Nature’s Medicine Chest: ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and other spices

April 15, 2019 6:47 am Published by Leave your thoughts

How are you? Feeling properly pepped up and raring to go? Is everything in your life nice and spicy?

Can spices really help keep us healthy?

A spoonful of medicine?

We’re thinking about spices today – and about our health. We stock every organic spice we can lay our hands on at Naturally Good Food (stored in strict alphabetical order on our shelves). We sell spices in bulk to caterers and in much smaller quantities to home cooks. We know they’re great to cook with, for flavouring, preserving and for colour – but are they also genuinely great for your health?

Spices, according to the dictionary definition, are ‘pungent substances derived from seeds, fruits, roots, bark and plants’. They’ve been used ever since records began, both to help keep food fresh and to improve its flavour. They’ve also been used medicinally for as long as anyone can discover. It’s the spices that mean that a red-hot curry, a gingery stir-fry, or a warming wintry spiced drink really can pep us up. Spices give us a boost in the short-term and, it seems, can do us an awful lot of good in the long term.

This month, we’ve been taking a look at ‘Nature’s Medicine Chest’. We’ve considered the evidence for the effectiveness of tea tree oil. We’ve thought about whether coconut oil works for skin conditions. Today, we’re going to examine spices: some of the most powerful natural medicines to be found on the shelves of Naturally Good Food. We stock only organic varieties of spices. They’ve got the most vibrant colours, the brightest flavours and the most potent properties.

Black pepper

We sell ground black pepper and whole black peppercorns. The latter are wonderfully fragrant, fruity little black bullets, so vibrant they actually make your fingers tingle as you handle them. Black pepper is thought to promote good digestion and soothe an upset stomach. It also helps clear a blocked-up nose. It has near-miraculous properties at stopping bleeding from minor wounds: it’s naturally anti-bacterial and helps blood coagulate.


Cardamom is what you need for stomach and digestive problems. From loss of appetite to bloating and flatulence, for indigestion, nausea and heartburn, cardamom eases and soothes.

Cayenne pepper

Cayenne is a type of moderately hot chilli pepper and its health benefits are well-established: its oily compound (capsaicin) is actually the active ingredient in many medical creams. Cayenne is great for promoting circulation and metabolism and works as a painkiller too. It can be used in ‘patches’ to treat muscle pain, including arthritis and nerve pain and, when eaten, can ease menstrual cramps.

Cayenne is an anti-inflammatory: it shrinks blood vessels in a blocked-up nose or sore throat, relieving congestion and inflammation.


Eat chilli and you’ll release endorphins in your body. These will boost your happiness, block pain and blast away the sniffles!


Cinnamon has been shown, in some studies, to have the ability to reduce blood glucose levels in those with Type 2 diabetes. It also appears to be able to lower the level of triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood, reduce LDL (so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol) and prevent urinary tract infections.


Cloves contain an anti-inflammatory chemical called eugenol, which it seems, can slow damage caused by arthritis. They’re also anti-fungal and are used by some people to treat athlete’s foot. Internally, they’re taken to help with flatulence, diarrhoea and upset stomachs, thanks to their anti-microbial properties. And they’ve long been a favoured natural remedy for toothache and other pains; applied topically, they numb and can fight bacteria.


Cumin is high in antioxidants. It’s thought to increase mobility in the intestinal tract by boosting enzyme secretions. It’s also a natural antiseptic, meaning that it’s great for warding off colds.


Best known for its ability to control nausea, including travel sickness and morning sickness, ginger keeps our tummies happy! This spice helps us absorb and digest our food, cutting down on flatulence and bloating.

It also stimulates the circulation, so is great for cold hands and feet. Ginger combats inflammation too, which is good news for people with arthritis (and, it’s rumoured, for those with migraines).


Turmeric is the last spice in our list, but it’s pretty much the first spice in the world of medicine. It’s become an insanely popular ingredient over the last few years. In India, of course, it’s always been seen as an immensely important ‘medicinal’ herb.

The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, and is a strong antioxidant. Turmeric is thought to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in certain cancers, to have positive effects on cholesterol, to help with indigestion and to help fight colds and flu. Some research points to positive benefits in limiting the effects of dementia – and, most recently, scientific experiments have indicated a likely role in preventing the cell transformations associated with cancer, asthma and eczema. Read our blog: Turmeric to avoid cancer – a real link? for a discussion of one of those experiments.

For the best health, reach for spices

Spices are great to eat – they bring a depth of flavour and a kick to your food. They can also stop you from using too much salt, which is clearly beneficial. And they make food last longer, which remains an important factor today.

But they don’t just taste good. For once, something that makes you happy really can also make you healthy. Spices are the secret little ingredients that help keep us in tip-top condition – and that bring us back to good health when we start to go downhill. Buy our wonderful organic spices today and use them to spice up your own health!

Next week, to conclude our series on natural medicine, we’re looking at the stuff that goes inside you – and then needs to come out the other end! We’re going to examine our fibre-rich foods and ingredients, considering what we’ve got and why exactly it all matters.

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne

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