Spices As Medicine

Plant Medicine for Beginners

Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food is a statement attributed to Hippcocrates who is believed to be the originator of western medicine. The use of cooking spices as part of your daily is the best way to introduce plant medicine into your life and diet.. 


From older times, spices had played a vital role in the lifestyle of people from certain parts of the world. Herbs and spices have been used for generations by humans as food and to treat ailments. Bio-molecules in the plants play a crucial role in health maintenance and promotion. They have served numerous roles through history, including as coloring agents, flavoring agents, preservatives, food additives and medicine. The active photochemical derived from these spices have provided the molecular basis for these actions. There are several medicinal uses of spices in our daily life. Many spices are used in the kitchen and have certain medicinal activities like purgative, laxative, expectorant, carminative, diuretic etc. Since ancient times and till today spices are used for many purposes medicinally. Spices such as turmeric, fenugreek, mustard, ginger, onion and garlic have a wide variety of bio functions and their additive or synergistic actions are likely to protect the human body against a variety of insults. Traditionally spices, as part of the diets, have holistic effects on human health.


In the whole world, India is the most recognized country for the spices and traditional medicine; these have a wide range of physiological and pharmacological properties. A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or flower of a plant or a herb used in small quantities for flavor, color or as a preservative. Moreover, for people of the world, spices stimulate appetite and create visual appeals to food. All types of spices were used from the ancient time in our kitchen for daily so they fulfill the body requirements on a routine basis. Many of these substances are also used in traditional medicines. Globalization has made these spices easily available, and increasing their popularity. This chapter reviews the traditional uses of selected spices. In addition to making food taste good, culinary spices have been used as food preservatives and for their health-enhancing properties for centuries. Spices are functional foods; those can be demonstrated to have a beneficial effect on certain target functions in the body beyond basic nutritional requirements. The aim of this work is to review the nutritional and health benefits of some traditional spices mostly used in India.


Its botanical name Syzygium aromaticum, or Eugenia aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata), It is a precious and valuable spice of the world, the part used is basically the dried aromatic buds of flower of a tree in the family of Myrtaceae. Cloves flower buds are mainly found in Indonesia and it’s used as a spice in cuisine all around the world [1]. The name derives French “clou,” (meaning “nail”) as the buds are vaguely similar to small irregular nails in shape [2]. This spice is used in Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Western herbalism and dentistry, where the essential oil is used as an anodyne (painkiller) for dental emergencies [3]. Cloves action also reported as analgesic property, anesthetic action, antibacterial property, antiparasitic action, antidotal property, antioxidant action, antiperspirant action, antiseptic property, carminative action, deodorant, digestive disorders, rubefacient action, stimulant property, stomachic action

[4, 5].


Cardamom (Zingiberaceae) is a widely used spice and it is also used as a flavouring agent. It contains two genera called Elettaria and Amomum. Green colour cardamom is well known as elaichi in Marathi, Hindi and Urdu in South Asia. In Telugu and Tamil it is well known as

elakkaya and elam respectively. All species of cardamom are used as kitchen cooking spices. It also helpful in flatulent indigestion and to stimulate the appetite in people with anorexia [6]. In Ayurveda it is well known for carminative property, diuretic action, cough relief, colds and cardiac stimulation. Traditionally it is used against kidney and urinary disorders and also has gastrointestinal protective property. Cardamom oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties [7]. In India, green cardamom (A. subulatum) is widely used to treat infections against teeth and gums, to overcome throat trouble, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, asthma, heart disease, inflammation of the eyelids and digestive disorders. Nasal preparation for cold is prepared by mixing cardamom with neem and camphor [8]. Cardamom infusion used as a gargle to relieve sore throats. It is reported as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom and also used for food poisoning. In Chinese it is also traditionally used to treat stomach ache disorders, constipation problems, dysentery in children, and other digestion related problems. The pods of Cardamom, also effective when it is used as fried and mixed with mastic and milk, are effective against bladder problems [9]. Cardamom seeds are well known to be an aphrodisiac property.


