Healing Benefits of Persian Spices
Persian cuisine has a long and rich tradition of using culinary herbs and spices. These herbs and spices not only add color, aroma, flavor- they also help promote health and prevent disease. Scientific studies are continuously validating the mechanisms by which the nutrients in these foods can help prevent many diseases including heart disease and cancer.
Herbs and spices commonly used in Persian cooking include: garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, dill, fennel, coriander, rose, marjoram, tarragon, sumac and saffron.
In addition to herbs and spices, Persian dishes always include fresh and dried greens including green onions, chives, leeks, cilantro, tarragon, mint, dill, basil, watercress and fenugreek.
Garlic - is considered one of the world’s most potent natural medicines. The medical database of the Natural Institute of Health contains more than 3200 studies on the therapeutic uses of garlic. It is said to “strengthen the heart and keep the blood flowing,” helping to prevent, slow and manage cardiovascular disease. Garlic is also famous for killing off bad bacteria in the intestines, helping to keep the colon healthy and cancer free. Garlic is commonly enjoyed peeled, minced, and added to soups and other dishes. Adding parsley can help ward off that garlicky smell from eating fresh garlic.
Ginger - is rich in gingerols that act as potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agents. A warming spice, ginger supports digestion, helps manage nausea and supports overall gastrointestinal health. Numerous studies have shown ginger to be protective of many cancers.
Turmeric - a relative of ginger is referred to as “Indian Gold.” A super star herb, turmeric is medicinal on many levels-used to calm inflammation, fight cancer, support sleep and even manage depression. Topically, turmeric is used for skin problems. Sometimes called “poor man’s saffron,” turmeric is often combined with saffron to add a beautiful color to rice and other Persian dishes.
Saffron - considered the “spice of life,” is the world’s most expensive spice. It takes 4500 handpicked crocus flowers to make 1 oz of saffron. Saffron is a potent anti-depressant and cancer preventative that increases blood circulation in the brain, helping to “lift the spirit.” It also is helpful in managing peripheral neuropathy (tingling fingers and toes), a side effect of some chemotherapy medications. Saffron is infused in hot liquid, then added to rice or other dishes for color, fragrance and flavor. Iran, as well as Spain provides much of the world’s saffron. Beware false saffron. When added to warm water, true saffron will bleed its color immediately.
Rose - the flower of love, considered to be uplifting and calming to the nervous system. Rose petals, from a species of wild rose grown in certain parts of Iran are used in a spice mix called Advieh-powdered rose petals, mixed with cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and cardamom, used in rice dishes, stews, frittatas. Rose is commonly used to make a delicious rose jam and rose water can be added to teas and used in many desserts to enhance color and flavor.
Sumac - is a dark purple spice from the Rhus coriaria plant that adds a tart & lemony flavor to rice and other foods. It is commonly used to flavor rice served with juicy kebabs. Packed with an abundance of anti-oxidants, sumac boasts high amounts of anti-inflammatory power. Recent studies are validating powerful anti-cancer activity of several nutrients abundant in sumac.
Green onions and yellow onions are a big staple of Persian eating, they are often enjoyed raw as a condiment with many meals. Onions, leeks and chives are part of the Allium family of veggies, high in cancer fighting quercetin and rich in sulfur-a valuable component of body tissue including joints. Finely chopped chives are a major ingredient in koo koo sabzi –a popular Persian frittata type dish that includes many greens and herbs.
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- Crocin, crocetin, safranal and picrocrocin from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) inhibit the growth of human cancer cells in vitro, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0304383595040676
- Rhus coriaria suppresses angipogenesis, metastases, and tumor growth. Scientifc Reports. 2016, 6: 21144, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4758048/
- All About Spices, www.persianmama.com
- Advieh, https://www.thedeliciouscrescent.com/advieh-persian-spice-mix/