It is impossible to imagine an Indian kitchen without spices and condiments. Tradition has handed over a treasure of these “food additives ” offering an unlimited bounty of colours, flavours, aroma and above all, an innumerable number of health benefits, making them the most easily available medicines in every Indian home.
A few hundred years back, there were no food laboratories to check their nutritive value or other effects. There was no way to prove or establish the usefulness of spices, but they still managed to carve a niche in our cuisines and our medical chests, based on the age old observations of “live human laboratories”. Use and repeated reuse, keen observation and experience taught our forefathers (foremothers, if i may say so), the benifit of using various spices and their combinations.
Though used in minute quantities, their benefits are huge. The list is very impressive, almost unending, encompassing almost every aspect of human health.
Spices appeal to our taste and smell, stimulating enzymes in our alimentary canal, thus improving digestion. Ruchikar and deepan pachan according to Ayurveda.
Weather root, bark, fruit, seed or even resins of plants, spices are store houses of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and various nutraceuticals.
They boost the immune system, are anti inflammatory, have antibacterial and antiviral properties, are carminative and aid digestion. Some are anti clotting whereas some are anti cancerous. Some are laxative while some are anti diarrhoeal,some are diuretic and some serve as mouth fresheners.
Primarily used to tingle our taste buds, they gift us a bonus in the form of health benefits. Taste and health seldom go together. Cereals, pulses and vegetables taste much better when spices are added to them. It is precisely because of this that centuries back, spices found their way to Middle East countries, and from there to European nations. They brought taste to the European countries and wealth to the Asian countries.
It will not be an exaggeration if we say that the road to health passes through our spice rich kitchens.
-Dr Medha Patel MD (Ayu)