The Spices of Life

Most of you know that many culinary spices can also be healing. So I looked up the spices that I am currently using in my Ayurvedic dishes and I am posting some of their healing properties to show you that my motto, The Good Taste of Health, is in sync with these spices. The spices that are in my curry mix for many of my dishes are: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, garlic and ginger, mustard seeds, and turmeric powder, used in my kitchari recipe (link to recipe at the end).

Kitchari simmering on my stove.


Hers are some interesting culinary/medicinal facts about these herbs & spices. Note, this is not a complete list of the benefits of these herbs.

1. Cumin – In the Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar with Urmali Desai, the author notes that keeping these seeds too long will lessen their culinary & medicinal power, so use before one year. Cumin can be used to dispel toxins and tone the digestive tract. Whilst actions warming, when used with coriander and fennel seeds (also only list) it can relieve digestive distress.

2. Coriander – In Eat-Taste-Heal by Yarema, Rhoda, & Brannigan  coriander is listed as an aid to improve digestion, offset spicy foods, relieve gad and promote urination.

3. Fennel–  In Healing with the Herbs of Life by Leslie Tierra, fennel helps to ease gas, indigestion, abdominal pain and spasms the gastrointestinal tract. (the list is quite long, but mainly seems to indicate its efficacy with digestive ills., although the author does say is helps clear mucus from the lungs and treat coughing.)

4. Garlic – Long before I started to experiment with Ayurveda I was using garlic in my cooking. According to The Complete Book of Food by Carol Ann Rinzler, garlic’s benefits include its protection against circulatory diseases and its antibiotic properties. Concerning the former, animal studies have shown that garlic oil in their diets showed a decrease in low-density lip-proteins (LDLs associated with “bad” cholesterol and a corresponding increase in HDLs, considered the “good” cholesterol. (Recent studies show the demarcation between good & bad is not so clear, and inflammation may be more of a problem than cholesterol, but garlic in moderation still remains a food that can be used to flavor foods while favoring your heart.)

5. Ginger – According to Healing with the Herbs of Life by Leslie Tierra, ginger has many multi-healing applications such as easing motion sickness; acts as a detoxifier; alleviates digestive upset, nausea, gas, poor digestion, burping, and excessive mucus; treats cold, flu and lung congestion; warms the body; relieves muscles pain when applied to skin and (sore) throat as a foment (bathe with warm water or medicated lotions); and can be used as a tea, a bath or a foot soak. Let’s not forget its culinary role, as in gingerbread, ginger snaps (my favorite cookie!) and in pumpkin pie.

6. Mustard Seeds– In Eat-Taste-Heal, mustard seeds are listed as an ingredient to improve digestion and clear sinuses. On World’s Healthiest Foods website, whfoods.com, mustard seeds are an excellent source of selenium (helps reduce the severity of asthma, decrease some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and help prevent cancer.) As a good source of magnesium, “it can  help reduce the severity of asthma, to lower high blood pressure, to restore normal sleep patterns in women having difficulty with the symptoms of menopause, to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, and to prevent heart attack in patients suffering from atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Mustard seeds also qualified as a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and manganese as well as a good source of phosphorus, copper, and vitamin B1.”

7. Turmeric Powder – Considered by Ayurveda to be good for all three dosas (body types: Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Medicinally, according to The Ayurvedic Cookbook, an excellent blood purifier with anti-inflammatory properties. It stimulates complete protein digestion of proteins and prevents creation of toxins. Also, turmeric is healing to she liver. Unlike the other Spices, the golden color adds color to whatever dish you are making.

As you can see, these culinary herbs also double ass medicinal herbs and I use them almost daily in my dishes, especially in my kitchari “stew.” Here is the link to my recipe that I posted around Thanksgiving: http://www.menupause.info/archives/15343

What I have done is to take each of the seeds and mixed them a shaker , so when I make a dish such as chitchat, I put a small amount of oil or ghee in trepan, add the seeds, garlic, ginger and turmeric and then add other ingredients.  The yellow split mung beans and grain I use turn a golden yellow and adding the veggies makes a complete meal, since the beans are a good source of protein.


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