar from Ayush Ayurveda Centre and Dr E.J. Joshi and Dr Bindu Ancy Joshi from Kerala Ayurveda Centre also share their views.
Turmeric: It is commonly used in the treatment of arthritis and Alzheimer's disease. It aids digestion, prevents gas formation and is a diuretic. It also relieves pain, is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, astringent (shrinks body tissues) and wards off tumours and allergies. It promotes cardiovascular and liver protection as well. Said Dr Ajith: "Turmeric can be applied on wounds to arrest bleeding, or on the face to ward off painful pimples and on infected acne. Internally, turmeric can be consumed after it is boiled with milk to clear a sore throat, and it can be given to children as immune enhancers."
Cinnamon: It prevents clogging inside blood vessels and thus prevents stroke. It is helpful especially for Type-2 diabetes patients because it lowers blood sugar levels while increasing insulin production. Said Dr Bindu: "It is used in several medicines for digestion, respiratory problems and metabolic disorders. It is a decongestant in cold and cough medicines. It is also used to stimulate blood circulation.
Fennel seeds: They have minerals, vitamins and contain antioxidants which remove harmful free radicals from the body, hence they protect from cancers and other infections. According to Dr Joshi: "It is an ingredient in a lot of medicines for stomach and joint problems. It reduces bad breath and body odour. It relieves abdominal cramps and bloatedness. It is a diuretic (promotes urination)." Fennel water is also given to newborn babies to relieve colic pain and to aid digestion.
Cloves: They are packed with antioxidants, are good sources of minerals, omega-3, fatty acids, fibre and vitamins. Dr Bindu said that "cloves are carminative (prevents gas formation) and antihelminthic (gets rid of worms in the body). They are antiseptic, analgesic and prevent nausea. They enhance metabolism. They are also widely used in oral medicines and oral hygiene products for they prevent toothache caused by decayed tooth." This is also why they are an ingredient in many brands of toothpastes. Cloves are also good in relieving stomach discomfort. Clove teas are said to prevent cold and flu as well.
Cumin: It aids in curing colds as it has antiseptic properties. It boosts the power of the liver to flush out toxins from the body and, in turn, helps to absorb nutrients. Rich in iron, it is good for those suffering from anaemia, lactating mothers and pregnant women. According to the ayurvedic experts, cumin strengthens the stomach, liver and intestines. Said Dr Joshi: "It is good for the digestive system and it enhances appetite. It is useful for chronic fever, vomiting and for relieving abdominal distension and heaviness. In south India, water boiled with cumin seeds is drunk to help in digestion and in eliminating intestinal worms."