Do spices make us healthy? | Free Press

They are good for digestion, improve mood, stop depression, sometimes cancer. If you believe in the promise of salvation, the spice rack is a small pharmacy. For many spices and herbs, including common plants such as parsley, but also exotic plants such as turmeric, would have positive effects on health.

But is it true? Yes, yes, but there is a but. Many spices contain healthy ingredients, says author and spice expert Manuela Mahn. "The experiences with spices and their healing power have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years, and ancient Greek doctors have already been accountable." 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 there, it becomes complicated.

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 an herbal medicine." The effect of a little thyme powder in the food is naturally less than that of the corresponding medicinal capsules or medicinal 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. "This turmeric helps for example against certain cancers." In the worst case, there are hopes for those who may not even be able to keep the spice.

Even with a proven effect: an herb or spice is not a medicine. And it's not just a question of term, says Mahn. "Spices can not be standardized – there are crops of varying quality, climatic influences, soil quality plays a role, etc." In addition, inclusion in the body poses a problem: in medications, there are enteric-coated capsules and other tricks to ensure that an active ingredient also happens where it should . It's different when eating. "If you have inflammatory bowel disease, for example, there may still be many things out there," says Jan Frank, a professor at the Institute of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Hohenheim. "But if the inflammation is in the knee, the drug must first be absorbed into 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 this is not yet the case, says Manuela Mahn: "Spices often have a beneficial effect in everyday mood disorders, are aniseed, cumin and fennel in cases of indigestion, or ginger as a travel medicine for nausea. " For serious diseases, the nutrition expert, Frank, sees a place for herbs and plants. A warning: "Nutrition is not for therapy, but for health maintenance and prevention," he says. "In the case of a disease, it may be wise to modify the diet to promote healing."

Those who often fight against the diseases and the corresponding affections can generally eat 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. In the case of dietary changes in general, she advises a professional to prevent the risk of falling.

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 replaces a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle."