A great allies in our kitchen

A first-aid kit in the kitchen

Spices, those aromatic plants, present to a greater or lesser extent in all the kitchens in the world, have essential oils or essences which besides flavouring and giving scent foods, preserve them of pollution and putrefaction problems. Another common characteristic of these condiments which transform the taste of any recipe, as simple as it is, is their stimulating appetite effect. “They also help to improve the digestions since they stimulate the digestive secretions”, emphasises the doctor Ignacio Bachiller Rodríguez, specialist in naturist medicine, phytotherapy, homeopathy, nutrition and dietetics.
It is precisely because of their anti-infective effect that many of the spices have been used over time to clean wounds, ulcers and sores. This peculiarity is given by the presence of the essential oils. In this sense, Bachiller points: “When we want to use these plants like medicinal plants, it is important to increase their number.”
Following, the doctor Bachiller stresses the special features of some of the most common spices in the Spanish homes:
Basil. Taking an infusion helps to make the digestion better. When it has a gargle shape, it is used to treat pharyngitis, since it acts like anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. In the same way, it is used to treat skin inflammations and acnes.
Saffron. It decreases the incidence of cardiovascular diseases because it helps to reduce cholesterol levels and arteriosclerosis. It is also antioxidant, hepatoprotective (liver protector) and it improves the oxygenation of the blood. Some studies, which have recently been published, attribute to saffron an antidepressant effect.
Cinnamon. It has traditionally been used as aphrodisiac, although from a medicinal point of view, it serves to treat digestive and genital (amenorrhea and dysmenorrhoea) disorders. It is also useful for diabetic people.
Clove. It has an anaesthetic effect over the mucous membranes, and therefore, it is very useful to relieve dental pains. For this purpose, a clove is put in the painful site and it is chewed to break and to obtain the essence which soothes the pains. It also helps to stop the infections.
Cumin. It facilitates the expulsion of gases (carminative) and it can be used in cases of colic or stomach aches. It also can be used as stimulant of the lactic secretion in women.
Ginger. It is useful to prevent vomits and to avoid dizziness.
Bay leaf. It has traditionally been used to facilitate the digestion, as antispasmodic in colic and as expectorant when somebody has a cold. Externally and in topical applications, bay leaf was used to treat lice, to wash the psoriasis injures and to facilitate the wound cleansing.
Mustard. In external application and mixed with flour, it has a rubefacient effect (it makes that blood flows to the area where it is applied), beneficial, therefore, for bone and muscular pains.
Parsley. Both this plant and celery are diuretics, that is, they contribute to the elimination of liquids. It is also a stimulant of the uterine musculature and antispasmodic, although it seems a contradiction; therefore, it can be useful in dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). In high doses, it has been used as abortive, and this is an aspect which pregnant women must take into account since it might cause them some problems.
Paprika. It has digestive properties and tonic, stimulating and cardiovascular effects. It is rubefacient thanks to its contents in capsaicin, and this helps to mitigate the arthrosis pains when it is applied locally (but not the arthritis or inflammations).
Black pepper. In addition to its digestive properties, it has an external use to relieve muscular and articular pains. Popularly, poultices have been used to improve bronchitis.
Rosemary. Firstly, it has a digestive effect because it stimulates the biliary secretion and it protects the liver against toxic agents. In the same way, it is stimulating. In fact, when ginseng began to be commercialized and due to its high price, the consumer used rosemary as substitute and it received the nickname of “the poor people ginseng”. When rosemary is applied externally in a macerated with alcohol, it used to relieve rheumatic and muscular pains and as circulatory stimulant.
Oregano. In addition to its digestive properties, it is carminative, that is, it facilitates the expulsion of gases, and it is also antispasmodic, which makes it useful when somebody has colic and stomach aches. On the other hand, it is also expectorant and antiseptic. In the past, people took burnt milk, burnt oregano and burnt honey, among other combinations, to relieve colds. For these cases, thyme offers a similar effect to that of the oregano. As a curiosity, we point that these two plants, as well as camomile and horsetail, have been used to treat woman urinary infections. The procedure followed was the following: the plant was submerged in a pot with boiling water which was left on the floor; then, the woman was placed on the pot with her legs open and her skirt covering the recipient. In that way, the vapours did their effect.

Article: Carolina G. Menéndez
Photo: Luis G.
Translation: Mª Pilar L.A.