Let me start be asking you to pardon me and excuse my arrogance for daring to call myself a “Yogi”. Now I do, do a few yoga poses here and there and I do them well (better than most), but I’m no “Yogi” by any standards. I’m a work in progress! As far as “Hotness” goes…now, I ain’t apologizing for that. You gotta think of yourself as hot before you expect the world to start drooling over your “Hotness”. After all, nothing’s hotter than confidence. And speaking of hot, what can make you sweat more than good old Indian spices!
Spices – a true lifestyle in India!
Most of my western friends dread Indian food and start sweating bullets at the thought of a “Red Hot Indian Curry”. However, there’s a difference between “Hot” and “Spicy”; a common misconception that the western world holds about Indian cooking. You can accuse us of being spicy and boy, are we spicy! However, the heat comes from the chillies and pepper. Most of us Indians consume heat in moderation and some don’t prefer it at all. But, one thing that’s common and transcends all Indian palate are the spices that we can’t get enough of. Spices have a major role to play in our cooking. After all, it’s not just our tongues that get wagging at the sight of a well-cooked meal. A fancy platter on our table can have an overwhelming effect on our senses and I’m not merely talking about our sense of taste (there are four more you’re leaving out). The effect can be an assault or just as well, a tender caress to our senses, depending on how the food is cooked and how well it is presented.
Favourite Eight: Image by Abhishek Sen
That’s where the spices come in. Spices like turmeric, red chilli powder and all spice powder (garam masala as it is commonly known) adds colour to our food, making it look visually appealing. Spices also add texture to the food. They can be used to thicken the base of the curry and certain whole spices like mustard or fennel seeds can give a little crunch while chewing a spoonful of a delectable dish and thereby releasing their hidden flavour. And then there’s the aromatic property of certain spices that cannot be ignored and when added to a particular dish, it makes it all the more appealing and appetizing. As far as the sense of sound goes…oh well! If you enjoy the sounds of sputtering when you add mustard, cumin or fenugreek seeds in a scalding hot oil, then you’re in for a treat. Not to mention the aromatic flavours they release as they sputter and crackle in the burning wok.
Not only tasty but also healthy… and good for your libido!
Apart from the effects on our senses, one of the most undermined and underrated effects of Indian spices known to the Western world are the medicinal properties of these spices and their effects on our health, including our sex life and our libido! I guess I got your attention now; didn’t I? (hahaha)I’ll be throwing some light on my favourite eight spices, sharing some of their magical properties that I have discovered over the years and through some internet browsing. Now, I’m no naturopath or a dietician or a nutritionist and so there’s no reason for you to take my word on it – however, if you do choose to, then try it out at your own risk. And if something good comes out of it (or rather comes “up”) then you can see it as the silver lining…your proverbial “blessing in disguise”.
Spices are perfect Antioxidants
Before we proceed, I’d like to explain a few terms like “anti-inflammation” and “antioxidant” as they may be a common healing property in several spices. Inflammation as the name suggests means swelling. A little inflammation in the form of swelling, redness and tenderness is our body’s immune response to fight invading elements like microbes or bacteria. However, when inflammation remains longer than desired, it becomes concerning. For example, gastrointestinal inflammation can be body’s response to fight any attack on the organs forming part of the digestive tract, which may include your oesophagus, stomach and intestines. But, when the inflammation persists it may cause lesions that may cause bleeding in the inflamed organ. Depending on the organ, it may be esophagitis, gastritis or colitis. Foods and spices with anti-inflammatory property can go a long way in fighting inflammation.
Oxidation is a chemical reaction that releases free radicals in the body, leading to a chain reaction that may damage the cells. It is known to be the cause behind aging, risks like heart diseases and cancer. Antioxidants are molecules that prevent the oxidation of other molecules. Foods with such properties not only target these free radicals but also boost body’s own antioxidants to fight harder.
With that done, let’s begin with my “Favourite Eight”; taking each one at a time and discussing their health benefits and medicinal properties apart from their inherent character of adding colour, flavour and a little “Spice” in our food and our lives!
For as far back as I can remember, my mother would always hand me a glass of warm milk with a spoonful of sugar to sweeten it up and a pinch of turmeric, every time I fell sick or took a nasty fall or had a runny nose. Now I know why! Turmeric, the bright yellow spice, which comes from the ginger family has medicinal compounds curcuminoids, most important being curcumin, which gives turmeric its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Recent researches have shown turmeric to help in fighting heart risks, cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s as it improves brain function and also arthritis for its anti-inflammatory properties, amongst others. Turmeric is also known to be an antiseptic and can be used on cuts and wounds to stop bleeding and prevent infection to an open wound.
Garlic is a magic food, especially for us men…you heard it! Having a clove or two of raw garlic, first thing in the morning, empty stomach had always been recommended for good heart health as it reduces blood cholesterol. However, anything that’s good for the heart and brain has to be good for your sexual organs, since brain activity is directly linked to the performance of your “apparatus”. Besides, a healthy heart means a good blood flow down south (and we all know what that means). Raw garlic stimulates nitric oxide in the brain, which also amounts to higher blood flow in the male genitalia, thereby awarding us with harder erections. However, overdosing on garlic cloves may not only give you bad breath for the rest of the day but also cause skin irritation…so pipe it down and keep it to two cloves if you want it up! Garlic is also known to destroy brain tumours and fight cancer. Its consumption can increase testosterone in men and since it has high quantities of vitamin C, it helps in improving your sperm count along with improving your overall health.
