Spices as Medicines

(a reprise from 2012, updated in 2016, having added other herbs, foods, and supplements.)

I read news this morning about a new strain of Superbug that is plaguing India; the piece explains the NDM-1 gene and plasmids that allow easy bacterial mutations; more than I can fully grasp in a reading.  (The piece neglects to mention how much the same causes occur in the US, of course.)  But antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains other than MRSA seem to be brewing and causing increasing alarm among health care organizations.  Global pandemics are apparently not unlikely, and finding reliable cures in what they’re calling ‘a post-antibiotic era’ frightening at the very least.   Chief causes seem to be over-prescribed antibiotics, patients historically not having completed the prescribed round of antibiotics, and antibiotics in animal feed.

As can happen when you read reports like the above, you feel the Purple Itch coming on, as though disease might be stalking your poor defenseless self.  So I dug out this list of spices and a few foods that have medicinal and healthful properties from an earlier publication, thinking some of you might like to consider them, and sharing them might make feel more proactive against bug-thoughts.  Brrrrr.  ; )

There  have been studies indicating that colloidal silver (see below) has been efficacious with wiping out MRSA and other Superbugs.  I don’t know that it’s so, and please check further, but I do know that some nursing homes are starting to use it on stubborn bedsores.  This page is a starting point only.  We use Sovereign Silver brand; it seemed to have the best profile when I studied it a year or two ago.

Probiotics, especially multi-strain (see below) may help, but at the very least it’s better to have beneficial bacteria in your gut…than not, as in: fallow fields can be ripe for takeover by weeds.

If a product is foreign to you, even a spice, bingle it to see if you might have a condition or be taking a drug that might mean it’s potentially dangerous to you. These suggestions are only a starting point.  Add information or contra-indications at will.

*Turmeric: Indian spice (yellow) constituent of curry powder; contains curcumin (not cumin or in Spanish: comino) which is anti-inflammatory for joints and brain tissue; aids in protein digestion.  New research shows it is an anti-cancer agent, and studies are under way to test a tweaked version on bowel tumors.  It figures prominently in both Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking.

Cinnamon:  contains eugenol, relieves pain, cinnamaldehyde is sedative, helps stop diarrhea, thins blood, lowers blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity

Ginger: anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory; helps cough and colds, aids nausea, reduces gassy-toots and hangovers, cuts mucous; opens pores to aid in sweat-cleansing, new studies find it beneficial in the treatment of ovarian cancer, reacts poorly with the drug Warfarin; don’t know in what amounts.

Fennel: settles nausea and vomiting, neutralizes stomach acidity

Garlic: antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-fungal, contains high amounts of sulfur, some studies suggest it may help prevent arterial plaque formation, lowers blood sugar, may lower blood pressure, acts as an expectorant in coughs and croup.

Chile peppers:  contain high amounts of capsicum, improves blood flow, lots of vitamins E and A, reduces ulcers, may inhibit cancer growth, reduces blood sugar levels.

Cardamom: used in south Asia to treat tuberculosis and lung inflammation, stomach ache, and aid digestion, wards off the evil-eye. ; )

Basil: anti-inflammatory, helps colic (mild tea, or infusion)

Caraway seed:  diuretic, settles stomach

Cumin:  relieves gas, cook with dried beans to reduce fartiness.  Some say the seeds themselves are rich in iron and are thought to help stimulate the secretion of enzymes from the pancreas which can help absorb nutrients into the system. It has also been shown to boost the power of the liver’s ability to detoxify the human body.  Also, due to the presence of caffeine (the stimulating agent), the richly aromatic essential oils (the disinfectants) make cumin an ideal anti congestive combination for those suffering from respiratory disorders such as Asthma, Bronchitis etc.

Oregano:  herb, but especially in oil form has antiseptic and anti-microbial properties; rich in polyphenols, natural anti-oxidants, especially Mexican oregano

Dill: great and safe for colicky babies, high in anti-oxidants, great for new mothers to pass on to their babies

Celery seed: diuretic, lowers uric acid levels, can relieve gout; anti-inflammatory

Fenugreek: Stimulates milk supply in nursing mothers, lowers serum cholesterol and blood sugar, used in Chinese medicine to tonify kidneys.  tastes yummy especially in Indian cooking and in coffee (kinda like hazlenut).

Dark chocolate: lowers blood pressure, contains anti-oxidants, increases blood flow, contains enzymes which aid the digestion of tomato-based dishes, i.e. chili and red pasta sauce.

Note: I’d oddly failed to include garlic; here’s a page detailing its benefits.



