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5 Ways To Spice Up Your Mental Health

 

Spices Throughout History

Spices have been used medicinally all around the globe for thousands of years. Papyri from Ancient Egypt in 1555 BC classified coriander, fennel, juniper, cumin, and garlic as health promoting spices. Records from that time also note that laborers who constructed the Great Pyramid of Cheops consumed onion and garlic as a means to promote health. According to ancient Chinese myths, Shen Nung likely wrote “Pen Ts’ao Ching” or “The Classic Herbal” around 2700 BC. The early publication mentioned more than a hundred medicinal plants including the spice cassia, which is similar to cinnamon (called “kwei”). Spices and herbs (e.g., black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom) have been used by Indians for thousands of years for both culinary and health purposes. Spices indigenous to India (e.g. cardamom and turmeric) were cultivated as early as the 8th century BC in the gardens of Babylon. Spices and herbs played an important role in ancient Greek medical science. Hippocrates (460-377 BC), wrote about spices and herbs, including saffron, cinnamon, thyme, coriander, mint, and marjoram. He noted that great care should be given to the preparation of herbs for medical use. Of the 400 herbal remedies utilized by Hippocrates, at least half are in use today.

Spices for Mental Health

About one in five Americans suffers from some form of mental illness – depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. Twenty million suffer from depression and twice that many have diagnosed anxiety. Research shows common kitchen spices can be very effective for improving mental health. The following are spices that you can incorporate into your meals and desserts easily and have scientific evidence to support their usefulness in treating mental health issues.

There are differences between spices and herbs. In this article, we are discussing spices, which are the seeds, roots, and bark from plants and are used for flavoring. Herbs are generally the leaves, flowers, or stems of the plant that are used for flavoring or as a garnish. The dill plant has both – the seeds are a spice, and the stems are an herb.

A note regarding spices: NONE of these should be taken in large quantities. Please only use them in the quantities called for in recipes.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg has been shown to be useful in mitigating depression. Since the 16th century, nutmeg has been used for its anti-anxiogenic (anti-anxiety) properties.  It is also an anti-inflammatory. Recently, studies have shown that depression and anxiety may have causes rooted in inflammation, and so the use of nutmeg and other spices that are anti-inflammatory may help with that.

Use nutmeg as a topping to applesauce. Add it to cakes and puddings and sweet sauces.

Saffron

Saffron is the priciest spice out there. It is made from the stigmas of the flowers of a fall-blooming crocus plant grown in India, Spain, Greece and Iran. Traditionally, in Persia (Iran), it was used to treat depression. Studies done recently have shown it to have a positive effect on the treatment of depression.

Saffron is used in seafood dishes such as bouillabaisse and paella, and it’s also great with rice.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the most common spices in the spice cabinet. Just the smell of cinnamon can make you feel relaxed and at home. It also is a great source of manganese, which is a trace mineral that helps regulate blood sugar and neutralizes free radicals. As a result, it is a natural mood enhancer.

Cinnamon is a great spice to use on top of plain applesauce. You can also use it as a flavoring for tea. Use in Asian dishes, and grind it into cakes and cookies.

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is the compound in hot peppers that gives the peppers their heat. It can be extracted and used as a pain relieving cream for arthritis.

Capsaicin also causes the body to produce endorphins, which fight depression. The hotter the better in this case – bell peppers produce minimal capsaicin.

Capsaicin has also been shown to be helpful in treating the depression that follows amphetamine withdrawal and is responsible for relapses. Capsaicin reduces both depression and relapse from amphetamine use. Not only is capsaicin effective for this type of depression, there is no other known treatment.

Hot peppers are great in all sorts of Mexican dishes. I would not suggest buying pure capsaicin because it would burn your mouth and throat, but you can get the benefits of capsaicin from using such spices as cayenne and chili powder.

Turmeric

Turmeric has shown great success in treating major depression and atypical depression. Studies done the last decade show great promise for this spice. Although the doses used in some studies are perhaps high to use in cooking (500mg twice a day), even moderate use of turmeric in cooking shows improvement in mood and mental clarity after 4-8 weeks. The medically active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin.  Curcumin is best absorbed by the body when used in combination with fresh ground black pepper. The piperine in black pepper degrades quickly so using previously ground black pepper will greatly decrease the amount of piperine. Also, curcumin is fat soluble so should be consumed with some type of oil or fat for maximum benefit.

Turmeric can be added to scrambled eggs, roasted vegetables, and in soups. It’s also great with curries and with rice.

 

 

 

 

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