The age-old adage “you are what you eat” loosely sums up the premise of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health based on balance—one’s diet profoundly sustains the mind and body’s equilibrium. It is also believed that in eating correctly, food can be not only medicinal but also preemptive in maintaining the body’s immunity to disease.
Many spices and herbs are chronicled within the Ayurvedic system as carrying with it profound health benefits which go beyond its enhancement of the flavor of food alone.
The following list are herbs and spices commonly used in Indian cuisine/Ayurveda culinary practices and their health benefits:
Its mild and sweet flavor makes basil a popular herb all around the world, including in Indian cuisine. Basil is also good for your body with its anti-bacterial properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and antioxidants that protect the heart. In Ayurvedic philosophy, basil is important both spiritually and medicinally. It’s believed to create purity and lightness in the body while clearing out toxins.
2. Black Pepper
Native to India, black pepper is a common spice used in cooking. Black pepper provides many health benefits, such as improved oral health, relief from indigestion and constipation, and treatment of respiratory disorders. In Ayurvedic medicine, black pepper is used to treat ear aches, gangrene, hernias, and tooth decay.
3. Cassia Bark
Related to the cinnamon tree, cassia bark has a faint cinnamon fragrance; it’s not as strong as cinnamon. Cassia bark has anti-inflammatory properties and is said to be a mood lifter.
Cloves have been used as both a spice and medicine in India for thousands of years. In Ayurvedic practice, cloves treat tooth decay and halitosis. Additional health benefits include improving digestion, strengthening the immune system, and eliminating headaches.
One of the oldest spices in the world, coriander is commonly used as a base in Indian spice mixes. Coriander has an aromatic scent with undertones of citrus. This spice is rich in fiber, manganese, magnesium, and iron. Regularly including coriander in your diet can lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, promote a healthy digestive system, and help prevent eye problems.
This spice adds a smoky taste to Indian dishes. To get the most flavor out of cumin, you should ground fresh cumin. Also, be careful to not burn cumin while toasting it or it will have a noticeable bitter taste. Cumin aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, treats skin disorders, fights cancer, and treats respiratory problems.
7. Curry Leaf
Curry leaves provide numerous health benefits, including increasing good cholesterol, treating diabetes, relieving indigestion, and fighting against ulcers. This herb is viewed as anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-microbial in Ayurvedic medicine.
Fenugreek can be used as either an herb or spice. The leaves are sometimes added to curries and folded into fry-breads. The scent of fenugreek resembles pancake syrup and gives dishes a sweet yet slightly bitter taste. Some of the health benefits of this sweet herb/spice include healing mouth ulcers, eliminating dandruff, healing stomach disorders, relieving sore throats, easing menstrual discomfort, and increasing milk production in breast-feeding mothers.