Category | Herbs & Spices


Posted on 18 October 2016 by admin

Lemons. Lime. A little dash of lemon in The Big Rajah’s Sunday Chicken?

There is many more use for the humble lemon. For beauty reasons, I use lemons as a personal skin care routine and here are some of my favourite.

1) Very often, I would drink a warm glass of lemon juice. As a food that has an alkaline effect on the body, lemons are said to help stimulate my liver, clear toxins naturally and help bowels eliminate naturally. Mixed with a spoon of honey, it is said to have positive effects on weight control.

2) Lemons to get rid of dead cells, refresh and tone my skin. Slowly zap away those zits and have a natural, healthy glow by squeezing some lemon juice into a glass of warm water and top it off with a drop or two of honey.

3) Need a natural hair conditioner?
 Rub some juice into your hair to rid dryness that may cause dandruff and the finished result?  A lovely, lustrous shine!

4) When I am exhausted, before headin’ to bed, I add some lemon juice and glycerin to a glass of boiled milk.  Smooth it all over your face and I wake up to glowing skin. Or during the day, I would add lemon to yoghurt and smear it on my face for around 15 minutes.

There are just so many goodness of lemons not just for beauty reasons, but the magnitude of health goodness and household cleaning uses are numerous.

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Oh Sweet Cinnamon: Part 2

Posted on 29 August 2013 by admin

Following the first part on our introduction to cinnamons, here is the second part that explains the benefits of cinnamon:

1. Blood sugar control
Numerous studies show that cinnamon regulates blood sugar and can help those with insulin resistance. It is good for Type 2 diabetics and hypoglycemics.
Adding cinnamon to high carb food will help lower the impact it will have on blood sugar levels. Research conducted at Malmo University Hospital examined how 14 subject’s stomachs emptied after eating rice pudding laced with cinnamon. Scientists concluded that the rice pudding lowered the gastric emptying rate from 37% to 34.5% and reduced blood sugar levels after eating. Another study published in 2009 suggests that taking/eating cinnamon twice a day for 90 consecutive days can improve blood sugar levels.

2. Assist weight loss
Since Cinnamon increases insulin’s capacity to metabolize sugar – cinnamon may help reduce hunger pains and sugar cravings, which could help reduce weight. Especially those who have diabetes and find it hard to lose weight. This article cites Dr. Greenburg of Tufts University says that their research holds promising possibilities for weight loss.

3. Reduce heart disease
Cinnamon can help reduce heart disease and improve colon function because it reduces LDL cholesterol levels. The combination of calcium and fibre in cinnamon binds and removes bile salts that has damaging effect on the colon, from the body. When the bile is removed the body, it has to break down cholesterol to generate new bile. This prevents heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Image via tpaascommunity

4. Food Preservative
Cinnamon is effective in inhibiting bacterial growth.

5. Disinfectant and antibacterial
It has natural anti-infectious compounds. Certain studies show that cinnamon has been effective against ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria and other pathogens. Cinnamon’s oils and nutrient composition can reduce the symptoms of the virus. It can help to alleviate respiratory infections. It is also anti bacterial.

6. Cognitive Development
According to a German study those taking cinnamon improved their response times and memory recall. According to a study authored by Dr. P. Zoladz, simply smelling cinnamon can boost cognitive processing and stimulate brain functions.

7. Anti-inflammatory
Cinnamon has been shown to alleviate arthritic pains.Studies at the Department of Internal Medicine, Kangnam Korean Hospital, to reduce cytokines linked to arthritic pain. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties. It can lower the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes.

8. Cancer prevention
Research done at the University of Texas, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer cited that cinnamon may reduce the proliferation of cancer cells. Another study found good results with leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. Cinnamon has two chemical constituents called cinnamaldehyde and eugenol (from cinnamon oil). These were used to develop nutraceuticals that have proven to be effective in fighting colon cancer cells (eugenol) and human hepatoma cells (cinnamaldehyde).
Research studies show that sugar may be causing or sustaining cancer cells and cinnamon may have a mitigating effect by controlling blood sugar levels in the body. So the evidence seems to suggest that cinnamon is starving cancer cells of the sugar needed to sustain them.

