India is a vast producer of spices. It is also one of those countries where food without the common spices is almost not imaginable. Indian food and spices are a happy union. Spices have given the Indian cuisine a distinct identity on the world food map. The popularity of Indian cuisine has a lot to owe to the spices used to flavor them. Whether hot and spicy, rich and exotic or simple and plain, whatever be the kind of food you like, Indian spices add that element of taste to the food that makes the dishes simply irresistible. But it is not only the taste and flavor that is achieved through the use of spices in the dishes. Indian spices have a lot of health benefits associated with them. Though the general belief is that spices are harmful for the body, Indian spices with their rich medicinal properties help in the cure of several ailments, keep the digestive system in order and increase the overall health of an individual. From the spices used in everyday cooking to the exotic spices used on special occasions almost every Indian spice carries properties beneficial to health. Here is a list of the common Indian spices and their medicinal properties.
16 Most Common India spices you may not have heard of
1. Cinnamon (Dalchini)
It is a wonder spice that is more significant in terms of health benefits it offers than the flavor it adds to the food. These long dark brown sticks can control blood sugar and so, is effective for the people suffering from diabetes. It has preservative properties and can act as a natural food preservative. This spice can restrain the growth of bacteria in food and so, can prevent spoilage of food by micro-organisms.
2. Asafoetida (Hing)
The characteristic smell of this spice is a pungent one and it is quite strong. This spice is required in a very minimum quantity to flavor up the dishes. Often a pinch of this spice can change the flavor of a dish in a significant manner. This spice has many medicinal properties. This strong flavoring agent has the ability to treat ailments related to the respiratory tract. It is effective in the control of asthma and bronchitis. Asafoetida is effective in preventing the formation of gas and stomach pain. It is also considered to be effective in the treatment of problems like impotency, sterility, premature labor, miscarriage, etc. It is strong enough to help in the release of the progesterone hormone.
3. Saffron (Kesar)
Saffron is considered as the “king of spices”. It is often referred to as the most exotic spice due to its value and the richness that it adds to the dishes. The expensive pricing restricts its use in the everyday cooking and it is often used to prepare delectable dishes during festivities or special occasions. It imparts a warm orange color to any dish and so, it is also known as the golden spice. The benefits of saffron are also as rich as its appearance. It is useful to improve digestion and appetite. It can be helpful for kidney and liver disorders. It lowers the blood pressure. It is effective in lightening the skin tone and keeping the body warm. That is why this spice is often used in the food of pregnant women.
4. Clove (Laung)
Clove pods with their small appearance quietly adds large medicinal properties to the food. These dried flower buds carry about immense medicinal properties. These buds of the clove tree have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal as well as antiseptic properties. Seems surprising, isn’t it? This is not all. These small wonders are also a kind of natural anesthetic and are effective in getting relief from toothache. Clove oil is used to soothe a paining tooth. This spice has properties that encourage blood circulation and is helpful for acne patients. They are also effective in promoting good digestion and offer relief from the problems of flatulence.
5. Black Pepper (Kali Mirch)
One of the very common spices is the black pepper. It is a great taste enhancer of vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes. Apart from adding flavor to your dishes, it quietly acts to offer several health benefits to your body. Traditionally this spice has been used to reduce the problems of cold and cough, throat infection and vomiting. This spice is also beneficial for the improvement of digestion, reduction of intestinal gas and prevention of the growth of bacteria in the intestine. It is also an effective antioxidant. This spice helps people to handle the withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit smoking. Black pepper is also effective in the treatment of neurological problems.
6. Turmeric (Haldi)
This spice with a rich yellow color is used to add color to the dishes. This spice is most probably the most common of all spices in India and is used in almost all sorts of dishes. It is a fixture in case of both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes. This spice is as rich in medicinal properties as its color. Turmeric has the properties to remove infection from food. It is therefore a common practice in India to marinate the fish and meat with turmeric so as to remove any infection present in the food items. It is a rich source of antioxidants and has a certain compound called curcuminoid present in it. This curcuminoid is effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and inflammation of the joints. It helps in the minimization of liver damage and reduction of cholesterol level. It is also helpful in the treatment of arthritis. It is applied to the skin to fight infections and insect bites. Turmeric is also used as a wonderful agent to clear pimples and improve the skin complexion.
7. Cardamom (Elaichi)
This is a wonder spice with lots of curative properties. The small pods of cardamom are effective in controlling acidity of stomach, generating appetite, removing bad breath and offering relief during bouts of nausea. It is also helpful in improving digestion and reduction of flatulence. It assists in digestion, relieves stomach ache and cures mouth ulcers. It is a blood purifier and increases the blood circulation to the lungs. It is an effective medicine for cough, asthma, bronchitis, sore throat, chest congestion, etc. It helps to flush out the toxins from the body.
