Uses of herbs and spices

Modern Ayurveda

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Herbs and spices have tremendous importance in the way we live, as ingredients in food, alcoholic beverages, medicine, perfumery, cosmetics, colouring and also as garden plants. Spices and herbs are used in foods to impart flavour, pungency and colour. They also have antioxidant, antimicrobial, pharmaceutical and nutritional properties. In addition to the known direct effects, the use of these plants can also lead to complex secondary effects such as salt and sugar reduction, improvement of texture and prevention of food spoilage. The basic effects of spices when used in cooking and confectionery can be for flavouring, deodorizing/masking, pungency and colouring (Table 1.2). They are also used to make food and confectionery more appetizing and palatable. Some spices, such as turmeric and paprika, are used more for imparting an attractive colour than for enhancing taste. The major colour components of spices are given in Table 1.3. Because of their antioxidant and

Table 1.2 Basic uses of herbs and spices

Basic function

Major function

Subfunction

Flavouring

Parsley, cinnamon, allspice, dill, mint,

Garlic, onion, bay leaves, clove,

tarragon, cumin, marjoram, star anise,

thyme, rosemary, caraway, sage,

basil, anise, mace, nutmeg, fennel,

savory, coriander, pepper, oregano,

sesame, vanilla, fenugreek, cardamom,

horseradish, Japanese pepper, saffron,

celery

ginger, leek, mustard

Deodorizing/

Garlic, savory, bay leaves, clove, leek,

masking

thyme, rosemary, caraway, sage,

oregano, onion, coriander

Pungency

Garlic, savory, bay leaves, clove, leek,

Parsley, pepper, allspice, mint,

thyme, rosemary, caraway, sage,

tarragon, cumin, star anise, mace,

oregano, onion, coriander, Japanese

fennel, sesame, cardamom, mustard,

pepper, mustard, ginger, horseradish,

cinnamon, vanilla, horseradish,

red pepper, pepper

Japanese pepper, nutmeg, ginger

Colouring

Paprika, turmeric, saffron

Source: Ravindran et al. (2002).

Table 1.3 Colour components in spices

Colour component Tint

Spice

Carotenoid

ß-carotene

Reddish orange

Red pepper, mustard, paprika, saffron

Cryptoxanthin

Red

Paprika, red pepper

Lutin

Dark red

Paprika, parsley

Zeaxanthin

Yellow

Paprika

Capsanthin

Dark Red

Paprika, red pepper

Capsorbin

Purple red

Paprika, red pepper

Crocetin

Dark red

Saffron

Neoxanthin

Orange yellow

Parsley

Violaxanthin

Orange

Parsley, sweet pepper

Crocin

Yellowish orange

Saffron

Flavonoids

Yellow

Ginger

Curcumin

Orange yellow

Turmeric

Chlorophylls

Green

Herbs

Source: Ravindran et al. (2002).

Table 1.4 Spices and herbs used in alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages

Spices and herbs used

Vermouth

Marjoram, sage, coriander, ginger, cardamom, clove, mace, peppermint,

thyme, anise, juniper berry

Gin

Coriander, juniper berry

Aquavit

Anise, fennel, dill, caraway

Curaçao

Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, coriander

Kummel

Caraway, fennel, coriander

Anisette

Anise, fennel, nutmeg

Ganica

Cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, mint, fennel, clove, pepper

Geme de cumin

Cumin

Geme de cacao

Clove, mace, vanilla

Geme de menthe

Peppermint

Peppermint schnapps

Peppermint

Source: Ravindran et al. (2002).

Source: Ravindran et al. (2002).

antimicrobial properties, spices have dual function - in addition to imparting flavour and taste, they play a major role in food preservation by delaying the spoilage of food. Many herbs and spices have been used in cosmetics, perfumery and beauty and body care since ancient times. The toiletries and allied industries use spices and herbs and their fragrant oils for the manufacture of soaps, toothpastes, face packs, lotions, freshness sachets, toilet waters and hair oils. They are essential ingredients in beauty care as cleansing agents, infusions, skin toners, moisturizers, eye lotions, bathing oils, shampoos and hair conditioners, cosmetic creams, antiseptic and antitanning lotions and creams, improvement of complexion and purifying blood (Pamela, 1987; Ravindran et al., 2002). Spices form an important component in quite a few alcoholic beverages and beers (Table 1.4).

1.2.1 Medicinal uses

Herbs and spices have been an essential factor in health care through the ages in all cultures. They are prepared in number of ways to extract their active ingredients for internal and external use. There are a number of different systems of herbal medicine, the most important of which are Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) systems of medicine. All spices are medicinal and are used extensively in indigenous systems of medicine. Some of the important uses of major medicinal spices in Ayurveda, according to Mahindru (1982), are given in Table 1.5. Extracts from herbs and spices are used as infusions, decoctions, macerations, tinctures, fluid extracts, teas, juices, syrups, poultices, compresses, oils, ointments and powders.

Many medicinal herbs used in Ayurveda have multiple bioactive principles. It is not always easy to isolate compounds and demonstrate that the efficacy can be attributed to any one of the active principles. However, the active principles and their molecular mechanism of action of some of the medicinal plants are being studied (Tables 1.6 and 1.7).

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