Touring the World of Indian Spices

Picture of Royal Khyber Food on Table with Menu

Since nearly 1,000 years before early explorers sailed unknown waters in search of a shorter trade route to India, the infamous spices of this region have captivated and enthralled palates from around the world. Once valued as highly as gold and silver, spices still play an important role in all regional cuisines (even though they are much more affordable and available to the masses) and they play an even more important role in our health. Indian spices, with their wide range of flavors, textures, and influences, quite possibly could be some of the healthiest, especially when coupled with fresh, whole foods and the vegetarian traditions of northern India. However, not all Indian-style restaurants use fresh, whole ingredients. Many rely on premade spice mixes and blends, and do not hand-grind spices daily like the chefs at Royal Khyber in South Coast Village. The meticulous attention to detail and artful infusion of these exotic flavors will not only please the taste buds, but also will treat your body to a cornucopia of beneficial nutrients.




The List


AjwainAjwain (Oreango/Carom) – Strongly pungent and aromatic, ajwain seeds are one of the popular spices commonly feature in Indian cuisines. Botanically, the spicy seeds belong to the family of Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), of the genus; Trachyspermum. Scientific name: Trachyspermum copticum. The Umbellifers are the members of carrot or parsley family, which includes many herbs and spices such as dill, fennel, anise seed, and caraway. Some of the common names for the seeds are ajowan seeds, carom seeds, etc. They contain thymol oil, which gives a taste reminiscent of thyme. it is used in lentil dishes, vegetable parathas, pakoras and meat dishes.

Ajwain seeds contain health benefiting essential oils such as thymol, a monopterone. In addition, they also comprise in small amounts other phyto-chemicals such as pinene, cymene, limonene and terpinene. The active principles in the ajwain may help increase the digestive function of the intestinal tract by increasing the flow of natural stomach enzymes. Thymol, the essential oil obtained from ajwain has local anesthetic, anti-bacterial and antifungal properties. Like caraway, ajowan seeds are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.




asafoetidaAsafoetida – Also known as asant, food of the gods, giant fennel, jowani badian, stinking gum, Devil’s dung, hing and ting. Asafoetida, or asafetida (ferula assa-foetida), is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the living underground rhizome or tap root of several species of FerulaIt from the parsley family, by making small incisions in the tap root. It is most commonly found in powdered form. When cooked, it has a truffle-like flavor and a roasted garlic aroma.

There is some scientific evidence that the chemicals in asafoetida might help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and also might protect against high blood levels of certain fats including cholesterol and triglycerides. Chemicals called coumarins in asafoetida can thin the blood. Asafoetida is used for breathing problems including ongoing (chronic) bronchitis, H1N1 “swine” flu, and asthma. It is also used for digestion problems including intestinal gas, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and irritable colon. Other uses include treatment of “whooping cough” (pertussis), croup, and hoarse throat. Some people use asafoetida for hysteria, insanity, convulsions, and as a nerve stimulant for ongoing mental and physical fatigue with depression (neurasthenia).




bayleavesBay Leaves – Botanically, bay tree belongs to the family of Lauraceae of the genus; Laurus. Scientific name: Laurus nobilis. These fragrant leaves with pointed ends are used in their dried form. These are used in curries and rice preparations.

This spice contains many notable plants derived compounds, minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. It contains volatile active components such as α-pinene, β-pinene, myrcene, limonene, linalool, methyl chavicol, neral, α-terpineol, geranyl acetate, eugenol, and chavicol. These compounds are known to have been antiseptic, anti-oxidant, digestive, and thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Bay leaves are very rich source of vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin A, niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. These B-complex groups of vitamins help in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function, and regulating body metabolism.

This noble spice is also a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome-oxidase enzymes.




cardamonCardamom (Elaichi) – Elettaria Cardamomum is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family. Fruits and seeds leave pleasant aroma with sweet, pungent taste behind when chewed. Cardamom has a sweet, lemony, eucalyptus flavor. It is world’s second most expensive spice. It is one of India’s favorite spices, used in curries, savory and sweet dishes, ice cream and custards. It is often combined with almonds and saffron. It can be used to flavor tea and also is great with black coffee.

