Dr. Vikas Sharma
Diet is one of the important factors in cancer etiology and prevention. India – called the land of spices has the proud privilege of being the largest producer, consumer and exporter in the world. Spices have been used for thousands of years and are known for their flavour, taste and colour in food. Indian spices not only add aroma and taste to the food, but are known to possess bactericidal, bacteriostatic, fungistatic and antifertility with other medicinal properties. Many Indian spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, etc. have been proved to cure the diseases ranging from common cold and cough to cancerous tumors. Several spices have been used in Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia (Indian System of Medicine) for the treatment of various diseases as they contain many bioactive compounds and possess a lot of beneficial health effects. Some antioxidants from spices, such as curcumin (turmeric), eugenol (clove) control cellular oxidative stress and have the ability to block the production of reactive oxygen species.
Coriander: Coriandrum sativum (coriander) also known as cilantro, parsley, dhania etc. originated in Southwestern Asia and North Africa belongs to Apiaceae family. It is one of the oldest spices in the world and has been used as a part of global cuisine for a long time. Apart from adding mouth-watering flavor to the dishes, it also increases the nutritional value of the food. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and dried seeds are most commonly used. It’s dried seeds and the fresh leaves are used for culinary and medicinal purposes in Ayurveda. The culinary applications of coriander have a medicinal background to balance the food properties and facilitate digestion.
Fenugreek: Trigonella foenum graecum (fenugreek), one of the subtle Indian spices, is native to Southern Europe and Asia and is an erect annual herb with white flowers and hard, yellowish brown and angular seeds. This Indian spice is what people say “smells like curry”. Commonly known as “Methi” it is a popular ingredient in many North and South Indian dishes and home remedies. It has been used traditionally in India China, and Middle East for thousands of years to treat many ailments and conditions. Fenugreek seeds and leaves are strongly aromatic and flavorful. The seeds are bitter in taste, but lose their bitterness if lightly roasted. The seeds are added as preservatives in pickles and dried leaves are used for flavoring meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
Tej Patta / Bay leaf: Laurus nobilis (bay leaf) belonging to the family Lamiaceae is a popular leafy spice used in seasoning food. According to the USDA’s Nutritional Database, a one pinch of crumbled bay leaves weighs just 0.6 g. Within that amount, bay leaves have 0.45 g carbohydrates, 0.05 g proteins and 0.2 g dietary fiber. The remaining portion is made of other nutrients and water. Bay leaf has medicinal property that helps in curing outside infections and skin diseases. Tejpatta has strong and distinctive fragrance, repelling unwanted bugs away from the room. Application of bay leaf paste is the best medicine for curing minor cuts and insect bite. In case of muscle soreness, bay leaf oil relives from soreness plus enhances the blood circulation too.
Curry patta: Murraya koenigii (curry leaves), the quintessential aromatic ingredient, found in the Indian households have innumerable health and therapeutic benefits. This tree being indigenous to India, Srilanka and many Southeast Asian countries is known by several vernacular names such as Kadi Patta or Meetha Neem in Hindi, Kariveppilai in Tamil or Karivempu in Malayalam. The leaves are not only sought after for their aromatic flavor in the foods, but also enhance the health benefits of the meal making it more appealing. Packed with a multitude of nutrients like carbohydrate, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, zinc, multivitamins and flavonoids, curry leaves are an arcade of health benefits.
(The authors is Assoc. Professor from SKUAST-Jammu).