Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Med Beat: Spice Up Your Life!

Spice Up Your Life!
     Kurtis Morrish

Not sugar, but spice; it’s everything nice!

They color our foods, they make our meals taste better, and in high doses some can make your mouth burn and your eyes water, but did you know that spices also provide us with a variety of health benefits? 

Numerous studies have revealed that many of our commonly used spices are good for us in ways that are as exciting and diverse as the spices themselves. The medicinal properties of spices are no secret to the human race; we have been making use of them for healing and increasing health for thousands of years. Here are some specific spices that you may already encounter everyday that can also work wonders for you.


A very rich source of antioxidants (one of the richest of all naturally-occurring foods), which help prevent cancer by riding your body of damaging metabolic by-products. Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties as well as the ability to stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeast. Interestingly, cinnamon has properties similar to insulin, and is therefore very effective at reducing blood cholesterol, sugar, and triglycerides.


Is also a powerful antioxidant, and on top of that, relaxes blood vessels, stimulates blood flow, and relieves pain. Ginger is used as a digestive aid, reducing nausea, vomiting, and morning sickness. As an anti-inflammatory, ginger helps combat arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and heart disease.


Is considered by some nutritionists to be the ‘wonder drug’ of the culinary world. Though not technically a ‘spice’, garlic’s health properties are too good to be ignored. Garlic destroys cancer cells and disrupts the growth of existing tumors. Its effectiveness is so well documented that some doctors prescribe regular doses of garlic (approximately 2 cloves per week) to reduce the risk of cancer development.

Red (Hot) Chili Peppers
Also exhibit effective anti-inflammatory effects on the body, which help relieve pain. They work to keep you healthy by boosting immunity and clearing mucus out of your nose and lungs. Red chili peppers kill bacteria, particularly those in the stomach, which reduces your risk of developing certain forms of stomach ulcers and cancer. They have also been found to lower blood cholesterol.

Turmeric Root
Also known as Curcumin, this bright-orange spice is a common ingredient in many Indian dishes. Another anti-inflammatory, turmeric works as well as Motrin for relieving pain. This potent spice is also used to help alleviate the symptoms of a variety of digestive disorders, reduce the development of Alzheimer’s disease, fight depression, and has positive effects on the heart and liver. When eaten with cauliflower or similar vegetables, turmeric’s antioxidant properties can reduce the spread of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and melanoma (see http://unleashedmagazinenews.blogspot.com/2012/07/last-article-from-doc-martin.html).

Turmeric Spice

For Indian food lovers, here’s some great news! Much of the flavors that characterize Indian cuisine are derived from Turmeric, Caraway, Cardamom, Clove, and Fennel, which bear a variety of positive side effects other than tasting delicious. These include immunity boosting, anti-inflammatory effects, liver detoxification, anti-bacterial properties, and antioxidant characteristics. So next time you are enjoying that curry and it may seem just a little too hot for you, remember that your body thanks you for supplying it with these special spices.

In honor of spicing up your life... Check out these great links on the health benefits of other spices and herbs:




Top image is copyright, Getty Images. 

Medical Section Columnist, Kurtis Morrish:

My name is Kurtis Morrish. I graduated from Cal last year as an Integrative Biology major. I am now in the process of applying to medical school in the hopes of one day serving people as a family doctor. By no means do I write to you as an M.D., but I have extensive experience doing all kinds of scientific research; boiling-down long, dry, mumbo-jumbo-dense medical journals into a reduction that is a little sweeter, useful, and hopefully informative for you. I hope to learn as much from my writing as you do, so please hit me up with further questions, concerns, or comments!

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