9. Supplement
It contains fiber, calcium, iron, and manganese.
It’s been proven effective for menstrual pain and infertility. Cinnamon contains a natural chemical called cinnamaldehyde, which studies show increases the hormone progesterone and decreases testosterone production in women, helping to balance hormone.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, cinnamon has high levels (73% DV in two sticks of Cinnamon) of manganese. Manganese is used to build bones, blood and other connective tissues.

10. Anti-oxidant
Cinnamon is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world. Anti-oxidants reduce the formation of free radicals that cause cancer. A study found an ORAC value of 267536 μmol TE/100g (USDA 2007) from cinnamon meaning that it not only gives flavor to food but it is high in anti oxidants.

Image via nutrascienceusa

11. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Cinnamon can reduce the discomfort associated with IBS especially the bloating. It does this by killing bacteria and healing infections in the GI tract and enabling the gastric juices to work normally.

12. Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Again the anti-bacterial properties of Cinnamon play a crucial role in getting rid of harmful bacteria without damaging your teeth or gums. It’s one of the reasons that Cinnamon Oil is often used in chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpaste and breath mints.

13. Insect Repellant
The anti microbial qualities of cinnamon leaf oil can be used for head lice treatment, black ant control, bed bugs, dust mites, and roaches.

14. Alzheimer’s Disease
An Israeli study done at the University of Tel Aviv that found sufficient evidence to conclude that cinnamon can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer’s inducing genes. Another study also finds that orally administered cinnamon extract has had good success in correcting cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease in animals.

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Oh Sweet Cinnamon: Part 1

Posted on 25 July 2013 by admin

Cinnamon, and its relative Cinnamomum velum or C. cassia) have been valued highly for both flavor and medicine. This spice obtained from the inner bark of a tropical tree from the genus Cinnamomum is used in both sweet and savory foods.

Cinnamon is regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and some may claim, even for a god especially among ancient cultures and nations.

Cinnamon adds a distinctive flavour and aroma to any dish. Asians use this spice in sweet, savory and spicy dishes. The Indians use it in their curries and dessert. They also add it into their tea, The Arabs do the same for their coffee.The Romans use cinnamon to make strong, bitter wine palatable. The Greeks use it for their meat and vegetable dishes. Almost all other cultures use cinnamon in their baking especially desserts like pastries, cakes, biscuits, custards, pudding and breads.

Image via chatelaine

Cinnamon is best kept in an air tight glass container and refrigerated to maintain its freshness and potency. The sweet smell in cinnamon indicates its freshness. The quality of cinnamon is varied and determined by its size of its quill and the number of quills per kg.

The Sri Lankan grading system divides the cinnamon quills into four groups:
1. Alba, less than 6 mm (0.24 in) in diameter
2. Continental, less than 16 mm (0.63 in) in diameter
3. Mexican, less than 19 mm (0.75 in) in diameter
4. Hamburg, less than 32 mm (1.3 in) in diameter

These groups are further divided into specific grades. Any pieces of bark less than 106 mm (4.2 in) long are categorized as quillings. Featherings are the inner bark of twigs and twisted shoots. Chips are the trimmings of quills, outer and inner bark that cannot be separated and the bark of small twigs.

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Posted on 29 May 2013 by admin

Turmeric is known for its many benefits, be it culinary or even medical. It is also known as Indian saffron. In food, it is typically used in the form of dry powder. The rhizomes of the plant are boiled for hours then dried in an oven. After that, they are grounded, giving you the earthy orangey powder often used in curries. You’d find turmeric in a variety of cookery apart from Indian, such as Vietnamese, Indonesian, Iranian and Persian.

Image via the-benefits

Most of the world’s turmeric originates from India. Turmeric is one of the key ingredients in curries. Of course, you’d also find it in soups, rendang, sate padang, and even sweets! It is also valued as a dye for food such as cheese, yogurt, margerine, mustard and salad dressings. The essential oil of turmeric is also used in perfumes.