8. Cumin seeds (Jeera)
Cumin is one of the most common spices found in any Indian kitchen. This spice is used as a flavoring agent to spice up the dishes. Apart from the properties of being a taste enhancer this spice contains a lot of curative properties too. Cumin has got great antiseptic properties and so, it is effective in boosting the immune system. It helps in controlling stomach ache, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, etc. It is useful in controlling morning sickness. It helps the body to get relief from gas. It improves appetite and induces good sleep in individuals. It helps the body to fight against common cold and fever. It keeps the body warm. Cumin is great for people who suffer from piles. This spice is rich in iron and so it is beneficial for people with anemia.
9. Coriander seeds (Dhania)
Coriander seeds have a presence in every Indian kitchen. Coriander seeds are effective in keeping the body cool. They are helpful in arthritis problem and urinary tract infection. Coriander has the properties to help in the process of digestion and prevention of nausea. They are effective in cholesterol control. They have properties to benefit the nervous system and prevent neurodegenerative diseases. They are rich sources of Vitamin A and Vitamin C and so, they are good for the skin and eyes. The coriander seeds also have antibacterial properties.
10. Fennel seeds (Saunf)
Fennel seeds are another spice that is common in most Indian households. This spice has strong antioxidants. It also carries fiber, folate, potassium, and Vitamin C. It has various medicinal properties like improving the immune system, reducing the blood pressure, preventing bad breath, etc. This spice is a great medicine for gas and bloating and can provide relief from muscle spasms and abdominal cramps.
11. Fenugreek seeds (Methi)
Fenugreek is a taste enhancer commonly used in Indian cooking. But this particular spice has lot of other beneficial and medicinal properties. It is an anti-inflammatory agent and assists in digestion. This spice is helpful in the reduction of blood sugar levels. It is a great medicine of controlling high blood pressure. It has the medicinal properties of an expectorant and is used to control allergies and bronchitis. It is also a great treatment for dandruff and can be applied to the scalp to control the menace of dandruff. It offers relief from headaches and acidity.
12. Garlic (Lahsun)
Garlic is a strong spice with lots of curative properties. It is a natural remedy for various ailments. It is effective for the treatment of acne. Garlic improves the health of the heart by lowering the cholesterol level and bringing the high blood pressure under control. It acts great as an anti-bacterial agent. It is also known to be of help to arthritis patients in treating joint pains. It improves digestion, keeps the liver in good condition and provides relief from chest congestion.
13. Ginger (Adrak)
Ginger is a spice laden with medicinal properties. It is a great medicine to get relief from stomach pain, gas problem, indigestion and diarrhea. It is a wonder drug in case of stomach problems. It prevents nausea and morning sickness and motion sickness (suffered by people during travelling). It helps the body to sweat. It is effective in detoxifying the body. Ginger is great for getting relief from bronchitis and congestion. It keeps the heart healthy and stimulates blood circulation.
Onions are used extensively in Indian food. This herb has wonderful culinary values and medicinal properties. Onions help to keep the heart healthy by reducing the risk of blood clotting. Onions are effective against stomach cancers and several kinds of infections. They help to improve the function of the lungs. They are helpful in getting relief from stomach upset and other gastronomical disorders. They assist in the reduction of hypertension in the body. Onions increase the appetite. Onions are also found to posses antiviral properties. They are effective in providing relief from arthritis.
15. Red Chilies (Laal Mirch)
Red chillies are an important and integral part of Indian cooking. It is as effective in adding fieriness in curries and dishes as it is in providing health benefits. It is a great agent working against bad cholesterol and helps to reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the body. It is rich in anti-inflammatory properties which control the factors that cause arthritis, cancer, high cholesterol, obesity, fat, etc. Red chillies are rich in antioxidants like Vitamin A. They are effective in the cure against chest congestion and ordinary cough and cold. One of the main properties carried by red chillies is that they improve immunity of the body. They also aid in digestion and reduction of bloating.
16. Mustard seeds (Rai)
The little seeds of mustard used commonly in Indian dishes have great medicinal values. They are strong anti-bacterial agents which destroys the build-up of germs in food. Mustard seeds are helpful in improving the appetite. They aid in digestion of food. Mustard seeds have the properties to act as a cure against accidental poisoning. These seeds stimulate vomiting and thus help in getting the poison out of the body. They also prevent the spread of certain kinds of cancer in the body. Mustard has the properties of being a good laxative and helps improve intestinal secretion. The mustard seeds are rich sources of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, etc. All these minerals help to improve the health of the human body.