Laying the Groundwork For 30 Days of Spices
A Short History On Plants Used As Medicine
The University of Maryland Medical Center noted that “Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings described medical uses for plants as early as 3,000 BC”. They as well as many other noteworthy institutions, such as UCLA’s biomedical library and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, discuss the practice of plant extraction and modification used by scientists in the early 19th Century for medicinal purposes. As history advanced forward, chemists began making their own versions of plant compounds. Ultimately the natural and organic forms were replaced by these newer, synthesized drugs. In the US, it is estimated that one quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs are plant derived. Interestingly, in Germany, 600-700 plant-based medicines are prescribed by 70% of German physicians.
Herbs & Spices-What’s the Difference?
Herbs are the leafy, green part of a plant used to flavor foods. Spices are the dried seeds, fruit, roots, bark, or vegetative substance used as a food additive, flavoring, color enhancer, or preservative.
Spices additionally kill harmful bacteria and/or prevent their growth. We will discuss words such as bacterial overgrowth, yeast overgrowth and “leaky gut syndrome” in an upcoming blog! For today, check out some of the herbs and spices in the charts above.
The Science Inside the Plants
There is a chemistry to spices- phytochemicals to be exact. These are biologically active compounds found in plants which make up the defense system of the plant. It is estimated that there may be as many as 4,000 different types of and all are beneficial for promoting optimal health! These phytochemicals have many jobs. Some give plants their color and others aide in our food-experience via our senses: taste, sight, smell and touch. One cannot mistake the deep purple of blueberries, bright reds of cranberries or the distinct smell of garlic, especially in my family of Italian heritage! Apparently it is versatile and is used in mass quantity cologne by my relatives!
Although phytochemicals are not seen as essential nutrients, they may in fact have many biological benefits. Carotenoids (i.e. beta-carotene rich foods such as spinach, beet & turnip greens and Swiss chard) and flavonoids (i.e. anti-oxidants found in fruits and vegetables ) to name a few that have been discussed for years.