spices-for-health

What Do Cloves, Cinnamon, Oregano, and Turmeric Have In Common?

The following spices (cloves, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric) have a particularly high antioxidant ORAC value – meaning they may be beneficial from a health perspective, given their antioxidant (and other) properties.

There’s more to spicing up your food than just salt and pepper…

First, what is ORAC? It is an abbreviation for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and was developed by the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, some years ago. In short, ORAC units measure the antioxidant capacity of foods.

Technical: ORAC values are listed as (µmol TE/100g) (micromol Trolox Equivalent per 100 grams). Trolox equivalency is used as a benchmark for the antioxidant capacity.

The following information has been partially sourced from what I believe to be reputable sources. This is not medical advice. Rather, food for thought, intended for informational purposes only.

CLOVES

ORAC: 314,000 (µmol TE/100g)

Simply Organic – Ground
(amzn)

Frontier Natural – Whole

Many herbs and spices are excellent sources of antioxidants. Cloves rank very high in this area. Cloves contain a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to act as a natural antioxidant. In fact, a test-tube study found that eugenol stopped oxidative damage caused by free radicals five times more effectively than vitamin E, another potent antioxidant (source).

Here’s a tip: Toothache pain relief. Bite on a few cloves before you can get to the dentist, to alleviate pain. Be sure not to swallow them!

The abundant health benefits of cloves. It has been well known for centuries. Cloves have antiseptic and germicidal properties that help fight infections, relieve digestive problems, arthritis pain and inflammation. Cloves may have additional benefits, including supporting liver health and helping stabilize blood sugar levels. Test-tube studies show that the compounds in cloves may also reduce cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death (source 1, 2, 3).

Food Uses For Cloves

Available in both whole and ground forms, this spice can be used to season pot roasts, add flavor to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes. Typically, they are added to apple pies and they can also be added to other fruit pies that need a warm, spicy flavor. Poke them into a ham. Use them with pumpkin and squash dishes. Indian cuisine too.

CINNAMON

ORAC:267,000 (µmol TE/100g)

True cinnamon is called Ceylon cinnamon, and it comes from Sri Lanka.

Simply Organic Ground Ceylon
(amzn)

Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees scientifically known as Cinnamomum. Dating back as far as Ancient Egypt. It used to be rare, valuable, and was regarded as a gift fit for kings.

The distinct smell and flavor of cinnamon are due to the oily part, which is very high in the compound cinnamaldehyde. Scientists believe that this compound is responsible for most of cinnamon’s powerful effects on health and metabolism.

Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar. Therefore potentially beneficial for people with diabetes. In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. In another study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. It also has an anti-clotting effect on the blood. In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain inflammation after one week – walking without pain within one month.

I searched the NIH National Library of Medicine articles regarding cinnamon. The search returned more than 15,000 articles! (source)

Food Uses For Cinnamon

I just had cinnamon on my French toast this morning! How about cinnamon doughnuts :=) Cinnamon sticky buns? Cinnamon rolls. Crispy roasted sweet potato cubes sprinkled with cinnamon and turmeric. Cinnamon’s a must-have ingredient in rice pudding. Tasty with apples / apple pie. With pancakes, waffles.

OREGANO

ORAC: 200,000 (µmol TE/100g)

You’ve gotta have lots of this spice! That is, if you dump it rather than sprinkle it ;)

McCormick 5 oz
(amzn)

Oregano is known to have strong antibacterial properties. Perhaps as a result of the volatile oils the herb contains. Oregano essential oil is especially high in carvacrol and thymol, two antioxidants that can help prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals (source). These same compounds have also been shown to decrease the activity of viruses in some test-tube studies.

Test tube studies have shown that oregano may inhibit the growth of many species of bacteria. Oregano’s high antioxidant compounds can not only neutralize free radical damage, but they may also aid in cancer prevention. One test-tube study treated human colon cancer cells with oregano extract and found that it stopped the growth of cancer cells and helped kill them off (source).

Note: Keep in mind that these were test-tube studies using high amounts of the herb and its compounds. Human studies using typical doses are needed to determine its effects. (And there’s no big $ to be made in uncovering natural or inexpensive remedies).

A fed days ago I made a homemade sauce from a tomato base (stored from this year’s garden). In addition to the added sautéed sweet (and spicy) sausage, I included a generous portion of oregano! Sprinkle it over pizza. Stir it into a soup. Use in dry rubs. Sauces. With roasted bell peppers. Vegetables. Italian foods. Tomato based dishes – Chili. Baked chicken with lemon and oregano.

