This is a guest post by GatorGal and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
When faced with limited storage capability for your SHTF items, it is essential to find necessities that serve multi purposes. Such is the case with herbs and spices. Not only will they help make your years’ worth of rice tasty and palatable, but they will also provide needed health benefits.
Let’s start with answering the question – “What is the difference between a spice and an herb? The answer is simple – it depends on where it is obtained from a plant. Herbs usually come from the leafy part, whereas spices come from the seeds, fruits, roots, or bark of a plant. Herbs are easy to obtain fresh or to grow your own, because they can be grown in the U.S. On the other hand, most of our spices are bought dried, because the majority of them come from either the Far East or from tropical countries. Remember Marco Polo and the spice trade – a time when spices were more valuable than gold? Or, how about early explorers such as Columbus and Vasco da Gama sailing for months at a time, trying to find pepper and other desired spices to bring back to the king and queen? Their value was recognized then . . . and it is recognized now, as well.
For my article today, I am going to focus on spices rather than herbs for three main reasons (besides the obvious health benefits): first, they have a long shelf life and can make any bland dish taste delicious; second, spices don’t require any additional prep time when cooking; and third, they are calorie free and are light in weight in case you want to add some to your bug out bag.
According to various nutritionists, “spices are vegetables in concentrated forms”. Of course this isn’t literal, but it does point to the fact that the benefits of spices can equal – if not outperform – various vegetables. Like vegetables, spices and herbs contain thousands of healthy (phyto)nutrient compounds, including the health benefits of antioxidants. Imagine being able to turn your average dish into a disease fighting one!
There are a myriad of spices on the market, each with various disease fighting properties. However, the decision as to which ones to buy can be overwhelming at times – especially when space for storing your preps might be limited. Therefore, I have listed below the six common spices that seem to have the biggest health benefits and also which ailments they tend to target. What you are about to read is a win-win situation – the ability to have better tasting food AND better health!
•Cinnamon – As our society has been experiencing a “diabetes explosion” in recent years, this spice has gained more recognition because of its ability to lower blood sugar. Some other health benefits of cinnamon are that it fights colds and fevers, treats asthma, aids digestion, lowers triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol. In addition, it also fights and lowers inflammation, helps lower high blood pressure, and lastly, cinnamon can relieve diarrhea and an upset stomach. Whew! Can you imagine a more complete or vital ingredient to add to your daily diet?
•Turmeric (curcumin) – This spice has been used for thousands of years as even the most ancient of civilizations recognized its healing potential. Turmeric has immune boosting power, helps reduce allergies and also aids digestion. Turmeric also helps heal liver damage, skin rashes, chicken pox, tumors, diabetes, ulcers, and eye problems. Because turmeric also acts as a body and blood cleanser, it has shown the potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Still not convinced? Well, perhaps this will sway you – Turmeric has also been proven to help fight off Alzheimer’s by reducing the buildup of brain plaque, which is thought to be a contributing factor to the dreaded disease.
•Paprika (capsaicin or capsicum) – There are many benefits to using paprika, and many people like to sprinkle it onto their popcorn to do double duty as both a flavor boost and a health boost. Paprika contains carotenoids, and is known to normalize blood pressure, improve circulation, and it also aids in better digestion by improving the production of saliva and stomach acids in the body. Paprika has high amounts of vitamin C (as much as 9 times more than a tomato), it acts as an anti-inflammatory, and lastly, it is also a strong and vital antioxidant which may lower the risk of cancer. Something worth noting is that paprika comes from the capsicum pepper, which loses some of its vitamins when exposed to high heat. Therefore, peppers dried in the sun are a more nutritious and preferable method to obtain paprika than when it is dried commercially.
•Ginger – There is a reason ginger is called “herb of the gods”, because a spice so beneficial – yet delicious – could have only been sent by Zeus or Apollo himself (or so the ancient civilizations thought)! Ginger has the ability to decrease/alleviate nausea, migraines, dizziness, and also relieve pain and swelling. On top of this, it helps lessen symptoms associated with arthritis, and increases circulation in your body. It also reduces gas, fights off viruses, helps with menstrual cramps, and most notably, it helps prevent heart disease and strokes.
Note: Because ginger is an anti-inflammatory spice, it has been known to hinder blood clotting, so please add to your diet accordingly.
•Oregano –This spice is a wonder because it has the highest antioxidant activity out of any of the 39 various types of spices. Among the noted benefits of oregano are that it is a bacterial killer, it has fungus beating power, and is also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Oregano also contains a healthy dose of Vitamin K, which helps us build bones. A teaspoon of oregano has as many antioxidants as three cups of spinach. Lastly, oregano also helps fend off the stomach flu and keeps harmful bacteria from developing and multiplying.
•Garlic – Many people think of garlic as the “best of the best” and they swear by its healing powers. Eating garlic raw works best, but if you have a hard time with the pungent smell and flavor, it is helpful to dip the garlic and first coat it in honey before consuming. Garlic aids digestion, fights infections and parasites in your body, and is a powerful antibiotic. It can also increase circulation and acts as an anti-bacterial (including yeast infections). Garlic also keeps your heart healthy and lowers both blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It has even been documented that garlic helps eliminate lead and other heavy, toxic metals from the body.
Note: One last benefit of garlic is that you can give it to your dog once or twice a week to keep him worm free.
When purchasing spices, you should always double check the expiration date (although most spices have a long shelf life.) You should store them in airtight containers, and keep them away from moisture, and direct sunlight. You should also keep them away from heat – which includes NOT keeping them above your oven or fire source.
One more thing to remember – if you choose to locate and use fresh spices instead of dried ones, you should always double the amount of fresh spices you use to get the same levels of active substances and benefits that are in the dried version.
If you enjoy knocking around the kitchen, it is fun to mix spices together to make rubs to put on your meat. One of my favorite rubs (for white meat) is the following: 5 TBL turmeric, 4 TBL paprika, 2 TBL garlic salt, 2 tsp allspice, 1 TBL ginger, and 1 tsp pepper. Rub approximately 1 TBL on each piece of chicken or port.
In conclusion, bugging out doesn’t mean you can’t add some spice to your life. In fact, if you follow my recommendations above, you’ll be glad you did!
This is an entry in our nonfiction writing contest – This contest will end on June 29 2013 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive – A $250 dollar gift certificate courtesy of LPC Survival that is good for $250 off anything on their site, A WonderMill Electric Grain Mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads, and a $150 gift card for Winchester Ammo from LuckyGunner.
- Second Place winner will receive – Two Emergency Seed Banks (stored in military ammo cans) with over 33 varieties of non-hybrid garden seed courtesy of The Survivalist Blog.net from M.D. Creekmore’s personal seed stash. A $260 value.
- Third Place winner will receive – a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and a copy of my book 31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness.