India has a cooking culture that’s widely considered to be healthy. Not only is it low in processed meats, but many Indian dishes contain a wide array of spices which possess significant health benefits.
In this article we’ll review some of the Indian spices which have the most proven health benefits based on medical research. Specifically, we’ll review the health benefits of turmeric, cloves and black seed as well as give recommendations for purchasing them.
Turmeric Health Benefits
Turmeric is what gives many Indian sauces and dishes their distinctive orange hue. It’s a root that has significant anti-inflammatory properties based on medical research.
This spice was shown in a medical review to reduce pain associated with arthritis, which is an impressive result given that this type of long-term, consistent pain can be the most challenging to treat naturally. The study authors even claimed that the data supports the effectiveness of turmeric as a “treatment of arthritis.”
Another review found that turmeric had “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticancer properties.” The main reason for turmeric’s health benefit is its active chemical compound curcumin, which is what gives it the orange color.
For consumers buying turmeric for its health benefits, we recommend taking it with black pepper, which has been shown in medical research to significantly improve the bioavailability of turmeric. When the two are taken together, the amount of turmeric absorbed increases by up to 2000%. The two spices also taste great together, and can be used in a variety of dishes.
We don’t recommend specific brands in an effort to remain objective, but for health-conscious consumers it may be worthwhile to purchase organic turmeric, since the spice can contain relatively high amounts of heavy metals. It’s often sourced from countries like India and China which have somewhat higher levels of environmental pollutants than much of the West.
Cloves Health Benefits
Cloves are a spice made from the flower buds of a tree which is native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. They have been used as a culinary ingredient for thousands of years.
Like turmeric, clove has been shown in medical data to possess antimicrobial and antioxidant activity. Since we know that low-level inflammation is the root cause of several chronic diseases, regular consumption of antioxidant compounds like clove may be a great way to prevent this risk.
The antimicrobial power of clove is so strong that it has been shown in a medical trial to be effective against drug-resistant H. Pylori infection, which affects millions in the developing world. This was an in vitro (test tube) study so the results aren’t as significant as if it was conducted on human subjects.
Another medical review of clove had impressive results. The researchers found that the Indian spice had potential for diabetes management, because it naturally reduced blood sugar and cholesterol. Animals in the study taking dietary clove powder had lower blood sugar than those not using the spice.
As with our recommendations for sourcing turmeric, we believe it’s especially important to be cautious in your brand selection when purchasing clove powder because spices can have higher levels of heavy metals than most food products. We’d recommend any brand that will share data on the purity of their products.
Black Seed Health Benefits
Black seed is one of the most powerful natural compounds for overall health, and we previously reviewed the spice in an individual article because there is so much research on its health benefits.
This spice is one of the few botanical ingredients with significant research suggesting it may be effective as an anticancer agent. A recent medical review analyzed studies on black seed for cancer, and noted anticancer effects in every study reviewed. The study authors stated that the active chemical compound in black seed “plays a great role in affecting all markers of cancer.”
Black seed may be especially beneficial for men, as it appears to have positive effects on fertility in male subjects. A double-blind, placebo-controlled (which is the gold standard for unbiased results) medical trial found that black seed oil supplementation improved semen volume, motility and sperm count.
Animal studies have also suggested that black seed may improve testosterone in males, but this needs to be confirmed with human studies.
We’re not suggesting that black seed will cure cancer, but this Indian spice may be a useful preventative measure that can be taken daily for overall health. While most of the medical research on black seed involves a concentrated oil standardized for thymoquinone (the active chemical compound), using it as a spice will be more cost-effective.
As this is a specialized product, we don’t have any brand recommendations but we recommend reaching out to your supplier about test results to ensure that the black seed product you’re taking is safe and low in heavy metals.