Spices not only add ‘oomph’ to curries, they’re also packed with antioxidants to boost your health. Your spice rack could hold the key to staying healthy and tackling a host of ailments — from sore throats to insomnia, weight gain to PMS.
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Helps with: SORT THROATS & COLDS
The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of this wonder rhizome help tackle the pain and swelling of a sore throat, and as it’s antibacterial, it helps fight infection, too.
How to use it: Freshly grate ginger, honey and lemon in hot water and sip, or if you prefer, add some to yoghurt and honey for a soothing dessert.
Help with: BLOATING OR INDIGESTION
Thanks to their anti-flatulent and anti-inflammatory properties, cloves can relieve digestive discomfort and wind, and ease or prevent belly bloat.
How to use it: Mix together 200g dried apricots, 3 cloves, 2 star anise, 5 green cardamoms (lightly crushed), 1 tbsp fennel seeds and 1 litre of cold water, then simmer for 30 min, covered. Serve chilled (serves 4). Or, add a few cloves to your favourite fruit and stew in a little water and sugar.
Helps with: PMS OR PERIOD PAIN
Research into the treatment of severe period pain found that fennel can be more effective than regular medication such as ibuprofen or diclofenac.
How to use it: Grind fennel seeds to a fine powder and add a sprinkle to salads, soups, stews or curries, or simmer 3 tbsp fennel seeds and 1 green tea bag in 900ml water for 10 min, covered. Strain and add honey to taste. Sip throughout the day.
Helps with: WEIGHT LOSS
Scientists found fenugreek seed extract reduces weight gain induced by a high-fat diet.
How to use it: Spice things up Add dried fenugreek leaves to sandwiches, salads, soups or curries.
Read more: 22 easy ways to lose weight without dieting
Helps with: INSOMNIA
It contains a natural sedative and anti-anxiety properties to help lull you to the land of nod.
How to use it: Spice things up Add ½ tsp nutmeg and ½ tsp cinnamon to 300ml hot chocolate and drink 30 min before bedtime.
6. Nigella seeds
Help with: HAYFEVER & ALLERGIES
These are also called black onion seed. Research by a university in Berlin found that nigella seed oil is helpful for hayfever, bronchial asthma and eczema.
How to use it: Make up an ‘antihistamine tea’. Put 1 black tea bag and 1 tbsp nigella seeds in a pan. Add 600ml cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 min. Put a handful of fresh mint in two mugs. Discard the tea bag and strain the tea over the mint. Add a little honey.
Helps to: KEEP HEARTS HEALTY
Research suggests that turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, reduces the risk of clogged arteries, strokes and heart attacks. It is a powerful anti-coagulent — slowing and stopping blood platelets from grouping together to form clots. This keeps blood flowing, reducing the risk of blood clots. It also helps to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, protecting blood vessels from damage and plaque build up, which can lead to heart attacks.
How to use it: Add to rice while cooking or sprinkle on potatoes before putting in the oven.
Helps with: DEPRESSION
Saffron has natural antidepressant properties and can be as effective as prescribed medication.
How to use it: Add saffron to hot milk or porridge, or crush and add to fruit and yoghurt.