Herbs as Healing Spices for Cooking

This column “The Homemaker” in the first month of the News Year 2011, looks at herbs and healing spices for cooking delicious meal at homes. Essentially, spices are dried seeds, fruits, roots, or vegetative substances used nutritionally. Some are leafy in nature in the forms of bay leaves, peppermint leaves among others, and they have their wonderful usages.

 They can be used for food preservatives that kill harmful bacterial or for flavour, colour and to improve the taste of our delicacies and more importantly to help in preventing diseases.

Though there are differences between herbs and spices, but the way we use them in this part of the world, I would rather classify them as herb spices because what we actually use as spices are herbs. However, herb spices can be available in different forms: fresh, whole dried or grounded. Though, herb spices are generally dried.

The following are worthy of note:
a. Cloves: This herb is known for its aromatic spice which contain anti-inflammatory chemical called eugenol, it also have the capacity to fight heart diseases through its powerful anti-oxidant as well as slowing the bone damage that is caused by arthritis, so cloves are must have in our kitchen.
b. Chilli pepper: Another kitchen essentials that contain capsaicin, popularly called ‘ata were’ by Yorubas,  helps in preventing arthritis and relieves muscular pain if blended with tomatoes to make stew.  It adds flavor to the stew as well as improve the taste. Grandmother used to say “eat chilli pepper and cough out bad coughs”
c. Cinnamon: This is common in our local markets also. It is mostly used in grounded form and is common in oatmeal. Cinnamon has the ability to improve blood sugar control in people living with diabetes. I think that more reasons why dieters are advised to take more of oatmeal for breakfast.
d. Coriander: The coriander is mostly whole grounded. It has been used for many years, basically for its aromatic spice in this part of the world. It helps in calming intestinal spasm that often leads to diarrhoea. Coriander is popularly called curry in Nigeria. There is also curry leaves which possess an essential oil that fight germs and cleanse the internal organs from unwanted water.
e. Scent leaves are different from curry leaves. Scent leaves reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood. This leaves can be added to food or thoroughly washed with little salt blend for drinking. However, it is advisable to drink this first in the morning before any food.
f. Garlic: Garlic is known for its pungent smell which is the price to be paid for the wonderful and miraculous work in the body. Use of garlic helps in lowering the risk of heart disease by as much as 76% by moderately reducing cholesterol level. It also acts as anti-oxidant. Garlic also possess sulphur compound that ward away cancer, especially stomach colorectal cancer. In addition to that, if you want to be waking up on time and stay awake eat garlic daily.
g. Ginger: This wonderful root is popularly called ‘chitta’ in Northern Nigeria. It is widely used for food additives because of its aromatic spice. Ginger is a good medicine for cough when eaten raw and is popularly soaked and given to children to prevent diarrhoea. But basically ginger is good in aiding digestive and it also reduces blood sugar level.
h. Nutmeg: This is essentially round in shape and it is well known for its aromatic spice which adds wonderful taste to confectionaries. Medically, nutmeg possesses anti bacteria properties.
All the above mentions are herbs which are available in abundant in Nigeria and are used as spices to spice up our food. They are kitchen essentials or kitchen must haves. The homemakers should not forget to eat plenty fruits and drink lots of water, because the globe is still warming.

Sikrat Yushau
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