It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to remove fat and as a cure for urinary and skin complaints. Egyptians chewed cardamoms to whiten their teeth and simultaneously sweeten their breath. The seeds are aromatic, sweet cooling, carminative (cures flatulence), digestive, stimulant and tonic. Cardamom finds usage in indigestion, anorexia, burning sensation, debility, asthma. It contains many plants derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties.

The pods contain many essential volatile oils that include pinene, sabinene, myrcene, phellandrene, limonene, 1, 8-cineole, terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinen-4-oil, a-terpineol, a-terpineol acetate, citronellol, nerol, geraniol, methyl eugenol, and trans-nerolidol.

Cardamom is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese, PLUS are rich in many vital vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health.




cayenepeperCayenne Pepper (Lal Mirch) – is a spice made from the seeds of plants in the capsicum family. Cayenne peppers’ bright red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. It includes both the ground seeds as well as the dried flesh. The fruit of the capsicum plant is used to make medicine.

Capsicum is used for various problems with digestion including upset stomach, intestinal gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps. It is also used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including poor circulation, excessive blood clotting, high cholesterol, and preventing heart disease. Other uses include relief of toothache, seasickness, alcoholism, malaria, and fever. It is also used to help people who have difficulty swallowing.

Some people apply capsicum to the skin for pain caused by shingles, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. It is also used topically for nerve pain (neuropathy) associated with diabetes and HIV, other types of nerve pain (neuralgia), and back pain. It is also used on the skin to relieve muscle spasms, as a gargle for laryngitis, and to discourage thumb-sucking or nail-biting. Used to treat hay fever, migraine headache, cluster headache, and sinus infections (sinusitis).

One form of capsicum is currently being studied as a drug for migraine, osteoarthritis, and other painful conditions. The fruit of the capsicum plant contains a chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin seems to reduce pain sensations when applied to the skin.




chiliesChilies (Mirchi) – it is the hottest flavor on earth. The chili is actually a fruit pod from the plant belonging to the nightshade family of Solanaceae, within the genus; capsicum. Scientific name: Capsicum annum. Some common members of nightshade family are tomato, aubergine, potato, etc. The hot vindaloo curries are made from the hottest chilies.

Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin (a main component) has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals.

Fresh chili peppers, red and green, are rich source of vitamin C. vitamin A, and flavonoids like b-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help to protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions.

This noble spice is also a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome-oxidase enzymes.

Chilies contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1).

Just 100 g (about 4 oz.) of chilies provides (in % of recommended daily allowance): 240% of vitamin C, 39% of vitamin B-6, 32% of vitamin A, 13% of iron, 14% of copper, and 7% of potassium – but is 100% cholesterol free.




cilantroCilantro (Hara Dhaniya) – The leaves are like those of flat-leaved parsley, but darker. The leaves have a very distinctive bitter-sweet taste. The seed of the cilantro is known as coriander. (see next for seeds) Cilantro is rich in antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, and dietary fiber, which help reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol” while increasing HDL or “good cholesterol” levels. Its leaves and seeds are bursting with essential volatile oils such as borneol, linalool, cineole, cymene, terpineol, dipentene, phellandrene, pinene and terpinolene. The leaves and stem tips are also rich in numerous anti-oxidant polyphenolic flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol, rhamnetin and epigenin. A good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Vital vitamins abound, including folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C that is essential for optimum health. Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant. 100 g of cilantro leaves provide 30% of daily recommended levels of vitamin-C, about 225% of Vitamin A. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin A and flavonoids (carotenes) helps body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. If that were not enough, cilantro is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K (258% of DRI) – Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone mass building by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.


corianderCoriander – The seed of the cilantro is known as coriander. (see above for leaves). Coriander is a tender hollow stemmed plant in the Apiaceae family, of the genus: Coriandum. Its scientific name is Coriandum sativum. Pleasant, aromatic and spicy. Coriander has been in used for thousands of years in cooking as well as in various traditional medicines. Coriander seed oil has been found application in many traditional medicines as analgesic, aphrodisiac, anti-spasmodic, deodorant, digestive, carminative, fungicidal, lipolytic (weight loss), stimulant and stomachic.

