Why it’s time to indulge a fiery passion for the good of your health 

Sunday 02  Nov, 2014 

  • Discover what we are learning from the Indian herbalists

  • Where will your food fantasies take you?

When it comes to natural health wisdom I often feel that these fair isles are a little lacking in the world stakes.

I know we’ve got our herbalists and natural food gurus, but apart from the bounty of the nettle and a few magic mushrooms things look a bit low key locally in comparison to other parts of the world.

For instance, look at South America and the Incan devotion to chocolate, chillis and Maca (I wrote about this on Friday).

Then there’s the Antipodeans ruling the roost with Green Lipped Mussels, Emu Oil and Manuka Honey.

But the daddy of them all has to be the Indian sub-continent... it’s basically a medicine chest in itself!

Whenever I start to research a topic to write about I’m guaranteed to end up at the door of an Indian spice or herb as a remedy.

It’s almost a given.

Of course I recognised this power many years ago when I wrote The Spice Healer a collection of the most surprising facts about spices and herbs. 

In the west it seemed to take us a very long time to accept the wisdom of healing from this continent.

We saw their food as distinctly odd until relatively recently... in fact there are still many people who avoid anything too spicy for fear of upsetting their tummies.

Of course some folk simply can’t tolerate the rich and pungent peppers, the aromatic herbs and the powerful spice mixes – however hard they try.

To those I have to offer a crumb of comfort and say that many of the health benefits derived from Indian spices can be achieved by other means... just probably not as tastily!

My own curry journey

In my old rugby days it was a macho thing to order the hottest dish on the menu. With my tongue on fire, I washed it down with stupid amounts of beer.

It seemed a good idea at the time, but I'd spend the next day weeping on the toilet. I may be a big bloke, but when my rear end is on fire I can cry like a little girl.

These days my tastes are more sophisticated. Firstly, because I've grown up! I've realised that Indian food is a rich and varied landscape of complex flavours and textures
- and NOT some kind of 'It's A Knockout' challenge for idiots.

And secondly, because of my Good Life Letter research, I am now a champion of Indian food as a health food...

If you want to find out more about the health benefits of curry click here

The magnificent seven

The majority of curries are based upon just seven essential ingredients, and these form the bedrock of the health benefits we get from curry spices:

Turmeric – The king of spices, long revered as an anti-inflammatory and aid to digestive function. This brightly coloured powder is a real asset to anyone suffering from arthritis, psoriasis or other inflammatory conditions. In addition there is a growing body of evidence to show that it is effective in preventing some forms of cancers such as those of the breast, prostate and pancreas.

Chilli – The fire spice, it may burn your mouth but it is a very effective pain killer. Chillies contain capsaicin which has been shown to be a powerful anti inflammatory, a relaxant and an aid to digestion as well as significantly reducing the levels of sugar in the blood.

In this way eating chillies is good for your heart, liver and stomach, reducing the risk of strokes, cancers and respiratory disease.

Cinnamon – The sweet spice, commonly found in apple pies it actually does wonders for your heart. By helping the body manage cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood it is vital for improving circulation and reducing the work the heart has to do.

In trials cinnamon has been shown to be very beneficial to those suffering with Type 2 diabetes, as well as being an aid to weight loss.

Garlic – The versatile spice, found in recipes from all around the world, though not to everyone’s taste! Love it or hate it garlic is a powerful natural anti fungal, anti bacterial and anti viral agent – which means it protects us from all of the little nasties that are responsible for making us ill.

It is also very useful in reducing cholesterol in the blood and acts as a blood thinner, so improving heart function. Garlic is useful for all sorts of reasons, especially for heart health, reducing the effect of nicotine on the body and digestive health.

Cumin – The father of spices, whose use has been traced to very early civilisations. The health benefit of cumin for digestive disorders has been well known throughout history. It can help with flatulence, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea, morning sickness, and atonic dyspepsia (heartburn). It can also be mixed with water and applied to boils.

Ginger – The powerful spice, now known to be effective against a wide range of conditions varying from digestive upset through to ovarian cancer. I must admit that the taste of ginger is one of my all time delights whether it is in a curry, a tea or a dessert -  I can’t get enough of it.

This vital component of Asian cuisine is a very effective pain killer, anti inflammatory and enhances digestive function.

Coriander – The understated spice, the leaves are fantastic in curries but the ground seed is even more potent. This spice forms the base of every Indian dish, but hasn’t made a name for itself in the way those above have. Essentially it acts as a modifier of digestive function, allowing fat breakdown to occur faster and more effectively which prevents stomach upsets – it also has the distinct advantage of reducing intestinal gas and bloating.

Coriander is effective for stomach upsets, urinary tract infections and even protects against salmonella infection.

We may not have discovered curry spices but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to enjoy them – grab your pots and pans and brew up a fiery curry to warm the cockles of your heart... and help protect it as well! 

Read about how a curry and 73 other remarkable foods could help you stay off prescription drugs.

Yours, as always








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