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Originally published May 24 2009

Indian Curry Spices Explained

by Kirk Patrick

(NaturalNews) While some Indian spices are commonly found on the home spice rack, few understand just how potent these spices are in their freshest form. Understanding the health benefits of each ingredient is key to optimizing home cooked meals for the particular needs of the family. This article will summarize the medicinal properties of the top five spices used to prepare Indian Curry.

The Top 5 Indian Spices

* Caraway (seed) - Carum carvi (Umbelliferae)

One of the oldest spices, and historically known as a cure-all, caraway contains the volatile oil limonene. Caraway boosts the immune system and soothes irritated skin. When combined with olive oil caraway relieves bronchitis, colds, toothache, eye infections, sore throat, and cancer. Caraway seeds freshen the breath, and caraway oil stimulates milk production in lactating mothers. Caraway has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

* Cardamom (pods) - Elletaria cardamomum (Zingiberaceae)

Cardamom is called "the Queen of all spices" and contains the antioxidant cineole. Cardamom is another spice regarded as a cure-all. Cardamom detoxifies the liver, strengthens the immune system and calms the nerves. Cardamom is used to fight kidney and stomach cancer, and also to treat digestive problems, asthma, and urinary tract infections. Cardamom seeds freshen the breath.

* Clove - Eugenia caryophyllus (Myrtaceae)

Clove contains the volatile oil eugenol, an antioxidant that is commonly used as a topical pain reliever for toothaches. Also used as a sore throat spray, to treat joint pain, and to reduce skin inflammation, clove even helps fight stomach cancer. Clove has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

* Fennel (seed) - Foeniculum vulgare (Umbelliferae)

Fennel seeds contain several important antioxidants including anethole, kaempferol, quercetin, and rutin. Fennel also contains fiber, folate, potassium and vitamin C. Fennel strengthens the immune system, helps treat colon cancer, and reduces blood pressure. Fennel helps combat the toxic effect of food additives. Fennel has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-tumor properties.

* Turmeric (root) - Curcuma longa (Zingiberaceae)

Turmeric, also known as curcumin contains curcuma, the pigment providing the bright yellow/orange color and antioxidant. A natural pain killer, turmeric detoxifies the liver, treats arthritis, reduces nervous tension and fights depression. Also used for psoriasis, turmeric boosts metabolic function and reduces body fat. Turmeric is used to treat leukemia, multiple sclerosis, melanoma and Alzheimer's disease. When turmeric is combined with cauliflower it is believed to help prevent cancers of the pancreas, prostate, liver and lungs. Turmeric has antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Preparation of Indian Curry

It is best to obtain spices in whole seed form and to grind them just prior to use. When purchasing Indian spices one must beware of cheap imported seeds (often contaminated with heavy metals). Also, spices should not be irradiated (whole seeds should sprout when soaked in water for two days).

Once the Indian spices are ground they are mixed into a blend called Garam Masala. Unlike Thai curry, Garam Masala does not keep long and should be prepared fresh before each meal.

For Indian cuisine, vegetables and meats are sauteed using generous amounts of curry spices and served with Basmati Rice (to which bay leaves or whole cloves are added before cooking). A leavened pita-style bread called Nan is normally served alongside Indian dishes. A simple homemade cheese called Paneer (milk mixed with vinegar or citric acid) is mixed with various vegetables such as spinach. Popular condiments include yogurt, hot sauce, and sweet chutney. Whole fennel seeds are often chewed after dinner to freshen breath.


The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants - Dorling Kindersley and Andrew Chevallier

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Paneer Recipe

About the author

Kirk Patrick has studied natural medicine for over a decade and has helped many people heal themselves.

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