Coriander seeds have anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties via the generous amount of fatty acids and essential volatile oils. Some important fatty acids in the dried seeds include petroselinic acid, linoleic acid (omega 6), oleic acid, and palmitic acid. In addition, the seeds contain essential oils such as linalool (68%), a-pinene (10%), geraniol, camphene, terpine etc. Together they are responsible for the digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties of the coriander seed.

As in many other spices, coriander is also rich in dietary fiber. Dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon to assist in lowering serum LDL cholesterol levels. Together with the flavonoid anti-oxidants and dietary fiber is a strong defense in protecting the colon mucus membrane from cancers as well as well as the prevention of diverticulitis and other IBS’s.

Excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium. A surprising 100 g of dry seeds provide 21 mg or 35% of RDI of vitamin C and an amazing amount of vital B-complex vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.




cinamonCinnamon (Dalchni/Canella) – is the dried bark of various laurel trees in the cinnamomun family. Cinnamon has been consumed since 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, where it was very highly prized. In medieval times doctors used cinnamon to treat conditions such as coughing, arthritis and sore throats. Cinnamon is currently used to help treat muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, the common cold, and loss of appetite. In addition, some men claim cinnamon is effective in treating erectile dysfunction (ED).

Research suggests that cinnamon can lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes UK – Cassia cinnamon has been shown to have the most effect on blood sugar in humans. Cinnamon may help improve glucose and lipids levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, from a study published in Diabetics Care. The study authors concluded that consuming up to 6 grams of cinnamon per day “reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.” and that “the inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.” Cinnamon can reduce fasting blood sugar levels in patients, researchers reported in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation.

According to the National Institutes of Health, cinnamaldehyde, a chemical found in Cassia cinnamon, can fight against bacterial and fungal infections.

Tel Aviv University researchers discovered that cinnamon could be the key to Alzheimer’s prevention. According to Prof. Michael Ovadia, of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, an extract found in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, contains properties that can inhibit the development of the disease. Whilst a survey of some Indian medicinal plants for anti-HIV activity revealed that cinnamon can be effective against HIV. According to the study authors “the most effective extracts against HIV-1 and HIV-2 are respectively Cinnamomum cassia (bark) and Cardiospermum helicacabum (shoot and fruit).”

Tel Aviv University researchers discovered that cinnamon could be the key to Alzheimer’s prevention. According to Prof. Michael Ovadia, of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, an extract found in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, contains properties that can inhibit the development of the disease. Whilst a survey of some Indian medicinal plants for anti-HIV activity revealed that cinnamon can be effective against HIV. According to the study authors “the most effective extracts against HIV-1 and HIV-2 are respectively Cinnamomum cassia (bark) and Cardiospermum helicacabum (shoot and fruit).”

Cinnamon may help stop the destructive process of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a neurological scientist at Rush University Medical Center.

Penn State researchers revealed that diets rich in cinnamon can help reduce the body’s negative responses to eating high-fat meals.

Cinnamon intake has also been associated with relieving pain among arthritis sufferers. It may also boost the body’s immune system, prevent the formation of blood clots, AND at the very least, relieves indigestion!




clovesCloves (Luong) – Cloves belong to the family of Myrtaceae of the genus; Sygyzium, and is scientifically named as Sygizium aromaticum. They are small dried flower bud of the tropical evergreen tree of the myrtle family. They have been used in India for thousands of years, not only in cooking, but to sweeten the breath and to relieve the pain of toothache because they contain a mild anesthetic. Whole cloves are frequently used to flavor meat dishes, curries, and soups.