Studies from UCLA and University of Maryland’s Medical Center suggests that curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric, blocks cancer and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Researchers also believe that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties might be able to break down amyloid plaques in the brain that are responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

Medicinal value is found in the root of turmeric. It has long been used to counter headaches, stomach pains, diarrhoea, intestinal gas, arthritis and liver disorders. Some apply it topically to wounds, sores and bruises. Though more research is necessary to confirm the effectiveness of turmeric for the mentioned conditions, recent research show that taking turmeric can help against osteoarthritis as it is a potent anti-inflammatory.

Turmeric is particularly significant in Indian rituals. The dried root is a symbol of purity, prosperity and fertility. It is commonly used in wedding ceremonies. Turmeric paste is applied to the bride’s face and arms. The wedding saree of the bride is sometimes dyed in turmeric powder. A piece of dried turmeric is tied with strings and worn, marking the change in status of the bride, from single to married.

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The Culinary Value of Curry Leaves

Posted on 16 April 2013 by admin

The curry leaf is an essential ingredient of Indian and South East Asian cuisine. Curry leaves gives a strong citrusy aromatic scent and a slightly bitter yet fresh taste to your dish. The aroma itself will tantalize your palate and whet your appetite. The botanical name of the curry tree is Murraya Koenigii Spreng and it belongs to the Rutaceae family. It is a decidous tree that grows well in tropical to sub-tropical climate. As it is a key ingredient in curries, the leaves are named “curry leaves”, though they are also translated as “sweet neem leaves” in most Indian languages.

Image via bbc

The useful parts of this plant are the leaves, root and the bark.The leaves when heated or fried, gives out a distinct and delightful aroma. Fresh green curry leaves are edible and they are best for cooking but if it’s not available you can use the dried variety. The leaves can be dried in the shade and stored in airtight containers to retain their flavor but the aroma of dried curry leaves pales in comparison to the fresh ones. Curry leaves are essential ingredients of Indian curries, cooked vegetables, salads, chutneys, soups, broths and spiced snacks.

Although these leaves enhance the smell and taste of food, it is well known that they have some therapeutic value as well. Research studies at the Department of Home Economics, Kenmei Women’s Junior College, Hyogo in Japan showed that carbazole alkaloids such as mahanimbine, murrayanol, mahanineoenimbine, O-methylmurrayamine A, O-methylmahanine, isomahanine, bismahanine and bispyrayafoline which are found in curry leaves possess antioxidant properties. Another study conducted by the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University suggested that these chemicals had insecticidal and antimicrobial properties as well.

The main nutrients found in curry leaves are carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, copper and minerals. It also contains various vitamins like nicotinic acid and vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, antioxidants, plant sterols, amino acids, glycosides and flavonoids. Curry leaves alleviate problems like constipation, indigestion, nausea, snakebite, spots and rashes and minor burns. Regular intake of curry leaves either raw or as juice or in meals benefits us a healthy lifestyle.

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Love for Lemongrass

Posted on 31 January 2013 by admin

Lemongrass is a tall perennial grass. It looks like grass but its edges are sharp. It flourishes well in fertile sandy soils with tropical climates receiving heavy rain. Lemongrass grows well in warm temperate and tropical regions of South East Asia and Oceania. It’s common names include lemon grass, lemongrass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, cha de Dartigalongue, fever grass, tanglad, hierba Luisa or gavati chaha and Cymbopogon amongst many others. This citrusy plant is a key ingredient in South East Asian cuisines. It is an important culinary herb which unleashes a distinctive lemon flavor when cut or crushed due to the release of citral essential oil. The aroma is bound to stimulate your taste buds.