Coriandrum sativum L. (Umbelliferae) is originated to region of southwestern Asia and North Africa and known as cilantro, cilantro, Chinese parsley, Mexican parsley, Arab parsley, Dhania and Yuen sai. Traditionally it is used in infection related to digestive problem, respiratory and urinary systems and having stimulant action [10]. The coriander plant is highly recommended for anxiety and insomnia in Iranian folk medicine, very common in Mexican diet, usually consumed uncooked, the oil of coriander also having an antimicrobial property and as a natural fragrance in perfumery industry. Coriander also called “Maadnouss” in Morocco and well recommended for urethritis, cystitis, urinary tract infection, urticaria, rash, burns, sore throat, vomiting, indigestion, nosebleed, cough, allergies, hay fever, dizziness and amebic dysentery [11-13].


Fenugreek is a kind of seed, which are mainly used as kitchen spices in India, commonly known as maithray (Bangla, Gujarati), methi or mithi (Hindi, Nepali, Marathi, Urdu and Sanskrit). In Plant Medicine for Beginners

Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food is a statement attributed to Hippcocrates who is believed to be the originator of western medicine. The use of cooking spices as part of your daily is the best way to introduce plant medicine into your life and diet.. 

Latin “fenugreek” or foenum-graecum is known for “Greek hay.” In medicines it is used as an aphrodisiac property, astringent, demulcent action, carminative, stomachic, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, expectorant, lactogogue, restorative, and tonic [14]. Fenugreek also used for a variety of health situations, including digestive disorders [15], bronchitis, tuberculosis infection, fevers, sore throats

problem, wounds healing, arthritis, abscesses, swollen glands, skin irritations reaction, loss of appetite, ulcers and menopausal symptoms, diabetes, as well as in the treatment of cancerous infection. Leaves infusion is used as a gargle for treatment of mouth ulcers. It also overcomes problems related to reducing blood sugar level and to lower blood pressure [16].

Nigella sativai

Nigella sativa is found in almost every kitchen and has so many medicinal properties. Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to southwest Asia, derivative of Latin niger meaning “black” having carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, excitant, galactagogue, laxative, expectorant, antipyretic, antihelminthic, resolvent, stimulant, sudorific, parasiticide, stomachic, property. It is also known as kalonji(Hindi), kezah(Hebrew), chernushka (Russian), çörek otu(Turkish), habbat al barakah(Arabic “seed of blessing”) or siyah daneh (Persian). Kalonji is also effective in dog bites which are mad. It is also effective in paralysis, facial palsy, migraine, amnesia related problems. Its powder if taken with water is effective in treating haemorrhoids [17]. Vinegar solution of boiled seed is very effective in inflammation and pain of gums and teeth. It’s fine powder is also effective in early stages of cataract problems. Black seed oil has also women’s beauty secret since ancient times. Black cumin and its oil having anti-parasitic activity and very effective in abscesses, hemorrhoids, orchitis and has been used to remove lice from the hair.


Cinnamon is a very commonly used spice in the kitchen. (Cinnamomum verum or C. zeylanicum) is mainly present in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal [18]. The “cinnamon” names arise from Greek kinnám ō mon, itself ultimately from Phoenician. The botanical name for the spice, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is derived from Sri Lanka’s former (colonial) name, Ceylon. In Sinhala (Sri Lanka), it is also known as kurundu, Hindi as dalchini, and in Gujarati as taj. In Malayalam cinnamon is called karuva or lavangam. The (karuvappatta/elavarngappatta) karuva dried skin has an important part of spicy curries. This spice is regarded as antipyretic, lowering in body temperature, antiseptic, astringent, inflammatory problem, carminative, diaphoretic, fungicidal, stimulant, and stomachic [19]. The powdered spice cinnamon bark in water is applied to overcome headaches and neuralgia. Cinnamon is combined with ginger to stimulate digestion & circulation [20]. In addition it is also used by different people of Kashmiri origin, cinnamon is used for treating infectious diseases. It is regarded as a folk remedy for indurations (of spleen, breast, uterus, liver and stomach) and tumors (especially of the abdomen, liver and sinews) [21].


Bay leaf

It is used in cooking to add a specific flavour to food. It also has

some medicinal properties.

Bay leaf oil possesses antifungal and antibacterial properties.


Mostly in all Indian and other sweet dishes it used to give a good flavour and smell. It is also used widely in the pharmaceutical sector.

Helps to control bad breath and digestive disorder. A

whole cardamom chewed is good for coping with diabetes.


It is a main ingredient used for adding hot flavour to the food.

The antioxidants present in chilli help to cope with

cholesterol. It also helps burn calories.