The active principles in the clove are known to have antioxidant, anti-septic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing), carminative and anti-flatulent properties. They provide health boosting essential oils such as eugenol. Eugenol has local anesthetic and antiseptic properties. Other essentials include acetyl eugenol, beta-caryophyllene, vanillin, crategolic acid, plus tannins (allotannic acid, methyl salicylate – a painkiller), flavonoids (eugenic, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and eugenitin), triterpenoids (oleanolic acid, stigmasterol and campesterol) and several sesquiterpenes. Clove may increase gut motility as well as improve the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions helping to alleviate indigestion and constipation problems.

Cloves are infused with minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and magnesium as well as generous amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamin K, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), vitamin C and riboflavin.




cuminCumin (Jeera) – comes from the parsley family. The plant is the small flowering herbaceous plant belonging to the family of Apiaceae of the genus of; Cuminum, and scientifically known as Cuminum cyminum. It is used to flavor rice, stuffed vegetables, many savory dishes and curries. It combines well with cilantro and is widely used in beef dishes.

Cumin seeds contain numerous phyto-chemicals known to have antioxidant, carminative and anti-flatulent properties. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber.

Cumin seeds contain essential oils such as cuminaldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde), pyrazines, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, and2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine. Also a good source of flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, and lutein. The seeds are packed with minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. To top it off, lots of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, and other important anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin C can be found in cumin.




curryleavesCurry leaves (or Kari putha/ Neem) – both leaves and bark/stems are used and is in the citrus group of trees (closely related to the orange). They can be used fresh or dried. Though they often are used to make curries, they are not actually “curry” which is a mix of spices in various formulations.

According to a 2004 article published by the BBC, researchers have found curry-leaf extracts “appear to restrict the action of a digestive enzyme called pancreatic alpha-amylase, which is involved in the breakdown of dietary starch to glucose.”

Acting as a mild laxative, they may help with multiple digestive problems and also may help treat morning sickness. Curry leaves also may be beneficial in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery, as well as increase the appetite. The bark or root of the curry plant has been used to relieve kidney pain, prevent prematurely graying hair, and treat eye disorders. Traditional healers use curry leaves to treat insect bites, burns and bruises, but more research is needed to determine the specific benefits of curry leaves in those areas.




fennelseedsFennel (Soonf) – a small oval seed from Pimpinella Anisum, a plant in the parsley family. It has a sweet and anise seed flavor. Used sparingly, it gives warmth and sweetness to curries. The seeds combine well with peanuts and the zest of citrus fruit. Roasted fennel seeds are chewed to freshen the breath after the meal.

Fennel is a perennial, native to the Mediterranean, but is now found throughout the world. Dried fennel seeds are often used in cooking as an anise-flavored spice. But don’t confuse fennel with anise; though they look and taste similar, they are not the same.

Fennel’s dried ripe seeds and oil are often used to make remedies of one kind or another. In traditional, folk, and holistic medicine, fennel is used for numerous digestive problems including heartburn, intestinal gas, bloating, loss of appetite, and colic in infants. It is also used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, bronchitis, cholera, backache, bed wetting, and visual problems. Fennel powder is even used as a poultice for snakebites.

A clinical trial shows that breast-fed infants with colic who are given a specific multi-ingredient product containing fennel, lemon balm, and German chamomile cry for a shorter period of time than other infants with colic. Fennel might relax the colon and decrease respiratory tract secretions.




fenugreekFenugreek (Kasuri Methi) – is a short upright plant related to spinach. Fenugreek is used to add flavor to meat dishes. It is also considered as an aphrodisiac.

Fenugreek is used to increase appetite as well as sooth an upset stomach, constipation, and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach). It is also used for conditions such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and for high blood levels of certain fats including cholesterol and triglycerides.

