DIETARY SPICES IN HEALTH AND DISEASES K. P. KOCHHAR Department of Physiology,All India Institute of Medical Sciences,New Delhi – 110 029
Abstract : Spices are heterogeneous collections of a wide variety of volatileand non-volatile staple dietary additives. India with its wide climaticconditions and topographical features naturally possesses wide variety of medicinal flora. Spices have a diverse array of natural phytochemicals thathave complementary and overlapping actions, including antioxidant effects, modulation of detoxification enzymes, stimulation of immune system,reduction of inflammation, modulation of steroid metabolism and antibacterial and antiviral effects. In the present essay, various studies oneffects of different well characterized spices on molecular, cellular, autocrine, paracrine and endocrine mechanisms and their role in neuromodulation,immunomodulation, anti inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic,antimutagenic and psychoactive phenomena have been reviewed.
Conclusion The capacity of spices to affect markers associated with cancer prevention mechanisms provides important leads that can guide chemoprevention strategies in the human. Data from in vitro and animal studies are promising, however, generally these studies used high doses of pure compounds or spice extracts, whose metabolism in humans has not been elucidated. Only a handful of spices and their constituents have been tested and not much is known about the interactions and contributions of spice mixtures. Given that spices are seldom consumed as single flavorings but rather as part of complex dishes, it appears reasonable to consider the potential synergistic effects of mixtures of spices within the context of the total diet. It should also be continually recognized andemphasized that as we acquire additional experience with known drugs, it often occurs that new uses for existing agents are identified. The original therapeutic utility of an agent may be expanded as new disease states are recognized and as experience with an agent affords more empirical observations upon with to base recommendations for such new therapeutic uses. Today when all over the world is experiencing an epidemiologic shift towards non-communicable diseases more and more, we do need to answer questions on whether prescription of certain select spices is beneficial in health and diseases. Controlled clinical trials including blinded trials and metanalyses of observed effects need to be done to clearly and unequivocally resolve this issue. Today when the world all over is going ‘green’ we need to channel our resources and research skills to formulate studies which clearly elucidate and elaborate the role of dietary spices in health and disease