It is used for mainly for seasoning food and preparing masalas It

has medicinal uses too.

It supports natural production of insulin and reduces

blood cholesterol.

Clove It is used as a cooking ingredient mainly for seasoning or preparing Masalas.

Clove oil is beneficial for coping with toothache and

sore gums. It is also a beneficial remedy for chest pains, fever, digestive problems, cough and cold.


Coriander leaves as well as coriander seeds are used in cooking. It also has some medicinal uses.

It can be used externally on aching joints and

rheumatism. It is also good for coping with soar throat, allergies, digestion problems, hay fever etc.


It is used for cooking and it also possesses medicinal properties.

It is a good source of iron and keeps the immune system healthy. Water boiled with cumin seeds is good for

coping with dysentery.

Curry leaves

It is used as a main ingredient for seasoning in some countries. It has many medicinal uses.

These leaves are beneficial for reducing blood sugar. Each part of the plant provides some benefit or the other. The dried leaves are extensively used in herbal



It is mainly used as a green leafy vegetable and seeds are used for seasoning and preparing Masalas. It also has medicinal uses.

Fenugreek seed tea or sweet fudge is good for increasing breast milk. It also helpful for treating

diabetes and lowering cholesterol


It is used for cooking as well as for medicinal purpose.

It is useful for coping with cough and colds. It also has

antibiotic properties.


It is used for giving a specific flavour to food and has many

medicinal uses.

Helps to avoid digestive problems. It is beneficial for

coping with cough and cold.


It is used for seasoning as well as green leafy vegetables. The use of mustard oil is extensive in India but it is banned in some countries.

Mustard oil is good for body massage and even for getting good hair. It consists of omega-3 fatty acids. It is an excellent source of iron, zinc, manganese, calcium,

protein etc.


It is used in powdered form for garnishing and also for masala preparation. It is used in soaps, perfumes and shampoos. It can

also be used for medicinal purposes.

It is beneficial for the treatments of asthma, heart disorder and bad breath.


It is extensively used in cooking, especially for garnishing. It has

many medicinal uses too.

It helps coping with colds, coughs, infections etc. It helps

to deal with muscle pains and digestive problems.


It is used for cooking as well as in beauty products. It is mainly

used in sweet dishes. It has good medicinal properties.

It helps to cope with skin diseases. It is a good remedy

for cough, cold and asthma.

Star anise

It is used in cooking and for medicinal purposes.

Star anise oil is beneficial for rheumatism. It is helpful

for digestion and avoiding bad breath.


It is used in cooking and skin care products. It has a wide range of medicinal uses.

It helps deal with skin problems. Turmeric powder can

be used for healing cuts and wounds. It also makes coping with diabetes easier.


Garlic is the oldest remedy used as early as 3000 BC for the treatment of intestinal disorders and is known for its fibrinolytic activity with lowering blood cholesterol. Garlic (Allium sativum L.) species mainly refer to the onion family, Alliaceae. This spice has also been used in folk medicine for diabetes and inflammation treatment. In Nepal, East Asia and the Middle East has been used to treat all manner of illnesses including fevers, diabetes, rheumatism, intestinal worms, colic, flatulence, dysentery, liver disorders, tuberculosis, facial paralysis, high blood pressure and bronchitis [22]. In Ayurvedic and Siddha medicine juice of garlic has been used to alleviate sinus problems. In Unani medicine, an prepared extract by the dried bulb is inhaled to promote abortion or taken to regulate menstruation. Unani physicians have also used garlic to treat paralysis, forgetfulness, tremor, colic pains, internal ulcers and fevers.


It is also known as aadu (gujarati), shunti (Kannada), allam (Telugu), zanjabil (Arabic), inji (Tamil and Malayalam) and adrak (Hindi and Urdu). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is commonly used as a spice in cooking throughout the world and specially used in kitchens. The ginger rhizome mainly diversify l used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine to overcome a vast variety of gastrointestinal disorders, mainly nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness and pregnancy, abdominal spasm, as well as respiratory and rheumatic disorders [23]. As a home, ginger is widely used for dyspepsia, flatulence, abdominal discomfort and nausea [24]. It

also used as astringent (an agent that causes shrinkage of mucous membranes or exposed tissues and that is often used internally to check discharge of blood serum or mucous secretions) [26].


