Spice, basically is a seed, fruit, root, bark, berry, bud or vegetable substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spice trade developed throughout South Asia and Middle East in around 2000 BC with cinnamon and pepper, and in East Asia with herbs and pepper. It established and destroyed empires, led to the discovery of new continents, and in many ways helped lay the foundation for the modern world.
Spices were among the most demanded and expensive product is available in Europe in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper, cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Back then, they were all imported from plantations in Asia and Africa, which made them expensive.
Many spices have antimicrobial properties. This may explain why it is more commonly used in warmer climates, which have more infectious disease, and why the use of spices is prominent in meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling. Spices are sometimes used in medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics or perfume production, or as a vegetable.
Ayurveda, one of the oldest forms of medicines, uses different herbs and spices to treat plethora of health issues, ranging from simple to complex.
When it comes to international platform today, India contributes 75% of global spice production. (Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organization)
Certain spices and herbs have long been used for their medicinal properties both by Ayurvedic as well as Chinese apothecaries. Medicinal uses can range from treating internal and external wounds, preventing and curing ailments along with the purpose of detoxifying the body. Many of these Ayurvedic spices are also an integral part of an Indian kitchen and can be used to remove toxins from the body.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is known to be a potent liver cleansing spice. Incorporating it into regular nutrition can assist with supporting and detoxifying the liver. Turmeric is also known to possess anti-inflammatory characteristics that can boost the immune system. An easy and convenient way to include turmeric into the diet is by making turmeric tea, an infusion that is slightly spicy yet sweet and a delicious way to heal, cleanse and detoxify the liver and body.
- Cinnamon: Another common spice of Indian cooking, cinnamon bark may be used whole or purchased in powdered form. It is also a suitable candidate to cleanse the body of impurities as well as rejuvenate it. Like turmeric, cinnamon can also be infused into a tea and mixed with honey and water to cater detoxifying results.
- Ginger : Ginger is believed to act as a detox by stimulating digestion, circulation and interestingly enough, sweating. Its impact on digestion helps prevent the buildup of toxins and boosts cleansing of the liver, colon and other organs. Along with improving digestion, and stimulating blood circulation, ginger also boasts a number of anti-inflammatory properties. Once again ginger may be infused into tea or it may be added to food during the cooking process. Fresh ginger may also be juiced with other fruits and vegetables to give an extra kick to freshly squeezed juices.
- Cumin: The antiseptic qualities of cumin are well known in Ayurveda and recognizes this spice to possess various anti-inflammatory features. Cumin is a common ingredient in both savory and sweet Indian dishes and can also be steeped to make a detox tea. Cumin can help cleanse the body by boosting metabolism and stimulating the release of digestive enzymes that assist in breaking down food. At the same time, it can also help the liver in eliminating toxins from the body.
- Garlic: Garlic is known for cleansing the respiratory system, preventing heart diseases and purifying the blood. Collectively this gives garlic impressive detox qualities to purge the body of toxins and maintain a healthy immune system.
- Cayenne: A favorite in any Indian kitchen, cayenne is ideal for improving digestion, reducing bloating and increasing blood circulation. But since this hot spice is hard to have on its own, it is typically paired with others like lemon and honey to yield a detox beverage.
- Garam Masala- The Essential Indian Spice
- Perhaps the most well-known and extensively used spice in the Indian cuisine, garam masala is actually a blend of different spices. When translated in to English, “garam” is hot while “masala” is a spice mixture. So essentially what we get is a concoction of different spices put together that give dishes a distinct “Indian” taste.
- For those who know the trade secret behind garam masala, this quintessential Indian spice gives dishes elements of sweetness, heat, complexity, texture and even a hint of lemon all at the same time. These various aspects of taste are derived from the spices used in the garam masala which include cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, mace, bay leaf, star anise along with coriander seeds and cumin seeds. But there is no standard recipe for this classic Indian spice mix, apart from the types of spices used.
With its growing popularity, garam masala has now made its way into non-Indian kitchens as well. While it is a staple in all Indian dishes, dashes of garam masala may also be sprinkled onto marinades, salad dressings, sautés, soups and stews to beef up the taste. Some creative cooks have even found it worthwhile to season their flour used for baking so that there is an added kick to the final baked goods.