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10 Spices to Protect Your Immune System

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

We should all be looking at alternative natural ways to boost our immune systems, especially at this time. So, how can we do it using natural products which are proven to give our bodies the vitamins and nutrients they need? You can add spices to smoothies, soups, stews and baked goods to help keep your mind and body healthy. This list shows you the health benefits of each one and what you can add them to in order to boost your daily diet.

Nutmeg

Originally grown on the Banda Islands of Indonesia, nutmeg is a slightly sweet ground spice used to flavour drinks, desserts, meats, sauces and even festive eggnog. It contains powerful antioxidants which protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help to prevent adverse health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

During this time when protecting our health is at an all-time high, it’s always handy to have a jar of nutmeg in your kitchen cupboard. Add a sprinkle into banana smoothies, frothy lattes or even to sauces and vegetables to give your immune system a boost.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon comes from the inner tree bark of several evergreen trees and is often used to flavour cereals, drinks and baked goodies such as delicious cinnamon rolls.

In days gone by, when the spice was native to Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh, it was transported by traders to Egypt so they could use it to embalm mummies!

Cinnamon is packed with valuable nutrients including Vitamins A, B6, C, E and K and when compared with other spices and superfoods, it came out on top for protecting your body from free radicals.

Adding cinnamon to your diet can also help to prevent heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and can help to fight respiratory tract bacterial infections.

Cardamom

Native to the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia, Cardamom derives from the seeds of several plants in the Zingiberaceae family. The small pods are often used in curries and in Ayurvedic medicine to help prevent respiratory infections, coughs, colds and asthma.

The aromatic seeds are great for people with high blood pressure as they help to lower levels, plus, when tested, cardamom was shown to increase activity of specific enzymes which help to fight certain types of cancer.

Coriander

Coriander, also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro is used in either ground spice or fresh leaf form to season or garnish soups, hummus, chutneys, stews and curries. This spice was one of the original ingredients in Coca Cola and often flavours beer due to its tangy citrus taste.

The health benefits of consuming coriander are many. The tiny seed helps to reduce blood pressure and can prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. They also contain potent antioxidants which help to fight inflammation within the body.

Studies show that coriander can also manage anxiety with almost the same effect as some prescription drugs.

Saffron

Saffron hails from the stigma of a pretty purple flower known as the saffron crocus. It is said to originate from Greece and ancient Mesopotamia and has been traded, used in cooking and for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

Today, Iran grows over 90% of the planet’s saffron. It’s the most expensive spice in the world costing over $5,000 US dollars per kilo. The vermillion spice strands are a main ingredient in Spanish paella, broths and drinks and it comes in different grades depending on the origin and quality.

A few strands of this exclusive spice can help to improve respiratory health and sleep patterns and eliminate pain. That’s not all, when you add a tiny sprinkle of saffron to your dishes it boosts your immune system, protects heart and nerve functions and can relieve anxiety!

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne peppers belong to the Capsicum annuum family alongside bell peppers, pimientos and jalapeños. These vibrant red fruits grow from bushes and once harvested, are dried and ground into a powdered spice which is used in chilli, seafood, egg and meat dishes.

Cayenne pepper has amazing health benefits containing a whopping 44% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A - important for protecting eyes and vision. They are also abundant with Vitamins B6, C, E and K along with manganese, potassium and riboflavin.

So, what does this mean for your health? Well, cayenne pepper can help to reduce hunger pangs, lower blood pressure and relieve joint and muscular pain. In addition, this medium-hot spice boosts metabolism, aids your digestive system and can help to deter some forms of cancer.

Himalayan Salt

Mined from the Salt Range mountains of Punjab in Pakistan, Himalayan salt contains over 80 elements and minerals which are beneficial to health. These pink-hued salt granules are used in the same way as regular table salt, but as it’s natural and unrefined it’s much better for you. 

Himalayan salt can be used in anti-aging spa treatments and in lamps which are said to reduce damage caused by EMF’s (Electro Magnetic Frequencies).

The benefits of seasoning your dishes with this salt are ten-fold as it helps to balance electrolytes, boosts brain health and healthy bones, regulates hormone levels and can reduce the risk of sinus and respiratory problems!

Black Pepper

Native to Kerala in Southern India, black pepper has been used in Indian cooking since around 2000 BCE. Today, it is farmed mainly in Vietnam but can also be found in other tropical regions including Indonesia and Brazil. This, the most traded spice in the world, was often referred to as ‘black gold’ as it was an expensive commodity only the wealthy could afford.

Today, black pepper is frequently used to season pasta dishes, sandwiches, soups and even used in Ayurvedic oils and beauty treatments.

The health benefits are many, not only does it add delicious flavour to recipes, black pepper also protects your body against inflammation, free radicals, premature ageing, certain cancers and heart disease. 

Ginger

Ginger originated in Maritime Southeast Asia in countries like Indonesia, Borneo and Malaysia. It was one of the first spices to be exported through trade routes to Europe and was regularly consumed by Greeks and Romans in their diets. It comes from the Zingiberaceae family and can be eaten in fresh or powdered spice form.

It is often used to flavour sweets, tea, wine, seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes and is bursting with nutritional value containing many Vitamin B numbers including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9! Ginger can fight flu symptoms and nausea, reduce muscular pain, it has anti-inflammatory benefits, plus it can treat chronic indigestion and lower blood sugar levels

Fennel

Fennel derives from the carrot family, growing as part of a flowering plant in several Mediterranean regions. It’s often used in teas, salads and dipping sauces and its potent aniseed flavour makes it popular for use in curry recipes.

Fennel contains Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C and has high nutritional values of calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese. So, what does this mean for your health? It means that fennel can help with anemia, respiratory disorders, menstrual issues and assist with boosting your immunity. 

Adding fennel into your daily diet in any form including herbal tea helps relieve symptoms of colic, maintains good eye health, regulates blood pressure and has benefits in reducing cancer and heart disease.

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