They are good for digestion. They improve the mood. They stop the depression. And sometimes cancer. If you believe in this promise of salvation, on the Internet and elsewhere, the spice rack is a small pharmacy. Many spices and herbs are known to affect health, including common plants such as parsley, but also exotic plants such as turmeric.
But is it true? Yes, in part – but there is a "but". Because many spices contain ingredients beneficial to health, says author and spice expert Manuela Mahn. "Experiences with spices and their healing power have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years, and we can already find matching records from ancient Greek doctors."
In fact, in the past, spices were not so interesting in the general population because of their taste, says Mahn – but rather because of their supposed healing power. "The question now is how we can scientifically test these empirical values today." And it is there that it becomes delicate.
Because there are spices whose healing effect is proven, says the expert. "Thyme, for example, has an antiviral effect, so thyme syrup is recognized as a traditional herbal medicine." The effect of the presence of a little thyme powder in the food is of course inferior to that of the capsules or herbal teas of the pharmacy.
But there are also more complicated cases. The best example is turmeric, at the center of discussions about spices and their healing power. "Turmeric has an anti-inflammatory effect and can act as a detoxification spice to relieve the liver," says Mahn.
But much of what is said beyond turmeric is still far from being explored. The first results of the studies would often be shown too short in the media, complains Mahn. "Turmeric helps, for example, to fight against certain types of cancer." In the worst case, those affected hope that the spice will not even keep up.
And even with a proven effect, it is always: an herb or spice is not a medicine. And it's not just a question of concept, says Mahn. "Spices can not be standardized – there are crops of varying quality, climatic influences, soil quality plays a role, etc."
Inclusion in the body poses a problem: in medications, there are enteric-coated capsules and other tips to make sure that an active ingredient also arrives at the pills. where he should act. It's different when eating. "If they have inflammatory bowel disease, for example, there may still be a lot of things out there," says Jan Frank, professor at the Institute of Nutritional Sciences at the University. from Hohenheim. "But if the inflammation is in the knee, the drug must first be taken in the intestine and transported through the liver and blood to the knee, where there is only one left. 39, a small amount. "
So, healing spices are a hocus-pocus? But again, says Manuela Mahn: "Spices often have a positive effect on everyday mood disorders: anise, caraway, fennel, for example, or ginger as a travel medicine for nausea. "
And even for serious diseases, nutrition expert Frank certainly sees a place for herbs and the like. With an important warning: "Nutrition is not for therapy, but for maintaining health and preventing disease," he says. "In the case of a disease, it can obviously be logical to change the diet to promote healing."
For example, people with appropriate diseases and problems can usually take anti-inflammatories. Turmeric, thyme and ginger are suitable spices. But the devil is hiding in the details: the active ingredients of turmeric, for example, often can not be metabolized by the body, says Mahn. In addition, curcumin is fat-soluble and non-water soluble, warns Frank. Consuming spices as a tea without high fat additives therefore makes no sense.
In addition, herbs and spices can have an undesirable effect. For example, too much saffron is not good for man, no more than nutmeg. And: "If I have gallstones, for example, I should not be eating too much spice, so rather little or no ginger," says Gabriele Kaufmann of the Federal Nutrition Center. She advises in the case of dietary changes in general to professional advice – among other things, to avoid such obstacles.
The nutritionist can also explain right away that even from a steady diet change, no immediate miracle cure is to be expected. It's still true, but especially with herbs and spices. "The spices or ingredients are effective only after a while, often only after weeks," says Mahn. "You have to approach with a long breath."
And do not think it's done: "I can have a good feeling thinking about the positive properties of herbs and spices," says Kaufmann. "But I can not believe that their consumption generally corresponds to a healthy and balanced diet and a lifestyle to replace."