Table of contents in Decending Order (bottom up)
Curcumin could cut plaque build-up linked to Alzheimer’s…………………………………Page 180
Curcumin linked to better performance for elderly brains ………………………………………Page 183
Dark chocolate beats fatigue, study …….Page 179
ABSTRACTS OF THE COMMUNICATIONS PRESENTED AT THE XTH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON TRANSFER FACTOR, HELD IN BOLOGNA (ITALY) JUNE 22-24, 1995. ………………………………..Page 148
FDA Poisonous Plant Database March 2006 Revision
This database contains references to the scientific literature describing studies of the toxic properties and effects of plants and plant parts………Page 51
ANTIMICROBIAL EFFECTS OF SPICES AND HERBS…Page 45
The Secret World of Spices………………….PAGE 26
Wine is key to longer life, says new study…Page 3
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¯ Wine is key to longer life, says new study
By staff reporter
3/1/2007- More evidence that drinking moderate amounts of wine every day can increase life expectancy has been put forward by Dutch researchers.
Around half a glass of wine per day was linked to a 48 per cent lower risk of heart disease in men, said the researchers, presenting their findings at the American Heart Association’s 47th annual conference.
The same amount was also associated with a 40 per cent lower risk of death from all causes.
Their research broadens existing health claims made about moderate red wine consumption to all wine, and to some extent, alcohol in general.
The team analysed a lifestyle and dietary survey of 1,373 men from Zutphen, an industrial town in the eastern Netherlands. Known as the Zutphen Study, it followed the men, all born between 1900 and 1920, until death and measured their alcohol intake seven times over 40 years.
Martinette Streppel, lead author of the new research, said the results were specific to “long-term, light alcohol intake among middle-aged men“.
Wine gave the most protection when compared with other alcoholic drinks, adding an extra two years on to the drinker’s life on average, said Streppel, a PhD student at Wageningen University.
And, men who drank small amounts of wine (around 45ml) could expect to live nearly four years longer than those who drank no alcohol.
“Those people who already consume alcoholic beverages should do so lightly (1 to 2 glasses per day) and preferably drink wine,” said Streppel.
Several previous studies have linked moderate consumption of red wine to lower heart disease risk and even longer life.
More recently, these apparent benefits have been attributed to polyphenols in the wine, which are thought to provide strong protection for human blood vessels. One type of polyphenol in wine, procyanidins, are considered the most active.
Source: Presentation to American Heart Association’s 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
Authors: Martinette Streppel, Marga Ocke, Hendriek Boshuizen, Frans Kok and Daan Kromhout (all PhD).
Yogurt is not just a delicious snack with fruits on the bottom, it has great health benefits. It is an excellent source of protein, calcium, riboflavin and vitamin B 12. When yogurt is compared to milk, yogurt contains more calcium and protein because of the added cultures in the yogurt. Yogurt must contain active and living cultures to be yogurt. Cultures are composed of unique living microorganisms which are responsible for many of the health and nutritional benefits of yogurt. Some of the health benefits of yogurt are It improves natural defense, it contains a good amount of phosphorus and 88% water. People with a risk of osteoporosis should eat at least one serving of yogurt per day. It has also been claimed that yogurt may protect against some types of cancer but more investigations have to be carried out. Some people have trouble digesting lactose, a carbohydrate in milk and milk products, because of the deficiency of enzyme lactase in the body. Live yogurt cultures produce lactase and break down the lactose. Yogurt is a healthy way to get the calcium the body needs, for the people who can not tolerate milk products. Other benefits of live and active cultures in the yogurt are, they may help to boost the immune system. They encourage the right kind of bacteria to multiply in the gut. These bacteria help to digest food and prevent stomach infections. Also, they help to provide relief from vaginal infections.
Yogurt was a long-established staple in Eastern Europe and the Middle East before it reached our shores.
Yogurt may not be the miracle food some have claimed, but it certainly has a lot to offer in the health department. Besides being an excellent source of bone-building calcium, it is believed that the bacterial cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus), that are used to make yogurt, carry their own health benefits.
For example, research has suggested that eating yogurt regularly helps boost the body’s immune-system function, warding off colds and possibly even helping to fend off cancer. It is also thought the friendly bacteria found in many types of yogurt can help prevent and even remedy diarrhea.
For people who suffer from lactose intolerance, yogurt is often well tolerated because live yogurt cultures produce lactase, making the lactose sugar in the yogurt easier to digest (see Lactose Intolerance for advice on coping with this condition). Be sure to check the label on the yogurt carton for the National Yogurt Association’s Live and Active Cultures (LAC) seal. This seal identifies products that contain a significant amount of live and active cultures
In 2002, a Joint FAO/WHO Working Group defined probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. In other words, probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial to our health, when eaten an adequate amount. It is important for our large intestine to maintain a healthy count of these “good” bacteria – a concept first promoted by a Russian scientist in 1907!
Health Benefits of Probiotics
- Studies found that probiotics may improve nutrient bioavailability, including B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.
- Pediatric studies found that probiotics aids in a significantly decreasing the rate of acute diarrhea and rotavirus shedding. Parents also reported a 25% decrease in diaper rash among babies drinking formula containing probiotics.
- Probiotics and active bacteria culture may improve lactose intolerance. The bacterial strain commonly used in yogurt can produce lactase enzymes. Therefore, people with lactose intolerance and children suffering from intestinal infection can usually tolerate yogurt with an active culture.
- Many studies showed that by regulating intestinal transit time, probiotics improve constipation among the elderly.
- Other studies showed that probiotics, especially acidophilus, promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon and reduces the conversion of bile into carcinogens (cancer causing substances).
- Quite a few studies found that probiotics may enhance immunity by regulating lymphocytes as well as antibodies
Pineapple contains the protein digesting enzyme mixture called bromelain. The uses of these enzymes are similar to those mentioned in the notes on papaya. However, fresh pineapple juice has many other uses. When tuberculosis was common instead of the rarity it has now become, the juice was found to be effective in dissolving mucus and aiding recovery from the once dread disease.
Pineapple has been thought good for heart conditions and indeed should not be used by people with haemophilia or by those with diseases of the kidneys and liver. This is because it seems to reduce the time taken to coagulate the blood – which is why it can be useful for heart patients.
Sore throats and bronchitis are relieved by sipping the juice. Choose ripe fruits of good colour for pineapples do not become sweeter on storage if they are picked green. This is because the starch in the stem is taken up into the fruit and converted to sugar only at the final stage of ripening. If it is cut off beforehand then the sweetness can be as little as a half of that found in a ripe fruit allowed to finish its development on the plant
Pineapple Strengthens Bones
One of the benefits of pineapple is that it helps to build healthy bones. Pineapples are rich in manganese, a trace mineral that is needed for your body to build bone and connective tissues. Just one cup of pineapple provides 73% of the daily recommended amount of manganese. The benefits of pineapple can effect the growth of bones in young people and the strengthening of bones in older people.
A Digestive Aid and A Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Fresh pineapple is rich in bromelain, a group of sulfur-containing proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes that not only aid digestion, but can effectively reduce inflammation and swelling, and has even been used experimentally as an anti-cancer agent. A variety of inflammatory agents are inhibited by the action of bromelain. In clinical human trials, bromelain has demonstrated signifcant anti-inflammatory effects, reducing swelling in inflammatory conditions such as acute sinusitis, sore throat, arthritis and gout, and speeding recovery from injuries and surgery. To maximize bromelain’s anti-inflammatory effects, pineapple should be eaten alone between meals or its enzymes will be used up digesting food. Bromelain is found in both the flesh and stem of pineapple. Since it is deactivated by heat, pineapple juice and canned pineapple are not good sources of this health-promoting enzyme. In terms of getting bromelain from pineapple, fresh is definitely the way to go.
Antioxidant Protection and Immune Support
Vitamin C is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, defending all aqueous areas of the body against free radicals that attack and damage normal cells. Free radicals have been shown to promote the artery plaque build-up of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, cause the airway spasm that leads to asthma attacks, damage the cells of the colon so they become colon cancer cells, and contribute to the joint pain and disability seen in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This would explain why diets rich in vitamin C have been shown to be useful for preventing or reducing the severity of all of these conditions. In addition, vitamin C is vital for the proper function of the immune system, making it a nutrient to turn to for the prevention of recurrent ear infections, colds, and flu.
Manganese and Thiamin (Vitamin B1) for Energy Production and Antioxidant Defenses
Pineapple is an excellent source the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. For example, the key oxidative enzyme superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells), requires manganese. Just one cup of fresh pineapple supplies 128.0% of the DV for this very important trace mineral. In addition to manganese, pineapple is a good source of thiamin, a B vitamin that acts as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions central to energy production.
Anti-Tumor Compounds Found in Pineapple Stems
Two molecules found in pineapple stems have shown anti-tumor activity in research done at Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR). One of the molecules, called CCS, blocks the Ras protein, which is defective in approximately 30% of all cancers, while the other molecule, CCZ, stimulates the immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells.
The QIMR researchers discovered these anti-cancer molecules while studying bromelain. “We suspected that different components of the crude mixture might be responsible for bromelain’s biological effects. In searching for these components, we discovered the CCS and CCZ proteins and found that they could block growth of a broad range of tumour cells, including breast, lung, colon, ovarian and melanoma,” said lead researcher, Dr. Tracey Mynott.
The major limitation of current cancer therapies is they are non-specific and affect both normal and tumor cells. Future cancer treatments will be highly specific to selectively destroy the cancer cells, counteracting the mechanisms by which cancers grow. Data already generated show that CCS and CCZ have the desired specificity and selectivity.
“An interesting characteristic of CCS and CCZ is that they are proteases. Proteases are traditionally thought of as degradative enzymes which breakdown proteins, such as in the process of digestion. Other reports on the role of proteases in disease have centered on their potential to cause damage. CCS and CCZ are the first examples of proteases that have been shown to modulate cell signal transduction pathways and have specific immunomodulatory activities,” said Dr Mynott.
“The way CCS and CCZ work is different to any other drug in clinical use today. Therefore, CCS and CCZ will represent a totally new way of treating disease and potentially a whole new class of anti-cancer agent. In general, products with novel mechanisms of action are more likely to represent real breakthroughs in the treatment or prevention of disease.” QIMR is continuing to investigate CCS and CCZ to demonstrate i) additional in vivo proof of principle, ii) reliable supply of the material and iii) safety. All these factors will be addressed in a two year research program. If all the objectives of the research are achieved, CCS or CCZ will rapidly progress to human clinical trials.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants’ consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but pineapple can help you reach this goal. Add fresh pineapple to your morning smoothie, lunch time yogurt, any fruit and most vegetable salads. For example, try adding chunks of pineapple to your next coleslaw or carrot salad.
Antimicrobial activity of Thyme
The extracts from thyme by water and ethanol, thyme essential oil, thymol and carvacrol were used as antimicrobial agents. The results show that all antimicrobial agents used have strong inhibition activity against Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli.
Thyme Research Update
Systemic availability and pharmacokinetics of thymol in humans.
J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Jul;42(7):731-7.
Essential oil compounds such as found in thyme extract are established for the therapy of chronic and acute bronchitis. Various pharmacodynamic activities for thyme extract and the essential thyme oil, respectively, have been demonstrated in vitro, but availability of these compounds in the respective target organs has not been proven. Thus, investigation of absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion are necessary to provide the link between in vitro effects and in vivo studies. To determine the systemic availability and the pharmacokinetics of thymol after oral application to humans, a clinical trial was carried out in 12 healthy volunteers. Each subject received a single dose of a Bronchipret TP tablet, which is equivalent to 1.08 mg thymol. No thymol could be detected in plasma or urine. However, the metabolites thymol sulfate and thymol glucuronide were found in urine. Thymol sulfate, but not thymol glucuronide, was detectable in plasma. Peak plasma concentrations were reached after 2.0 hours. The mean terminal elimination half-life was 10 hours. Thymol sulfate was detectable up to 41 hours after administration. Urinary excretion could be followed over 24 hours. The amount of both thymol sulfate and glucuronide excreted in 24-hour urine was 16% of the dose.
In-vitro anti-inflammatory effect of Eucalyptus globulus and Thymus vulgaris: nitric oxide inhibition in J774A.1 murine macrophages.
J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004 Feb;56(2):257-63.
It is well known that nitric oxide (NO) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases. Eucalyptus globulus Labill. and Thymus vulgaris L. ( thyme ) have been used in traditional medicine in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases. The present study focuses on the effects of these two extracts on NO production induced by lipopolysaccharide and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) in the murine macrophage cell line. E. globulus and thyme extracts significantly inhibited the enhanced production of NO induced by LPS and IFN-gamma in a dose-dependent manner. Treatment with these two extracts did not reduce cell viability at any dose used. Both eucalyptus and thyme showed significant scavenging of NO radicals released by an NO donor, PAPA-NONOate. Results also show that pre-treatment with E. globulus and thyme extracts significantly inhibits iNOS mRNA expression. This study thus suggests that the inhibition of net NO production by these two extracts may be due to their NO scavenging activity and/or their inhibitory effects on iNOS gene expression.
Human platelet aggregation inhibitors from thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.).
Phytother Res. 2002 Jun;16(4):398-9.
Two antiaggregant compounds, thymol (compound 1) and 3,4,3′,4′-tetrahydroxy-5,5′-diisopropyl-2,2′-dimethylbiphenyl (compound 2) were isolated from the leaves of thyme. These compounds inhibited platelet aggregation induced by collagen, ADP, arachidonic acid and thrombin except that compound 2 did not inhibit platelet aggregation induced by thrombin. thyme maternity rosemary and thyme herbs thyme wild thyme parsley sage rosemary and thyme oil thyme.
Effect of thyme oil and thymol dietary supplementation on the antioxidant status and fatty acid composition of the ageing rat brain. thyme plant
Aromatic and Medicinal Plant Group, Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive, Ayr, UK.
Br J Nutr. 2000 Jan;83(1):87-93.
The present study measured changes in antioxidant enzyme activity in, and the phospholipid fatty acid composition of the ageing rat brain and tested whether dietary supplementation with thyme oil or thymol could provide beneficial effects. There were significant declines in superoxide dismutase (EC 22.214.171.124) and glutathione peroxidase (EC 126.96.36.199) activities and the total antioxidant status in the untreated rats with age, while thyme-oil- and thymol-fed rats maintained significantly higher antioxidant enzyme activities and total antioxidant status. The proportions of 18:2n-6, 20:1n-9, 22:4n-6 and 22:5n-3 in the brain phospholipids resulting from all three dietary treatments were significantly higher in 28-month-old rats than in 7-month-old rats. Only 20:1n-9 levels in 28-month-old thyme-oil- and thymol-treated rats were significantly higher than in the age-matched control. The proportion of 22:6n-3 in brain phospholipids, which declined with age in control rats, was also significantly higher in rats given either supplement. This latter finding is particularly important as optimum levels of 22:6n-3 are required for normal brain function. These results highlight the potential benefit of thyme oil as a dietary antioxidant. thyme research thyme oil. season of thyme wild mountain thyme thyme picture thyme and again
classic thyme olive thyme cookware old thyme herb olive thyme tea thyme.
Relieves nightmares, strengthens breathing, strengthens weak stomach, gas, cramps, diarrhea, relieves headaches.
Thyme is a cultivated form of the wild thyme of the mountains European countries bordering the Mediterranean. Thyme contains very high concentrations of antioxidants (i.e., >75 mmol/100 g). In a normal diet, intake of herbs may therefore contribute significantly to the total intake of plant antioxidants, and be an even better source of dietary antioxidants than many other food groups such as fruits, berries, cereals and vegetables.
Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Only recently, however, have researchers pinpointed some of the components in thyme that bring about its healing effects. The volatile oil components of thyme are now known to include carvacolo, borneol, geraniol, but most importantly, thymol.
Significant Anti-Oxidant Protection of Cellular Membranes
Thymol – named after the herb itself – is the primary volatile oil constituent of thyme, and its health-supporting effects are well documented. In studies on aging in rats, thymol has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. In particular, the amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes was increased after dietary supplementation with thyme. In other studies looking more closely at changes in the brains cells themselves, researchers found that the maximum benefits of thyme occurred when the food was introduced very early in the lifecycle of the rats, but was less effective in offsetting the problems in brain cell aging when introduced late in the aging process. Thyme also contains a variety of flavonoids, including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin. These flavonoids increase thyme’s antioxidant capacity, and combined with its status as a very good source of manganese, give thyme a high standing on the list of anti-oxidant foods.
Eradicate Microbes with Thyme
The volatile oil components of thyme have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi. Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei are a few of the species against which thyme has been shown to have antibacterial activity.
For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination, now research shows that both thyme and basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods. In these studies, published in the February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology, researchers found that thyme essential oil was able to decontaminate lettuce inoculated with Shigella, an infectious organism that triggers diarrhea and may cause significant intestinal damage. In addition, washing produce in solution containing either basil or thyme essential oil at the very low concentration of just 1% resulted in dropping the number of Shigella bacteria below the point at which they could be detected. While scientists use this research to try to develop natural food preservatives, it makes good sense to include thyme and basil in more of your recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads. Adding fresh thyme and/or basil to your next vinaigrette will not only enhance the flavor of your fresh greens, but will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat.
A Nutrient-Dense Spice
The range of other health-supportive nutrients found in thyme is also impressive. This food emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of iron and manganese, a very good source of calcium and a food source of dietary fiber.
A delicate looking herb with a penetrating fragrance, thyme is an herb we should all take time to investigate and enjoy. And with about sixty different varieties including French (common) thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme and silver thyme, this herb is sure to add some spice to your life. Thyme leaves are curled, elliptically shaped and very small, measuring about one-eighth of an inch long and one-sixteenth of an inch wide. The upper leaf is green-grey in color on top, while the underside is a whitish color. French thyme is known scientifically as Thymus vulgaris.
Names: Common Thyme, Garden Thyme
Habitat: Thyme is indigenous to the Mediterranean region, and cultivated widely.
Collection: The flowering branches should be collected between June and August on a dry sunny day. The leaves are stripped off the dried branches.
Part Used: Leaves and flowering tops.
- Volatile oil, of highly variable composition; the major constituent is thymol, with
- lesser amounts of carvacrol, with 1, 8-cineole, borneol, geraniol, linalool, bornyl and
- linalyl acetate, thymol methyl etherand [[alpha]]-pinene.
- Flavonoids; apigenin, luteolin, thymonin, naringenin and others
- Miscellaneous; labiatic acid, caffeic acid, tannins etc.
Actions: Carminative, anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, astringent, anthelmintic.
Indications: With its high content of volatile oil, Thyme makes a good carminative for use in dyspepsia and sluggish digestion. This oil is also a strongly antiseptic substance, which explains many of Thyme’s uses. It can be used externally as a lotion for infected wounds, but also internally for respiratory and digestive infections. It may be use as a gargle in laryngitis and tonsillitis, easing sore throats and soothing irritable coughs. It is an excellent cough remedy, producing expectoration and reducing unnecessary spasm. It may be used in bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma. As a gentle astringent it has found use in childhood diarrhea and bed wetting.
Kings’ Dispensatory describes it thus: “Thyme is tonic, carminative emmenagogue and anti-spasmodic. The cold infusion is useful in dyspepsia, with weak and irritable stomach and as a stimulating tonic in convalescence from exhausting diseases. The warm infusion is beneficial in hysteria, dysmenorrhea, flatulence, colic, headache, and to promote perspiration. Occasionally the leaves have been used externally, in fomentation. The oil is valuable as a local application to neuralgic and rheumatic pains; and, internally, to fulfill any of the indications for which the plant is used. Dose of the infusion, from 1 to 3 fluid ounces; of the oil, from 2 to 10 drops on sugar, or in emulsion. Thyme, skullcap and rue of each 2 ounces; peony and black cohosh, of each, 1 ounce; macerated for 14 days in diluted alcohol, and then filtered, forms a good preparation for nervous and spasmodic diseases of children. It may be given in teaspoonful doses to a child 3 years old, repeating it 3 or 4 times a day, sweetening and diluting it, if desired. A strong infusion of the Thymusserpyllus, slightly sweetened and mixed with gum Arabic, is stated by M. Joset to be a valuable remedy for whooping-cough, convulsive and catarrhal coughs and stridulous sore throat, the favorable result occurring at the end of a very few days. It may be taken ad libitum.”
Combinations: For asthmatic problems it will combine well with Lobelia and Ephedra, adding its anti-microbial effect. For whooping cough use it with Wild Cherry and Sundew.
Preparations & Dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and let infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Key constituents of thyme include thymol, carvacrol and flavonoids, often attributed with the antibacterial, antiflatulent and antiworming properties of the herb. Thyme is also used to suppress coughing, ease chest congestion and stimulate production of saliva (1).
Thymol is considered to be antihelmintic (antiworm) with particular effectiveness against hookworm, and together with carvacrol is both antibacterial and antifungal (1) (2) (3).
The German Commission E Monographs list thyme as being bronchoantispasmodic, expectorant and antibacterial (4).
Traditionally it is the thyme leaf and flowering tops that have been used therapeutically. In folk medicine thyme is used to stimulate the appetite, suppress coughing, and relieve digestive disorders such as chronic gastritis, diarrhoea in children and flatulence. It is also used to expel parasitic worms (1) (2) (5), particularly in children (6).
The overall antiseptic and tonic properties of thyme suit it well as a general boost for the immune system during times of chronic infection, and is still commonly used to remedy respiratory ailments (6).
Laboratory studies demonstrate that thymol has antifungal activity against a number of species, including Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus, Saprolegnia, and Zygorhynchus species. Further studies confirm the antibacterial actions of this constituent, with demonstrated activity against Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureas, Escherichia coli and other bacterial species (7). As an antibiotic, thymol is 25 times as effective as phenol, but less toxic (7) (8) (9).
Research in Scotland during the 1990’s suggests that thyme and its volatile oil may counter the effects of aging. Subsequent studies have confirmed thyme’s antioxidant properties, and how it helps the body maintain higher levels of essential fatty acids within the brain (6).
