I remember reading a page of an old 1700s sea captain’s log at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Massachusetts, a “Yankee Trader”; he related his experience of the smells as they approached the spice islands…long before they could see the islands the “wholesome smell enchanted us”. It is true for most of our history that what we take for a common item in our kitchens was once a treasure. Go back further, those treasures made up the medicine chests of healers and in some places still do. I would like to reintroduce you to some rather ordinary items in your spice cabinet that secretly have superpowers!
1) Cinnamon: you think cinnamon toast, sugary sticky buns sold in malls and airports, would you be surprised that its antioxidants are the most powerful of the spices and foods like pomegranates. It is anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol especially LDL, radically reduces insulin resistance and lowers blood sugar. Research is showing that in Parkinson’s it helps to protect neurons, normalize neurotransmitter levels and improve motor function. It inhibits the buildup of tau protein in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease! Other studies have shown that it can reduce the buildup of amyloid plaques. And yes, it helps prevent cancer, fight HIV, bacterial and fungus infections and did I mention it makes your breath smell great! Be sure to use true Ceylon cinnamon, most of the cinnamon sold is from the Cassia tree and contains a compound that can be harmful in large doses. We use cinnamon in several of our recipes. One of my favorites was given to us by a woman from Kazakhstan who sells this cinnamon rice at the Sarasota Farmers Market…it is so good! go to cinnamon rice
2)Turmeric: This spice also known as “yellow ginger” is the main ingredient in curries and other flavorful dishes. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice and perhaps why the cultures that use this spice generously have low rates of dementia. (4.4 times lower in some studies) It also is a powerful anti-oxidant and chelates (binds) metals in the brain like lead and chromium. It binds itself to the amyloid beta protein and blocks the production of plaques. (in mice studies a 40% decrease in amyloid plaques) It also boosts BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor) a growth hormone that stimulates neurons!
With all that said it is not very bio-available yet adding black pepper(piperine) it is absorbed 2000% more and by adding good oils like coconut it is dissolved and can cross the blood brain barrier! Northern India has one of the least incidences of Alzheimer’s, we had a great dish Fish Tacari at Marion’s East Indian Restaurant in Punta Gorda Belize, while researching our book. It is also used at Coleman's Café in Big Falls and here is Pearleen’s recipe for “Tacari”.
MORE TO COME