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Health & Wellness

Sensory Experiences of Spices and Herbs and Their Health Benefits

Herbs and spices are the terms used to refer to the blossoms, stems, bark, leaves, buds, berries and seeds of a large variety of plants that have been valued for their unique flavors and aromatic qualities since time immemorial. These select plant products have been used since prehistoric times to enhance the flavors of daily diets, stimulate the minds and even heal a large variety of illness.

Since the advent of modern medicines and pharmaceutical solutions, the important nutritional and remedial value of these ingredients has been disparaged. Too many people and even respected chefs, spices taste good and precluded the need for heavy doses of salt. Salt, being a source of sodium, should be minimized in culinary productions and spices allowed this healthy benefit with style and variety.

But even though the measures of spices in relation to the primary food kinds of stuff in any prepared dish are relatively small in quantity, their nutritional values are indeed very potent. Recently a greater interest has been taken in what provides these fascinating flavors and unique aromas and how they affect the consumers. The results have been surprising and taken the culinary and pharmacological world by storm. 1

sensory experience Aromatic Properties of Herbs and Spices

One of the most notable aspects of herbs and spices are their aromatic qualities. The scents produced in the various parts of spice plants have extensive application in the production of aromatic products. In ancient times incense was an important treasure traded along the Spice Route. Today there is not a fragrance in the cosmetic or household cleaning agent industry that doesn’t contain elements of these aromatic substances or at least an imitation of one.

Many of the chemical substances that provide these pleasant and potent aromas belong to a class of chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which evaporate easily into the atmosphere and consist of very small molecules that can permeate the membranes of the body with very little resistance. This is part of what makes these substances so potently effective for human health even when consumed in small amounts.

Herbs and spices and the aromatic properties they possess have been used since ancient times for masking fouls odors even to some level of deceit. Wild fennel, “finocchietto" in Italian, was often laid out by Medieval dinner hosts to permeate the dining room air and impact the sense of smell. It was then used heavily in the preparation of poor quality cuts of meat and underprivileged wine selections. This provided a cost-effective quality boost to an otherwise inedible meal and gave rise to the term "infinocchiare", which means to “cheat” or “deceive”.

But, compensating for tasteless cuisines is only one of the plethora of aromatic benefits herbs and spices provide. The most notable thing about the aromatic qualities of spices and herbs is their high levels of antioxidants which protect the body from the effects of free radicals.

Normally, free radicals are produced by the cells in the body as a byproduct of changing oxygen into energy. It is essential that these free radicals are kept in balance and regularly eliminated from the body through the intake of antioxidants, for example. If not, the accumulation of free radicals can lead to conditions of oxidative stress which can seriously hamper the health of organs and even lead to cancers.

A diet rich in spices or an environment rich in the beneficial substances dispersed in the air provides the body with important compounds that keep the immune system strong and the cells clear of waste. This ultimately results in better cognitive function, reduced risks of premature aging and protection against the worst diseases that are plaguing society today.

Infinite Flavor Arrays sensory experience

Spices make a kingly feast out of simple chicken and rice. Spices make the culinary world what it is and provide master chefs and culinary pioneers across the planet the vivid colors that make the canvas of meats, seafood, and other veggie products an artistic universe with no end of wonder.

We sometimes assume the flavor array consists of the conventional sour, salty, sweet and bitter, but, spices defy this limited thinking with productions that defy the imagination. Spices pierce all boundaries and can give rise to terms like spicy, floral, fruity or nutty depending on the specific substances at work in the plants chemical profile.

A single spice will very rarely contain a single flavor, but a multifaceted profile that provides the plant with its singular identity. Take thyme, for example, this popular spice is used in culinary cultures from the Mediterranean to China and is known for its floral, piney and bitter characteristics.

But, beyond the delicious flavors and sublime culinary creations lies a far deeper reality about the spices and herbs we have enjoyed for countless millennia. These spices greatly affect the body that consumes them, many were designed this way. As we will explore later in the article, the biggest reason for the special smells and flavors of a plant are the environmental elements the plant has evolved to survive.

So, some herbs and spices, like Chamomile or Lavender can have a decidedly relaxing effect while Green Tea or Coffee can provide energy and mental focus. Others, like Ginger and Mint tea, can soothe an upset stomach, and chili peppers will boost the metabolism and fire up the heart and lungs, see if they don’t.

These various reactions to the spices and herbs found in the natural world gave rise to the very first concepts of medication, prepared treatments and dosages as exemplified in ancient Ayurvedic and Homeopathic medicine. Even though herbs and spices are considered mostly harmless, they can have powerful effects. Consider how oleoresin capsicum, the prime ingredient in Habanero Chilis and many conventional pepper sprays used in self-defense, can impact the body when ingested or even contacted.

Pulmonary Absorption of Nutrients in Herbs and Spices

The essential ingredients found in herbs and spices are not only generally beneficial, but they seem to be carefully designed for optimal consumption and dissemination through the body. One of the most important ways that these substances are administered to the body is through aromatic use.