Thyme is generally regarded as safe when used in normal amounts, and has a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the US. Typical dosages of thyme include up to 4 grams of dried herb equivalent three times per day (1) (10).
Due to the lack of reliable information regarding large amounts of Thyme it should be limited to a moderate intake, particularly during pregnancy and breastfeeding (1).
Mechanism of Action
Key constituents of thyme include phenols (thymol, carvacrol), flavonoids, borneol, linalool, rosmarinic acid, saponins, tannins, terpenoids, and acetophenone glycosides.
Thyme and thymol have shown antibacterial activity in vitro against Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Heliobacter pylori, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Selenomonas artemidis,Streptococcus sobrinus, and Streptococcus mutans. This activity is possibly related to cell membrane perforation. Thymol has also demonstrated antifungal activity against Candida albicans, Aspergillus parasiticus, and Aspergillus flavous.
In vitro and in vivo studies show that thyme flavonoids relax tracheal and ileal smooth muscles. The mechanism of action may be inhibition of acetylcholine and histamine receptors, calcium channel antagonism, or inhibition of phasic contractions. This antispasmolytic activity may be dependent on flavone aglycone concentrations.
In vitro and in vivo studies of thyme have also demonstrated antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory effects including inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis. There are few studies on pharmacodynamic effects of thyme or thyme constituents. One study of the thyme phenolic constituents thymol and carvacrol showed rapid urinary excretion of metabolites.
Culpeper states that thyme is:
“a noble strengthener of the lungs, as notable a one as grows, nor is there a better remedy growing for hooping cough. It purgeth the body of phlegm and is an excellent remedy for shortness of breath. It is so harmless you need not fear the use of it. An ointment made of it takes away hot swellings and warts, helps the sciatica and dullness of sight and takes away any pains and hardness of the spleen: It is excellent for those that are troubled with the gout and the herb taken anyway inwardly is of great comfort to the stomach.”
John Gerard maintains it will “cure sciatica and pains in the head” and is “healing in leprosy and the falling sickness,” and in the Middle Ages it was prescribed as a cure for nightmares.
Camphor of thyme was noticed first by Neumann, apothecary to the Court at Berlin in 1725. It was called thymol and carefully examined in 1853 by Lallemand and recommended instead of phenol (carbolic acid) in 1868 by Bouilhon, apothecary, and Paquet, M.D., of Lille.
Bees’ affinity for thyme is well known. Thyme honey, made when bees collect pollen from thyme flowers, is renowned. The fine flavor of the honey of Mount Hymettus near Athens was said to be due to the wild thyme with which it was covered, being of such special flavor and sweetness that in the minds and writings of the Ancients, sweetness and thyme were inextricably linked. “The honey which comes from thyme is held to be the best and most profitable,” wrote Pliny
ANTIMICROBIAL AGENTS AND RESISTANCE
Inhibition of listeriolysin O and phosphatidylcholine-specific production in Listeria monocytogenes by subinhibitory concentrations of plant essential oils
- SMITH-PALMER*, J. STEWARTand L. FYFE*
*Department of Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Sciences, Queen Margaret University College, Clerwood Terrace, Edinburgh EH12 8TS and Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG
Corresponding author: Dr L. Fyfe. *Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh EH14 4AS.
Received 15 March 2001; revised version accepted 22 Oct. 2001.
Successful infection by Listeria monocytogenes is dependent upon a range of bacterial extracellular proteins including a cytolysin termed listeriolysin O and phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C. Five plant essential oils – bay, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and thyme – significantly reduced the production of listeriolysin O by L. monocytogenes. The greatest change was observed after culture with oil of thyme, which reduced haemolysis to 52.1 haemolytic units (HU)/ml compared with 99.85muHU/ml observed with the control. Oil of clove was the only oil that also significantly reduced phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C activity. These changes were observed despite the oils causing no change to the final bacterial concentration or total extracellular protein concentration.
Detoxifies the body of caffeine
Cleanses kidneys and bladder
Stimulates digestive system and reduces gas
Improves circulation to the lungs and thus
considered good for asthma and bronchitis
Can counteract excess acidity in the stomach
Remedy for tendency to infection
Cardamom is used for the following
Elletaria cardamomum benefits:
- freshening the breath after eating garlic
- kidneys and bladder
- detoxifies caffeine
- fighting infections
Cardamon Seed Powder
The seeds contain volatile oil, fixed oil, salt of potassium, a colouring principle, starch, nitrogenous mucilage, ligneous fibre, an acrid resin, and ash. The volatile oil contains terpenes, terpineol and cineol. —Medicinal Action and Uses—Carminative, stimulant, aromatic, but rarely used alone; chiefly useful as an adjuvant or corrective. The seeds are helpful in indigestion and flatulence, giving grateful but not fiery warmth. When chewed singly in the mouth the flavor is not unpleasant, and they are said to be good for colic and disorders of the head.
CARDAMOM: Strengthens the heart and lungs. It relieves pain, gas and sharpens the mind.
Cardamom: Like ginger, cardamom is often used to soothe digestion problems. But it is also used to treat respiratory problems such as asthma or people suffering from other kinds of respiratory spasms. Further, in Saudi Arabia, animal studies have shown cardamom to have anti-inflammatory properties, reducing muscle spasms.
The Secret World of Spices
August 1999 — Cover Story
By: Ronald C. Deis, Ph.D.
Spices do much more than impart flavor. In fact, a “secret” spice world has flourished for centuries, and is still cultivated by many cultures and modern-day herbalists. Spices and herbs have also been used for centuries as preservatives, colorants and medicinal remedies.
China, India, Greece, Rome and Egypt have a rich history in the medicinal use of spices and herbs. Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, spices have been used to combat snakebites, poor eyesight, stomach disorders, sleeping problems, poor circulation, sores, colds, muscular aches, gout, lumbago, poor digestion, motion sickness and hangovers. The apothecary industry in Europe emerged from the practice of blending spices and herbs to cure specific ills. In Middle-Age Europe, pomanders containing spice blends were popular as air purifiers, and were worn about the neck or hung in a room. Today, we might consider this potpourri.
Spices have played an even larger role in history, however. The search for new and lower-cost spices resulted in the discovery of new lands and trade routes. Exploration needed a bottom line, and since spices were highly valued, any exploration that led to a new source or new spice filled the bill.
What is a spice?
According to the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA), Englewood Cliffs, NJ, (http://astaspice.org) the proper definition of spices, as opposed to herbs or botanicals, is “any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes.” This definition includes a wide range of plants – tropical aromatics, leafy herbs, spice seeds, roots, dehydrated vegetables and spice blends.
In the past, the leaves and seeds of temperate-zone plants were known as herbs, while the term spice denoted tropical aromatics only. Over time, this classification shifted, so that in general, the term spice now covers a whole range of elements – spices, herbs, blends and dehydrated vegetables. The FDA’s definition of spices, however, does not include dehydrated vegetables, so these require separate labeling in a product, as do any color-contributing spices such as paprika, turmeric or saffron. The USDA has much the same rules as the FDA, but also requires that onion and garlic be listed as “flavors.”
Prior to the early 1800s, spices were available in whole form only, and it was up to the user to grind them. Today, we have whole spices, ground spices, seasoning blends, which may be a combination of several spices and several forms, and spice extractives. Spice extractives include essential oils (volatile aromatic fractions); oleoresins (derived by solvent extraction of the whole spice, including volatile and non-volatile fractions); liquid solubles (oleoresins plus solubilizing agents to create a liquid seasoning); dry solubles (oleoresins plated on a dry carrier); encapsulated spices; standardized oleoresins; and WONFs (essential oils plus other natural flavoring materials).