Extra virgin olive oil: mechanically pressed, no chemicals in process, low-acid, high in polyphenol anti-oxidants, monounsaturated fats (oleic acid) which help vascular elasticity and help prevent heart disease, helps displace Omega-6 fats.

Live fermented pickles and sauerkraut: increase antibodies that fight infectious disease, strengthen the small intestine and helps inhibit pathogenic organisms (such as E.coli, salmonella and yeast overgrowth), high in antioxidants, generate omega-3 fatty acids.

Angostura Bitters: tincture of gentian root and flavoring herbs, eases stomach ache, indigestion, and cures hiccups

Other beneficial home health care products:

Probiotics and yogurt: restores beneficial strains of bacteria to the stomach and intestines, increases immune-response, may help diverticulitis, aids digestion and elimination, multi-strains are best. None of the shelf-stable capsules proved over time to be culturable, so we buy Greek Gods multi-strain now.

Large flake nutritional yeast: cultured on molasses/sugar cane, yeast high in protein and B vitamins, often B-12 is added to make it complete B-complex, extremely yummy and healthful speed-blended into OJ or on popcorn, or on fried tofu.

Celadrin, topical lotion and oral:  joint pain, soft-tissue elasticity, joint inflammation and immobility, arthritis, cartilage thinning or hardening.  I like Now brand the best for both, and I can’t say enough about its efficacy for non-structural joint pain.  They make one with a bit of menthol that feels extra-good.  One potential drawback to the oral form is that for some users, it seems to have a similar effect to aspirin on platelet aggregation, at least on rats.

Hyaluronic acid: joint pain, cartilage (and disc) problems and re-moisturization

MSM (methysulfonylmethane): Chrohn’s disease, joint pain and immobility, osteoarthritis, seasonal rhinitis, bladder interstitial cystitis

Glucosamine sulphate: joint pain and disease, cartlilage renewal

L-lysine (amino acid): herpes simplex (cold sores), shingles (herpes zoster); you may never have them again if you take some at the first tingle.

L-glutamine: (amino acid) extreme diarrhea; treats leaky gut syndrome.

GSE (grapefruit seed extract):  virus, bacterial infection, environmental disease, sensitivity to molds, mildews, and dust mites, sore throat or strep throat

Colloidal or ionic silver: infections, MRSA, viral diseases, earache, sinus infections;  Check for PPM, and particle size, read risks, I confess I take the heavy metal warnings with a grain of salt.

Stopain Extra Strength topical spray w/ MSM and glucosamine sulfate:  disc swelling, joint discomfort, inflammation.  We call it ‘the oil can’ at our house: a good way to start the day to ease crabby joints

Echinacea root:  colds, flu, cough

Osha root, tincture, spray or chewed root:  colds, flu, sore throat, respiratory infections

5-HTTP Amino acid preparation: depression, insomnia, more

Melatonin: insomnia

Oil of wild oregano: immune booster ,antiviral, antibacterial

[Good News Update]: Lechero brought news that a new study indicates that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric showed that it helps reduce the amyloid-beta protein  plaques that have been  implicated as causal in Alzheimer’s dementia.

[Second update]

Most corn (therefore corn syrup in so many processed foods) have been ‘modified’ with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensisthat was designed to bust the digestive systems of certain insects like corn borers and kill them.  In animals and humans, it seems to act like little pesticide factories in our guts, killing even the many sorts of beneficial bacteria required for good health.  It may be the same with Monsanto’s glyphosate (RoundUp) or 2-4D, and I dunno what all.

It’s inarguable that more and more of us are developing food, mold and dust mite sensitivities, allergies, neurological/neuromuscular/auto-immune symptoms, compromised immunity,  that a long-ago friend reminded me recently are now considered underpinned by Leaky Gut Syndrome, which are arguably directly related to transgenic foods. Sources said:  ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is a disorder which allows partially digested foods, toxins and bad bacteria to pass though the small intestine and into the blood stream. This event compromises the liver, the lymphatic system, and the immune response including the endocrine system.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating illness that affects adults and children alike. The illness is also known as chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

There are many schools of thought even in the naturopathic world, but my sense is that one needs to cleanse intestines, provide multi-strain probiotics (see the section above) regularly, and add L-glutamine amino acid to one’s system often to help restore the integrity of especially small intestines, thereby correcting some of the affects (and eat fewer GM products when possible).  Fresh fermented veggies as well (again, see above)… For intestinal cleansing we use Wally World’s Equate brand (it tastes like Tang, the breakfast of astronauts!) of ground psyllium seeds and husks, sort of the poor person’s Metamucil, and two or three times a year do more complete intestinal flushes with increasing amounts over a few days.  Psyllium (an arbitrarily chosen link) swells to 100 times its original size in liquid, and is rather slippery, and can get into intestinal nooks and crannies to allow for more complete elimination.  Drink it quickly once you mix it in water: it thickens nastily in a hurry.  You’ll want to check out any of these items and usages online yourself, of course.

