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INDIAN spices have been used and imported from India from time immemorial. Some of them, such as cardamom, clove, nutmeg and ginger are absolutely necessary to make masala chai, spiced tea.
Spices form the basis of not only food in India, but also for making a good cup of tea. Spices also lift one's mood and health and heightens sexual desire .
And what better season to experiment with spices than winter, while cooking a curry?
Though they provide innumerable benefits, spices should be used sparingly. Excessive use can cause harm to health. Strike the right balance and add some spice to your life.
Spice uses and their benefits
Asafoetida (Hing) Used for seasoning food, especially snacks and pickles. It also has medicinal value. It is a good remedy for whooping cough and stomachache caused by gas.
Bay leaf (Tez Patta) Used in cooking to give a specific flavour.
It also has medicinal properties. Bay leaf oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Cardamom (Elachi) Used to give a good flavour and smell. Also used in desserts and in baking.
It is used widely in the pharmaceutical sector. Helps to control bad breath and digestive disorder. A whole cardamom chewed is good for coping with diabetes.
Chilli (Mircha)Used for adding hot flavour to food. The antioxidants present in chillies help to cope with cholesterol. It also helps to burn kilojoules.
Cinnamon (Dalchini) Used mainly for seasoning food. It has many medicinal uses too. It supports natural production of insulin, reduces blood cholesterol and relaxes the nervous system.
Clove (Living) Used mainly for seasoning. Clove oil is beneficial for coping with toothache and sore gums. It is also a good remedy for chest pains, fever, digestive problems, coughs and colds.
Coriander (Dhana) Both the leaves and seeds are used in cooking. It also has some medicinal uses. It can be used externally on aching joints and for rheumatism. It is also good for coping with sore throats, allergies, digestion, hay fever and so on.
Cumin (Jeera) Used for cooking. It also has medicinal properties. It is a good source for iron and keeps the immune system healthy. Water boiled with cumin seeds is good for dysentery.
Curry leaves (Curry Patta) Used as the main ingredient for seasoning in some countries. The leaves are beneficial for reducing blood sugar. Each part of the plant provides some benefit. The dried leaves are extensively used in herbal medicines.
Fenugreek (Methi) The leaves are used as a vegetable and the seeds are used for seasoning and making masala. It also has medicinal uses.
Fenugreek seed tea is good for increasing breast milk. It is also helpful in treating diabetes and lowering cholesterol
Garlic (Lahan) Used in cooking. Also has medicinal properties. It is useful for coping with coughs and colds.
Ginger (Adrak) Used to flavour food and has many medicinal uses. Helps to avoid digestive problems. It is beneficial for coping with coughs and colds.
Mustard (Rye) Used for seasoning as well as a vegetable. Mustard oil is used extensively in India, but it is banned in some countries. This oil is good for massages and for hair. It consists of omega-3 fatty acids. It is an excellent source of iron, zinc, manganese, calcium and protein.
Nutmeg (Jaiphar) Used in powdered form for garnishing and also for making masala. It is used in soaps, perfumes and shampoos. It is beneficial for treating asthma, heart disorders and bad breath.
Black Pepper (Kaali Mircha) Used in cooking, especially for garnishing. It is good for colds, coughs, infections and so on. It also helps with muscle pain and digestion.
Saffron (Zafran) Used for cooking as well as in beauty products. It is also used a lot in sweet dishes. It has good medicinal properties. It helps to cope with skin diseases and is a good remedy for coughs, colds and asthma.
Star anise (Chakra Phool) Used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Star anise oil is beneficial for rheumatism. It is helpful for digestion and bad breath.
Turmeric (Haldi/Arad) Used in cooking and for skin care. It has wide medicinal uses. Turmeric powder can be used to heal cuts and wounds. It also helps with diabetes.