Even in Middle-Age Europe, it was well-known that spices provide important preservation qualities. Salting, smoking, or pickling were also used to inhibit spoilage, but spices were preferred, which was the reason for their considerable worth.
The most effective antimicrobial spices include garlic, onion, cinnamon, cloves, thyme and sage. Cloves, which have a high essential oil content, contain eugenol, a phenylpropanoid also present in sage and cinnamon. Allicin, present in garlic, also acts as an antimicrobial agent, as does the allyl isothiocyanate present in mustard. Thymol, present in thyme, oregano and sage, is also noted for its antimicrobial properties.
Research at Kansas State University, Manhattan, has shown that cloves have a high antimicrobial effect against Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in ground meat. Cinnamon, garlic, oregano and sage were also shown to be effective – adding 7.5% garlic and clove killed 99% of the pathogen. This percentage is a little high for palatability, but further research could lead to extractives that are effective against specific bacteria.
The best summary of what is known to date on the effectiveness of spices as antimicrobials is found in this list, adapted from L. Zaika in the Journal of Food Safety, 1988:
- Microorganisms differ in their resistance to a given spice or herb.
- A given microorganism differs in its resistance to various spices and herbs.
- Bacteria are more resistant than fungi.
- The effect on spores may be different than on vegetative cells.
- Gram-negative bacteria are more resistant than gram-positive bacteria.
- The effect may be inhibitory or germicidal (generally inhibitory).
- HAACP is still important – spices and herbs may harbor contaminants or serve as substrate for growth.
- Amounts of spices and herbs added to foods are generally too low to prevent spoilage.
- Nutrients present in spices and herbs may actually stimulate microbial growth.
- Active components may interact synergistically with other factors to increase preservative effect.
The final item refers to an effect that has been recognized for some time and is often termed the “hurdle theory.” Microorganisms can be controlled through a combination of factors, including water activity, acidity, atmosphere (aerobic/anaerobic), temperature and chemical composition. For best antimicrobial results, adjustment should be made to as many of these factors as possible, throwing a number of “hurdles” in the way of microbial growth. If a number of factors can be combined so that the preservative effects of each can be realized without impacting the sensory attributes of the food product, the project is a success. If the preservative also brings along a desirable color or antioxidant effect, so much the better.
Spices can also extend shelf life by slowing oxidation. In foods, lipid oxidation, protein oxidation, and enzymatic oxidation cause shelf-life problems. Rancidity development is an oxidative process that can be blocked by antioxidants, which block formation of free radicals by donating electrons or hydrogen ions to halt the oxidative process. While phenolic compounds such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), or tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) are all very effective, economical ingredients, they are not appropriate for a natural product. On the other hand, commercial rosemary products might be a better fit. Active compounds in this herb are diphenolic diterpenes, which are highly effective antioxidants. The main constituents include: carnosol, carnosoic acid and its esters, and lesser amounts of rosmanol, rosmaridiphenol and rosmarinic acid. Sage and thyme also contain natural antioxidative compounds.
The positive effects of antioxidants aren’t just limited to food preservation. In the body, free radicals are initiated by a number of processes – heat, UV light, radiation, alcohol and tobacco, for example. Free-radical damage to cells can limit the ability of cells to fight cancer or to limit aging. At the University of Kentucky, researchers found that Vitamin E, a strong antioxidant, can limit the death of brain cells exposed to a free-radical-stimulating protein in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Also, tests conducted by the USDA Tufts University in Boston, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have demonstrated a link between heart disease and lipid oxidation. Spices might also provide some of the same effects.
What are some of the chemical constituents responsible for the healing and preservative properties of spices and herbs? Several classes of compounds stand out, and have collectively been given the name “phytochemicals.” These are generally secondary metabolites produced by a plant as an attractant for insects or as a defense against microbial or animal attack. In our diet, these compounds can, taken in moderation with proper exercise and reduction of stress, act as one step toward improving the quality of life.
Terpenes and Terpene Derivatives:
A series of papers presented by Wang, et. al., of the food science department at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, shows that a number of spices, most notably basil, rosemary and sage, are very active anti-tumorigenic agents. Another paper by Wang, et. al. discusses the antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial activity of Dalmatian sage, Salvia officinalis. Of 25 compounds isolated from sage by alcohol extraction, four were found to be very active. Flavonoid compounds were also evaluated in ethyl extracts from rosemary; six compounds were identified. Evidence suggests that the presence of flavonoids and di- and triterpenes is responsible for the antioxidant properties of rosemary.
Spices also improve the appearance of a food. For example, at 4% to 16% carotenoids, chili peppers provide a range of red to green colors.
Paprika, turmeric and their oleoresins, as well as saffron, are approved in the United States as color additives in 21 CFR section 73, and may be used with no restrictions.
Saffron, produced from the stigma of Crocus sativas, a member of the iris family, has a very intense water-soluble, yellow-orange color. This color is caused by carotenoids, particularly crocetin and crocin, as well as P- and L-carotene, lycopene and zeazanthin. Saffron may be unique in its color and fragrance, but it is also the most expensive spice in the world, at a cost of over $300 per lb. Saffron is permitted as a natural color in the United States, but economics limits its use. Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius, is a frequent saffron substitute overseas, but is not permitted in this country. This member of the sunflower family owes its orange-red color to the flavanoid carthamin. Safflower oil, even better known as an ingredient, is a highly unsaturated oil with high vitamin E content.
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, is also a very effective natural colorant. The name Curcuma is actually derived from the Persian word “kirkum,” meaning saffron. When the roots of this plant are dried and ground, the powder produced is yellow with an orange tinge. The powder is often blended with paprika and annatto to produce the desired color. Its largest use is in prepared mustard, but it is also widely used in curry powder, pickles, relish, sausage and cheese. The extractable color in turmeric comes from curcumin, which is also a natural antioxidant.
Paprika provides a brilliant red powder derived from carotenoids – capsanthrine, capsorubin, beta-carotene and others. Paprika is produced from the pods of Capsicum annum, a mild bell pepper. Formulators usually prefer to use paprika oleoresin due to its better light stability. Product applications include blends for curry powder, cereals, sauces and baked goods.
Cinnamon can also provide a range of colors, depending on the type chosen. Cassia-type cinnamons, native to China and Indonesia, have a range of essential oil contents (cinnamic aldehyde), and provide a selection of aromas, flavors and color intensities. Ceylon-type cinnamon is very low in essential oils, and so is weak in color, flavor and aroma.
The onion family
Onions, Allium cepa, are among the top three ingredients used in recipes worldwide. (The other two are salt and pepper.) In the United States, each person consumes approximately 16 lbs. of onions per year. Fresh onions contain only about 0.01% essential oil, made up of a range of sulfide compounds. The trademark “crying effect” experienced when cutting onions is caused by thiopropanal-S-oxide and propenyl sulfenic acid. When onion is dried, its flavor and odor become more garlic-like.
One of the best-selling herbal remedies in the United States is a member of the onion family, Alliaciae, but it’s not onion. Garlic has been used as an herbal treatment for centuries. The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians believed that it increased strength and speed, and they also used it to treat wounds, infections, tumors and parasites. Garlic’s numerous purported cardiovascular, antimicrobial, antioxidative, antitumor, and cholesterol-lowering properties – which the ancients knew through practical use – are now being reinforced by modern studies. Add to that its flavor and aroma in Italian, Indian and other ethnic dishes, not to mention its effect on vampires, and garlic’s popularity is easily understood. In fact, production of garlic has increased from 140 million lbs. in 1975 to greater than 500 million lbs. today.