Aromatherapy is a term that is more and more common in today’s health-conscious and entirely centered around the use of essential oils derived from herbs and spices. The practice of aromatherapy was established by the French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, in the 1930s. Rene Gattefosse was fascinated by the specific, and above all, reproducible results found in using natural substances in different ways.

Since that time much research has been done to understand the effects of natural substances on our senses.

Today we understand the close contact the sense of smell, or olfaction has with the limbic system that controls some of the most vital processes like hormonal balance, immunity levels, excitement, relaxation and even appetite. Therefore, the smell of a BBQ down the street can make the mouth water and excite the appetite for a feeding.

The aromatic compounds found in spices can excite the senses of smell just so and have enormous power to change moods, clarify thought processes and boost the immune system. Extensive studies have been performed on the effects of aromatic use of essential oils for reducing stress and panic attacks and allowing for optimal mental function through olfaction. 2

Once diffused into the air, these beneficial compounds enter the body, brain, muscles, and major organs. This is where pulmonary absorption takes place, the aromatic organic substances are very small and light and can easily pass through the barriers that keep blood from entering the lungs. This allows the compounds to be taken through the blood to the site of malfunction and treat the issues causing health conditions.

sensory experience Gastrointestinal Absorption of Herbs and Spices

There have been many studies performed that extol the benefits of a diet rich in plant foods and raw veggies. The main focus of these studies has been the select set of phytochemicals that include carotenoids, flavonoids, tannins, and phenols. Substances that are largely responsible for the individual flavors and found in high-quantities in herbs and spices as well.

Ancient herbal medicine systems had a spice for every illness and many of these medicinal herbs like nutmeg and clove were adopted into the cultural cuisines of the locals. The digestive system has the all-powerful job of keeping the rest of the body fueled and empowered. Without a proper support in the way of nutritional maintenance, the digestive system can lose functionality and this causes a feeling of lethargy and even hunger which leads to very unhealthy feeding cycles.

Black pepper is just about the most delicious thing on the planet and another spice that could rightly be called a medicine. Piperine, the important alkaloid in Back Pepper has been used extensively in traditional medicines. Piperine excites the enzymes needed for proper digestion and eases the digestive process in general.

More importantly, Piperine has been found an effective treatment against obesity and type 2 Diabetes. A study showed that the capacity of piperine to excite the metabolism of skeletal muscles at rest has positive implications for the rise in these NCDs’ (Non- communicable Diseases). 3

Spices and the Paleo Diet

Herbs and spices are the terms used to refer to the blossoms, stems, bark, leaves, buds, berries and seeds of a large variety of plants that have been valued for their unique flavors and aromatic qualities since time immemorial. In this discussion on better health, we have established beyond the shadow of a doubt that spices, herbs, and their vital constituents are of great and essential benefit to human health. We see from anecdotal and careful historical records that our modern medical industry has been based on concepts the ancients learned from the incredible effects of potent herbs and spices.

According to a report posted in the well-known National Geographic Periodical, expounded on a significant archaeological find that shed light on prehistoric cuisine. The site contained the remains of an ancient hunter-gatherer establishment and showed that garlic and mustard seeds had been added to their meals to give a flavorful kick to the repast and establishing that spices are indeed a staple of the Paleo Diet. 5

It has now come time to add these important concepts to our central proposition for healthier living as experienced before the plague of modern lifestyles. When one considers the Paleo Diet to benefit their health they are looking for a way to thrive in the modern world, but beyond the reach of toxins, contaminants, pollution and the lifestyles that kill millions each year.

This can be accomplished through two equally important methods. The first is by eliminating the unhealthy habits that contribute to unhealthy conditions, but, no less important is to consume the essential nutrients that allow the body to rid itself of toxins and protect itself from health risks strewn across the modern environment.

Whether consumed in the gastrointestinal tract or through the membranes of the respiratory system, the beneficial compounds found in spices and herbs have been nourishing the human body long before the invention of air pollution.

It is safe to assume that the air quality before the advent of the agricultural revolutions was far higher and arguably an important part of what kept diseases and natural toxins in the human body at bay. When we imagine an atmosphere free of the smog and pollutants from human industry and rich in the natural organic substances produced by plants and trees we envision the concept of Paleo Air.

From antioxidants that fight toxins to antidepressants that fight away bad moods, there is simply no end to the proven benefits found in the natural compounds in herbs and spices. These are the very the compounds selected in creating a regimen of healthy breathing based on the natural environment that brought apes to humankind.

Thousands of years ago, Paleo Air was an important part of natural health. In our modern times, we have forgotten our health is based on our relationship with the natural environment. That humanity has become alienated from this important source of pulmonary nourishment is quite possibly a major cause of the suffering and disease being seen today.

It is often impossible to escape the threats of our surroundings; the boss smokes like a chimney, the freeway is a congested wasteland and lunch today was an instant noodle soup because of time! This is one place where being able to take the benefits of Paleo Air through the day can play an important role in daily health.

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