Image via thekitchn

In addition to its uses in the kitchen, it is valued medicinally as a remedy for a wide range of ailments. Studies have also found that lemongrass contains antimicrobial properties that fight E. coli. It is also helpful in relieving colitis, indigestion, and gastro-enteritis. Lemongrass oil when used in aromatherapies revitalizes and helps relieve aches, exhaustion and other stress related conditions. It doubles as a muscle and skin-toner for massage therapy. Lemongrass infusions alleviate infections such as sore throats, laryngitis, bronchitis and so on.

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The stems and leaf buds are excellent for cooking fish, seafoods, poultry and meat. It is widely used in South East Asian cuisine for teas, soups (like the oh-so-tantalising tom yum!), curries, marinades, braising liquids and even salads. It’s delicate flavor works well as a base for pickles. You can use whole lemon grass in stews and curries. You can have it finely chopped or ground to a paste for marinades and soups or add to stir-fries. It can also be used as a flavouring for crème brulee or steep a stalk in a bottle of vodka for cocktails. To release the flavor and scent, you’ll need to crush, slice, grate, or mince the stems. Lemongrass works especially well in combination with garlic, onion, and ginger in stir-fries, soups, seasoning pastes, and sauces.

Lemongrass is renown for its essential oils, chemicals, minerals and vitamins. It’s also an anti-oxidant. The primary chemical component, citral has strong anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Other constituents of the essential oils such as myrcene, citronellol, methyl heptenone, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, geranyl acetate, nerol are known to have anti-fungal and anti-septic properties. Lemongrass is rich in many invaluable essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin C and vitamin A. It is also rich in minerals such as potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. It is also a source of folic acid. In Ayurveda, lemongrass is used as a diuretic, nervine, diaphoretic, febrifuge, sedative and tonic.

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Cooking with Coriander

Posted on 11 October 2012 by admin

Herbs make a world of a difference in cooking. Garnish, sauce, spread – you name it! One particular favourite ingredient worldwide has to be coriander, known as cilantro in the Americas and certain parts of Europe and Chinese parsley in most of Asia. Its leaves, seeds, fruits and roots have a distinct aroma and flavour of its own. A tinge of citrus in its zesty fragrance, this herb can be used both raw and dried in culinary.

Image via 3morganic

Garnish your meats and salads. Use them in your spice rubs for meat and poultry. Add it to your dips, salsa, soup and stew. Coriander almost always gives you the perfect pairing. It is the main ingredient of two south Indian dishes, sambhar and rasam. And what curry goes without coriander seeds? Reasons to love coriander are endless.

Beyond tasting delicious, coriander plants produce certain chemicals to ward off unwanted pests. Some of these chemicals have been shown to deter fungus, insects and even some humans as a minority liken its smell to that of a stinkbug. Some of the chemicals produced are antioxidants. These antifungal and antioxidant properties present in coriander extract serves as a natural preservative in foods. So coriander is not only delicious but also nutritious.

Image via wolvesunion

The health benefits of coriander:

1. Coriander is good for diabetic patients. It stimulates the insulin secretion and can help in lowering blood sugar levels.

2. It has vitamin K which is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

3. It is known to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL).

4. Natural compounds in coriander can remove toxic heavy metals from the body without any side effects.

5. It promotes liver functions and bowel movements. It aids the digestive system.

6. The fat soluble vitamin and antioxidant, Vitamin A in coriander, protects from lung and cavity cancers.

7. Coriander has anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural remedy for arthritis.

8. Coriander contains high amounts of iron, which is essential for anaemia.

9. It is good for the eyes. Antioxidants in coriander prevent eye diseases and problems. It’s a good home remedy for conjunctivitis.

10. Phytonutrients in coriander such as elemol, camphor, borneol, carvone, quercetin, keampferol and epigenin. These nutrients give protection from free radical damage.

11. This herb peps up the nervous system by stimulating memory.

12. It can be used to treat skin problems such as eczema, pimples, blackheads and dry skin.

13. Coriander also contains fungicide and anthelmintic properties.

14. The anti-bacterial compound in coriander fights against Salmonella which cause typhoid fever and food poisoning and protects from food borne diseases.

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