The “mint” word generated from Greek word minthe, catargerised in Greek mythology as Minthe, a nymph who was appearing into a mint plant. Mentha (mint) has been a popular spice and has a genus of about 25 species (and many hundreds of varieties) of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae (mint family). The different types of mint including Mentha aquatica, water mint or marsh mint; Mentha arvensis corn mint, wild mint, Japanese peppermint, field mint or pudina; Mint leaves are also used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams. In Middle Eastern cuisine mint is used in lamb dishes. In British cuisine, mint sauce is popular with lamb. Mint is a necessary ingredient in Touareg tea, a popular tea in northern African and Arab countries. This plant is mainly used as a herbal agent in the treatment of loss of appetite, bronchitis, sinusitis, common cold fever, nausea and vomiting, and indigestion related problem [27].

Red chilli

Red chilli is the commonly used spice bins in our daily life. Red chilli, plant specify genus Capsicum, which is among the most popular spices consumed all around the world. This name, chile, or chilli, arises from Nahuatl chīlli via the Spanish word chile [28]. Red chili has one another application

used as an alternative medicine for the inflammation treatment [29], diabetes problem, and low back pain and also used to treat acute tonsillitis. Capsicum plaster, which contains finely divided powdered capsicum and capsicum tincture solution, has been used in Korean hand acupuncture to reduce postoperative nausea, sore throat problems, and vomiting [30].


Turmeric cultivation in India occupies 60% of the total area intended for spices and condiments. It is also named as kunyit (Indonesian and Malay), besar (Nepali) and haldi or pasupu in some Asian countries. Turmeric has a yellow colored appearance and the spice arises from the rhizome of Curcuma longa plant. Turmeric also used as traditional medicine from ancient times in China and India [31]. It is called halodhi in Assamese. In medieval Europe, turmeric is also known as Indian saffron, so it is widely used for alternative to the far more costly saffron spice. The yellow powder which is obtained from rhizome of turmeric has been used in Asian cookery, different medicine, cosmetics products, and textile and fabric coloring for the last 2000 years [32]. As a traditional remedy, turmeric has also been quite extensively used for centuries to treat various disorders such as rheumatism, body ache [33], skin diseases, intestinal worms, diarrhea [34], intermittent fevers, hepatic diseases, urinary discharges, dyspepsia, inflammations, constipation, leukoderma, amenorrhea, dental diseases, digestive problem such as dyspepsia and acidity, indigestion, flatulence, ulcers, and colic inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, colitis and hepatitis [35, 36].


The caper bush, also called Flinders rose, is a perennial herb plant which bears spiral, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish flowers. This plant is mainly best known for the edible buds of flower, often used as a seasoning, and the fruit (caper berries), both of which are usually consumed pickled. Other varieties of Capparis are also picked along with C. spinosa for their buds or fruits. Other parts of Capparis plants are used in the manufacture of medicines and cosmetics. Capparis spinosa is found in the wild in the Mediterranean, East Africa, Madagascar, South-Western and Central Asia, the Himalayas, the Pacific Islands, Indomalaya, and Australia [6]. It is present in almost all the circum-Mediterranean countries. When ready to pick,the buds are a dark olive green colour and about the size of a fresh kernel of corn (Zea mays). These are picked and then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, and drained. A high Intense flavor, described as being similar to black pepper or mustard, appears as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each   caper   bud   [24]. This typeof enzymatic reaction emphasizes the formation of rutin, also seen as crystallized white spots on the surfaces of any individual caper buds.

Star anise is the major source of the chemical compound shikimic acid, a primary precursor in the pharmaceutical synthesis of anti influenza drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) [4]. Shikimic acid is produced by most autotrophic organisms, and while it can be obtained in commercial quantities elsewhere, star anise remains the usual industrial source. In 2005, a temporary shortage of star anise was caused by its use in the production of Tamiflu. Later that year, a method for the production of shikimic acid using bacteria was discovered [5].

