Three spices that aid digestion

The Ayurvedic tradition asserts that each plant carries a cure for some ailment. This has also been increasingly recognised by modern medical science. Some well-known modern medicines that are around have been derived from plants — aspirin, digoxin, morphine… the list is vast and impressive.

In addition, a large and growing number of patients all over the world are increasingly using medicinal herbs. In fact, over one-third of Americans use herbs for health purposes.

And in India, an ayurvedic practitioner of repute in Vadodara goes by the title of "Rasoyi Vaid" (kitchen doctor) since he prescribes — with considerable success — medicines that are available on our kitchen shelves.

It is thus appropriate to continue to highlight the health benefits of spices. This time, I'll mention three commonly available spices that are somewhat alike in appearance and provide similar health benefits.

A common complaint of my patients is the occurrence of flatulence. To an extent, this occurs naturally, as a result of the digestive process. However, modern sedentary lifestyles and dietary practices tend to increase flatulence in our digestive tracts. I have found that the use of three commonly used spices — ajwain (aniseed/Indian celery seed), saunf (fennel) and zeera (cumin) can help alleviate the problem to a large extent. In addition, these spices bring other medicinal and health benefits as well.

Traditionally, celery seeds and aniseed are added to those dishes that have a tendency to cause flatulence. These seeds, though small in size, have a pungent taste and the presence of volatile oils lends them a strong smell.

Ajwain is well known as a digestive aid. Indeed, it is the most effective of all carminative herbs and its oil-also called caraway — has some anti-microbial properties as well. Infant colic has been traditionally treated with a poultice of ajwain.

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