Role of spices and condiments in Ayurvedic medicines

Spices and condiments play a major role when preparing ayurvedic medicines. Some of the common spices which we generally use to spice up our dishes are also used as part of ayurvedic medicines to treat various ailments.

Aniseed

Aniseed is used generally to add flavour to food, and in processing certain medicines. It expels wind and is a gas repellent, aids digestion, is diuretic, improves eye-sight, refreshes mouth thereby removing bad breath, aids bowel movements, and relieves pain in joints. It also provides instant relief in cases of infantile colic and wind. A decoction of aniseeds prepared by adding some unrefined sugar helps regulate menstrual cycle in women. Hence, it often forms part of ayurvedic medicinal preparations.

Asafoetida

Asafoetida is rich in iron, minerals and calcium and is used for seasoning food, but, should be used only in minimal quantities. Ayurveda suggests medicines that include asafoetida to treat pulmonary diseases like bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, for stomach pain and other stomach disorders, including worms and indigestion. As a medicine, it is sometimes mixed with thymol and given in pill form too. Camphor is mixed with asafoetida to treat whooping cough.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is used to flavour food, and was earlier used as a scent or body perfume. Given its warming effect, it should however be used sparingly in summer. It is an effective remedy for colds and indigestion. Cinnamon oil is used to relive pain and inflammation in the form of balm and ointment for local applications. It removes cough and cold symptoms, helps in removal of mucus from lungs. It also helps treat diarrhoea and aids digestion.

Cloves

Cloves are also used in flavouring flood, and leave on a pungent and sweet fragrance. They have warming effect, and are mostly added to teas and soups in powdered forms mostly during winter. The medicinal values of cloves are that they relieve toothache and freshens breath, relieves cough, migraine, other types of headache, nasal congestion and influenza, and also relieves hiccups and nausea. Hence, form part of medicines used to treat such symptoms.

Coriander

Corriander leaves are used in salad dressings and in gravies for its special flavour and aroma. The coriander seeds are also used as spice. However, Ayurveda includes it in medicines for hair growth, to cure bleeding piles, insomnia, excessive menstrual flow, vitamin deficiency, night discharge, for disorders like belching, nasal bleeding, palpitation, improves digestion and stomach disorders.

Cumin

Available in black and white colours, cumin is often used in food as spice or condiment. Cumin seeds are rich in iron, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, sodium, Vitamins A and B. Ayurveda recommends medicines containing cumin to improve lactation in new mothers, regulates menstrual cycle, helps facilitate easy delivery, removes various liver and stomach disorders, curing dysentery and diarrhoea, while it is used topically in medicines to relieve stiff and painful muscles. It also improves digestion, used in de-worming medicines, and is also used in cosmetics for a good skin tone.

Turmeric

Turmeric is profusely used as a condiment in preparation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It is well-known for its antiseptic properties. In Ayurvedic medicines, it is used as a diuretic, skin tonic, blood purifier, anti-flatulent, germicidal, anti-phlegmatic, and is anti-inflammatory. It improves bone strength in children, and aids in the digestive process. Turmeric is used topically (in the form of lotions or ointment) when treating wounds for quicker healing and to prevent infection. As a beauty aid, Ayurveda suggests application of a turmeric based lotion to remove spots and freckles and add natural glow to the skin. The other reasons for use of turmeric in medicines are to relieve acidity, rejuvenate liver functioning, cure male sexual debility, and to treat diabetes.

Pepper

Almost all ayurvedic medicines include this wonder-spice. It is said that pepper heals, provokes, digests, disperses and removes the dimness of vision. Being rich in protein, calcium, iron, carotene and phosphorous, their nutritive values are endless. However, they should be used only in minimal quantities in medicine and in food, as they are stomach irritants, and hence must be used with caution and moderation. It treats anaemia, dispels heat, used as cancer cure, helps in weight loss, improves digestion, is used in medicines used to treat vitiligo, cures cold and cough, diarrhoea, treats acne and works as pain reliever when included in topical medications.