Sunday, November 7, 2010

Do Herbs and Spices Help Your Health? Chronic Joint Pain?

A reader sent me link to an article written by Dr. Maoshing Ni on Yahoo! Health, entitled "9 Spices for Health, Energy and Longevity!" and asked me to comment on what Dr. Mao has written and the use of herbs and spices for health.

I am re-posting the article here (in italics) and my comments will be evident.

The colder weather is beckoning us back to our kitchens. Break out the spices to bring warmth, robust flavor, and a bounty of health benefits, including higher energy, increased immunity, and other life-enhancing surprises.

Considered to be dried seeds, fruit, roots or bark, spices have been valued for centuries by ancient cultures for their culinary and medicinal properties. For instance, a traditional Indian beauty trick was to spread turmeric paste on the skin to beautify it and prevent pimples. And Chinese doctors have used ginger since ancient times to cure aches and pains.

Here are some spices that you can start cooking with right away to elevate your longevity and health!

1. Garlic wards off heart disease

In addition to warding off Count Dracula, garlic, the spicy favorite in Italian fare, has been shown to improve cholesterol and lower blood pressure. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, consuming half to one clove of garlic daily may reduce cholesterol by nearly ten percent. Your breath might suffer, but your heart will thank you. As an antibacterial, garlic is often used to treat minor infections.

I absolutely believe in garlic, not only for your health but for counter-vampire measures. The trick is to get raw and unprocessed garlic. Garlic like any other plant starts to lose potency once picked and removed from it's nutrient process. Whole garlic cloves, crushed or chopped and added to foods, without alot of cooking (heat) will certainly give your immune system a boost. But is not intended to replace either Rx medicines like antibiotics or high quality supplements. It is simply an additional tool for your tool box of health.

2. Spotlight on cinnamon

Another ancient spice to recently come under scientific investigation is cinnamon. In the United States, cinnamon is usually thought of as the delicious spice in apple pie filling, but in other parts of the world, especially India and Asia, cinnamon has been used as a healing herb for centuries. Research is finally catching up to the wisdom of the East; many clinical studies have linked cinnamon consumption to lowered blood sugar. Both in vitro and human studies show improvement in insulin sensitivity with cinnamon polyphenols, as well as improvement in total and LDL cholesterol. Cinnamon is also thought to detoxify the system and stimulate brain function. Its antiseptic properties give it the ability to fight bladder infection, and if taken in the first 48 hours, a cup of strong cinnamon tea might just nip a bladder infection in the bud. Keep in mind that mixed study results make it difficult to prove these benefits on paper -- but it doesn't hurt to sprinkle a teaspoon into your next bowl of oatmeal.

I think the best use of cinnamon is to replace other flavorings such as butter and sugar or (worse yet) the sugar surrogates. When added to oatmeal or steel cut oats, you are even doing better for your health, especially your cholesterol.

3. Curry for joint health

Are your aching joints not jumping for joy in these autumn days? Try sprinkling some curry on your veggie omelet. Curry, a staple spice combo in Southeast Asian cuisine, contains turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry its distinctive color. The active component in turmeric is called curcumin. If you are a fan of curry, you will be happy to know that this substance is associated with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-amyloid properties; amyloids are plaque-like proteins that build up in brain tissue, and are responsible for diseases like Alzheimer's and rheumatoid arthritis. In one randomized control study 107 patients with knee osteoarthritis received either 800 mg per day ibuprofen or 2 grams per day Curcuma domestica extract. Both groups showed improvement in pain on level walking and climbing stairs.

Joint Health - my favorite topic! I can't stand curry in foods, but my pharmaceutical grade joint supplement, called Procosa II, has turmeric extract which enhances the Glucosamine. This product is what I attribute my renewed joint health. Previously I had knee pain so bad, walking up stairs hurt. Runnning not so much, but stairs and kneeling caused a good deal of joint pain,...and it was chronic pain in nature. So I believe in Turmeric,....but I think my supplement is greatly enhanced by taking a high doses of pharmaceutical grade supplement of multi-minerals and anti-oxidants as well.

4. Star Anise aids digestion

As the name suggests, star anise is indeed star-shaped. Though it is not actually related to anise, star anise shares a similar licorice flavor, due to its content of anethole. Used to bring out flavor in slow-cooked meat dishes and long-simmered soups, this spice frequently makes an appearance in Indian cuisine and is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking. Star anise has been used in a tea to remedy rheumatism, and the seeds are sometimes chewed after meals to aid digestion.

I have do idea what Star Anise is! But I sometimes take a digestive aid (especially after big meals), but it does not include Star Anise. My product is called Digestive Enzyme and contains pharmaceutical grade alpha-amylase bromelain, protease, lipase, lactose, papin and cellulase as well as spirulina.

5. Cardamom improves energy

Found in curries, rice dishes, herbal teas, and breads, cardamom is the spice that gives chai tea its main flavor. In Asia, cardamom has long been valued medicinally for its ability to increase circulation and improve energy. Considered an aphrodisiac in the Middle East, cardamom may also improve digestion, asthma, bronchitis, halitosis, and even help improve a bad mood.

I have spent alot of time in the Middle East and Coffee (Gawa) made over there most often has Cardamon to flavor it up. I liked it, and you should try it, however I don't know about it's health related benefits.

6. Clove curbs cramping

A delicious addition to cooked fruit, roasts, sweet vegetable dishes, and teas, clove has been used since ancient times in India to improve digestive function. You may chew on some to alleviate toothaches, sore throats, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

7. Cumin boosts immunity

An excellent addition to meat curries, stews, vegetables, seafood, and sauces, cumin is thought to boost the immune system and also to improve liver function, reduce flatulence, and aid in digestion.

Don't know about Cumin either. But anything that will reduce flatulence in my dogs, I'll sure try.

8. Fennel Seed soothes your intestines

Often used to spice up recipes with meat, beans, or legumes, fennel helps digestion in two ways: It stimulates the production of gastric juices and also soothes the nervous system, regulating the action of the muscles that line the intestine.

I have often heard of fennel seed being good for you. So I routinely use it when I cook meats. I have had no adverse reaction.

9. Ginger: Remedies aches and nausea

A perfect compliment to vegetables, marinades, and sweets, ginger is also delicious in tea. Ginger may help relieve nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness.

Ginger is another flavoring that can help one reduce sugars in drinks or other food based products. Give it a try,...start small as a little packs a hefty taste.

A word of warning: always discuss with your physician before treating conditions with spices to avoid any adverse interactions; for example, because garlic and ginger possess natural blood-thinning properties, individuals about to undergo surgery and those taking blood thinners should take extra precaution.

To maintain peak flavor, use spices within six months -- but the spice police won’t come knocking at your door if you keep them longer. They like to hang out in a cool, dark place in your pantry to preserve their oils and prevent loss of pungent flavors.

I hope you can use spices to make the most of your meals and your health! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

I think the missing point in this article is the overall fact that the consumer must understand that dried and processed foods, including spices and herbs, lose much of their potency after harvesting and through the processing procedures. If you could get a pharmaceutical grade source of herbs and spices, or grow them and pick them right before use, would most certainly greatly aid in the potency and purity in which you consume them.

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