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CAJUN HERBS & SPICES Brooke Kobetz You may be surprised to know that many of the spices used in Cajun cooking contain expansive health benefits. Cayenne pepper, a chili that originated in South America, and has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years, contains an active ingredient called capsaicin. You may have heard of capsaicin before in weight loss ads or seen it sold in supplement stores. This is because Capsaicin, responsible for the heat and spiciness in cayenne peppers, functions as a thermogenic, slightly increasing the body’s core temperature which in turn may burn more calories. While promising, the research is still out on this claim, so don’t start loading all of your dishes with cayenne just yet! More promising than the weight loss claim is that capsicum may aid in pain relief when applied to the skin in the form of a cream. It works by reducing the amount of substance P in the body, which is responsible for carrying pain messages to the brain. People with osteoarthritis, nerve pain, and low back pain may benefit from these creams. Black pepper, another seasoning found in our local cuisine and used universally in cooking, may have therapeutic qualities due to its high antioxidant, antimicrobial, and gastro-protective potentials. The antioxidants in black pepper may help in controlling tumor progression and the alkaloid components in the black pepper may aid cognitive brain functioning and nutrient absorption. Furthermore, black pepper may inhibit the growth of bacteria like E. coli that may be present in our unwashed vegetables or fruits, or uncooked meat. 10

Garlic, rich in antioxidants is known for its pungent odor and strong flavor and may help prevent heart disease and high blood pressure. Garlic acts as a blood thinner, which may lessen the risk of heart attack or stroke, and research shows it can lower blood pressure by 5-8%. Some studies even show that consuming raw garlic may ward off stomach and colon cancer. Don’t consume too much garlic though! Side effects include upset stomach, bloating, body odor, headache fatigue, and dizziness. Because garlic acts as a blood thinner it may intensify the effects of blood thinning medications. Thyme, an herb used in dishes like jambalaya, has been used for centuries for its healing properties. Ancient Romans believed it could prevent poisoning, and ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent due to the anti-fungal properties of the active ingredient thymol. Thyme may be used topically in an oil form or dried and fresh in food. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamins C, A, and B6 along with iron and magnesium. Thyme is also a natural remedy that aids in the treatment of bronchitis and seasonal allergies and is a strong antimicrobial that may aid a sore throat. Also, like garlic, ingesting thyme may help to lower blood pressure. The natural healing properties of herbs and spices are nothing short of astonishing and have been recognized by physicians for thousands of years. In the words of Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Active Acadiana October 2017  

Acadiana's Only Health & Fitness Publication

Active Acadiana October 2017  

Acadiana's Only Health & Fitness Publication

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