If you’re not used to working with spices you might be hesitant to try some in your cooking – but you’d be missing out on the incredible flavour and benefits that spices can offer you. Each month here at Spiced Anecdotes I like to share something about a spice or two and show you how to use them in your cooking, so check out the spice category to give you more ideas on incorporating spices into your meals.
But for today we’re exploring the medicinal benefits of cumin, turmeric and ginger.
Whether you pronounce it as ‘q-min’ or ‘cum-in’, cumin is a fantastic spice you can add to many Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Asian meals. It is also one of the main ingredients in spice blends such as curry powder, taco seasoning and garam marsala.
Cumin is actually the seeds of a plant, and the seeds are small with long ridges cut into the sides of the them. They actually look a lot like caraway seeds, and in many languages cumin actually translates to being ‘cumin caraway’. Despite the fact cumin seeds look like caraway seeds, cumin is actually a relative of parsley.
Cumin comes both as seeds and also a yellow-brown powder that is made from the ground seeds. Black and white cumin is also available but its not common in most parts of the world, or is very expensive.
Medicinal benefits of cumin
Cumin has a few medicinal benefits, as do most spices and herbs, so you should definitely up your intake of cumin.
The medicinal benefits of cumin are:
- It’s full of antioxidants
- It aids in digestion, therefore treating indigestion.
- It can be used to treat flatulence.
- It can be used to stave off the common cold.
- It has been used in the past to stimulate menstruation.
- Studies have also found it can benefit people with diabetes.
Bonus fact – Cumin was used by the Ancient Egyptians to help in the mummification process! Therefore it has been around for a long time, and can be used in many ways.
Check out these recipe ideas for using cumin (mostly) from Food.com:
If you’re not sure whether you’ve seen turmeric before you may have seen it as a lot of foods are tinged yellow because of it, especially Indian meals. But don’t get turmeric mixed up with saffron, as saffron also turns food yellow, but it is a lot more expensive and with a more mellow taste than turmeric. Saffron is used mainly in Spanish cuisine whereas turmeric is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking.
Turmeric is actually pronounced more like ‘chu-mer-ic’ with the first ‘r’ being silent, and it is actually the root of the turmeric plant that we commonly use in cooking. Turmeric is usually sold as a bright yellow powder and has traditionally need used as a dye as well as in cooking. The root looks a lot like ginger, and that’s because turmeric and ginger are of the same plant family. The root is dried and ground to give the vibrant yellow power available in the spice section of your supermarket or greengrocer.
Medicinal benefits of turmeric
Traditionally turmeric has been used for it’s anti-inflammatory properties (often used as a painkiller throughout history) and now it has been found to have anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties. The anti-arthritic properties of turmeric have seen it be used for many years as well.
Surprisingly though turmeric also helps to control cholesterol, helps with high blood pressure and keeps strokes at bay. And due to its intense yellow colour it also has a high level of vitamin C.
So if you want to do something right for your cholesterol and blood pressure, and you want to avoid a stroke, start adding turmeric to your meals now. A good place to start is by making turmeric rice. But here are some other ideas for using turmeric from Bon Appetit:
- Cough suppressent (turmeric and ginger tea)
- Curried meatballs
- Turmeric-tahini dressing
- Dominican-style yellow rice
If you’re into Asian meals you’ve probably eaten ginger before, because a lot of Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian and Thai food includes ginger. You can also find ginger in Indian and Middle Eastern food as well.
The ginger we use is actually from the root of the ginger plant. The root can be used fresh, both chopped and grated, or you can get it dried and ground into powder. The Japanese use pickled ginger too, and then there is also crystalised ginger, which is essentially dried ginger (much like dried apricots or other dried fruits). Ginger is also found in ginger beer or ginger ale and can be used as the base of drinks and cocktails.
Medicinal benefits of ginger
Ginger has many medicinal benefits, including:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Anti-flatulent properties.
- Its used to help treat nausea from motion sickness or pregnancy.
- It can be made into a tea to treat sore throats and the common cold (boil slices of fresh ginger then add honey and lemon to make the tea).
- It can also help to relieve migraines.
With so many ways to buy ginger, and so many uses to include it into your meals, check out the below options from BBC Good Food to help you get started:
- Carrot and ginger loaf
- Chinese braised beef with ginger
- Sticky pear and ginger cake
- Prawn, ginger and spring onion stir-fry
- Ginger lemon fizz
So if you’ve got the feeling a cold is coming on, or you’ve got a bit of indigestion and some gas, or you want to stop nausea then it might just be time to turn to the cumin, turmeric and ginger instead of the store-bought medications. If you include these spices regularly into your meals then you’ll be feeling better for longer. And I can say from personal experience that since I’ve started cooking with spices I’ve become healthier and get sick less often.
What are you waiting for? Check out one of the above recipes and get cooking with spice. And check out my other spice posts too, because most herbs and spices have medicinal benefits.
Leave a comment and tell me why you want to start cooking with spices. Or send me a tweet @SpicedAnecdotes.