TURMERIC

ORAC: 159,000 (µmol TE/100g)

Simply Organic – Certified from Guatemala, India, Nicaragua
(amzn)

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It has been used in India for thousands of years as both a spice and medicinal herb. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.

Curcumin is poorly absorbed. It helps to consume it with black pepper, which contains piperine. Piperine is a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2,000%.

Research has revealed that turmeric is a natural wonder. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent. Also useful in disinfecting cuts and burns. It is a natural liver detoxifier. It may prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloid plaque buildup in the brain. Turmeric has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors. A benefit of curcumin when it comes to heart disease is improving the function of the endothelium, the lining of your blood vessels.

Here’s something interesting… Curcumin can boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of BDNF protein, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Animal studies have found that curcumin may increase brain levels of BDNF (source). Thusly, it may be effective in delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function. Still, since these studies were performed in animals, it’s hard to say what the results mean for humans.

Turmeric — and especially its most active compound, curcumin — have many scientifically proven health benefits, such as the potential to improve heart health and prevent against Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Food Uses For Turmeric

Toss it in with roasted vegetables. Add it to rice. Us it in soups. With fried eggs (I do this fairly often – with pepper). Coconut chicken curry with turmeric. Sprinkle on salmon. Turmeric ginger chicken soup. Blend a teaspoon into a smoothie. A natural in curries. How about a half-teaspoon into the cheese sauce of mac-n-cheese… Turmeric cauliflower soup.

[ Read: Top 100 High ORAC Value Antioxidant Foods ]

10 Comments

  1. Four good spices for sure.
    But there are literally hundreds of very flavorful spices to explore, don’t limit yourself to just Salt n Pepper (well I have to admit there are a LOT of great peppers out there also).
    One suggestion though, buy your spices in the “whole” state, not ground, if you can.
    They will store for a LOT longer.
    Also buy in bulk, a pound of Cloves (16 ounces) could cost about the same as 6 ounces non-bulk. Be a smart shopper.

  2. A well documented article, references provided. Just remember that even if a spice is nice please do some research to see if a given spice may have some bad side effects relative to your particular medical conditions or other medications you take. For example, what could be more innocent than eating grapefruit but grapefruit can play havoc with some medications.

  3. To No Joke: Thanks for mentioning food-drug interactions. I used to buy and eat lots of grapefruit at this time of year until I started on medications for my high BP. During the winter, I tend to consume more citrus because there is a lack of fresh fruit in general. Now days, I drink a lot of cranberry juice year round.

  4. I have a large box of spices that were my Mom’s. They are about 30yrs old. They have been in climate controlled storage for the last 18yrs. What to do…??? Keep’em or toss them…???

    1. 21 Bravo, Open each one separately. if still highly scented- they will be good. Whole spices will be more likely to be the best. I am still using on some things that were DM’s, they were not stored as gently- and are use-able. more than 10 years old…

    2. 21Bravo
      Good to see that TJOS responded to your inquire about spices. I would follow her advise regarding these items.
      What I did was vacuum seal the one’s I purchased in their original containers. Others that were small enough I moved those over to glass containers. Wrote what they were, dated the container and vacuum sealed it until they were/are to be used up. The one I purchased the most of was pink salt and pepper corns, as they are used in cooking more than the others.
      *Note save all your glass food containers from the grocery store. When empty after you have cleansed them, use them for your bulk spices you use the most. Glass containers and lids will provide longer term storage of your spices.
      Believe that is why they were in metal containers from the beginning (early 1910’s ?) until plastic’s hit the shelves.

  5. Hmm, my wife of 48 yrs passed away 5 1/2 years and I think, I hope I’m finally coming out of my brain fog, but I purchased a small jar of turmeric, cinnamon sugar, and a small jar of ground ginger, I’m starting to think more and more about doing this food prep. Before I got married, I did a lot of cooking, but my teachers were my mother and grand mother, both who grew up using grease and lard, but that was 60 years ago. so to speak I’m starting to learn all over again to cook , instead of just baloney sandwiches. My wife was a one heck of a cook.

    1. alfie,

      We like a bit of ginger in our chicken soup, to make it “warmer” and add a little sweetness. I’m sorry for the loss of your wife; glad you are coming to some peace to feel like cooking good food for yourself. It’s not as much fun cooking for one, I’ve heard people say. Haven’t had to find that out yet, as boys tend to eat a lot. One friend I know freezes portions for easy meals later, and also shares delicious meals on occasion with neighbors who appreciate a break from cooking.

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