Fenugreek is used for kidney ailments, a vitamin deficiency disease called beriberi, mouth ulcers, boils, bronchitis, cellulitis (infection of the tissues beneath the surface of the skin), tuberculosis, chronic coughs, chapped lips, baldness, cancer, and lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes. It is sometimes used as a poultice to treat local pain and swelling/inflammation, muscle pain, lymphadenitis (pain and swelling of lymph nodes), pain in toes (gout), wounds, leg ulcers, and eczema. Fenugreek appears to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin. Both of these effects lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.




garlicGarlic (Lassan) – closely related to the onion. Garlic is an herb. It is best known as a flavoring for food. For thousands of years garlic has been used as a medicine to prevent or treat a wide range of diseases and conditions.

Garlic is used to treat many conditions of the heart and blood including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Man of these uses are supported scientifically. Garlic actually may be quite effective in slowing the development of atherosclerosis and seems to be able to modestly reduce blood pressure. Traditionally throughout the world garlic is used to prevent colon, rectal, stomach, breast, prostate, bladder and lung cancer.

Garlic has been tried for treating an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia; BPH), diabetes, osteoarthritis, hay-fever (allergic rhinitis), traveler’s diarrhea, high blood pressure late in pregnancy (pre-eclampsia), cold and flu, boosting the immune system, preventing tick bites, and preventing and treating bacterial and fungal infections. Garlic is also used as a treatment for fever, coughs, headache, stomach ache, sinus congestion, gout, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, high blood sugar, and snakebites. It is also used for fighting stress and fatigue, and maintaining healthy liver function. Plus there is some evidence that fresh garlic, but not aged garlic, can kill certain bacteria such as E. coli, antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella enteritidis in the laboratory. Garlic produces a chemical called allicin. Allicin is what makes makes garlic smell so pungent.




gingerGinger (Adrak) – the fresh root of ginger is a rhizome. Ginger can be used in sweet dishes, desserts, or in piquant dishes such as hot curries and stir fries. Ginger is also commonly regarded as an aphrodisiac. It is another herb used as a spice and as a medicine.

Ginger is commonly used to treat various types of “stomach problems,” including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, nausea as well as loss of appetite. Ginger is also used for relief from arthritis or muscle soreness, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, and bronchitis. Ginger is also sometimes used for chest pain, low back pain, and stomach pain. One of the chemicals in ginger is an ingredient in laxatives and anti-gas/antacid medications. Ginger shows to reduce nausea and inflammation. Researchers believe the chemicals work primarily in the stomach and intestines, but they may also work in the brain and nervous system to control nausea.




kokumKokum/Cokum (Garcinia indica) – a plant in the mangosteen family (Clusiaceae), commonly known as kokum, is a fruit-bearing tree that has culinary, pharmaceutical, and industrial uses. It contains the same souring qualities as tamarind, especially enhancing coconut-based curries or vegetable dishes like potatoes, okra or lentils. Cokum/Kokum is especially used with fish curries, three or four skins being enough to season an average dish. It is also included in chutneys and pickles.

A surprising amount of research has been done on this versatile spice/fruit. It’s phytoconstituents & flavonoids are abundant. It has anti-bacterial qualities – combats salmonella, e-coli, MSRA (resistant staph) and other potentially harmful bacteria. It has also been proven to inhibit the growth of several dangerous types of fungus. Derivatives have been used to help stop the effects of UV-B in skin care as anti-aging therapies and topical treatments. This is because it’s properties have been shown to absorb UV-B.

Garcinina has also shown a strong neuroprotective potential in Parkinson’s disease on rats, while other studies have concluded that Kokum reduces glucose intolerance, reduces and eliminates stomach ulcers, significantly reduces total cholesterol, reduces appetite in the obese (in several ways), is anti-inflammatory (acute and chronic), has strong anti-free radical properties, significantly inhibits carcogensis – or rather it inhibits the growth of cancer cells (colon, prostate, breast, pancreatic, & tongue/throat carcinomas. It also harmonizes blood pressure and could also prevent atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries). The juice, a summer go-to, also protects the body from dehydration and sunstroke (now known to be the effect of it’s UV-B and possibly other UV absorption).




mangopowderMango powder (Amchur) – This sour powder is made from unripe mangoes. Amchur is an essential ingredient in making Chaat Masala.

