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After turmeric beats 'incurable' cancer, the flavours that may boost your health

Numerous other spices can also add a bit of a kick to health and wellbeing

Pensioner Dieneke Ferguson beat incurable blood cancer after turning to curry spice turmeric when chemotherapy did not work.

The 67-year-old, inset, took curcumin, one of the compounds in turmeric, every day for five years to try to fight her myeloma.

Numerous other spices can also add a bit of a kick to health and wellbeing.

Herbs and spices have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, so what might be able to help you?

Turmeric powder is Dieneke Ferguson's secret weapon (Image: Getty)
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  • Pensioner riddled with cancer stuns doctors - by halting disease in its tracks with wonder spice turmeric

Turmeric for cancer protection

Compounds in turmeric, such as curcumin, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, says they protect the body from damage caused by excess free radicals, which are the result of environmental and lifestyle factors.

Rob adds: “It is now believed that low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease, including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions.

“Research is ongoing into how spices such as turmeric can help to protect against the development of these diseases.”

A number of lab studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin has anti-cancer effects. It appears to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing.

 Tip: Mix half a teaspoon of turmeric with Greek yoghurt to make a healthy dip or a spread for wraps. Also add turmeric to the cooking water when making rice or sprinkle on egg salad.

Garlic for heart health

With its unmistakable aroma and taste, garlic – a close relative of onion and leek – is a key part of cuisines around the globe.

Alix Woods, nutritionist at Quest Nutra Pharma, says: “Research suggests garlic can help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol and maintain healthy blood flow. This could be one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet – which uses a lot of garlic – is associated with good heart health.

Garlic (Image: Getty)

“It also has potent antimicrobial properties so may have a strengthening effect on our immune system too, actually helping our body to fight off infections.”

 Tip: Use garlic powder to season meat and vegetables, and to boost roasted nuts and popcorn.

Fennel seeds to relieve bloating and period pain

These sweet liquorice-flavoured seeds are traditionally used to aid digestion and combat flatulence, explains Rob. Fennel has
anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. And, according to a study published in the International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Pharmacy, women who had fennel seed extract during their periods found substantial relief from menstrual pain.

 Tip: To make a soothing tea, add a teaspoon of fennel seeds to boiling water and simmer for five minutes. Let it cool before adding a teaspoon of honey for sweetness. Also try chewing fennel seeds to help freshen your breath after eating (this is traditionally practised in India).

Saffron to help boost your mood

This is the world’s most expensive spice and was used in Persia for centuries as a medicinal tea to lift people’s mood. Research carried out by the Tehran University of Medical Sciences found that saffron could be used to help relieve premenstrual syndrome and depression.

Around 75% of women who took saffron capsules daily reported that PMS symptoms were cut by half, compared with 8% of women who took a placebo.

 Tip: Add a pinch of saffron to cooking water when preparing rice or to add flavour and colour to a tomato sauce. It’s also great when added to paella.

Numerous other spices can also add a bit of a kick to health and wellbeing (Image: Getty)

Ginger for nausea and headaches

Ginger has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties which are a result of the active compounds called gingerols, says Rob. He adds: “Traditionally, ginger has been used to treat nausea, including sickness caused by
pregnancy, chemotherapy and sea sickness.” It can also boost circulation to the extremities, says Alix, who adds: “If you’re coming down with a cold or flu, it can help increase body temperature to fight infection, and may have direct
anti-viral properties.”

The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of ginger help tackle the pain and swelling of a sore throat , says Gurpareet Bains, author of The Superfood Diet.

And, in studies, an eighth of a teaspoon of ginger treated migraine headaches as well as painkilling drugs did.

 Tip: Add ginger to stir fries, grate into sauces and dressings or steep some grated ginger in hot water with honey and lemon to relieve nausea or cold symptoms.

Cinnamon for blood sugar control

Dr Marilyn Glenville, who is a nutritionist and the author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar, says: “Studies suggest that adding cinnamon to food might help... control blood sugar, by low­ering post-meal blood sugar spikes.”

Ground cinnamon (Image: Getty)

 Tip: Sprinkle cinnamon on your cappuccino, Greek yoghurt or porridge.

Cumin to help with weight loss

Dieters who include cumin seeds into their healthy eating plans lose more weight, says Dr Glenville.

“Research has shown that adding just one teaspoon a day of cumin to yoghurt for three months will help you lose three more pounds than those who don’t.

“And that’s not all – those taking the cumin each day lost three times as much body fat as the group just taking the yoghurt without the cumin added.”

 Tip: Add it to Indian dishes and try a teaspoon a day in yoghurt.

Nutmeg to boost battle with insomnia

This spice, which is hailed as having significant sedative properties, is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat insomnia, says Gurpareet.

Nutmeg (Image: Getty)

 Tip: Add a pinch to warm milk before bed. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to raise serotonin and melatonin levels in the body, both of which can help induce sleep.

Nigella seeds for relief of allergies

These pungent seeds used in some curries have antihistamine properties. Researchers at the Humboldt University of Berlin carried out four studies on 152 patients with allergies including hay fever, bronchial asthma and atopic eczema .

They were treated with oil extracted from nigella seeds and experienced significant improvement in their symptoms.

 Tip: Fry some nigella seeds and stir into scrambled eggs at breakfast time.