The Spice Of Life: 5 Flavors To Cure Every Ailment

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Middle Eastern Spices Cure All

Everyone knows that the right spices can make food taste amazing. But did you also know that certain Middle Eastern flavors can actually improve your health, too? Read on to learn about five spices that can ailments ranging from headaches to snakebites!

Aniseed. Also commonly called anise, this Mediterranean spice is sweet and aromatic, and many Westerners will probably recognize the aniseed flavor as the same as black jelly beans. Along with a variety of regional and ethnic sweets, this spice is used to flavor the traditional Middle Eastern alcoholic beverage arak, and is boiled in water to make a special Middle Eastern hot tea called yansoon. Medicinally, aniseed has been used to treat menstrual cramps and to prevent the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract.

Cardamom. Native to India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bhutan, cardamon is the world’s third-most expensive spice per weight, second only to saffron and vanilla. While there are two distinct types of the spice – green cardamom and black cardamom – both forms have a strong taste with an intense, resinous fragrance. In Middle Eastern cuisine, green cardamom powder is often used to flavor sweet dishes, and coffee and cardamom are ground in a wooden mortar, called a mihbaj, and cooked together in a skillet. Traditionally, this spice has been used to treat stomach problems, constipation, dysentery, and other digestion problems, as well as to cure infections in the teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, and to break up kidney stones and gallstones. Some homeopathic practitioners even claim cardamom can be used as an antidote for snake and scorpion venoms! (Though we wouldn’t recommend trying it.)

Caraway. The fruits of this biennial plant, which are usually mistaken for seeds, have a pungent, anise-like liquorice flavor. In cooking, the tiny fruits are used as a spice in rye bread, to flavor desserts and liquors, as a breath-freshener, and to make a pudding popular during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. As a medicine, the fruit of the caraway plant are said to remedy “every disease except death” – the list of afflictions cured by its “seeds” include skin conditions, respiratory infections, intestinal disorders and parasites, headaches, and toothaches. Caraway may also promote lactation in nursing mothers.

Cumin. Though sometimes confused with the above-mentioned caraway, cumin is hotter to the taste, larger in size, and lighter in color. As a spice, it adds an earthy, warming feeling to food, making it a staple in stews, soups, and chilis. In Sanskrit, cumin is known as Jira, which literally means “that which helps digestion.” In addition to its power as a digestive aid, the spice is also known for enhancing appetite, improving the senses of taste and vision, increasing muscle strength, and stimulating both saliva production and lactation. Diabetes, epilepsy, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal distension, edema, and puerperal disorders may all be treated with cumin.

Turmeric. Another spice belonging to the ginger family, turmeric has an earthy, bitter, slightly peppery flavor and a mustard-like smell. Turmeric is widely used as a spice in Middle Eastern cooking, and many Persian dishes use turmeric as a starter ingredient. Medicinally, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in India as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores. Juice made with turmeric is commonly imbibed to cure skin conditions like eczema, chicken pox, shingles, and scabies, and the spice’s active compound (called curcumin) is believed to act as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, antibacterial, and an antiviral.