The active compounds in garlic are found throughout the onion family, which also includes chives. When garlic cells are damaged, alliin, an odorless amino acid, is converted by allinase to allicin, which is responsible for the characteristic odor and flavor of garlic. Allicin itself is relatively unstable, and is converted over time to ajoenes, dithiins and diallyl disulfide, all of which have been shown to possess antimicrobial, anticlotting and antioxidant activity. Garlic also contains vitamins B and C, selenium and sulfur.
According to German clinical trials using a standardized tablet marketed under the name of Kwai, garlic users who consume 600 to 900 mg per day can lower serum cholesterol an average of 12%. Meanwhile, researchers at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, have reported that heating can destroy garlic’s anti-cancer activity. As little as one minute in the microwave or 40 minutes of oven roasting can destroy the allinase responsible for the breakdown of alliin. However, if the garlic is crushed and allowed to stand for 10 minutes, the garlic retains anti-cancer activity (as determined in rat studies). These researchers also identified three water-soluble, sulfur-containing constituents – S-allyl cysteine, S-ethyl cysteine and S-propyl cysteine – that decrease cholesterol production by 40% to 60% in rat liver cells.
One last word on garlic – researchers at Clemson University in Charleston, SC have reported that feeding 3% dietary garlic powder to chickens reduces odor in poultry houses. (The offensive odor normally produced gives a new punch line to the old “why did the chicken cross the road?” joke. Answer – to get upwind of the other chickens.) According to researchers, the house now smells “like a pizzeria.” It is also possible that the garlic powder could lower the cholesterol content of the chickens’ eggs. In a follow-up study, hogs were a little more finicky about their food, but adapted well. Clemson is exploring the potential for commercializing this research. However, anything that would raise the cost of chicken feed would need considerable benefits to counter that cost.
|Aromatherapy for the Mind and Body|
Aromatherapy – using essential oils for flavoring, preservation, fragrance and healing -has been used by many cultures for centuries. The name may be new to this century, but perfumes, incense and extracts of aromatic plants are still used for therapeutic purposes. Certain essential oils have become associated with particular moods or notes.
According to aromatherapy literature, vapors can be inhaled to trigger a neurochemical release in the brain through receptors in the nose and mouth, causing the mood desired and/or evoking memories of specific personal history. Essential oils are also often used as a part of aromatherapy massage, where the oils can be worked into the skin, muscles and joints.
Aromatherapy remedies can be found for arthritis, bronchitis, colds, diarrhea, eczema, and so forth – you can’t quite go to “z,” but there are therapies for any number of ills. Does it work? The general advice is to treat any form of aromatherapy with skepticism. It may be allright to try, but aromatherapy is mostly unsubstantiated, and some “remedies” could be harmful. And remember – it is not recommended to ingest essential oils as treatment. (However, consuming a freshly-baked cinnamon bun as a relaxant is highly recommended.)
The nightshade family
The nightshade, or Solanaceae family, includes tomatoes, tobacco and, most notably in this case, the genus Capsicum. Within this group are bell peppers (sweet, mild), tabascos, paprika, and habaneros (very hot). Red cayenne peppers, the hot variety of the Capsicum group, have been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s. Believed to have originated in South America, cayenne was, according to early medical writings, used to “help digestion, provoke urine, relieve toothache, preserve the tooth from rottenness, comfort a cold stomach, expel the stone from the kidney, and take away the dimness of sight.”
All capsicums contain a crystalline alkaloid known as capsaicin (vanillyl amids of isodenoic acid), which is responsible for the pungency, or heat. The level of capsaicin determines the level of heat, which is generally measured either as pure capsaicin or by the Scoville organoleptic test. The Scoville scale was developed in 1902, and ranks heat from zero to 300,000 Scoville units. Bell peppers measure 0 on the scale; cayenne 30,000 to 50,000; chipotle 75,000; jalepeño 5,000; and habeneros 100,000 to 300,000.
Capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin make up 80% to 90% of the capsaicinoids in peppers, and are the most pungent of the capsaicinoids. Also contained are nordihydro-, homo-, and homodihydrocysaicin.
In addition to capsaicin, red peppers also are a good source of minerals including thiamine, iron and magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C, E, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and beta-carotene, which leads to some use as a colorant, along with paprika. Paprika is a capsicum obtained by drying and grinding red peppers. The brilliant red color stems from the high carotenoid content. Taste, pungency and color depend upon the type of red pepper sourced. Color is measured by spectrophotometry and is expressed as ASTA color units. Paprika oleoresin is extracted with hexane or ethylene dichloride, and is generally used in sausages, cheeses, soups and sauces.
Capsaicin has a rich history in alternative medicine, and a number of uses have been cited. It has been noted for its antimicrobial and antioxidative properties, leading to speculation that it may help to prevent cancer. Capsaicin has also been shown to provide relief for the oral mucositis (sores of the mouth) caused by chemotherapy. It acts by desensitizing the mucous membrane. When blended with sugar in a candy, it provides pain relief, while the sugar eases the capsaicin burn.
A small amount of pepper in soft, baby-type food can help stroke patients swallow their food, according to Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago. Also, according to the Herb Research Foundation, Boulder, CO, chili peppers can increase circulation in the stomach and intestines, helping digestion and decreasing flatulence.
How can capsaicin have such wide-ranging effects? It has been suggested that capsaicin acts as a counter-irritant, reducing pain and swelling, aiding circulation, stimulating perspiration, and warming or cooling the extremities. Peppers can also help break up the respiratory effects of a cold, acting as an expectorant. In Russia, one potion consisting of a couple of pods in a bottle of vodka serves to treat both internal and external maladies. This concoction seems to relieve symptoms of colds, rheumatism and stomachache, as well as serve as an ingredient in a liniment to treat skin ailments or aches and pains in the joints.
Studies are underway to confirm whether or not capsaicin, by increasing metabolic rate and body temperature, can increase the metabolism of body fat and/or slow fat absorption from the small intestine. Capsaicin is available in an over-the-counter drug, Zostrix®, for easing the pain of psoriasis, shingles, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have also indicated that capsaicin may be instrumental in blocking production of “substance P,” which conveys the message of pain to the brain.
Incidentally, capsaicin can bring an assailant to his knees with one good spray to the face – pepper spray can cause respiratory distress, eye irritation and choking. For this purpose, the more capsaicin, the better. Also, if pesky squirrels are a problem in a bird feeder, about 20,000 Scoville units on the feed will discourage squirrels, but does not affect birds.
Black pepper and white pepper are not related to the red peppers, but come from the “peppercorn” of a climbing vine, Piper nigrum. The black pepper (which includes the dark skin of the berry) is more aromatic than the white (minus the skin), but the white is more pungent in flavor. Piperine, an alkaloid, provides the pungency. The essential oil content is 80% monoterpenes, with most of the remainder sesquiterpenes. Peppers increase appetite by stimulating the taste buds, aiding digestion and increasing gastric secretion.
The ginger family
If you were to prepare for a visit to the ginger family by looking up “ginger spice” in an Internet search engine, there’d certainly be a number of hits – but perhaps not many pertaining to food. This should be a temporary situation, though – Ginger has left the Spice clan, and things should return to “normal” soon. However, outside the music world, ginger belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, which contains some important aromatic and color-producing spices such as turmeric, ginger, cardamom, grains of paradise and galangal.
