Some complaints and diseases identified as immunodeficiency diseases (where the ability of the immune system to fight infection is reduced) are assisted by immune-boosting action – the common cold and flu, for instance – while others, such as inflammatory reactive autoimmune diseases (where the immune system displays an increased/abnormal response to tissues or organs in a person’s own body) like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, require immune balancers. Immune spice health heroes have qualities that may help support and enhance our body’s extremely complex immune system. Complaints from the common cold to serious and life-threatening diseases are defined in a very simplified way as generally due to a disconnect somewhere in the immune system. According to the International Union of Immunological Societies, there exists today a shocking 150 primary immunodeficiency diseases. One of this extraordinary system’s many vital functions is to inhibit the activation of cells that can cause cancers to develop, and this handful of spices may offer not only flavour but also immune reinforcement.
Turmeric has a multitude of talents and is thought to help prevent and alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. Cumin is being studied as a hormonal balancer and black cumin as an anticancer warrior. Clove and star anise both offer anti-inflammatory support, while super-C citrus zest provides protection against common colds and flu.
Other immune spice heroes
Garlic A powerful preventative used for centuries by fighting forces from Ancient Greek battalions to Russian World War II infantry, garlic kept soldiers fighting fit and ready to do battle with its antimicrobial properties. Garlic is thought be have strong anticarcinogenic attributes that help to support the immune system.
Rosemary A must-have for barbecues, rosemary has been well studied, tested and analyzed for its extraordinary ability to nullify the cancer-causing hetrocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when beef, pork, chicken, lamb or any other meat is grilled (broiled), fried, charred, smoked or cooked over an open flame, and thus protects the immune system from having to stave off these easily absorbed chemicals.
Pomegranate Sprinkle a generous handful of fresh pomegranate seeds on grain dishes and fresh salads: not only are these red jewels delicious, but this traditional Persian super-spice, which has been used as a medicine since ancient times, also provides great anti-inflammatory and immune support and shows great promise as an anticancer hero.
Fenugreek Considered a legume and full of protein, the maple-scented fenugreek can create a barrier to assist the immune system in disabling toxins found in our food and drink that are often unwittingly ingested. Fenugreek shows promise in preventing calcium oxalate from accumulating in the kidney and gallbladder, preventing not only kidney and gallstones but also a reactive inflammatory response by the immune system. It is believed that it may keep blood-sugar levels better balanced and lessen the immune system’s workload and it shows great therapeutic potential in stunting the growth of cancer cells, notably in the pancreas.
Wasabi Another promising anticancer, antibacterial hero, wasabi is ranked as the strongest antibacterial against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Wasabi also helps to prevent food poisoning by killing off the bacteria that could be lurking on the fresh raw fish (sashimi) with which it is often served. This green-coloured rhizome has a great concentration of active isothiocyanate (ITC) compounds and may have a chemopreventive effect on cancer.
Mustard These tiny seeds are full of cancer-preventative isothiocyanate (ITC) compounds. In the nutrient-rich and cancer-suppressing brassica family, mustard displays promising results: hundreds of lab studies have demonstrated the chemopreventive potential of this sharply strong-tasting seed.
Text from Spice Health Heroes by Natasha MacAller published by Jacqui Small © Manja Wachsmuth Photography 2016. (Murdoch books, $49.99 hbk). Read the extract on Spice for flavour and health right here.
Dosa, or Thosai, originated in South India. It is traditionally a breakfast dish of a fermented crepe with a spiced potato filling. This full-flavoured, low-fat and high-fibre option includes dried spices for a healthy meal.
Wasabi peas are not just for snacking on. Crush these nose-hair tingling bombs to a fine powder and you've got an instant textural garnish for salads, combine the powder with breadcrumbs for your next katsu, or do as we've done here: combine with icing sugar and use to toss popcorn in for a wasabi smackdown.