Spices and condiments have enjoyed a spot in our medical arsenal for too long, but now it’s time to add them to our beauty cabinets too. From fighting acne to curing digestion, spices have multi-faceted applications in our daily lives. We trace the health and beauty benefits of spices, including the oldest players in the game like cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg and more.
Known as the ‘queen of spices’, cardamom is highly aromatic but Cardamom gentle and fruity in flavour, which is why it lends itself beautifully in both savoury and sweet dishes. A rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C and micronutrients, these pods offer a plethora of health and skin benefits.
Cardamom helps in fighting anaemia and maintaining blood pressure. “As it is a coolant, it also aids in digestion,” Pooja Ajwani, Delhi-based integrative nutritionist, explains. She adds, “It cuts down fat and bloating, making it a great addition to rich foods like halwa, kheer and diary-based dishes.” It also works as a mouth freshener and is commonly used post meals in paan.
The detoxifying spice helps to clear blemishes and fights the first signs of ageing. You can also use cardamom powder with honey as a facial mask to deep cleanse and purify the skin.
How To Use
The fresh, fragrant green pods are ideal for steeping in coffee, tea or plain milk and flavouring marinades and rice dishes.
These little scrolls are, in fact, the inner barks of Cinnamomum trees. It has a distinctly sweet, warming taste and a delicate woody flavour. “Cinnamon has anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties,” says Jaivardhan Agarwal, founder and CEO, AyurVridhi. Besides Ayurveda, it finds extensive mention in traditional Chinese medicine.
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder a day can reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. “It increases insulin sensitivity and slows down gastric emptying, which reduces sharp spikes in your blood glucose levels,” Ajwani adds.
The healing bark soothes redness and acne-prone skin. “Cinnamon strengthens the scale of your hair, thus reducing fragility and therefore preventing hair fall,” Shivani Sikri, chief nutritionist and co-founder, Nutri4Verve, says.
How To Use
Add it to hot drinks such as teas, soups or milk. Try your hand at latte art with a mix of cinnamon and coffee powder.
This woody spice with a crimson red membrane is wonderfully anti-inflammatory. It infuses bittersweet tones to dishes and pairs well with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and mace. Sikri says, “Nutmeg is a source of trace elements like copper, iron and zinc. The zinc content in it improves cell renewal and also plays the role of an antioxidant by trapping free radicals.”
“This is a fantastic spice to balance hormonal issues. It reduces estrogen, improves fertility and libido,” says Ajwani. It also is an excellent relaxant and known to calm the nerves.
Add this aromatic spice to your skincare regimen to decrease hyperpigmentation, balance oily skin and reduce irritation. Whip up a few drops of lemon juice, a tablespoon of yoghurt, raw honey and a pinch of nutmeg. Apply the paste on your face and leave it on for 10 minutes for the best results.
How To Use
Nutmeg loses its flavour once it’s ground. The best way to use it is to grate it and add it to savoury dishes or desserts. A pinch of nutmeg added to almond milk at night works wonders to induce sleep.” Both Ajwani and Agarwal recommend using it in small quantities.
4. Black Pepper
The Arabs, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch and British all enjoyed trade in black pepper, which was once known as black gold. Its spicy and pungent flavour comes from the presence of the chemical piperine. Black pepper is a rich source of manganese, iron, potassium, vitamins C and K, and dietary fibre.
Apart from elevating the taste of your pasta and chicken tikka, black pepper also helps break down fat cells and increase metabolism. Ajwani explains, “Black pepper is a hot spice which causes heat and sweat in the body. This improves blood circulation and removal of toxins.” In much demand during winters, it’s effective in combating the infamous common cold and sore throat as well.
The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of pepper is advantageous in treating skin infections. It can also be used as an exfoliator to remove dead skin cells.
How To Use
Freshly crushed pepper can be sprinkled on almost anything from soups, pasta and omelettes to salads and dips. Ajwani’s tip to soothe cough and throat infection is to mix a little pepper with honey and ginger and consume the paste every couple of hours.
A cherished cousin of ginger, turmeric lends a rich orange-yellow colour, mild aromatic flavour and an earthy taste when used sparingly and is quite the staple in Indian cooking. Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric is also a natural painkiller, and adding a pinch of it to warm milk at night is a routine for many.
Regular intake of turmeric keeps your brain healthy. It fights depression as curcumin alleviates stress and anxiety,” Sikri explains. A grandmother’s popular hack to heal small, surface wounds is applying a dash of turmeric powder to the area after they’re cleaned.
Turmeric helps fight against acne and keeps pimples and excess sebum at bay. As an ingredient, the powder finds itself in numerous facial masks and is the preferred one in many pre-wedding rituals to help achieve a bridal glow.
How To Use
Combine it with healthy fats for maximum benefits. Add it to your milk or cook your vegetables in mustard oil and turmeric to make the most of its anti-inflammatory effect.
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