“The earth has given us powerfully healing substances like spices and herbs which are potent and concentrated plant source medicines. The best spices for cleansing are those that have a warming effect, which encourages elimination, assimilation and regeneration of all the cells in the body. Warming herbs also increase the metabolism and augment the weight loss effects of a good cleansing detox.” Hima Desai
Adding herbs and spices to your diet is a really simple way of helping to promote health and energy. There are some spices in particular that will really help nourish and detoxify your body in a gentle way. Add them to your meals, drink plenty of filtered water and green vegetables and if you want to go the whole hog and really have a deep clean after December excesses, then cut out the usual offenders for a few days (meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol and processed foods).
Turmeric has long been prized for it’s all round systemic anti-inflammatory properties, (contained in the compound curcumin – which is NOT cumin). It is said to be the spice of life because many physical diseases, as well as ageing and physical problems, stem from inflammation in the body, adding turmeric to your diet has shown evidence of being able to help with them all.
Its high antioxidant content fights free radical damage and gives you more youthful skin and it supports the liver which is ideal after Christmas drinking.
How to use it:
Add it to simmering stews, curries and rice or grains as they are cooking. Use small amounts as a little goes a long way. To aid digestion or to cleanse first thing in the morning add a ¼ teaspoon to a glass of warm water, along with a slice of ginger and squeeze of lemon juice.
Cayenne Pepper and chilli
The power in chilli lies in the capsaicin, a strong and stimulating phytochemical. It seems to stimulate the entire body, almost immediately it’s eaten. It DOES stimulate the digestion and the liver. By supporting liver function we assist the body to eliminate toxins. Chilli is loaded with vitamin C and also helps the body to assimilate nutrients, so it’s always beneficial to add some into your food.
How to use it:
Add a pinch of cayenne into warm water with lemon in the morning. Add chillies whole or finely chopped into practically any dish – test the heat first. (If you’re adding whole, remember to warn people first, or take them out. ‘Oh look you’ve bitten on a chilli’ is my Uncle’s favourite game…I learned the hard way as a child!)
Antioxidant rich spices and herbs include: ginger, rosemary, fenugreek, parsley and fennel. All of these are ideal to add to meals if you want to clean your body from the inside out and get glowing, and adding saffron or drinking saffron tea will lift your mood no end.
Here’s a recipe to get you started in 2014, it’s wholesome and nourishing and judging by its reception in my house, you might want to make double…
Harira to warm your heart and soul
• A knob of butter (goats butter is great for this)
• 3 good lamb bones (sold in most supermarkets) you can opt to add extra lamb meat but it’s not necessary
• 1 large onion – diced
• 2 sticks of celery – diced
• 1 large carrot – chopped
• A thumb of fresh ginger –peeled and finely diced
• 1 red chilli – this makes it fairly hot, use less if you want a milder soup
• Half a bunch of flat leaf parsley – leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
• Half a bunch of coriander – leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• A small pinch of saffron (optional)
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 tin of chick peas – drained
• A good handful of red lentils
• 1 lemon – cut into wedges
• Sea salt
Serve with optional dates, figs or hard boiled eggs
• In a large, lidded pan heat a knob of butter, goats butter is the closest substitute for ‘smen’ a salted, fermented butter used in much North African cuisine.
• Brown the meaty parts of the bones (and any meat you’re using), remove from the pan.
• Add the celery, onion, carrot, ginger and chilli and fry until softened but not browned.
• Add the parsley and coriander stalks, cinnamon, saffron, turmeric, tomato puree, 1 tsp salt and a good grind of pepper, the chickpeas, the browned bones and 2 litres of water. (If you can“t get that much water into your pan then add as much as you can and more when you take the bones out later).
• Put the lid on and simmer over a low heat for at least 2 hours if not more, stirring occasionally and adding more water as required.
• 45 minutes before serving add a good handful of red lentils and remove the bones.
• Allow them to cool and pull off any meat – add this back to the soup and taste for seasoning.
• Serve the soup with a good squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of coriander and parsley leaves.
• Tradition would suggest serving a small bowl of dried fruit and some hard boiled eggs to add in to the soup, but I find that Tzatziki works wonders.
Should serve 4 as a light lunch, may only serve 2