Spices – Your Guardian Angels
Spices, like vegetables, fruit, and medicinal herbs, are known to possess a variety of antioxidant effects and other biological activities. Phenolic compounds in these plant materials are closely associated with their antioxidant activity, which is mainly due to their Redox (oxidant/antioxidant) regulation properties and their capacity to block significant damage to cell structures.
More recently, their ability to interfere with signal transduction pathways involving various factors in cell death has also been demonstrated. Many of the spice-derived compounds which are potent antioxidants are of great interest to biologists and clinicians because they may help protect the human body against oxidative stress and inflammatory processes.1
Spice medicine disucssions
Herbs and spices have been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries. Over the last decade, research into their role as contributors of dietary polyphenols, known to possess a number of properties associated with reducing the risk of developing chronic non-communicable diseases, has increased. However, bearing in mind how these foods are consumed, normally in small quantities and in combination with other foods, it is unclear what their true benefit is from a health perspective.2
” it is unclear what their true benefit is from a health perspective”
A friend recently insisted that turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory but garlic is not. He also asserted that garlic is an effective antiviral food while turmeric is not. I wondered what might be the basis of those statements. In my clinical work among patients with the common cold, I find that turmeric — one- half teaspoon taken with organic vegetable juice or grapefruit juice three times a day — is far more effective than garlic. Putting that aside, my friend’s assertions raise a deeper question: Can the antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects of spices ever be seperated with confidence? What is antiviral, by definition, is anti-inflammatory. What is anti-inflammatory is also antiviral when seen through the prism of oxygen homeostasis. Stated another way, every pre-existing non-physiological inflammatory process increases the pathogenicity of viruses, and every existing viral infection feeds the pathologic inflammatory response.
All spices (and herbs) with empirically known benefits for digestive- absorptive disorders also have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. That is easy to understand since pathological (but not physiologic) inflammation and infectious processes feed upon each other. Again, the issue of dysfunctional oxygen metabolism (the dysox state) is equally important in the treatment of both types of clinical problems.
Principles of Spice Medicine
The following important aspects may be considered the principles of spice medicine:
1. Mono-spice therapy in large doses but for short periods of time can be very effective for acute conditions. To cite one example, large doses of ginger are often helpful in controlling motion sickness and pregnancy- related nausea. However, continuous mono-spice therapy for extended periods of time should be avoided.
2. Poly-spice therapy — the concurrent use of spices with empirically- recognized complementary roles — is generally more beneficial for controlling acute infectious and inflammatory processes. For instance, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cayenne (when tolerated well) can be combined for better results.
3. For chronic inflammatory and infectious disorders, mono-spice therapy should be avoided. Poly-spice therapy for such disorders yields superior results when combined with direct oxystatic therapies, such as hygrogen peroxide foot soaks (done with one part 3% peroxide and 30 parts of water with a pich of salt added).
In my experience, turmeric and ginger are the safest and most potent anti-inflammatory spices. Both spices are also quite inexpensive if purchased properly (cost comparisons are included in this article) . In the first part of this series, I mentioned that in my clinical work with patients with the common cold, I find turmeric — one-half teaspoon taken with vegetable or grapefruit juice three times a day — more effective than other spice remedies. Turmeric, as well as ginger, are my highest priorities in the care of people with anti-inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
Fresh ginger is sold in grocery stores is recognized as the beige-colored and knotted underground stem (rhizome) of the plant Zingiber officinale. It is a native plant in Asia where it has been used as a culinary spice for nearly 5,000 years. Like turmeric, ginger has a long history of medicinal uses in the ancient Asian medical traditions for treating a host of disorders, including gastrointestinal disorders (nausea, digestive-absorptive disorders, diarrhea, motion sickness, nausea of pregnancy, and others), arthritis, heart disease, headache, and chronic infections.
Spices should not be taken in therapeutic doses daily for extended periods of time. Thus, a weekly rotation of turmeric and ginger in the recommended doses is appropriate as a general guideline. Both spices, of course, can be taken concurrently for up to four weeks for acute inflammatory and infectious processes.
*Including transcription factors (e.g., NF-kappaB, AP-1, Egr-1, beta-catenin, and PPAR-gamma), enzymes (e.g., COX2, 5-LOX, iNOS, and hemeoxygenase-1), cell cycle proteins (e.g., cyclin D1 and p21), cytokines (e.g., TNF, IL-1, IL-6, and chemokines), receptors (e.g., EGFR and HER2), and cell surface adhesion molecules.
1. Opara E, Chohan M. Culinary herbs and spices: their bioactive properties, the contribution of polyphenols and the challenges in deducing their true health benefits. Int J Mol Sci. 2014 Oct 22;15(10):19183-202. doi: 10.3390/ijms151019183.
2. Rubió L, Motilva MJ, Romero MP. Recent advances in biologically active compounds in herbs and spices: a review of the most effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory active principles. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(9):943-53. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.574802.