I’d also neglected to mention pepitas (pumpkin seeds).  One source (EcoWatch notes, in part:

“Pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium and many other nutrients. An ounce (28 grams) contains about 151 calories.

Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E..

Antioxidants can reduce inflammation and protect your cells from harmful free radicals. Because of this, consuming foods rich in antioxidants can help protect against many different diseases (7).

It is thought that the high levels of antioxidants in pumpkins seeds are partly responsible for their positive effects on health.  Diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with lower levels of stomach, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers

A study of over 1,400 men looked at the effects of consuming pumpkin seeds on BPH. After one year, men receiving them reported reduced symptoms and a better quality of life.

Pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of magnesium. This is important, since magnesium deficiency is common in many Western countries.

In the US, around 79 percent of adults had a magnesium intake below the recommended daily amount .

Magnesium is necessary for more than 600 chemical reactions in the body. Adequate levels of magnesium are important for:

The high magnesium content of pumpkin seeds may be responsible for its positive effect on diabetes.

An observational study involving over 127,000 men and women found that diets rich in magnesium were associated with a 33 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes in men and a 34 percent lower risk in women.”

So why take zinc and magnesium tablets tablets instead?

Sometimes I toss some roasted ones in to cook with rice, and when I was more able-bodied, I’d roast a zillion of them in dry skillets until they popped, then made (and froze) a rather complicated pepita sauce I’d found in a cookbook from the thrift store: Authentic Mexican Cooking.  It includes as well, garlic, onion, cilantro, jalapenos, comino (cumin), and a dash of cinnamon and cloves.  As I remember it, in one recipe the author had noted that it was the earliest recorded recipe in North America.

But we’re about to order another 5 pounds of the beauties from our local natural food store, as the new owner (as did the former owner who’d sai “Im a hippie, too!”) allows us to tag onto her order with a 10-15% surcharge..  I’ll grind them and use them in my traditional Mexican cooking dishes.

Ping!  Rick Bayless has a simple version of green pepita sauce using tomatillos as well.

Since Cannabis became legal in most states, research has increased exponentially, especially the high medicinal value of Cannabinoids (CBD, non- psychotropic).  We grow some of the gorgeous plants, and Mr. wd grinds it, caps it, and we take a few capsules a day.

But as times are forecast to get even harder soon, we all might want to consider stocking up on some of these items.

(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)

4 responses to “Spices as Medicines

  1. Very nice, wendily.

  2. This is a timely post, wendye – thanks! I am a great believer in natural supplements to food that our body likes, have been listening to said source a very long time. I do think that even compromised systems can gradually return to a more natural state by following your recommendations — and I would say, best practice is to learn to listen to your body. We are all single entities in that respect, and what is right for some is not so good for others. So, the first thing is, learn to listen to your body. It will send you signals, obscure at first but with practice and some errors (this is ongoing) you will discover the correct path that fits your own development.

    I am still learning; we all are. And I’ll add one to your list: artemisia, commonly called wormwood. It is an easy plant to grow – I have it near my orchard trees – one plant will give you cuttings by fall; I stick them in a gallon tub with earth for the winter, leave them in a sheltered spot, and by spring they are ready to plant — make effective borders and can be tucked into any space or removed if you don’t like where you put them. It spreads, is pretty, but not invasive here. And I find just chewing on a leaf if I have stickiness in swallowing does the trick, so I’d guess it is an astringent. Do not overdo.

    That’s my mantra for everything.

  3. thanks, juliania. i have wormwood oil for joint pain and perfume making, no shrub, though.

    mr. wd and i have been dislocated by the hock that a 20-yr-old young woman committed suicide yesterday, tragic in any event. but the note she left her mum said it was largely because she was lonely and would never be loved.

    there are many other sad ironies involved, but the note…oh, my. i so wish we could send chicken soup to mum and her son, but they live 400+ miles away in NE colorado. i so wish i knew if she’d been signaling such a desperate act, but it’s likely i may never know.

    it’s reminded me again that it’s good to try to actively love folks we may not even like nor admire.

    nice to see you; i was admiring the three lovely icons you’d gifted me just a bit ago.

care to comment? (no registration required)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s