When the roots of Curcuma longa are dried and ground, the result is a yellowish-orange powder called turmeric. At one time, turmeric was called Indian saffron – Marco Polo thought that he had discovered an inexpensive saffron substitute. India produces two types of turmeric: Madras, used within India, and Alleppey, which is exported. Alleppey has higher color, more flavor, more volatile oil, and more curcumin, the carotenoid responsible for the color. The active components of turmeric are the curcuminoids. Curcumin has an antioxidant effect, and it has been suggested that it has anti-inflammatory action similar to aspirin. The Chinese use turmeric to improve digestion and reduce gas, and to stimulate bile production in the liver. Herbalists recommend it for irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, and post-salmonella infection. It is also said to improve beneficial intestinal flora, while inhibiting certain harmful bacteria.
Oleoresin from ginger roots can be found in ginger ale, gingerbread, gingersnap cookies, ginger tea, ginger wine, cordials and candies, as well as a number of great Chinese, Indian and Jamaican dishes. The volatile oil of ginger contains zingiberene, AR-curcumene and farnesene, while the pungent taste is due to gingeroles and zingerone. In addition to its aromatic contribution to a food, ginger tea is often used to improve circulation, aid digestion, and treat nausea from motion sickness, pregnancy or chemotherapy.
The ginger family also houses cardamom, whose sweet, aromatic seeds contain about 8% essential oil and a number of the previously mentioned compounds. In the past, cardamom was used as an aromatic in pomanders, and as an aphrodisiac. It is an essential part of Arabic coffee, and is also used in meat and rice dishes.
Galangal is a warm, sweet, spicy aromatic root-stock like ginger. It blends well with garlic, and is considered to be an emerging ethnic ingredient, essential to many Asian dishes. Aromatic, spicy, warm and slightly bitter grains of paradise seeds are native to West Africa. In the Middle Ages, they were highly valued, but are difficult to obtain now.
The parsley family
Parsley, celery, coriander, cilantro, caraway, fennel, dill, anise and cumin belong to the Umbelliferae, or parsley family. We all know parsley leaves act as a garnish for a number of dishes, but the roots can also be used for cooking, as is celery. The fruits have a strong diuretic effect, and are used in stews or soups. Myristicin and terpenes dominate the essential oil of the fruits.
Prior to the Middle Ages, a wild form of celery referred to as selinon, or smallage, was used as a diuretic and a carminative, which is a treatment to reduce intestinal gas. Today, celery – in dehydrated, flaked and freeze-dried forms – is often used as a garnish in vegetable dishes. Celery seed, salt and oleoresin are used primarily for flavor.
Caraway is probably Europe’s oldest cultivated spice. In the past, it was used as a laxative, colic treatment and breath freshener. It has a pleasant odor similar to that of dill, and a warm, slightly bitter flavor stemming from a high concentration of carvone in the essential oil. In the 17th century, caraway was coated with sugar and served with fruit and used as a digestive, known as comfits.
Caraway and cumin are sometimes confused – their flavors have some similarities, and their seeds are similar in appearance. In Germany, cumin and caraway are combined in a liqueur called kümmel. Cumin is essential to chili powder, and is often added on top for a “real” chili flavor. Herbalists recommend cumin tea for stress, and other cultures use it as a carminative. Researchers in India are studying cumin’s anti-cancer potential – it appears to increase the activity of glutathione-S-transferase, which is active against cancer, and also blocks chromosome damage.
The word dill is derived from the Norse word for “to lull,” since it was used to lull small babies to sleep. American colonists used it for the same purpose, and also chewed the seeds for diversion in church. Today, we use two components of dill – dill seed, and the tops of the plant, which are referred to as dill weed. The seeds contain 2% to 4% essential oil, most of which is carvone (also present in caraway). The pickle industry is the largest user of dill, primarily dill-weed oil. Herbalists recommend dill tea for colic, and as a carminative.
Fennel seeds look somewhat like caraway seeds (and cumin or dill), and smell and taste like anise, which is also part of the parsley family. The essential oils of both fennel and anise seeds contain predominately anethole, which is responsible for the licorice flavor and aroma. Fennel also contains fenchone, which smells like camphor, and limonene, which smells like lemon. In the past, fennel was regarded as a diet aid. Pliny felt that fennel improved eyesight, and fennel tea and eyewash are still recommended for strained eyes. Fennel tea is also used for colic, and as a muscle relaxant, diuretic, stimulant and carminitive. As with other parsley family seeds, our early ancestors chewed fennel seeds for diversion, to curb hunger and to freshen the breath.
Both coriander and cilantro come from the same plant, Coriandrum sativum. Coriander is the dried ripened fruit, characterized by a lemon-sage note. It is used in seed, essential oil or oleoresin form. The seed is used primarily in gin and liqueurs, and is the flavor added to American cigarettes that makes them distinctive. Cilantro, sometimes known as Chinese parsley, has a parsley/citrus flavor, and is used in a dried or freeze-dried form. Cilantro is most common to Mexican sauces, Tex-Mex dishes, Chinese products and many other popular ethnic dishes.
The mint family
Lamiaceae, the mint family, hosts sage, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary – all of which have qualities beyond flavoring. Thyme is used for visual effect in foods, but its components also have antibacterial and antioxidant properties. In France, it is tied into bundles with other spices and added as bouquet garni to soups, sauces and stews. Thyme leaves are strongly aromatic; their essential oil contains primarily the phenols thymol and carvacol, as well as small quantities of thymol methyl ether, cineol, alpha-pinene and borneol. In legend, thyme has been used to soothe the throat, cure coughs, promote sleep and rid nightmares, improve digestion, cure hangovers, improve sight, warm the heart, soothe the liver, decrease hot swelling, purge phlegm, and cure pains in the loins and hips.
Thymol, which is now produced synthetically, has been used as a carminative, anti-spasmodic and counter-irritant. It can be found in cough drops, antiseptic mouthwash, liniments, anti-fungal creams and herbal teas.
The leaves of rosemary yield a product that is strongly aromatic (camphor-like) and slightly bitter. Rosemary has gained a reputation as a good natural antioxidant. The essential oil contains 1,8-cineol, camphor, borneol, bornyl acetate and alpha-pinene as primary components.
Oregano is by far the largest-selling herb/spice today, mostly because of its heavy use on pizza and in Italian dishes. Oregano is a wild plant, but is often domestically cultivated as marjoram.
Second on the list of best-selling herbs is sage, which was once grown in Middle-Age Europe and China specifically for medicinal purposes, and often taken as sage tea. Now, it is primarily used in pork sausage, poultry seasonings and stuffings.
Use of basil, like its other mint relatives, has boomed over the past 30 years, from 40,000 lbs. imported to greater than a million lbs. – most of this due to pizza and Italian foods. In the past, basil has had more symbolic purposes than medicinal, but basil does have important antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. The essential oil contains a complex and widely varied composition, depending upon the species and environmental growth conditions. Linalool, methyl chavicol and eugenol play a role in aroma, while a number of monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and phenols lend the flavor characteristics.