According to a recent animal study conducted by a research group lead by Edralin Lucas, an associate professor in Nutritional Sciences in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at Oklahoma State University, incorporating mango in the diet could aid in reducing body fat and controlling blood sugar. Lucas states “Mango contains many nutrients and other bioactive compounds that can provide various health benefits aside from what we investigated – It is high in fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as other minerals and phytochemicals. In addition to the positive effects on body fat, blood lipids and glucose, it is not associated with serious side effects such as negative effects on bone that is linked with the use of rosiglitazone, a drug commonly used to lower blood sugar.”





mintMint (Pudina) – Indian mint has a stronger flavor and more pungent aroma than Western varieties.

Mint is a great appetizer or palate cleanser, and it promotes digestion. It’s simple, the aroma of mint activates the salivary glands in our mouth as well as glands which secrete digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating digestion. It also soothes stomachs in cases of indigestion or inflammation and studies have concluded it helps sooth the effects of motion sickness.

Not only does mint calm and sooth the stomach, it works the same magic on skin. In addition to soothing and calming your skin, mint may also help out your skin in another way. Mint contains a nutrient called perillyl alcohol, and studies have shown that it may prevent the formation of skin cancer cells. Other studies indicate that it may even help prevent lung and colon cancer! It is an herb that has been used for hundreds of years for its many remarkable medicinal properties. Extracts from mint leaves have been shown to block the release of histamines that occur in the severe nasal symptoms associated with hay fever and seasonal allergies. A recent study explored the effects that mint has on alertness, retention, and cognitive function. It found that people who frequently use mint chewing gum, had higher levels of memory retention and mental alertness than those who did not. Mint also stimulates the digestive enzymes that absorb nutrients from food and consume fat and turn it into usable energy. Therefore, by adding mint to your diet, you are increasing the amount of fat that is being consumed and put to use, rather than being stored and contributing to your weight gain. It adds to oral health by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth inside the mouth and by cleaning the tongue and teeth.




mustardseedsMustard seeds (Rai) – Mustard seeds have been highly prized medicinally as well as being used as a culinary spice since ancient times. The seeds are obtained from mustard plant belonging to Brassica family which also includes cabbage, broccoli,brussels-sprouts, etc. Scientific name: Brassica juncea. In Indian cooking mustard seeds are a popular addition to dishes such as vegetable, beans, pastries and pickles.

Mustard seeds are very rich in phyto-nutrients, minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants, proteins, dietary fiber, essential oils and plant sterols. Some of important sterols include such asbrassicasterol, campesterol, sitosterol, avenasterol and stigmasterol. Some of glucosinolate and fatty acids in the seeds include sinigrin, myrosin, erucic, eicosenoic, oleic, and palmitic acids. An excellent source of essential B-complex vitamins such as folates, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), pantothenic acid. These vitamins are essential in the sense that the body requires them from external sources to replenish. Niacin is a part of nicotinamide co-enzymes, helps lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Mustard seeds contain flavonoid and carotenoid antioxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, and lutein. In addition, the seeds compose a small amount of vitamin anti-oxidants such as vitamin A, C, and K. The seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, calcium, manganese, copper, iron, selenium and zinc are some of the minerals especially concentrated in these seeds. Its ground seeds act as a laxative, stimulant to gastric mucosa and increase intestinal function.




nutmegNutmeg and Mace (Jaiphal and Javitri) – is the seed of an evergreen tree. Mace is the fleshy lattice, covering of the nutmeg (hard nut), which is golden brown in color. Nutmeg has more robust flavor than mace, but they are otherwise very similar. Nutmeg and mace are used to make medicine.