Garlic: Image by Abhishek Sen
Cinnamon is another one of my “Favourite Eight”, for not only it smells divine, but also adds a little sweetness to any dish you incorporate it in. What’s contradicting about its inherent sweetness is that it lowers blood sugar levels and helps in fighting diabetes as it is known to boost insulin. Since blood sugar is known to obstruct blood supply to the sexual organs, both in men and women, lower levels of blood sugar invariably means a higher supply of blood flow to your privates down south. No wonder this aromatic tree bark, which is commonly called cinnamon, is known to be a natural aphrodisiac as it helps in increasing libido. You can add cinnamon sticks in your curries or add them in powder form. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon powder in your tea or take it with warm milk if you are having difficulties sleeping as it is known to calm you down and soothe your senses. But once again, have patience and don’t OD on cinnamon, hoping you’ll become the Redeemer of the lost art in one night!
Cinnamon: Image by Abhishek Sen
Cardamom is another aromatic spice that is known to be soothing and calming and highly effective in enhancing your mood. It is also known to cool your body down when hot and render heat in the cold. As it soothes the nerves, it is known to help with nerve disorders. Cardamom is a brain tonic and as we know by now, anything that is good for the brain and the heart is good for your libido and enhancing your sexual performance. Cardamom pods can also be chewed as a breath freshener as it kills bacteria in the mouth. You can also add cardamom powder to your tea or coffee for that added flavour and to boost your flaccid libido!
Cardamom: Image by Abhishek Sen
Ginger is another commonly found and used spice in Indian homes and Indian food. I remember taking a spoonful of ginger juice along with a few drops of honey to relieve chest congestion and fight seasonal cold ever since I was a kid. Ginger can be added in the form of paste in your food to add flavour and thicken your curry base or an inch of it can be pounded and added to your tea. Ginger is also known to increase blood circulation and an increased blood circulation translates to a better blood supply to “you know where by now”. So, it is needless to say that ginger is another power spice that can give you that added punch and better performance under the covers! But once again, exercise caution and patience.
Ginger: Image by Abhishek Sen
Clove is a dried flower bud that helps in increasing the white blood cell counts, which are essentially body’s army of little soldiers to fight against any foreign invader like microbes, pathogens or any other element posing a threat. This flower shaped spice packs punches and is pretty powerful, as it is known to be an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-flatulence and is also used as a local anaesthetic and that’s why you find it in toothpaste and dentist recommend its application to relieve toothache. It is also known to be warming and soothing and gives heat to the body. Since it provides heat to the body, it also helps to stimulate your sexual organs and increase your libido. Some erotic oils are known to have clove oil as an essential element in its composition. However, since clove is also an anaesthetic, long term and continues use of it can lead to loss of sensation and numbness. The same goes for application of clove oil to your teeth. While it can provide instant relief from pain, constant use can burn your palate causing loss of sensation. Consumption of a large quantity of clove oil can also burn your oesophageal lining and your gastrointestinal tract. So, one must be frugal and cautious with the use of this wonder spice that is amongst many things, also a known and a potent aphrodisiac!
Clove: Image by Abhishek Sen
Chili: Aah! The controversial chili. Infamous for its heat and notorious for leaving your mouth burning and pits sweating, chili is quite the wonder spice that has gained notoriety for its indiscriminate use by a few profligate chefs. If used in moderation, it is known to open your sinuses, dilate your blood vessels thereby improving circulation that invariably results into bettering one’s sexual performance, aiding digestion and relieving migraines, muscle and joint pains for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Chili: Image by Abhishek Sen
Also known as Bishop’s weed and “Ajwain” in Hindi, these little wonders are known to soothe the digestive tract, aides digestion, fights indigestion, flatulence and stomach ache and problems related to gas. We take a few pinches of roasted carom seeds after dinner to aid digestion apart from using it in preparation of certain foods that are known to be gassy. But that’s not all. This Bishop’s little weed is known to help you with yours! It is believed that carom seeds not only aides digestion and fights flatulence and stomach ache but is also known to increase libido in both the sexes.
Carom seeds: Image by Abhishek Sen
These were my “Favorite Eight” of the numerous spices and condiments available and used in Indian cooking; and I’ve barely scrapped through the surface of what each of these are really capable of.
Spices as Soldiers against Bacteria and Microbes
Besides the known fact that they add colour, flavor and aroma to the food, spices also help in fighting bacteria and microbes that feed on our food leading to spoilage of the food. The chemical compounds in the species fight against these microbes and bacteria, thereby increasing the life of a cooked meal. Probably that’s one of the reasons why you see more spices used in culinary preparation in hotter countries like India where the chances of food going bad are high as bacteria thrives in hot and moist conditions and that’s where refrigeration of the food comes in.
Using spices is a natural way to delay the spoilage and aging process of the cooked food. Something that is akin to Thai, Malaysian, African and Creole cuisines alongside Indian cooking, which are also known for their heat and spices. There is also the logic of perspiration used to cool the body down by eating hot and spicy food in places with a hot and humid climate.
Image by Abhishek Sen
Whatever the reason be, at the end of the day it all comes down to tickling those taste buds and what can be a better option than adding a little spice to your bland food and dull life. You can always moderate the heat by being sparing with the use of chili and chili powder. After all, it’s the red-hot chili pepper that adds heat to your curry and not the spices alone.
So go on…add a little spice and if you can brave it up, then I’d suggest trying a little heat every once in a while. After all, it’s all about Spicing it up…the hot yogi style!
-by Abhishek Sen