“Variety’s the very spice of Life, that gives it all its flavour” - William Cowper
Indian cuisine may be the oldest continuously prepared cuisine in known history. From the tandoori ovens of the Punjab to the Portuguese-inspired dishes of Goa, there’s a wealth of different dishes to discover all across India.
Apart from the exotic flavours, one of the best things about eating Indian food is that the spices used in cooking are generally beneficial to the digestive system. There are also many other benefits that you may not be aware of. Here are a few that may cure an assortment of ailments:
Alleviate Coughs and Colds
There has never been a better time to strengthen your respiratory system and eliminate coughs. Try this traditional chai tea. To boiling water add 5 bruised cardamom pods, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 peppercorns, 4 slices ginger root with 2 basil leaves. Strain and drink with honey.
To soothe a sore throat, try a pinch of cloves with 1 tsp of honey three times a day or inhale the steam of 7 cloves in 5 cups boiled water.
Another remedy for sore throats is a mixture of ½ tsp turmeric and 2 cloves in 1 cup boiled water. Sit for 5 mins. Strain and add 1 drop tea tree oil plus 1 tsp of rock or sea salt. Gargle this warm mix three times a day.
Clean Fresh Breath
Chewing on a cardamon seed can give you sweet breath and it also clears the airways. In addition, it expels mucus and reduces indigestion. Taken with ginger, it also stimulates the appetite.
If you have toothache, chew on a clove or using clove oil on a cotton ball placed over the tooth is an effective painkiller.
Looking for a cure for constipation? Try mixing a teaspoon of fennel seeds with some fresh ginger and add boiling water to drink first thing in the morning.
Want to stop diarrhoea? Take ¼ tsp ground nutmeg with 1 tsp cumin seeds with 3 curry leaves cooked with boiled soupy rice for breakfast.
For sound sleep try drinking ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg with ½ cup warm milk.
Love it or hate it?
Coriander leaves contain a natural antihistamine, vitamin C and bioflavonoid which reduces allergic reactions such as hay fever.
Two of the most common ingredients in curries, garlic and ginger also have additional health benefits. Garlic contains properties that help to control heart disease while ginger helps combat stomach ulcers. Ginger is also good for alleviating nausea and travel sickness.
If you don’t like garlic or onion try substituting asafoetida or hing powder which gives food a rich oniony flavour. It is great for banishing that bloated feeling and is said to be effective for period pain, asthma and arthritis.
Wanting to Pamper Yourself?
Try this face mask by mixing 1part turmeric to 12 parts chickpea flour. Mix 1 tbs with buttermilk. Apply to face and wash off with cold water after 10 minutes.
Spice Plantations – Thekkady, Kerala
Spice Garden of India
There is something intoxicating about the smells and flavours of Indian spices. Kerala state, known as the “Spice Garden of India” has grown and exported spices for centuries. It was the place the early European explorers were keen to reach as they wanted to be part of the lucrative world spice trade.
While the region grows many spices, the most abundant is pepper, I saw ginger, garlic, cardamom, vanilla, coffee, cacao, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and curry leaves growing in their natural environment.
I found the mountainous district of Thekkady in Kerala a wonderful place to visit. Sloshing around bushes while ducking under dripping branches, I loved breaking off wet leaves, squeezing bursting seed pods and smelling the lingering spices on my fingers.
I would love your comments on any other benefits or recipes you might have for using spices.
Did you know that the dish jalfrezi has overtaken tikka masala as Britain’s favourite Indian dish? It started to appear on menus during the British Raj as a means of using up cold cooked meats fried with chillies and onion. The name comes from the Bengali word hālpharezī which means “spicy food”.