Nutmeg and mace are used to treat or lessen the effects of diarrhea, nausea, stomach spasms and pain, and intestinal gas. They are also both used for treating cancer, kidney disease, and trouble sleeping (insomnia), and as a general tonic. Nutmeg and mace are applied to the skin to kill pain, especially pain caused by achy joints (rheumatism), mouth sores, and toothache. They contain chemicals that affect the central nervous system. Nutmeg and mace might also kill bacteria and fungi.




onionseedsOnion Seeds (Kalonji) – small, irregular shaped black seeds of Kalonji plant that grows in India. It is scientifically recognized as Nigella sativa, Latin for “black plant.” There are many names for this spice, including: black onion seed, black seed, black cumin, black caraway, black sesame seeds, Kalanji, chanushka, the blessed seed, fitch and “love in the mist”.

According to, Nigella sativa contains up to 38 percent oil and up to 2.5 percent essential oil. It also contains calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and sodium. Their dietary ration is 21% protein, 35% carbohydrate and 36% fat.

Uses of Nigella sativa (onion seeds) include the treatment of asthma, diarrhea and dyslipidemia or abnormal concentrations of lipids in the blood. A King Saud University study involving the department of veterinary medicine in Saudi Arabia, studied the changes experienced by the influence of the seed’s essential oil on rats. They found the oil to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, fever reducing, antineoplastic (preventing the spread of malignant cells), and pain-relieving properties. They also report that the oil “reduces blood pressure and increases respiration.” The rats showed an increase in hemoglobin and a reduction in glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol. The benefits may lie in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but more studies are needed for definitive benefits.

In a September 2008 study led by Harran University medical director, Dr. Fahrettin Yildiz of Turkey, reported that Nigella sativa countered ischemia (lack of blood flow). This is promising for many types of transplant surgery with the reperfusion, or return of blood flow, to the transplanted organ. Researchers cite the active ingredient as thymoquinone, which has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

In a 2003 study by Humboldt University School of Medicine in Berlin, researchers evaluated the effects of Nigella sativa on allergies involving 152 people with some variation of allergic rhinitis, asthma or eczema. The participants were given capsules of 40 to 80 mg a day of Nigella sativa oil. Given a definitive scale to rate their symptoms, all reported some level of improvement with the treatment. The results proved, reported the researchers, “to be an effective adjuvant (aid) for the treatment of allergic diseases.”




papricaPaprika – ground from dried sweet peppers (family Capsicum Annum, relative of chili) the fruits of a tropical evergreen bush. Paprika is so much more than a colorful garnish, it’s a nutritional powerhouse loaded with health-enhancing benefits including digestive troubles, cramps, circulations problems, and shingles.

Paprika’s top benefit is that it is extremely high in vitamin C. A whole paprika pepper is known to have six to nine times the amount of vitamin C as a tomato. Because of its high C content, paprika can also help you absorb iron-rich foods and may help your body fight common infections.

Peppers, especially those that are used to produce paprika, are loaded with capsaicin, the phytochemical that makes them taste hot. Capsaicin is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can ease chronic conditions like arthritis and joint pain. Capsaicin also helps improve blood circulation, thereby improving conditions like cold feet and hands. Paprika also has plant enzymes that can help neutralize stomach acids, thus aiding digestion.




peppercornsPeppercorns (Kali Mirchi) – pepper’s name comes form the Sanskrit Pippali nigrum, which means “black spice”. Pepper is the only spice that us used to flavor food before, during and after cooking.

Peppercorns contain an impressive list of plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties. Essential oils such as piperine, an amine alkaloid, are what gives the strong spicy pungent character to the pepper. It also contains numerous monoterpenes hydrocarbons such as sabinene, pinene, terpenene, limonene, mercene, etc.

Besides increasing gastro-intestinal enzymes, it has also been found that piperine can increase absorption of selenium, B-complex vitamins, beta-carotene, as well as other nutrients from the food.