Cloves and allspice are both members of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, and both are high in eugenol content. Eugenol is an alcohol noted for its antimicrobial properties. Cloves contain as high as 15% essential oil, with eugenol dominating at 70% to 85%. Cloves are noted for their strong aroma and burning taste, and have been used to freshen breath, as a room deodorant, and as a preservative. In the United States, they show up in baked ham, sweet pickles, and a variety of seasoning powders. Cloves dominate the flavor of Worcestershire sauce. Allspice has a distinctive clove-like aroma, and is frequently used in seasoning powders.
Nutmeg and mace come from the same plant, Myristica fragrans, a nutmeg tree grown in India. Nutmeg is the seed, and mace is the thin tissue between the seed and the pulp. Both give off a strong aroma, contain 10% to 12% essential oil, and have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties from a complex mixture of terpenes, terpene derivatives and phenols. Notable among these are pinenes, terpinene, limonene, myrcene, linalool, terpineol, safrol, and myristicine. Myristicine is insecticidal and a hallucinogen, and the other components have anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties.
Fenugreek, a seed extract from Trigonella, a member of the bean family, contains very little essential oil, but is known for its vanilla-scented coumarin and high mucilage content. It is used as an emollient in veterinary drugs, a poultice, and in tea for dyspepsia, diarrhea, sore throats and fevers.
Science is only starting to learn the hows and whys of the intricate role that spices and herbs play in foods. So next time you think you’re only giving a product a flavor boost by sprinkling in the spice blend, remember that the secret world of spices might be working behind the scenes, providing a host of additional benefits
ANTIMICROBIAL EFFECTS OF SPICES AND HERBS
Copyright 1997 by O. Peter Snyder
Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management; St. Paul, Minnesota
Spices and herbs have been used for thousands of centuries by many cultures to enhance the flavor and aroma of foods. Early cultures also recognized the value of using spices and herbs in preserving foods and for their medicinal value. Scientific experiments since the late 19th century have documented the antimicrobial properties of some spices, herbs, and their components (17, 20).
Antimicrobial Effectiveness of Spices and Herbs
Table 1 describes the relative antimicrobial effectiveness of some spices and herbs.
Table 1. Antimicrobial Effectiveness of Spices and Herbs*
|Spices and Herbs||Inhibitory Effect|
|Cinnamon, cloves, mustard||Strong|
|Allspice, bay leaf, caraway, coriander, cumin, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme||Medium|
|Black pepper, red pepper, ginger||Weak|
* Adapted from Zaika (20).
Studies in the past decade confirm that the growth of both gram-positive and gram-negative foodborne bacteria, yeast. and mold can be inhibited by garlic, onion, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, sage, and other spices. Effects of the presence of these spices / herbs can be seen in food products such as pickles, bread, rice, and meat products. The fat, protein, water, and salt contents of food influence microbial resistance. Thus, it is observed that higher levels of spices are necessary to inhibit growth in food than in culture media (17). Table 2 is a list of various spices and herbs and their inhibitory effect on various microorganisms.
Table 2. Inhibitory Effects of Spices and Herbs*
|Spice / Herb||Microorganisms||Reference|
|Garlic||Salmonella typhymurium, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus subtilis, mycotoxigenic Aspergillus, Candida albicans||(1, 5, 9, 15)|
|Onion||Aspergillus flavis, Aspergillus parasiticus||(16)|
|Cinnamon||Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus, Aspergillus parasiticus||(1, 3, 4)|
|Cloves||Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus||(1, 7)|
|Allspice||Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus||(1, 7)|
|Oregano||Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus, Salmonella spp., Vibrio parahaemolyticus||(1, 2, 10, 12)|
|Rosemary||Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus||(19)|
|Bay leaf||Clostridium botulinum||(8)|
|Sage||Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus||(18, 19)|
|Thyme||Vibrio parahaemolyticus||(2, 12)|
* Adapted from Shelef (17).
Microbial Contamination of Spices
Spices and herbs may be contaminated because of conditions in which they were grown and harvested. Spores of both Clostridium perfringens and Bacillus cereus have been found to be present in spices and herbs (11, 13). Contaminated spices have been reported to have been causes of foodborne illness and spoilage. Fewer microorganisms are present in spices with higher antimicrobial activity such as sage, cloves, and oregano. However, all spices and herbs should be cleaned and decontaminated with ethylene oxide, irradiation, or other acceptable methods (6).
Antimicrobial Compounds in Spices and Herbs
Essential oils extracted from spices and herbs are generally recognized as containing the active antimicrobial compounds. Table 3 is a list of the proximate essential oil content of some spices and herbs and their antimicrobial components.
Table 3. Antimicrobial Components of Spices and Herbs*
|Spice / Herb||Proximate Essential Oil Content (%)||Antimicrobial Component(s)|
|Garlic||0.3 – 0.5||Allicin|
|Mustard||0.5 – 1.0||Allyl isothiocyanate|
|Cinnamon||0.5 – 2.0||Cinnamaldehyde, Eugenol|
|Cloves||16 – 18||Eugenol|
|Sage||0.7 – 2.0||Thymol, Eugenol|
|Oregano||0.8 – 0.9||Thymol, Carvacrol|
* Adapted from Shelef (17).
Allicin and allyl isothocyanate are sulfur-containing compounds. Allicin, isolated from garlic oil, inhibits the growth of both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Sulfur-containing compounds are also present in onions, leeks, and chives.
Eugenol, carvacrol, and thymol are phenol compounds and, as Table 3 indicates, are found in cinnamon, cloves, sage, and oregano. The essential oil fraction is particularly high in cloves, and eugenol comprises 95% of the fraction. The presence of these compounds in cinnamon and cloves, when added to bakery items, function as mold inhibitors in addition to adding flavor and aroma to baked products. Paster et al. (14) have shown that essential oils of oregano and thyme (which contain carvacrol and thymol) are effective as fumigants against fungi on stored grain. These investigators have proposed using them as an alternative to chemicals for preseving stored grains.
Spice extractives, such as oleoresin of rosemary, can provide inhibition of oxidative rancidity and retard the development of “warmed-over” flavor in some products. Thus, some spices not only provide flavor and aroma to food and retard microbial growth, but are also beneficial in prevention of some off-flavor development. These attributes are useful in the development of snack foods and meat products (6).
Although the antimicrobial activity of some spices and herbs is documented, the normal amounts added to foods for flavor is not sufficient to completely inhibit microbial growth. The antimicrobial activity varies widely, depending on the type of spice or herb, test medium, and microorganism. For these reasons, spice antimicrobials should not be considered as a primary preservative method (6). However, the addition of herbs and spices can be expected to aid in preserving foods held at refrigeration temperatures, at which the multiplication of microorganisms is slow.
Zaika (20) has given an excellent summary of the antimicrobial effectiveness of spices and herbs. A partial listing of this summary is as follows.
- Microorganisms differ in their resistance to a given spice or herb.
- A given microorganism differs in its resistance to various spices and herbs.
- Bacteria are more resistant than fungi.
- The effect on spores may be different than that on vegetative cells.
- Gram-negative bacteria are more resistant than gram-positive bacteria.
- The effect of a spice or herb may be inhibitory or germicidal.
- Spices and herbs harbor microbial contaminants.
- Spices and herbs may serve as substrates for microbial growth and toxin production.
- Amounts of spices and herbs added to foods are generally too low to prevent spoilage by microorganisms.
- Active components of spices / herbs at low concentrations may interact synergistically with other factors (NaCl, acids, preservatives) to increase preservative effect.
- Nutrients present in spices / herbs may stimulate growth and/or biochemical activities of microorganisms.
Thus, food product safety and shelf life depend in some part on the type, quantity, and character of spices and herbs added to the products.
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