6 African Spices That Improve Health!


I am a spice addict. My pantry overflows with packets, bottles and bags of different spices that I have acquired along the way. Some are used frequently while others are rarely touched but I have them…just in case.  Just in case I get sick! Turns out the herbs and spices that we use to season our foods  can have a positive impact on our health. Here are a few African spices that have been shown to improve health.

  1. Cinnamon:

cinnamon bark Cinnamomum verum. Français : Can...

Often used in treats such as mandazi and savory favorites like Pilau, cinnamon comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree and consequently can be purchased whole or in powdered form.  Studies suggest cinnamon may be beneficial for people with diabetes and heart disease as it reduces blood sugars, triglycerides and bad (LDL) cholesterol. In addition, cinnamon has properties that help minimize the risk of developing clots.  The root of the cinnamon tree also has wonderful healing properties, it is the main ingredient in the popular cold medicine rub-Vicks.

2. Cloves

Cloves have played a significant role in the h...

The major medicinal part of cloves is the oil (eugenol) that is released when you squeeze the little bulb. This oil when applied to the gums, can help squelch a toothache. Got bad breath? Chewing whole cloves can help. Clove oil has is so effective that t some toothpaste and mouthwashes may contain it. Although still under review, it is currently believed that clove oil may help in the fight against lung cancer. Have a stomach ache? Chew on a few cloves  for the relief of indigestion, nausea and vomiting.  (Oh, did you know that Zanzibar Island in Tanzania is the world’s largest producer of cloves?)

3.  Cumin

Dry cumin seeds

Commonly mistaken to be Indian, cumin originated in Egypt where it was used both as a spice and a mummifying agent. Today, it is found in a variety of dishes and has been shown to be beneficial in  promoting good digestion. Studies on animals suggest that cumin may prevent the development of stomach and liver tumors. To enhance the flavor of cumin, lightly roast it in a pan before adding it to any dish.

4. Ginger

Many a pregnant woman that has suffered from morning sickness will tell about the relief she has received from taking ginger. This knobby root is best consumed in its fresh form and in addition to providing relief from nausea and vomiting, it has been documented to be an extremely effective remedy for motion sickness. In fact, studies suggest that it may be more effective than medications often taken to relive motion sickness.  Ginger contains gingerols- compounds which reduce pain and improve movement in people with arthritis.


Curcumin Polski: Kurkumina

Most African cooks will boast of having a good curry powder in their possession. Tumeric adds to curry powder by providing color, taste and aroma and its healing properties lie in the availability of curcumin, the pigment that gives it its rich yellow color. Curcumin has been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory effects that make it as strong as drugs such as hydrocortisone and ibuprofen. In addition, curcumin has anti-oxidant properties that help with arthritis relief.  Studies also suggest that curcumin from turmeric may prevent the development of colon cancer and prostate cancer as well as improve heart health as it lowers cholesterol.  Recent studies suggest that it may prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease and block the progression of multiple sclerosis.

6. Chili Peppers

Spicy Red Chili Pepper

 Aaaaah, hail the staple for the African Cook, the Chili Pepper. Turns out there is more to this spice than its heat. Chili peppers  contain capsaicin, a compound which not only adds heat to food but possesses multiple healing properties, the most common of which being the relieve of sinus congestion. People suffering from arthritis and severe headaches may find relief from pain through capsaicin which although can be ingested by mouth for this use is more effective in topical creams. Need heart health protection? Capsaicin in chili peppers has properties that reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and platelet aggregation.  Recent studies suggest that it may kill prostrate tumors and although people with stomach ulcers are usually ill-advised to stay away from spicy foods, capsaicin actually has antimicrobial benefits that lead to the prevention and healing of stomach ulcers. How much capsaicin is in a pepper depends upon the heat of the herb, the hotter the pepper the better. So load up on those scotch bonnet and peri-peri peppers.

 Here’s to your health.

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Categories: General Nutrition, Uncategorized

Author:Cordialis Chipo

Cordialis is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - a nutrition consultancy that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian or on Facebook (The African Pot Nutrition.

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