Black peppercorns contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, and magnesium. They are also an excellent source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as Pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin. Peppercorns are a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin A. They are also rich in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants like carotenes, cryptoxanthin, zea-xanthin and lycopene. These compounds help the body remove harmful free radicals and help protect from cancers and diseases.




szafran-sSaffron (Zaffran) – this spice is made from orange colored dried stigmas of the especially cultivated crocus. It takes 75 stamens to make only 100 g (4 oz) of the spice, and so Saffron is one of the highly prized spices. Known through antiquity for its color, flavor and medicinal properties. Saffron is used to color rice dishes, sweets, puddings, sauces and soups to bright yellow.

The flower stigma are composed of many essential volatile oils but the most important being safranal, which gives saffron its distinct hay-like flavor. Other volatile oils in saffron are cineole, phenethenol, pinene, borneol, geraniol, limonene, p-cymene, linalool, terpinen-4-oil, and etc. Plus it contains many non-volatile active components, like the carotenoids α-crocin, zea-xanthin, lycopene, α- and β-carotenes. These are important antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant-induced stress, cancers, infections and acts as immune modulators. Research studies have shown that, safranal, a volatile oil found in the spice, has antioxidant, cytotoxicity towards cancer cells, anticonvulsant and antidepressant properties. Αlfa-crocin, a carotenoid compound, which gives the spice its characteristic golden-yellow color, has been anti-oxidant, anti-depressant, and anti-cancer properties. Some of its benefits also include anti-spasmodic, carminative, and diaphoretic.

The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant. A bountiful source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Additionally, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.




tamarindTamarind (Amli) – is the sticky, dried, brown pod of the evergreen tree. Botanically, the tree is among the large tropical trees belonging to the family of Fabaceae, of the genus:Tamarindus. Scientific name: Tamarindus indica. In India, tamarind is mostly combined with meat or legumes (lentils, chick peas or beans). It adds a distinctive cooling quality to curries, chutneys.

Tamarind fruit contains certain health benefiting essential volatile chemical compounds, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber. A rich source of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) or dietary-fiber such as gums, hemicelluloses, mucilage, pectin and tannins. 100 g of fruit pulp provides 5.1 or over 13% of dietary fiber. Dietary fibers in the pulp bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon; thereby helping to reduce “bad” or LDL cholesterol levels. Tamarind is rich in tartaric acid. Tartaric acid gives a sour taste to food but is also a very powerful antioxidant. (Anti-oxidant E-number is E334).

Tamarind fruit contains many volatile phytochemicals such as limonene, geraniol, safrole, cinnamic acid, methyl salicylate, pyrazine and alkyl­thiazoles. An awesome source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium, tamarind contains thiamin (36% of daily required levels), vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

Its pulp has been used in many traditional medicines as a laxative, digestive, and as a remedy for biliousness and bile disorders. It is also used as emulsifying agent in syrups, decoctions, etc., in different pharmaceutical products.




tumericTurmeric (Haldi) – comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a leafy plant related to ginger. It is mildly antiseptic. Turmeric is an essential spice in Indian food, giving a rich, appetizing color. It is used in curries, fish dishes and with beans because of its digestive properties. Research shows that turmeric inhibits blood clotting, reduces liver toxins, and helps the liver metabolize fats and so aids weight loss.

Turmeric is used to treat or lessen the effects of arthritis, dyspepsia (heartburn), stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems and gallbladder disorders. It is also used for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual problems, and cancer. Other uses include depression, Alzheimer’s disease, water retention, worms, and kidney problems. Some people apply turmeric to the skin for pain, ringworm, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, inflammatory skin conditions, soreness inside of the mouth, and infected wounds. The chemicals in turmeric may even decrease swelling (inflammation).

Don’t confuse turmeric with Javanese turmeric root (Curcuma zedoaria).



In Conclusion


Together, these spices create the authentic flavors and textures that define traditional Indian cuisine. Best of all, some of them have been linked to many health benefits and should be prudently used as part of a healthy diet. At Royal Khyber you can count on the highest standards in fine dining hospitality, cuisine excellence and quality ingredients that will nourish and replenish.

Compiled & Written by Sherry L. Sparks – Copyright © by Royal Khyber 2013 – All Rights Reserved
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