Poppy seed

Poppy seed is an oilseed obtained from the poppy (Papaver somniferum). The tiny kidney-shaped seeds have been harvested from dried seed pods by various civilizations for thousands of years. It is still widely used in many countries, especially in Central Europe, where it is legally grown and sold in shops. The seeds are used, whole or ground, as an ingredient in many foods-especially in pastry and bread, and they are pressed to yield poppy seed oil. In a 100 gram amount, poppy seeds provide 525 Calories and are a rich source of thiamin, folate, and several essential minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc (table). Poppy seeds are composed of 6% water, 28% carbohydrates, 42% fat, and 21% protein (table). In Indian cuisine white poppy seeds are added for thickness, texture and also give added flavor to the recipe. Commonly used in the preparation of korma, ground poppy seeds, along with coconut and other spices, are combined as a paste, to be added at the last stage of cooking. It is quite hard to grind them when raw, so they are normally toasted/broiled and water added when grinding to get the right consistency

In Indian traditional medicine Ayurveda soaked poppy seeds are ground into a fine paste with milk and applied on the skin as a moisturizer [18].

Poppy seeds are pressed to form poppy seed oil, valuable commercial oil that has multiple culinary, industrial, and medicinal uses.


The pomegranate (Punica     granatum)     is      a fruit- bearing deciduous shrub or small tree in the family Lythraceae that grows between 5 and 8 m (16 and 26 ft) tall. The fruit is typically in season in the Northern Hemisphere from    September    to    February    [2] and    in the Southern   Hemisphere from   March   to    May.    As intact arils or juice, pomegranates are used in baking, cooking,      juice       blends,       meal garnishes, smoothies and alcoholic beverages, such as cocktails and wine. Pomegranate juice can be sweet or sour, but most fruits are moderate    in    taste,    with    sour    notes     from     the acidic ellagitannins contained in the juice [15]. It is a well known popular drink in the whole world.In India’s ancient Ayurveda system of traditional medicine, the pomegranate is frequently described as an ingredient in remedies.

Nigella sativa

An annual flowering plant in the family Ranunculaceae, native to south and southwest Asia. The seeds of N. sativa are used as a spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The black seeds taste like a combination of onions, black pepper, and oregano. They have a pungent, bitter taste and smell [6].

The dry-roasted seeds flavor curries, vegetables, and pulses. They can be used as a “pepper” in recipes with pod fruit,

vegetables, salads, and poultry. In some cultures, the black seeds are used to flavor bread products, and are used as part of the spice mixture panch phoron (meaning a mixture of five spices) and alone in many recipes in Bengali cuisine and most recognizably in naan [8]. Nigella is also used in Armenian string cheese, a braided string cheese called majdouleh or majdouli in the Middle East.


Liquorice is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is an herbaceous perennial legume native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, such as India. It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds. Liquorice flavours are used as candies or sweeteners, particularly in some European and Middle Eastern countries. Liquorice   extracts   have   been   used in herbalism and traditional medicine. Excessive consumption of liquorice (more than 2 mg/kg/day of pure glycyrrhizinic acid, a liquorice component) may result in adverse effects such as hypokalemia, increased blood pressure, and muscle weakness [6-7].

Liquorice flavour is found in a wide variety of candies or sweets. In most of these candies, the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil so the actual content of liquorice is very low. Liquorice confections are primarily purchased by consumers in the European Union [17].

In the Netherlands, liquorice confectionery (drop) is one of the most popular forms of sweets. It is sold in many forms. Mixing it with mint, menthol, aniseed, or laurel is quite popular. Mixing it with ammonium chloride (salmiak) is also popular. A popular liquorice in the Netherlands is known as zoute drop (salty liquorice), but contains very little salt, i.e., sodium chloride [21]. The salty taste is due to ammonium chloride. Strong, salty sweets are also popular in Nordic countries. In traditional Chinese medicine, liquorice (G. uralensis) is believed to “harmonize” the ingredients in a formula. Liquorice has been used in Ayurveda for rejuvenation and in the belief it may aid jaundice or other diseases. It is used as an expectorant in traditional medicine in Egypt [25-27].


All the spices have a wide variety of bio-functions and their additive and synergistic actions that protect the human body. Traditionally, spices are part of the diet, having a holistic approach. Because they tend to have strong flavors and are used in small quantities, spices tend to add few calories to food, even though many spices, especially those made from seeds, contain high portions of fat, protein and carbohydrate by weight. However, when used in larger quantities, spices can also contribute a substantial amount of minerals  and other micronutrients, including iron, magnesium, calcium and many others, to the diet.


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  1. Susie on June 7, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    Awesome. We miss you.

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