Spice Up Your Life

It’s no secret that spices have wonderful flavor, adding much to our culinary palette. But did you know that spices have more to offer than taste, in fact in some cultures spices are highly valued for their medicinal benefits. With cold and flu season approaching it seems like a good time to explore spices for flavor and for health.

spices-market

Indian, Chinese and many Indigenous people use herbs and spices for various health needs. Turmeric (Curcuma Langa) for instance, is touted as a super food with multiple health benefits. A member of the ginger family, it is native to Asia and used in Pakistani and Indian recipes as a staple spice. Along with its delightful taste, turmeric is one of the highest sources for beta-carotene due to its curcumin content. Its also noted with containing strong antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory qualities and is known to strengthen the nervous system. There is a great deal of interest among cancer researchers as to turmeric’s ability to reduce cancer cells. This article is worth reading http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/turmeric. As with any health aid it is wise to note potential adverse reactions related to particular conditions. Turmeric can be taken as a tea, added to recipes or in capsule/tincture or oil form.

tumeric bulb

http://www.nanotech-now.com/news.cgi?story_id=49363;  http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03001/Three-Reasons-to-Eat-Turmeric.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric

Cinnamon is a spice most of us are familiar with and use on a regular basis. There are actually two types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon commonly used in the western world and cassis cinnamon from Southern China. Some studies have had positive outcomes showing cassis cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

cinnamon_fe

http://www.scottsdalefitnessandhealth.com/natural-remedies-for-blood-sugar-control.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20924865http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php

Cumin originated in Egypt and is a spice not as widely known in western cooking as cinnamon, though it is widely used in Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian cooking. Cumin’s health benefits are similar to cinnamon in reducing blood sugar and new research has it showing some promise as an anti-carcinogenic spice. It can be found in seed or ground spice form most often in cooking and in oils, tinctures and elixirs for medicinal purposes.

cumin-seed

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=91; http://www.livestrong.com/article/415653-ground-cumin-health-benefits/

Many of us have strong associations to the holidays when we smell cloves. Its strong fragrance reminds us of favorite baked goods, mulled cider or a baked ham. Some of us have clove extract to address tooth pain. Cloves are used in ground form most often in cooking/baking but are also used whole in drinks or to season meats.

oranges-cloves

I like to make orange, clove pomanders like these ones to hang on my Christmas tree.

Clove is most commonly used medicinally as an expectorant and so it is often found in teas and oils. It comes in gum form to address bad breath and to aid digestion. Cloves contain eugenol, a component that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory qualities as well as its ability to remove toxins from the body. Clove oil is used widely for its antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic and aphrodisiac properties. Similar to cinnamon and cumin, clove also contains a good amount of nutrients such as iron, magnesium and calcium.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/251.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=69

Cayenne pepper is another spice used widely in spicy cooking and can be found in in dishes from all over the world. Chili originated in Central and South America, but the cayenne pepper is named for the city of Cayenne, in French Guiana. Along with its spicy addition to a favorite dish it has many health benefits including inhibiting cancer cell growth, increasing blood flow, anti-inflammatory properties and is used in some cases for weight reduction.

cayenne-pepper-592x444

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2013/07/22/the-incredible-health-benefits-of-cayenne-pepper/;http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267248.php; http://one-vibration.com/group/selfhealth/forum/topics/cayenne-pepper-the-wonder-drug#.VF00zjYo4dU

Finally, ginger. I use fresh ginger daily in recipes and in tea. It is a wonderful digestive aid and adds spice to an array of dishes. It also is known as an anti-inflammatory food as a result of a compound (gingerols) which acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Ginger is the object of a good deal of research related to cancer as well. Research in several cancer studies have shown the potential that ginger actually inhibits the growth of cancer cells.

ginger

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=72; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19833188

Here’s a pretty effective elixir to boost immune function and help with congestion due to a cold: From Kim Erikson

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, juiced or minced
1/2 lemon juiced
1 Tbs fresh ginger juice or finely grated ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
mix all ingredients and take at once as a shot
Happy Health!
Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. @ Kira’s Kitchen
Board Certified Holistic Health Coach

Day Lilies and The Language of Flowers

In The Victoria Era The Language of Flowers was used to subtly tell people what was on your mind. Lilies represented “Majesty” which makes perfect sense to me when I am admiring my day lilies that return each year with prolific blossoms and bountiful beauty.

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Day lilies are also edible. I had the life changing experience in my early 20s to work with two wise herbalists in an herb shop in Branford, Connecticut called Bittersweet Farm Herb Gardens. These women taught me about herb lore and craft and how to properly dry herbs for use in potpourri. I learned how to grow and care for all types of herbs and edible flowers and how to make both edible and fragrant products from the herbs we grew in our traditional English herb garden. Day lilies were part of this education.

Day lilies have many edible parts including the buds, flowers, tubers and stalks. I am most fond of the flowers as they are only available for one day and then they drop away. The flowers are mostly used for their bright color and they can thicken soups and sauces in the same way okra does. The stalks remind me of wheat grass and they are high in vitamin C and fiber. The buds which are plentiful on many varieties are delicious when prepared in a simple butter saute or if you’d like a healthier version try toasted sesame oil. The butter allows for more of the natural flavor to come through so for this plant I break my own zero to very little dairy rule and go for butter. And last but certainly not least are the tubers. In New England we have an abundance of wild growing Tiger Lilies. Freshly dug the tubers are very tasty when added to butter for a simple saute. The whiter tubers are sweetest and remind me of early sweet potatoes.

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I caution everyone to approach eating wild plants and flowers with care. For some there may be allergic reactions to introducing unfamiliar foods. Try a little and see how it goes before digging up the whole bank of day lilies you find in your backyard.

For more information on edible plants try one of the following reference books:

The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America by Francois Couplan

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide by Thomas Sam Elias

AND because I grew up in Northern California

The Encyclopedia of Useful and Edible Plants of California by Charlotte Bringle Clark.

Good eating and please remember to stop and kiss a lily they only show their pretty faces for one day!