Culinary Kings and Queens

Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine.”  Of course that was in the 4th century and you couldn’t just pop into your neighborhood store for a bottle of Advil. Back in those days, people wore handmade sandals, snake charmers played polkas for pythons and carpets still flew of their own accord. But… modern science is beginning to reach the same conclusion that Hippocrates did.

Wandering the ancient dusty streets you might well encounter a spice merchant selling the queen of spice, Cardamom.  A staple of the ancient pharmacy it can help with stomach problems, prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and even ward off cancer. The Mayo Clinic found that ingesting Cardamom encourages your digestive system to work more efficiently, thus allowing you to absorb more nutrients. It used to be used to treat tuberculosis, cleanse the kidneys and to increase circulation to the lungs. I use cardomom in my coffee just because I like the flavor it imparts.

The Kingly counterpart to Cardomom is found almost every tabletop. It is Black pepper and comes from the fruit of the peppercorn plant. Even today it is the most traded spice on earth.  Peppercorns, native to southern India, were once such a prized commodity, they were referred to as “black gold,” (before petroleum stole that title) and were used as a form of currency.  Just imagine buying a goat for a pocket full of black pepper!  Peppercorns have been known for ages to treat a variety of illnesses, such as food poisoning, cholera and dysentery.  But modern scientists and nutritionists continue to find ways in which black pepper can enhance your health.  Black pepper stimulates your stomach to increase hydrochloric acid production, which in turn improves digestion.  It has been shown to have antioxidant and antibacterial effects, while the outer layer of the peppercorn helps breakdown fat cells.  Black pepper has also been used as a decongestant.  I like my food spicy, and enough black pepper  surely clears my sinuses.

My personal favorite in the spice world is to be found in my tea each and every day. Its intense color keeps my fingers a golden yellow while leaving spots as bright as sunshine on my cutting board.  You would be likely to find this wrinkled little root in any ancient market in Asia (Or Hiller’s, of course).  Naturally, I am speaking of Turmeric which Eastern medicine has known to treat infections and inflammation, as well as clearing the mind and lungs. Recent research has even further elevated the salubriousness of  turmeric.  It has been shown to inhibit and treat several forms of cancer to reduce arthritis pain, lower cholesterol levels and most amazing of all it may delay or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps turmeric is why, in the olden days, the aged members of society were revered for their wisdom and knowledge, instead of their bumbling forgetfulness.

So next time you feel like reaching for some pills, open your spice cupboard and see what the wealth of nature has for your health.  You might end up finding something much tastier than a tums.


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