The secret ingredients to your family’s winter immunity
09 June, 2022
With the flu season arriving early this year, health and wellness are front of mind for many families. While relief can come from cough syrup and painkillers, strengthening your immune system is the first – and best – line of defence. Luckily, the power to prevent sickness could be found on your spice rack.
For centuries, human beings have turned to nature to remedy their illnesses and ailments. Early humans used herbs and spices both for taste and medicinal purposes. For the Ancient Egyptians, for example, medical treatments consisted of spices like coriander, fennel, garlic, and onion.
Today, naturopaths and dieticians alike laud spices for their health benefits – both to help reduce the effects of sickness, and to help prevent them altogether. Experts say that, in addition to exercise, drinking water and sleeping well, one of the best ways to boost your immune system is to eat a diet that is rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and sources of protein.
More specifically, a 2021 study into the role of spices in natural immunity found strong evidence of their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers believe that the consumption of spices every day – whether they’re mixed with hot water, oil or milk or cooked into food – offers significant protection from illness.
Even beyond protecting you during flu season, their ability to reduce inflammation and strengthen your immune system could offer long-term benefits. These may include the prevention of cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The question remains: which spices should you add to your family’s diet? Read on to find out…
This popular red pepper does more than add flavour to your roast chicken – it also promises a wealth of health benefits, perfect for fighting off winter sickness. Spicy foods like cayenne pepper have been shown to boost the good bacteria in your gut microbiome, which is important for a healthy immune system. Other reported benefits include weight management, heart health and clearing congestion.
A favourite for sweet and savoury cooking, cloves are also packed with vitamin C which is known to increase your body’s white blood cell count. As a result, having two cloves each morning could prove beneficial for boosting your immune system and fighting infection and disease (clove tea, anyone?). They are also said to boost digestion, promote liver function and even relieve tooth pain.
This popular herb may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of spices, but don’t discount it – rosemary does a lot more than add flavour to your lamb. It is extremely anti-inflammatory, particularly in your gastrointestinal tract, thanks to active compounds (polyphenols) like rosmarinic acid, carbonic acid and carnosol. It may be beneficial for rheumatic diseases and ease joint inflammation and pain.
It’s one of the most popular spices, and for good reason. Not only do black pepper and peppercorns add loads of flavour to a variety of foods – they’re also believed to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties thanks to an active compound called piperine. Some studies suggest black pepper could improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar control and brain and gut health.
A type of chilli pepper, the paprika plant is enjoyed the world over – for more than its sweet taste. It is packed with vitamins A, B, C and E, along with phytochemicals like phenolic compounds, carotenoids and capsaicin. The latter of which is considered safe and effective for managing arthritis pain, diabetic neuropathy and even headaches, while chilli peppers in general are believed to have preventative and therapeutic properties for chest colds, stiff joints, bronchitis and heart arrhythmias.