Colds and flu
The common cold and flu are highly contagious viral diseases of the upper respiratory tract. A sneeze from an infected person can propel up to 100,000 bacteri-containing droplets into the air at 200mph. Most of the time treatment involves over-the-counter medicines, bed rest and a couple of days off work.
But Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, says a spicy dish can work wonders. “The spices can help get rid of germs from the system and clear the airways. Spices have a lot of antibacterial activity.” Turmeric has been proved to inhibit certain types of the flu virus and the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Calcutta, India, screened clove, cinnamon, ajwain, chilli, cumin, nutmeg and garlic and determined they all have potent antimicrobial ability and can kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses.
Nigella seeds have also been proved to have an analgesic effect on the central nervous system, great news for those suffering from colds and flu.
Aches and Pains
Aches and pains are sensory discomfort caused by a physical problem. When you fall and damage tissues receptors in the brain cause pain, alerting you to the injury. Often this can be alleviated by over-the-counter analgesics such as paracetamol. Alternatively plenty of natural analgesics on the spice rack at home can be put to multi-targeted therapeutic use without the dangers associated with prescription drugs. Compounds from basil extract have been found to be comparable to ibuprofen and aspirin. Tamarind extract increases their effectiveness by upping the amount of the drug that reaches the site of pain.
Stress and anxiety
Stress is widely considered to be the cause of numerous illnesses and is a complex jumble of emotional, physical and behavioural responses. It is a normal part of our daily lives but too much of it can take its toll on our health causing anger, headaches, backache, insomnia, eating disorders and ultimately depression.
Relaxation and exercise techniques such as yoga and meditation can help manage stress and the myriad of Indian kitchen spices can provide some compelling alternatives to drugs.
In 2005 researchers at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that coriander seed extract has an anxiolytic effect (anti-anxiety) and may contain sedative and relaxant properties. Studies undertaken at The University of Queensland claim that saffron has a significant effect in combating depression and could potentially be used as a psychiatric drug. Nutmeg has also been proven to have sedative properties.
These are an abnormality of the immune system where environmental factors known as allergens cause extreme inflammation. Familiar allergies include eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma and food allergies.
It’s best to avoid the factors that trigger them and medical treatment usually involves antihistamines to block the action of allergic mediators.
Nigella seeds have antihistamine properties. Researchers at the Humboldt University School of Medicine in Berlin carried out four studies on 152 patients with allergies including allergic rhinitis, bronchial asthma and atopic eczema who were treated with oil extracted from nigella seeds and saw significant improvement in their symptoms.
Tummy upsets and nausea
Spices are well known for treating digestive ailments by both ayurvedic and scientific schools of thought.
Fennel seeds and ginger are contained in gripe water used to treat gastrointestinal pain in adults and children. Peppermint oil capsules support a healthy digestive transit time and ginger capsules provide aid to digestion when we travel.
• Ajwain (Bishop’s weed) – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
• Basil – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral
• Black Pepper – antibacterial
• Caraway – analgesic (painkiller)
• Cardamom – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic (reduces high temperatures), cough suppressant
• Chilli – anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic, metabolism booster
• Cinnamon – antibacterial, antiviral, cough suppressant
• Clove – analgesic, antibacterial, anti-viral
• Coriander – analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
• Cumin – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, stimulant
• Fennel – anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibacterial, appetite suppressant, anti-flatulent
• Garlic – antibacterial, antiviral
• Ginger – anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibacterial, diuretic, fat metaboliser, antiemetic (anti-sickness)
• Mint – antibacterial, antihistamine, antiemetic
• Mustard – antiinflammatory
• Nigella – antidepressant, analgesic, antihistamine
• Saffron – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cough suppressant, antidepressant, digestive
• Star anise – antibacterial, digestive
• Turmeric – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, fat metaboliser, anti-flatulent, digestive disorders