Spice Up Your Life
By Brit Elders

The two most used and research species of basil are Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), and Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum). They’re both aromatic favorites and flavorful, but they also have natural healing qualities and have been used as such throughout history. 

They have withstood the test of time as an antiseptic and antibacterial herb. Their ability to sooth the digestive tract is due to the antispasmodic qualities, which also helps relieve headaches, colic, and even vertigo. Some ancient cultures used them to elevate moods and others used basil as topical oil for skin irritations. In very ancient cultures the herb was used to induce labor.

Basil is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for the mind, spirit and body, for coughs and chills brought on by colds, and topically to ease irritated skin. In Chinese medicine basil is used for purifying the blood and to ease stomach and kidney infections. Medically can be helpful when used to provide relief to sore gums. Basil leaf has many uses in aromatherapy and is refreshing when used in a bath.

The flavonoids found in basil provide protection at the cellular level. Orientin and vicenin are two water-soluble flavonoids that have been of particular interest in basil, and in studies on human white blood cells; these components of basil protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. In addition, basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These “anti-bacterial” properties of basil are not associated with its unique flavonoids, but instead with its volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. Lab studies show the effectiveness of basil in restricting growth of numerous bacteria, including : Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli O:157:H7, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Coriander Seeds & Leaves
Not only is coriander, more commonly called cilantro, replete with a variety of phytonutrients, this exceptional herb emerged as an important source of many traditional nutrients. It is a great source of iron, manganese, and magnesium. Research indicates that coriander may be an antibacterial compound that may prove to be a safe, natural means of fighting Salmonella, a frequent and sometimes deadly cause of food borne illness, suggests a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest spices. It is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years. Coriander was cultivated in ancient Egypt and given mention in the Old Testament. It was used as a spice in both Greek and Roman cultures, the latter using it to preserve meats and flavor breads. The early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander for its medicinal properties, including as an aromatic stimulant.

Coriander seeds have a health-supporting reputation that is high on the list of the healing spices. In parts of Europe, coriander has traditionally been referred to as an “anti-diabetic” plant. In parts of India, it has traditionally been used for its anti-inflammatory properties. In the United States, coriander is being studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects.

And if you smoke, I have friends that have stopped smoking by replacing the habit with a few coriander seeds to chew on.

A common Indian spice is one of the world's most powerful disease-fighting anti-inflammatory compounds: curcumin.

Recently researchers gave 100 osteoarthritis patients either NSAIDs or NSAIDs along with a supplement that had 200 milligrams of Curcumin. The patients who got only the meds had no improvement while those who got the Curcumin pills not only had less pain and better mobility and they slashed their NSAID use.

Researchers believe Curcumin might even replace the drugs completely for many osteoarthritis patients, according to the new study in Alternative Medicine Review.
Many researchers also site Curcumin as the reason why India has such a low rate of Alzheimer's disease.

One of the hallmarks of the condition is the formation of amyloid beta plaques in the brain, but one study found that Curcumin is like a plaque-seeking missile - hunting the plaques, binding to them and stopping them cold.  Other recent studies have found that curcumin may prevent cataracts, fight tumors, aid stroke recovery and even lower your risk of obesity.

Dynamic Living Magazine Issue Vol. 3  May/June 2011 Till Next Issue, enjoy!